Monday, December 31, 2007

Get Your Qwest On

At first glance what pops out about Saturday's Skins game, Seattle redux (see 2005), is that both teams have had very up-and-down years. Seattle stumbled to a 10-6 record by feasting on the NFC West, NFL division I-A. Six games against the 49ers (5-11), the Cardinals (7-8) and the Rams (3-13). Add in a tour of the NFC South (a combined 27-37) and you have one of the weakest schedules in the league.

In going 9-7, the Skins played seven playoff teams, including #1 or #2 seeds four times. Seattle played only two playoff teams, Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh. The Seahawks beat 9-7 Tampa Bay only to be crushed 21-0 by the Steelers, now 10-6.
We either beat the Giants, Cowboys, and Packers or played them tight, losing by a bounce, a yard, a last-minute interception.

People will talk about our momentum in going 4-0, but we were a better team than Seattle all season. We've seen far tougher competition and our level of play will show that on Saturday. The only big-pressure game Seattle faced this year was the game at Pittsburgh, and they went paws up (talons up?). Their fans can be turned into boobirds quickly, as they have seen several lackluster performances this year. Just like Minnesota and the Meadowlands, we can set the tone on the road. And thriving in the mucky conditions against Dallas prepares us for anything the Pacific Northwest can throw our way.

Seattle has:
a good quarterback who can be frustrated by tight coverage
a pass rush that can be dominating at times

The key will be making sure Patrick Kerney and Co. don't get to Collins to force fumbles, the kind of turnovers that could lead to easy scores. We do that, time to start gameplanning for TO, baby!

Mister Owens, Mister Landry...

It can be done. Anything is possible.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Taking a bow

Yes, that is Chris Samuel's taking a bow to the enraged Giants fans. Given that we have immediate family who are fans of the New York team, I will refrain from gloating too much. In fact, I really just wanted a new photo online to start moving on.
Not really interested in debating the playoff speculation for the Redskins (do they really deserve?) and Toddball (great storyline -- second string veteran leads team to victory after crisis -- but it seems a bit forced). And I am also waiting to hear more intelligent observations than mine on the baseball report last week.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Cut & Run, Play & Pray, Use & Lose

( I'm feeling for my adopted hometown Falcons. Bobby Petrino's cowardly cut-and-run was astounding. The only betrayls that come close are Jim Irsay's Thief-in-the-Night buggering out of Baltimore with the Colts and Art Modell's cooresponding abandonment of Cleveland for Charm City. Petrino spoke to his team after their Monday night loss about how no one on the team would be quitting on the season, and then promptly did. He is an offensive innovator with bright ideas, but no fortitude. He is no leader of men, and he leaves jobs before having to endure any trying season in which his flaws will be revealed. Petrino has even tried to explain that quitting the Falcons at 5 pm (by phone to Arthur Blank, by letters to the team) and being hired by Arkansas at 11 pm was coincidental -- that he did not quit one for the other.

Kudos to Sean Salisbury, Bob Greise and other announcers who publicly derided Petrino and questioned why any parent would send their son to Arkansas to be taught by this man. Interesting watching Chris Mortensen, ESPN's primary NFL analyst, have to tip-toe around passing judgement on Petrino because his son is set to play for him at Arkansas next year. This marks the second time Arkansas has stolen an NFL coach from a team in midseason - Lou Holtz left the Jets with one game left back in the 80's.
As to the excuse-makers who cite extenuating circumstances around Petrino's departure (Michael Vick's absence, Falcons players not respecting Petrino, owner interference), sounds like Bobby Petrino very quickly lost the respect of his players, forcing Arthur Blank to ask some hard questions. When person the caliber of Warrick Dunn starts saying they're is a problem, it's time to listen. Bumped into Mr. Dunn doing Xmas shopping at Lenox Mall less than a week before this all went down, and he did not look like a happy camper. One excuse flying around is that Blank complained about the content of pre-game prayers, and was therefore too meddling.

The Falcons owner Arthur Blank is a good man who regards his ownership of the city's team as part of his investment in improving the life of the ATL, much the same way his business partner Bernie Marcus has in constructing the Georgia Aquarium. He deserved better, even though naivete (Blank apparently never met Petrino face-to-face before the press conference appointing him the new coach) clearly played a part here. It will be interesting to see if he lands the Big Tuna to run the show -- Parcells's gruff, controlling style is antipodal to Blank's warmth and friendliness. Would the Skins ever make a run at Rich McKay? (Would they want to?)

( I think it's going to be a very interesting last 2 weeks of the season for the Skins. The games against Vikings and Cowboys are winnable. If we win both, we're automatically in over the Vikings, having beaten them face-to-face. The possibility looming is that Giants play Galactus i.e. New England the last game of the season. See them winning that one? Neither do I. And they play Tampa Bay, a heady 9-5, this week. If the Giants lose to the Bucs, two wins may vault the Skins ahead of them. Bottom Line is that the Vikings game is our Super Bowl: lose and we are mathematically eliminated. A win and we face the Cowboys, who will still be jostling with the Packers for homefield advantage.
I predict a season of woulda-coulda-shoulda will end in typical tragic fashion -- winning against the Vikings, but losing against the Cowboys -- only to see the Vikings lose to Denver! But both being leapfrogged by New Orleans. It's been that type of season. And Gibbs is talking about extending his tenure...

