Monday, January 31, 2011

Who the hell is Clay Travis?

By Jeff

Crap. I've done it again. I've let a bad column get under my skin and now I'm reacting to it.

In fairness, I fought the urge for a few days this time.

The column in question was written by Clay Travis on NFL Fanhouse and spends hundreds of words telling readers how stupid the Pittsburgh Steelers' Terrible Towel is. It was obviously written to anger Steelers fans, and it did so. Mission accomplished.

I actually didn't mind this column that much. I obviously disagreed with it, but can understand his point of view as someone who dislikes the city of Pittsburgh and the Steelers. Some people love seeing stadiums filled with gold towels waving. It's a show of unity with each other and the team. Others don't like it. And that's OK.

My problem comes from an interview Travis did with WTAE after he wrote the column. In the WTAE interview, Travis (Someone should tell him that having two first names is stupid) basically discounted the fact that proceeds from Terrible Towel sales go toward the Allegheny Valley School, which serves individuals who are mentally handicapped or have other disabilities.

Travis said, "The proceeds is a good thing. I don't know anyone who has an issue with money going to charity. Now, is it that substantial an amount of charity? I mean, every year, they give less to charity than they pay the worst Steeler football player, so it's not like this is some multimillion-dollar-every-year industry that's changing the face of Pittsburgh. I mean, it's a little bit of money. It's better than not anything. But it's not like it's a seismic difference in the overall scope of the city."
If these babies could, they'd give Clay Travis the finger.

When Travis was told that Terrible Towel sales have raised more than $3 million for the Allegheny Valley School, he acted as if $200,000 a year wasn't that big of a deal because the Steelers pay their worst player more than that.

First, $200,000 is a lot of money to give to charity every year. I don't care how much money an individual or company makes. That's a lot of money to give. I'd like to know how much of his income Travis gives to charity. I wouldn't make fun of him if it was a small amount, as I respect any charitable donation. I just want to point out his hypocrisy.

Second, Travis is acting as if the Steelers own the rights and trademark to the Terrible Towel. They do not. The Terrible Towel's rights are owned by the Allegheny Valley School Corporation, as you can see here. With that fact in mind, there is no reason to point at how much the Steelers pay their players.

Third, it's easy to see that Travis does not like the city of Pittsburgh, the Steelers or their fans. The article may focus on the Terrible Towel, but he also bashes the city and takes a the mandatory shot at Ben Roethlisberger's legal issues.

Going back to the original column, I don't think Travis has spoken to many Steelers fans. He said that you can't speak with a Steelers fan for three minutes without the Terrible Towel being mentioned. Really? Having lived in Pittsburgh for 24 years (I was in Guam for one), I've rarely brought up the Terrible Towel with people. Usually it's just asking if my friends remembered theirs, asking my girlfriend's grandpa if he is enjoying it (He uses it as a bowling towel) or just informing someone that proceeds go to charity. I don't know anyone that just starts talking about the Terrible Towel and its greatness. 

You have to give it to Travis though, he knew this article would get a big reaction and a lot of readers. NFL Fanhouse is probably ecstatic to get so many readers they normally don't, as towel wavers probably flocked to Web site because they had to see for their own eyes that someone would diss their beloved symbol. 

Of course, Steelers fans understand that there is a price to disrespecting the Terrible Towel. Just ask T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Keith Bullock and LenDale White. I'm not wishing misfortune on Travis, but I think it's safe to say karma and Myron Cope's ghost are going to have revenge.

Friday, January 28, 2011

All-star game mock draft

By Jeff

Yup, I'm all out of ideas today. So I'm going to come up with a mock draft for Sunday's NHL all-star game. Eric Staal and Nicklas Lidstrom are the captains, with Ryan Kesler and Mike Green (Seriously?) serving as alternates for Staal and Patrick Kane and Martin St. Louis backing up Lidstrom.

The captains will flip a coin for the first pick. Staal won the coin toss in my mock draft. Detroit fans everywhere are already crying that it was a conspiracy against their team and captain.

There are also a few rules. Goalies must be selected within the first 10 rounds and all the defensemen need to be taken by the 15th round. Also, rookies will be split into two groups and the group that wins a coin toss will select which team they join. Lame rules, but I'll follow them

Team Staal: Staal will give in to Green's emo-whining and take Alex Ovechkin to reunite the Washington Capitals players. Defense doesn't matter and the team already has two centers, so the pick makes sense.

Team Lidstrom: They don't need any more wings, so Henrik Sedin is the pick here. I was going to go with Brad Richards, who is having an MVP-caliber season, but the Sweden connection is too strong.

Team Staal: As Henrik will be walking toward Lidstrom, his brother Daniel will follow him out of habit. That's when Staal will go all heel on the country of Sweden and pick Daniel. There will be a 10 minute delay as this is explained to the Sedin twins, who up until this point thought it was a league rule they couldn't be separated.

Team Lidstrom: Steven Stamkos will be taken. Too bad there will be no power plays in the game, so his effectiveness will be limited. I hope he gets a penalty shot and falls on his face again.

Team Staal: Team loyalty will lead Staal to taking Cam Ward here. Ward is very excited that Evgeni Malkin won't be playing, and therefore embarrassing the netminder on multiple occasions.

Team Lidstrom: It will pain Lidstrom to do so, but he's going to grab Jonathan Toews to reunite him with Kane. Insert stupid joke about a taxi driver being punched in the face here.

Team Staal: With Green begging him to take Dustin Byfuglien, Staal concedes. Even though no one blocks shots in the all-star game, Green wanted to make sure he didn't get hit by a Big Buff shot. Green is a wuss.

Team Lidstrom: Needing a goalie, Lidstrom will grab TIm Thomas, who is having a monster year for the Boston Bruins. He was tempted to take Marc-Andre Fleury, but then he had flashbacks of 2009 and all the emotional distress it caused him. Apparently, Lidstrom has woken up at 12:29 a.m. to someone screaming "Weeeee!" every night since the 09 Finals.

Team Staal: After realizing he is screwed because he has a bunch of Capitals on his team, Staal will abort all strategy and just draft his brother Marc.

Team Lidstrom: He'll probably take Duncan Keith as the draft quickly turns into pleasing everyone who wants to play with their teammates. Lame, but inevitable.

Seeing as this is getting very lame, I'm stopping. No one cares about all-star games, especially the NHL's.

I hope Fleury stuffs Ovechkin on multiple breakaways.

Men At Work - Who Can it Be Now

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Super Bowl storylines we'll get sick of by next week

By Jeff

The Super Bowl is so much more than a championship game. It's a spectacle for the entire world. And if you're filthy rich or work for a large company, you might get to actually go and see the spectacle in person!

No other sport has a championship game or series that has a Media Week. It's kind of ridiculous. With a whole week devoted to football stories, consumers are bludgeoned with stories that we normally don't care about. Hell, we hardly care about them during Media Week, but what else are we going to read about? We're certainly not going to follow the protests in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and whatever North African/Middle East nation that decides they hate their authoritative governments in the next few days.

So below is a list of some of the stories you may have already heard, but will definitely hear again before now and Feb. 6. I've included small summaries of the stories so you don't have to waste your time reading about them later.

  • Terrible Towels are actually made in Wisconsin - OK, this one is actually kinda neat. The Terrible Towel (I don't need to tell you what it is and its significance in Pittsburgh) is made by a company 110 miles southwest of Green Bay. The company's president is big Packers fan and has season tickets. It will be a huge spike in business if the Steelers win the Super Bowl, but I can't imagine him enjoying printing thousands of Terrible Towels that say "Super Bowl XLV Champions".
  • Mike McCarthy grew up around Pittsburgh - He was a big Steelers fan and now he is coaching against them. He also worked in a toll booth on the PA turnpike.
  • Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger were not the first quarterbacks taken during their draft years - I'm guilty as charged when it comes to this storyline. It's just to ensure you know that Rodgers is better than Alex Smith. 
  • These teams have historically been a thorn in the Dallas Cowboys' side - The Cowboys would probably have a lot more titles if the Steelers and Packers didn't exist. Thank God for the Steelers and Packers.
  • Roethlisberger was accused of rape earlier this year - You'll hear this for years to come anytime the man succeeds or struggles. This will lead to countless "Like him or not as a person..." statements made by analysts and commentators.
  • The Steelers and Packers are two of the league's most storied franchises - The Packers have won like 14 NFL titles (three Super Bowls) and the Steelers have won six Super Bowls. Do we really need to know anything else?
  • The Steelers' offensive line is in shambles and the Packers have 137 guys on injured reserve - We get it. These two teams have a lot of depth.
  • The stadium in Dallas is huge - The thing was more than $1 billion, which is more than the GDP of some small countries. There will be talk of attendance records, the giant scoreboard and people paying to watch the game outside the stadium. 
  • There might not be a Super Bowl next year - The league and the players' union are not getting anywhere in negotiations, so I expect there to be a lot of questions about the possibility of this being the last Super Bowl before a lockout. No one knows what unrestricted free agents are going to do next year because of the lack of a CBA. We've heard about this since before the season. Unfortunately, we will be told the same story for at least another week and a half.
Did I miss one? Let me know.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

I'm actually defending Jay Cutler

By Jeff

The headline says it all. I'm coming to the defense of Jay Cutler after many players, fans and members of the media went after the Chicago Bears quarterback for not playing through a Grade II MCL sprain in last Sunday's NFC Championship game.

According to (It was the first result on Google), A Grade II MCL sprain can cause more pain than a Grade III sprain, which is a complete tear of the ligament. There was more medical talk but the point is Cutler had a legit injury.

Cutler said that the injury was making it hard for him to plant on his throws. Passes are going to be under thrown and inaccurate if you don't have a solid plant leg, so it makes sense that he was pulled from the game.
If you want to punch his face, you're not alone.

I'e never seen players go after another player in such a way as they did after Cutler didn't come back in the game. Sports sites were abuzz with reports of current and former NFL players calling out Cutler's toughness. Maurice Jones-Drew was especially harsh, saying he played all season on a hurt knee and he didn't get why Cutler couldn't do it for one game. No disrespect to Mojo, he's awesome and I do not question his toughness, but he was inactive for the two most important games of Jacksonville's season this year. Mojo's injury was more serious than Cutler, but that still doesn't give him much room to talk. The Jaguars missed the playoffs because of a late season collapse and Mojo was watching it unfold in street clothes.

Then there was the Arizona Cardinals' Darnell Dockett spewing hate Cutler's way. Dockett's team couldn't win the NFC West. The same NFC West who had a 7-9 team win the division.

San Diego Chargers' Phillip Rivers was a little more reserved. He did not question Cutler, even though it's very obvious Rivers hates the man. He just said that he'd have to be carted off the field to leave a game like that. Rivers did play the 2007 AFC Championship game with a torn ACL, so I believe him. But why even comment? You know you're tough. There is no need to let people know you're tougher than another player.

You'll notice a common theme among these players who took to Twitter. None of them were in the playoffs this year. No one should care what these guys are saying from the comforts of their homes, while Cutler was actually playing football in late January.

Some joke from had a column where he compared himself to Cutler. The author, who I refuse to name and link to because it was such a crappy, ego-driven article, said he played through a similar injury recently without problem. The man was playing goalie in a pick-up hockey league when he suffered a Grade I MCL sprain. And yes, he thought because he could play through this injury, Cutler should have played through his. I seriously doubt he had to endure incredible athletes crashing into him on multiple occasions like Cutler did on Sunday. In fact, I doubt he had to move much. The author was playing goalie for goodness' sake!

Now, if you want to rip Cutler for sucking before the injury, have at it. He was terrible.

If you want to criticize him for appearing to sulk on the sidelines and not help the other quarterbacks, I'm cool with that. Cutler is a self-centered tool who thinks he is God's gift to football.

But players sitting at home and people who have no idea what it takes to play professional football calling Cutler out for not coming back is ridiculous and these individuals need to shut up.

Aerosmith - Shut Up and Dance

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Roethlisberger deserves to be mentioned among league's best

By Jeff

Ben Roethlisberger is one of the top five quarterbacks in the NFL today. Call me a homer. I know I'm one of those. But Roethlisberger's place on the top tier of league quarterbacks is not debatable.

This is a sore subject for Gerry Callahan of the Boston. He thinks Roethlisberger is a mediocre (he actually said "good" but everything else in the column made it hard to believe he actually thinks this) quarterback who happens to have a great supporting cast. According to Callahan, Tom Brady has had to overcome more than Roethlisberger in his Super Bowl runs.

Yeah, he actually said that.

The article says Roethlisberger has had defenses and running games that Brady hasn't, so Roethlisberger should not be used in the same breath as Brady.