( The Mitchell Report was a hesitant step in the right direction. It should have documented how the culture was permitted, how both the players and the league repeatedly chose to look the other way. One key revelation was the 1971 league rule on the books stating that players taking prescription medications without a lwaful prescription can be subject to discipline. This invalidates the claim that steroid-users were not breaking any rules throughout the 90's (except federal law).
Clearly baseball should:
- punish past offendors with suspensions if they are still in the game
- invalidate any records set by steroid-users - it's one thing if users are competing (generally) against each other, but when they set records they are unfairly competing against players who didn't have the 'benefit' of playing in the steroid era. It would be too onerous to take away every hit and pitch -- but this can't be the excuse for not doing anything. Let the record-setting steriod users pay the price. This not only is an attempt to even the playing field with players of other eras, it serves as a precedent and warning to those who will try to cheat in the future, whether through HGH or means as yet uninvented. All the home run records should be reset, all of Clemens's pitching stats stricken from the record. Or else, as we've seen in track, these records may never be able to be broken by a human competing fairly and legally.
- adopt the WADA protocol for drug testing -- an independent agency testing year round. This would be the best step Congress could take -- mandating that all US sports comply with these procedures, including the NFL and its 4-game suspensions of steroid-using wunderkind like Shawne Merriman.

The fight for the soul of baseball is on. You already hear people writing that attendance and ratings should dictate whether the status quo is acceptable. Remember that the sports establishment doesn't want to see these things diminish, that the same people who cover the sports news depend upon the popularity of their subject matter.

Ironically, the people who have the most to gain are the baseball players themselves, even as they vehemently deny and stonewall. They have a chance to live long, healthy lives without the effects of performance enhancers. No more Florence Griffith Joyners dying at 39. No more Chris Benoits. No more teammates on Division III college track teams picking fights because of roid rage, as happened to a runner I coached.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Funeral Pt. 2

The choir seems very deliberately singing:

I'm reaping the harvest God promised me
taking back what the Devil stole from me
again and again and again.


Watching the funeral coverage live through the magic of the interweb.
Wow. Speakers directly addressing the premature speculation by "the media" after Sean's death.
"Unforgiveable." "Tarnishing the memory."
Standing ovation by everyone present.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Buckle Up

Nice of me to jump back on the bandwagon just as it morphs into the bus from Speed. I will answer to "Keanu." Apparently the bomb will explode if the Skins score more than 20 points. Only the coaching staff knows this. And making the playoffs is like doing that jump. Buckle up.

The Post ombudsman, Deborah Howell, correctly cites columns by Leonard Shapiro and Michael Wilbon as off the mark. Her article is here.
But her analysis fundamentally misses the point. She writes:
The issue was timing. As unfeeling as it sounds, it is just not in the nature of the news business for critical comment to be withheld until the body is in the ground. But in this case, it would not have hurt good journalism to have backed off on harsh commentary until the next day. That would have let the news sink in for readers.
The timing was cold-hearted, but the main problem was both writers made premature assumptions about the nature of Taylor's death that in just a few short days seem to have been proven patently false. So quick were both Shapiro and Wilbon to indict Taylor of mixing with the wrong people, remaining embedded in a violent lifestyle, that they spoke first and asked questions about the circumstances of his death later. How hard would it have been to simply say, "Let's wait till all the facts are in?" As it turns out, the "critical comment" was dead wrong. Taylor's only crime was being at home in bed, trying to protect his girlfriend and daughter. The knife-left-previously-on-the-pillow-vendetta angle? A mere coincidence. In addition to rushing to judgement about Taylor's death, neither reporter seemed very well-versed in Taylor's life. Growing up as a middle-class son of police chief, attending Gulliver Prep, going steady with Ms. Garcia, they were either ignorant of the facets of Sean Taylor's life that didn't fit the storyline, or chose not reveal information that deviated from the, yes, stereotypical morality play they were determined to direct.

The ombudsman's piece deals with none of this, simply the timing. Was the ombudsman's piece written before the most recent revelations were made in the case? That would be disturbing. And there is no mention of Wilbon's callous dismissal of on-line chatters seeking information on where to direct tributes/sympathy wishes. Not once but twice.

Washington: Where can I send cards and flowers for Sean Taylor?

Michael Wilbon: You should contact The Washington Redskins for that information...

Anonymous:"You should contact The Washington Redskins for that information..."

Can you be a little bit more specific? Redskins PR says nothing has been decided yet about where to send cards or flowers; once a decisions has been made it will be posted to their Web site.

Michael Wilbon: There is the response from Redskins Park at this moment ... specifically, look up the phone number and get the address ... I don't walk around with the address of the Redskins in my pocket ... sorry. I'm sure you can go to the team's Web site and find the address...
Well, doesn't seem quite so obnoxious on reread, but the "don't you know who I am" tone seems obvious.

The proper, compassionate thing to do would have been to simply look up the info and deliver it to his audience, in coordination with the web-chat moderator. Surely a star of sound and stage like Mr. Wilbon could have thrown the little people a bone. It took me just a second to find these for him:
Don't let the door hit you on your way out, Mike.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Stay the Course

The right thing to do would be to have Joe Gibbs continue to lead the Skins through the completion of his 5-year timetable, despite the underachieving on the field. With the sad, senseless death of Sean Taylor, Gibbs is the best coach the team could have, not necessarily in terms of wins and losses, but for the more important big picture of having 55 men recover the hope and faith they may have lost this past week. They may play inspired some games, they may not others; but the important work will be done when no cameras are on, in the hallways and meeting rooms. There will be no Sportscenter highlights of these moments in which Gibbs the teacher helps his team, but the support he will be able to give to others will be lasting, invaluable.
I hope the plotline of the Skins rallying for wins for their fallen teammate doesn't get too much play; not everything can be solved with a trophy. It's much more important for the team to rally by making the right plays as people, as husbands, as sons, as fathers. That's the way to honor Sean. And Joe Gibbs is the man to lead the way.