Of course, Callahan uses no statistics to back this up. Just general statements without any research. Fortunately, I did that for him.
Brady, left, and Roethlisberger have had
a lot of help in their Super Bowl wins.

In the season leading up to Roethlisberger's first Super Bowl (2005), his leading rusher, Willie Parker, had 1,202 yards and four touchdowns. Parker also had 93 yards and a touchdown in the Super Bowl. The Steelers defense was third in the league in points allowed that season.

Now we move on to Brady, whose leading rusher, Antoine Smith, had 1,157 yards and 12 touchdowns n his first Super Bowl season (2001). Smith ended up with 92 yards in the Super Bowl win that season. The Patriots defense ranked sixth in points against that season.

So far, I'd say these guys are pretty even. Let's go to their second Super Bowl runs.

The Steelers did not have a 1,000-yard rusher in 2008. Parker missed five games because of injury and finished with 791 yards and five touchdowns. His backup, Mewelde Moore, was solid in relief with 588 yards and five touchdowns. The team could not run the ball in the Super Bowl, though. They finished with 58 yards on 26 attempts with Gary Russell scoring a touchdown. The defense was first in the league in points against that season.

Brady's running game took a big hit in the 2003 season. The team didn't have a go-to guy. Smith started six games and had 642 yards and three touchdowns. Kevin Faulk had 638 yards and zero touchdowns. The Patritos defense was first in the league in points against that season, though. Smith also had 86 yards and a touchdown in the Super Bowl.

So the Steelers had an edge in rushing touchdowns in these teams' second Super Bowl seasons, but the defenses were both the best in the league at the time. Is anyone else seeing the flaws in Callahan's argument? Do I have to go to year three? I will anyway.

The Steelers had a great rushing game this season. Rashard Mendenhall paved the way with 1,273 yards and 13 touchdowns. The Super Bowl obviously hasn't been played this season, so we'll have to wait on that statistic. The Steelers were again first in the league in points against for the regular season.

The Patriots had an even better rushing attack in their third Super Bowl season (2004). The newly acquired Corey Dillion went off for 1,635 yards and 12 touchdowns that season. He also tacked on an addition 75 yards and a touchdown in the Super Bowl. Assisting Brady and Dillion was the defense, which was No. 2 in points against that season.

So where is this clear advantage Callahan is giving to Roethlisberger in these Super Bowl years? The statistics that Callahan conveniently left out point to almost a dead heat. It's also interesting to note that Callahan didn't say anything about Roethlisberger playing behind terrible offensive lines this season and in 2008, while Brady has had one of the best lines in the league for years now. But that would give Roethlisberger some kind of credit, and it's clear Callahan was going out of his way to make sure he didn't do that with this column.

I'd love to see Brady behind the Steelers' line. I think the Divisional Round showed us that Brady gets ruffled when he is under a lot of pressure.

But wait! Callahan did do some research in this article. He took 10 seconds and looked at Roethlisberger's Super Bowl numbers. He also pointed to Big Ben's stat line from Sunday's AFC Championship win as proof that Roethlisberger doesn't deserve to be mentioned among the NFL's elite.

There is no doubting Roethlisberger was bad in his first Super Bowl. He went 9-for-21 for 123 yards, didn't throw a touchdown and tossed two interceptions. He did run for a touchdown. Don't let the conspiracy nuts fool you when they say he didn't get in on his dive. Last I checked, no one has X-ray vision so no one can tell me with any certainty that they can tell exactly where the ball was on that play. The touchdown run was nice, but it was still a terrible game.
I can see how someone would forget this play.

Now this is where Callahan got tricky. Rather than cite Roethlisberger's numbers for the 2008 Super Bowl, he just gave the quarterback's combined passer rating between the two Super Bowls (64.1). This number is going to be low because Roethlisberger had the lowest passer rating in Super Bowl history for a winning quarterback (22.6) in 2005. There is no reference to the 2008 Super Bowl, in which Roethlisberger had a 93.2 passer rating.

If I were to use Callahan's strategy when looking at Roethlisberger in the 2005 playoffs, I can make it look like he had a great series of games. In four playoffs game that season, Roethlisberger averaged a 97.87 passer rating. If you were to just look at that number, you would assume he did pretty well in the Super Bowl. Just like if you look at Callahan's 64.1 number, you would just assume Roethlisberger sucked in both Super Bowl games.

Now I will say Brady has consistently outperformed Roethlisberger in the Super Bowl. Other than 2001, when he threw for just 145 yards and one touchdown, Brady has been a major contributor to his team's wins with more than 230 yards and two touchdowns in the other two games. Roethlisberger was good in 2008 (256 yards, one touchdown and one pick), but Brady's numbers are better in the big game.

What Callahan failed to mention was how Roethlisberger led his team 78 yards (doesn't count the holding penalty) for the winning touchdown late in the fourth quarter in 2008. That drive ended on a perfect throw from Roethlisberger that will go down in history as one of the best plays in the history of the game. That's not me being a homer. That's a fact.

Brady hasn't had to lead his team to a winning touchdown in the waning moments of a Super Bowl. This isn't a criticism of Brady. He and his team played well enough in their wins that all they needed were field goals. It's just worth noting that Roethlisberger has taken his team all the way to the end zone with the game on the line. Brady hasn't.

Roethlisberger is great under pressure and has proven he can lead his team down the field for a touchdown on the world's biggest stage when his team needs it. That doesn't really show up in the statistics, but it's something you have to take into consideration when you mention the best quarterbacks in league.

That brings us to last Sunday's AFC Championship game. Roethlisberger had a poor day if you look at his passing numbers. He was 10-for-19 for 133 yards and two picks. But once again, Roethlisberger made a difference with his legs. He ran for a touchdown, and also a key 11-yard run on the opening possession that kept the drive alive. The Steelers scored a touchdown a few plays later.

Then there was the final drive. The New York Jets had scored 19 unanswered points and the Steelers needed two first downs to ice the game. Roethlisberger threw two first down passes when no one expected him to throw, cementing the Steelers' place in the Super Bowl.

Are you still reading? I'm almost done. I promise.
Gerry Callahan has a message
to good journalists everywhere.

I'm not saying Roethlisberger is better than Brady. The Patriots' QB has the best mechanics in the league and is incredibly smart. It's scary to watch him when he's on and you're not a fan of the Patriots. Really scary.

I'm saying Gerry Callahan wrote a terrible column in which he did very little research in an attempt to make Roethlisberger look like he is a mediocre quarterback who doesn't deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as Brady, Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers.

Callahan clearly has a problem with Roethlisberger as a person. And that's OK. The whole Milledgeville, Ga., is a scar on Roethlisberger's career. If that was Callahan's main point, I wouldn't have posted this and you'd have 10 minutes of your life back. If he mentioned that Brady is 1-0 against Roethlisberger in the playoffs, I wouldn't have wasted your time. But he didn't. He made dumb and lazy arguments that needed to be addressed.

All of my statistics/research came from It takes a few minutes and is really easy to find everything you need to know about the NFL. Someone needs to enlighten Callahan of its existence before he writes another crappy column.

Boston - Foreplay/Long Time

Lots of teams wish they had Roethlisberger, Rodgers

By Jeff

I'm never going to be a general manager in the National Football League (Please cue Ron Jaworski voice and smile). I don't know what it takes to correctly evaluate talent and have trouble blaming certain franchises from passing on certain players. They have a group of scouts who know a lot more about football than I do. Sometimes these scouts really miss. Sometimes the players they select just can't handle the biggest stage in the athletic world.

You can see his two Super Bowl
rings if you look hard enough.
My point is, unless you're making fun of Matt Millen, it's hard to really hold a general manager's draft decisions against them. They're not going in blind and have watched these players a lot more than we have.

With that being said, let's look back at the 2004 and 2005 NFL drafts. Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was taken 11th in 2004 and Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was taken 24th in 2005. These are two men who are in the top five for their position in the league. If you want to argue whether they deserve to be there or not, that's another post for another day. What you can't argue is they have led their teams to the Super Bowl this year. That's something Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, Eli Manning and Phillip Rivers failed to do.

Looking back now, there is no way these guys slip out of the top five picks. Below is a list of the teams that selected other players before Roethlisberger or Rodgers were drafted in their respective years. The * means that player is no longer with the team that drafted him. The ** means that player is out of the league. The *** means that player was killed in a tragic shooting.


  • San Diego - Eli Manning (Traded to New York Giants for Phillip Rivers)
  • Oakland - Robert Gallery
  • Arizona - Larry Fitzgerald
  • New York Giants - Phillip Rivers (Traded to San Diego for Manning)
  • Washington - Sean Taylor***
  • Cleveland - Kellen Winslow II* 
  • Detroit - Roy Williams*
  • Atlanta - DeAngelo Hall*
  • Jacksonville - Reggie Williams**
  • San Francisco - Alex Smith
  • Miami - Ronnie Brown
  • Cleveland - Braylon Edwards*
  • Chicago - Cedric Benson*
  • Tampa Bay - Carnell Williams
  • Tennessee - Adam "Pacman" Jones*
  • Minnesota - Troy Williamson**
  • Arizona - Antrel Rolle*
  • Washington - Carlos Rodgers
  • Detroit - Mike Williams*
  • Dallas - DeMarcus Ware
  • San Diego - Shawne Merriman*
  • New Orleans - Jammal Brown
  • Carolina - Thomas Davis**
  • Kansas City - Derrick Johnson
  • Houston - Travis Johnson*
  • Cincinnati - David Pollack**
  • Minnesota - Erasmus James**
  • St. Louis - Alex Barron*
  • Dallas - Marcus Spears
  • Jacksonville - Matt Jones**
  • Baltimore - Mark Clayton*
  • Oakland - Fabian Washington*
Of course, you can't blame all of these teams for passing on Roethlisberger and Rodgers when they did. In Roethlisberger's case, the two quarterbacks taken before him have had good careers, and most of the other players have been to the Pro Bowl for their positions. But some of these teams probably leave you scratching your head. In 2004, Oakland had Rich Gannon (39) and Kerry Collins (32) starting games for them; Washington has Patrick Ramsey and Mark Brunell (34) splitting starts; and Cleveland had Jeff Garcia (34), Luke McCown and Kelly Holcomb start multiple games. None of these franchises had legitimate starters or prospects, yet they didn't think Roethlisberger could help them quickly or in the long run. Oops.
Rodgers is mocking the 49ers for taking
Alex Smith instead of him. I think.

The 2005 draft was much worse. Miami, Cleveland, Chicago, Tennessee, Minnesota, Carolina and Oakland have all had issues with quarterbacks since that year. Try and tell me you would rather Vince Young or Jay Cutler to start for your team instead of Rodgers. I'll call you a Skip Bayliss wannabe and slap you. 

It's easy to use hindsight and question these teams for skipping over franchise quarterbacks who will be playing for a Super Bowl in two weeks. Who knows what they saw or didn't see in these players? Maybe the GMs' decisions made perfect sense after they saw all these players and spoke to them. Maybe they were drunk on draft day. Either way, it's just fun to look back and bust their chops a little bit from our couches. 

Monday, January 24, 2011

William Gay gives critics collective bitch slap

By Jeff

Seeing as it's been about 15 hours since the Pittsburgh Steelers joined the Green Bay Packers in the Super Bowl, there are not a lot of different angles to take. With that in mind, I'd like to express that William Gay had a great bounce back year after sucking last season.

There is no arguing that Gay was not ready to be an everyday starter last season. While he played very well when he substituted for Bryant McFadden in 2008, he was lost as a starter in 2009. Opposing teams targeted him, and those receivers usually had big days.

Fast forward to this season. McFadden was back, so Gay was used in nickel and dime packages. Maybe he didn't stand out during the year, but if you're not mentioning a nickelback's name, he's probably doing his job. The only game where he showed his 2009 form was against the New England Patriots, who used a tight end against Gay to great success.

Find me another game this year that Gay hurt the Steelers. I can't see a game where his poor play stood out. He's not a starter, but the league is going more pass-happy and he has had plenty of chances to continue last year's trend of poor play. He didn't do that this season.

Look no further than the team's biggest game of the year. Gay and Ike Taylor blitzed, Taylor forced the fumble and Gay recovered. Not only did he recover it, he took the ball to the endzone. The score made it 24-0 and turned out being the game-winning score.

It's time for his critics to stop calling for Gay's release, or head. With two good seasons compared to one poor one, it's time to cheer the man.

Electric Six - Gaybar

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Time I Experienced the Playoffs

By Kelson

I have been an avid fan of football (and sports in general for as long as I can remember). In fact my deepest memory is listening to the Dodgers play the Mets on the radio right around 1992. Although I am now a Mets fan, I was a Dodgers fan in those days and I can vividly remember not being able to fall asleep because I was unsure of what Brett Butler was going to do on the base paths.

I live and breathe my own fandom - the Mets 2006 NLCS debacle is still a touchy subject for me. However, there have been very few times in my lifetime where I have truly experienced a city gather around a team and go nuts for them (this tends to happen when you live in the suburbs or a state that has no baseball team and a football team that can be described as "lackluster" at best) . I was hoping to change that this afternoon when I hit up a local bar to watch the NFC Championship game where the Bears played their heated division rival, the Green Bay Packers.

The plan was to go to a bar on Clark Street - which is a street that Wrigley Field sits on. It is filled with bars and not just any bars. Bars that have Televisions at every booth and attract Jersey Shore-ites on vacation in Chicago. It's a hoppin' place.

My friends found a bar first (around 12, 2 hours before game time) and were confined to standing room only. Luckily by the time I arrived they had found a table where we proceeded to wait for the game to start.

All I heard all week were Bears fans coming out of the woodwork to root for a team where I'm not sure they could name more than 5 players. The papers were littered with pictures of Jay Cutler sneering (you couldn't see the sneer, but if it's Jay Cutler, you can assume it's there.) This was the same city whose own sports columnist claimed the Bears would go nowhere this season and yes, he wears a paper bag over is head. So, sure, I was a little suspicious of the new found interest in the Bears. The tipping point might've happened when an acquaintance wrote on his Facebook wall "ALL I CAN THINK ABOUT IS THE BEARS GAME" - this same acquaintance did not watch the game last week, or even know who the Bears were playing.

This is what happens, I'm well aware of bandwagon fans in sports. Almost any Red Sox or Celtic fan is a bandwagon fan. (Here's a test - Ask them about Troy O'Leary's ethnicity. If they say White, they aren't a fan). But this is Chicago! People were pumped and I was pumped to share the experience with them, because cheering is cheering, especially when it's done by 400 people at the same time.

Back to the bar, these supposed fans weren't super excited for the game, they were super excited for the music being played BEFORE the game. A little bit of Bieber, a little bit of Train. It was my worst nightmare. The $5 bottles of Bud Light weren't helping the situation (nor was the fact that they didn't sell PBR). This was going to be an expensive day filled with awful music. Although it might be my own fault, I had been to this bar twice before and I know it's a "bro" bar - where backwards hats are cool and girls wear enough makeup to kill 3 spider monkeys. In fact when I told my girlfriend where I was, she said, "That's where dreams go to die." But that's ok, the fans are still here and the game is about to start.

When the game started it became clear - every commercial break would be filled with this insipid music, sometimes the fat Samoan (is this being redundant? Are all Samoans fat?) would forget to turn off the music when the game came back on. I've never wanted to hear Joe Buck so badly in my entire life. As the Packers took a 14-0 lead the crowd pretty much seemed dead. When Cutler declined to come back for the 2nd half, there weren't loud uproars (except from my friend who used a lot of ugly terms. Real bad), it's like these fans didn't realize Todd Collins whose regular season QB rating was 5.9 (as comparison Tom Brady's was 110. That's right Tom Brady is 20 times better than Todd Collins). Todd Collins threw 5 interceptions on just 27 attempts. This was a disaster for the Bears fans, but they didn't express their dismay.

I realized I was in the wrong place for this. While it is obviously more fun to watch a group of fans get entirely over excited about a football game, it is endlessly interesting to watch them hurl insults at players that are much much bigger than them and these fans only had one mode. Happy!

This would soon become pretty obvious when the Bears scored a TD and the place went nuts. The top floor of the bar seemed to literally shake as Bears fans jumped up and down. I imagine the floor would've disintegrated had real Bears fans been in there (this constitutes 300 lb men with mustaches who look like John Goodman). That probably should've been my first clue as to the level of fandom in this bar - too many attractive girls wearing Devin Hester jerseys and too many guys wearing sunglasses inside.

The Packers scored again and the place didn't go eerily numb; it just went indifferent. With 6 minutes left people knew the game was over but weren't overly emotional about this outcome, they were just happy to drink buckets of Bud and dance to the music that was now going so far into the game action that we were missing plays. Joe Buck, WHERE ARE YOU?

Then, almost all of the sudden the Bears scored again and were down by 7 with 4 minutes to go. They bar played the "bear down" theme song and then quickly segued into the famous "shots shots shots shots shots" song - where the chorus is literally people screaming shots over and over. This song was played 4 times during the 4 hours I was there. Then the weird part happened, the momentum only slightly carried over as the Bears forced the Packers to punt. The bar quit playing audio of the game altogether at parts so they could play more club-esque music, hoping to get people pumped up. But this is a football game, people should start their own cheers, this is the biggest game of their season and they need to be poked into getting riled up? Not a good sign for these fans.

As the Bears drove for the final drive, the bar was actually hopping again. People were obscuring my view of the screens and yelling and high fiving with every play. Ok, this is what should be happening (regardless if Chris Brown is playing in the background). Then the final play of the Bears season came, an interception and the bar fell silent. Anticipating this heartache I quickly tweeted "someone just stabbed this bar in the chest."

But that was inaccurate, Bears fans didn't seem to be any more somber. Music was still blasting and they were all still sitting at their tables, talking to their friends, perhaps waiting for the next game. My friend, a true Bears fan I suppose, was too distraught to want to do anything and he went home, but as we packed up and left the bar, we were the only ones! While I can't tell people what to feel, I think that after an excruciating loss I feel like you need time to recover. Hell, I've felt sadder after television episodes end (yes episodes, not even seasons). Not these Bears fans! They were ready to keep the party pumping.

To me, this would be like someone telling you a family member was in the hospital, yeah you might feel bad, but hey, you're already at this bar, so why not keep paying for over priced alcohol!

The real lesson I learned was where to go to see real fans. The bar I was at were mainly people just like me, people who wanted to be a part of this experience but who didn't really know how to be an active participant (in my case I declined to, my dad is a shareholder for the Packers). The problem here is obvious, you can't get a real experience with people who are just in search of a real experience. Fans aren't the ones who brag about going to games, fans are the ones who brag ABOUT the game.

The Ground is Lava - Are We Hip Yet?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Class overrated on football field

By Jeff

The New York Jets had some pretty elaborate celebrations after they took down the No. 1-seeded New England Patriots in the playoffs last Sunday.

Braylon Edwards was doing his best Shawn Johnson impression, Jets players were running onto the field like airplanes and Bart Scott thought he was in the squared-circle cutting a WWE promo. While they were all kind of ridiculous because the team still needs to win two games to say they've won something this season, I didn't have a problem with it.

That doesn't mean I can't make fun of it. I just don't have a problem with teams celebrating big wins or plays in professional sports. These guys are playing for my entertainment. I don't care if they showboat on the field when they win. That's entertaining.
Who wouldn't celebrate leaving Cleveland?

Did you see the handspring-backflip combo Edwards pulled off? You know he had to be practicing that all week so he didn't land on his head and break his neck. Or pull a Kerri Strug for that matter.

Let me stress how important it is that these celebrations are reserved for wins. I can't stand it when a defensive player makes a sack or tackle for loss in the first quarter and then goes nuts.  Seriously? There are 55 minutes left in the game and you're going to do a dance and stare into the distance? I worry every time LaMarr Woodley does his jump kick after a sack. He's just asking for a knee sprain or tear.

But when you celebrate a win, I'm cool with it as long as it doesn't include spitting in someone's face or leaving someone hanging on a hand shake.

I heard a lot of people upset with the Jets for their most recent antics and don't get it. They won a big game that they were supposed to lose. They beat a team with some of the cockiest individuals (Tom Brady and Bill Belichick) in sports. Sure, if you didn't know any better you might have thought they won the Super Bowl, but that's OK. They waited until the game was over before beginning their shenanigans. Can you blame Edwards for not having a reason to backflip since he helped Michigan beat Ohio State?

What annoys you more? The post-game celebrating by the Jets, or Brady's cockiness. Anyone remember the look on Brady's face when he questioned Plaxico Burress predicting the Pats would only score 17 points against the New York Giants in the Super Bowl? Just watch 8 seconds of the video below if you forgot.

I would prefer backflips to this kind of smugness any day of the week.

Geto Boys - Damn It Feels Good to Be a Gangsta

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Playoffs picks: Will Holmes make Steelers regret trading him?

By Jeff

The trade came out of nowhere for Pittsburgh Steelers fan. Sure, wide receiver Santonio Holmes had some issues with smoking pot and he might have thrown a glass at a woman in a club, but there was no way the team was going to ship him out, right? Wrong.

You know the story. The Steelers traded Holmes to the New York Jets in April of 2010 for a fifth round draft pick that year. The pick was then traded to the Arizona Cardinals for Bryant McFadden and a sixth round pick that the team used on Antonio Brown. And now the former Super Bowl hero and MVP is coming into Pittsburgh for a chance to return to the big game.

It's the story that is being discussed on talk radio around Pittsburgh and makes for a great conversation. Did the Steelers make a mistake in dealing Holmes, or did it raise team moral? The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Steelers beat reporter Ed Bouchette said after the trade that thought the trade would lead to a lot of cheering in the Steelers' locker room.
Holmes is really good, he just likes to get high.

Holmes' departure paved the way for Mike Wallace to have a breakout campaign with 1,257 yards and 10 touchdowns (Holmes best season with the Steelers was 2009 when he had 1,248 yards and six touchdowns). The move also allowed rookies Brown and Emmanuel Sanders to get more playing time, which led to them making big plays you don't usually count on rookies to make. Sanders is often Ben Roethlisberger's target on third downs and Brown had the biggest catch of the Steelers' season last Saturday.

On the flip side, Holmes has been great with the Jets this year. In 12 games he tallied 746 yards and six touchdowns. And that's with playing limited snaps the first three weeks he was back from suspension.

Of course, one has to take Holmes' contract into consideration when discussing this topic. Holmes is an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season and will most likely be asking for a very large contract. A contract the Steelers may not have been willing to dish out.

If Holmes plays a key role in a Jets victory this weekend, Steelers fans will be pissed he was moved. If Wallace, Sanders or Brown comes up big in a Steelers win, they won't mind him not being around. What do you think?

The picks for this weekend's games are below. I went 3-1 last and am 6-2 for the season. I'd have a miss of the week, but I didn't miss the Seattle game by much and don't feel like making fun of myself. The home teams are in caps.

CHICAGO (+3.5) over Green Bay: Has this happened before? A No. 6 seed being favored in the NFC or AFC Championship game? It certainly gives the Bears plenty of ammo for the whole "Nobody thinks we're good" motivational tool. Will that be enough to stop Aaron Rodgers? Well, I think it will help enough that the Bears cover. This game feels like it will be decided by a late field goal. It's supposed to be cold with a chance of snow. But that won't matter much. Both of these teams play outside in cold environments. So really, it comes down to quarterback play. And with that being said I am changing my pick to Green Bay (-3.5) over CHICAGO. Jay Cutler is a tool.

PITTSBURGH (-3.5) over New York Jets: Everyone will mention that Troy Polamalu didn't play when these teams met in a 22-17 Jets victory. And it's true that he didn't. But I think people tend to forget that Heath Miller didn't play either. Miller is a great tight end who blocks and is a big target who Roethlisberger loves to target in the red zone. Big Ben is a whole lot happier he has Miller to throw to instead of Matt Spaeth, who dropped the game-winning touchdown pass in that earlier game.

Mark Sanchez is falling back to earth Sunday. More like he is being tossed down by James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley and Polamalu. RJ will disagree, but he used to say Chad Pennington was better than Roethlisberger. You can't take him serious.

Stiff Little Fingers - Guitar and Drum

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Leave the Crosby concussion story alone

By Jeff

I tried very hard not to have a post on this topic. Can we please admit that the whole story has got out of hand and certain journalists have been irresponsible in their reporting of the story?

My first problem was people saying that the Pittsburgh Penguins were hiding the cause of the injury. Crosby was hit in the head at the Winter Classic by David Steckel. It wasn't a dirty play as far as I could tell. Crosby was turning to get back on defense and Steckel was skating hard to join the rush. The result was a nasty collision that left Crosby visibly shaken.

Despite the hit, Crosby played in his next game against the Tampa Bay Lightning. If the Pens' medical staff or Crosby thought he was concussed and endangering himself, they would never have let him take the ice. In the game Crosby took a cheap shot from Victor Hedman. Crosby has now been out six weeks because of a concussion.
I'd take a concussed over any other center in the league.

Multiple sources have come out and said that the Steckel hit was what concussed Crosby. That could be true, and maybe Crosby didn't show symptoms until after the Hedman hit. But to go after the Penguins management and medical staff like some tool from the Vancouver Sun did is silly. Why would they be lying about when the injury was sustained? And why would they ever risk their greatest asset in a game in early January? It doesn't make sense.

After Crosby's concussion was reported, Crosby came out and said the NHL needs to do something about hits to the head. This lead a lot of Crosby critics (I'm guessing most of them came from Boston, Philadelphia and D.C.) crying about Crosby's words considering the Matt Cooke hit on Marc Savard last season. These individuals are idiots that clearly did not take the 5 minutes and research before opening their mouths. Shortly after the Cooke hit, Crosby said "At some point there's got to be a clear indication from the league because we've seen this so many times now. You don't like to see anyone, their own teammate or an opposing player, lay on the ice like that. That was scary."

Sounds to me like Crosby wanted the league to do something about hits to the head back in March of 2010. What did these critics want Crosby to say? Call out his teammate to the media? That's not what leaders do, and it certainly doesn't help team chemistry. In sports, you have your teammates' backs at all times on the field and with the media. If you have problems, it's kept in the locker room.

As if these dumb stories weren't enough, David Shoalts from the Globe and Mail in Toronto wrote a column that he said "Words filtering out of the the Pittsburgh Penguins locker room is that Crosby is an angry young man, angry enough to pull his considerably star presence from one of the league's showcase events because he does not think the league is doing enough to protect its players."
Why is it that sports writers
look like they never played?

You have to love anonymous sources in stories like this. Shoalts didn't even say if it was player, coach, medical staff member or janitor that gave him his information. This is an example of bad journalism. If you're sick of me calling out media, I'm sorry, but I went to school for this and have been in the field. You are not taught to spew this crap. Anonymous sources should only be used in big stories where the anonymous source is providing important information that you would stop getting if the source's identity was released. Crosby's concussion and alleged anger at the NHL is not one of these stories.

The Pensblog recently pointed out that Shoalts is now trying to claim it was only his opinion that Crosby was going to skip the all-star Game because of his anger. That's a load of crap and he's just trying to cover his ass after writing a bad story. Does this sound like an opinion piece to you? The only times Shoalts makes his own comments on the story are in the first and fifth paragraphs. But Shoalts does not express that he thinks Crosby is skipping the all-star game because of anger in either of these paragraphs. He just says he thinks Crosby was going to be a captain for the game and that the Pens will not be "distressed" if Crosby misses the event and plays in the following regular season game.

I've never read any other work by David Shoalts, but he certainly sucked with this story.

The final straw that led me to writing this already too long post is I was dumb enough to read the user comments of a recent Pierre LeBrun story on The LeBrun post was pretty good. For those of you who didn't click on the link, he basically said that Crosby's injury might make the league revisit the hits to the head rule (Rule 48). But the comments to the post were ridiculous.

This is my message to Crosby haters.
I understand if you hate Crosby. I don't want everyone to love him like Pens fans do. Crosby loves hearing opposing fans mock him as he lights up their goalies and makes their players look like traffic cones. But going off about how he is a hockey player and should be tougher is moronic. Clearly, these individuals have never had a real concussion, let alone tried to player professional hockey with one. They probably bumped their heads at some point, diagnosed themselves with a concussion because they went on and think they're tough. They're not. They're just stupid.

Haven't we learned anything from the recent studies regarding concussions? These are very dangerous injuries that we don't know enough about. Saying someone is a sissy because he won't play a professional sport like hockey with one is ignorant. Skating around with a concussion while five professional athletes weighing an average of 200 pounds try to ram their bodies into you is not a good idea. Crosby is not a wimp for not coming back until 100 percent, and the Pens wouldn't let him if he tried.

This story needs to die. The league's best player is injured and we're not sure when he will be back. That's the only story that needs to be reported. Can we move on now?

The Eagles - Get Over It

Monday, January 17, 2011

NFL Divisional Round Review: Take that, Houshmandzadeh

By Jeff

There is no weekend update this week because I only watched football. So this is more of a general review of the NFL playoff games from the weekend.

Rather than go into all the statistics about how the Pittsburgh Steelers and Ben Roethlisberger own the Baltimore Ravens and Joe Flacco in the playoffs (Flacco is 0-2 in the playoffs, and 0-6 overall against the Steelers when Roethlisberger plays), I want to take this time to point out how fitting it was that T.J.Houshmandzadeh choked in the big moment. If you missed it, the Steelers won 31-24 and Houshmandzadeh dropped what would have been a first down catch on a 4th and 18 play in the final minute of the game.
Just writing his name annoys me.

This blog does not like Houshmanzadeh. It's not the ponytail he used to sport, or his funky name I hate. It's the way he talks so much considering he hasn't done anything in his career to back it up. At the end of his stint with the Cincinnati Benagls, Houshmandzadeh cried about the potential of the franchise tag being placed on him. He even went so far as to tell his coaches he would not show up to any workouts if he was tagged.

Then there was the "Madden 10" boycott he staged. Apparently the creators of the popular "Madden" series rated him a 91, and Houshmandzadeh was very upset about it. He complained that the system he was in hurt him and he would never play the game until the rating was fixed. Would you want a player on your team who is more concerned about his "Madden" rating than going to offseason team workouts?

Then there was his moaning in Baltimore this season. Houshmandzadeh didn't think he was getting enough balls thrown his way, and he shared his frustration with the media. Well, he was just released by a Seattle Seahawks (where he also complained about targets) team that wasn't exactly deep at wide receiver and signed late with the Ravens. Did he really expect to be the No. 1 or No. 2 guy?

To top it all off, Houshmandzadeh said that he has made those catches throughout his career. This would be false. This was Houshmandzadeh's third playoff game in his career. In those three games, he has combined for eight catches, 91 yards and one touchdown. Yeah, he's really made a career of making those big catches.

Seeing him drop that ball brought a big smile to all Steelers fans. Not just because it clinched a spot in the AFC Championship for their team, but because it was such a phony that dropped it.

New York Jets 28, New England Patriots 21: Wow. While it was easy to predict that there would be no repeat of the Patriots' 45-3 domination from earlier this season, I don't think many people outside of the Jets' fan base that thought Sunday's game would go like that.

Tom Brady looked scared and frustrated the whole game. I think the best example was when a pass rusher came through clean and Brady just chucked the ball into the turf in the general vicinity of a downed Danny Woodhead. Brady's body language just seemed to scream "What the hell is going on?"

The game actually reminded me of the Steelers-Indianapolis Colts Divisional Round game in 2005. The Colts had destroyed the Steelers in the regular season, were the No. 1 seed and had a pass-happy offense that no one seemed to be able to contain. But the Steelers just kept sending the house and really threw off Peyton Manning's rhythm. That's exactly what the Jets did to the Pats on Sunday. Brady was not used to running for his life and his game faltered because of the pressure.

Are we really supposed to believe this guy
knows more about sports than us?
I love that Dan Shaughnessy said that no one expected much from the Patriots coming into this season. I'm pretty sure everyone expects Brady and Bill Belichick to do great things and make the playoffs. The only time no one expected anything from the Patriots in this millennium is when Brady's knee was destroyed in the first week of the 2008 season.

One more thing. I like how Patriots fans are upset with the lack of class the Jets showed in victory (Bart Scott is crazy). Really? Your team got caught videotaping other teams' signals. How is that classy?

Now we have the Steelers-Jets in the AFC Championship. It should be a very physical and fun game. I'll have a more in depth preview later this week.

Green Bay Packers 48, Atlanta Falcons 21: All you have to know about this game is Aaron Rodgers was incredible. He made Atlanta pay with his arm and his legs. We might finally be seeing the Packers team everyone was talking about before the season started. Their offense looks unstoppable and their defense is punishing opponents.

And this is now the ugliest collection
of photos to grace this blog.
The San Francisco 49ers have to be kicking themselves at least twice a day for passing on Rodgers. Instead, they have had Alex Smith, Shaun Hill, Troy Smith, Ken Dorsey, Tim Rattay, Cody Pickett, Trent Dilfer, Chris Weinke and J.T. O'Sullivan start games for them since the 2005 draft. Hmm. This could be a big reason the 49ers have sucked for so long.

Chicago Bears 35, Seattle Seahawks 24: I'm not sorry for all the mean things I've said about Jay Cutler this year. He's a jerk. But he played a great game Sunday. He threw for two touchdowns and ran for another two. Only two quarterbacks in the history of the NFL have done that in the playoffs.

The magic just wore off for the Saints. It started in the first couple of drives. Matt Hassellbeck was hitting his receivers and they just weren't bringing the ball down. Chances are you're probably going to lose when you punt the ball on your first seven possessions.

This game also showed that Marshawn Lynch is not that effective when proper tackling is used against him. Other teams might want to employ this strategy against him in future contests.

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros - Home

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Playoffs picks: Is the NFC playing this weekend?

By Jeff

Maybe it's because I live in the Pittsburgh area, but I haven't heard any kind of talk about the NFC playoff games this weekend.

Of course the local media is focusing on the Pittsburgh Steelers-Baltimore Ravens game nonstop, with New England Patriots-New York Jets sprinkled in, but even the national media have hardly given the NFC matchups the attention they're giving the AFC.

Can you blame them, though? On one side, we have divisional rivals playing for the third time this year after splitting their games in the regular season. They are teams that don't like each other and make it very well known to the media that they don't like each other. Nothing is better in sports than when rivals play each other in the playoffs. The games are intense in the regular season and about 10 times more intense when it's win or go home.
Derrick Mason wishes he retired.

That's not happening in the NFC. No, in the NFC we have games that don't really get anyone excited unless they live in the Atlanta, Wisconsin, Chicago or Seattle areas.

Don't get me wrong, the Atlanta Falcons-Green Bay Packers game should be really good. Two young quarterbacks with great supporting casts makes for good football. But it's not sexy like the two AFC games are. These teams don't hate each other. There is no history of close games and broken hearts between them.

Then there is the Chicago Bears-Seattle Seahawks game. These are two teams that no one outside their fan bases thinks are as good as their current playoff positions. If you're like me, you were waiting all year for the Bears to come crashing down. But they never really did. It was weird. It didn't make sense. And then the Seahawks went 7-9, which has left many people across the country crying for a change in the playoff format.

Despite this lack of buzz, the NFC and AFC games do have one similarity. All four games are very unpredictable. Even though the Patriots crushed the Jets last time they played, you know Rex Ryan is going to be ready this time around and make a game of it. So it should be a great weekend of football.

And of course, after saying that the games are unpredictable, I'm going to go and make my picks below. I was 3-1 last week. The home teams are in caps.

PITTSBURGH (-3) over Baltimore: I wanted to cop out and predict this game as a push. Three points is the perfect line for this game, and it always seems like it's the spread when these teams play. The game will be physical and it comes down to making one or two more plays than the opposition. If that's the situation, I like Pittsburgh's chances with Ben Roethlisberger and Troy Polamalu.

Green Bay (+2.5) over ATLANTA: Really, this is a coin flip. The Falcons have the advantage of having Matty Ice playing at home, but the Packers have the much better defense. They stopped Michael Vick and I think they can stop the Falcons.

Seattle (+10) over CHICAGO: Why is this line so high? The Seahawks already came into Chicago earlier this season and beat the Bears. Vegas is just feeding the "Nobody believes in us" mentality the Seahawks have going right now. Anyone else going to find it funny if Seattle gets two home games this postseason?

New York Jets (+8.5) over NEW ENGLAND: The Patriots will win this game, but I just can't see it resembling the 45-3 flogging they handed out a few weeks ago. It's a very obvious statement, but the monster that is Bradichick will be the difference. Brady thrives at home, and Belichick thrives when other teams come after him and his team in the media. Belichick is going to stop at nothing to show Ryan who the better coach is.

Peter Gabriel and the Worldbeaters - Party Man

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

NFL postseason awards

By Jeff

I have nothing today. The Pens are playing Montreal and will try to right the ship, but it's still only January. The Steelers don't play until Saturday. Pitt has a new head coach that I know very little about, so I think it irresponsible of me to chime in. The NBA sucks. College basketball means nothing to me until tournament time.

My mind is drained of any creative post ideas, so we're going with the cliche NFL awards predictions. Of course, NFL individual awards are silly considering it's the ultimate team sport. A lineman has a poor season, and the running backs and quarterback will struggle. That will then lead to the receivers struggling. If a defense has one guy missing assignments, the whole unit looks worse as they try to make up for the weak link. To succeed in the league, the whole team, or at least multiple pieces, have to do well and work together.

Would Tom Brady or Drew Brees be as successful if they had the Steelers' line? Some would say yes, some would say no. I've never seen Brady behind a poor line, so I have no idea.

My point is, NFL awards are stupid. So here are mine! I might make some up.

MVP: Tom Brady

Brady also comes home to this. Life isn't fair.
Yes, it angers me to type that name next to those letters, but he was incredible this year. He threw 36 touchdowns and four interceptions en route to the No. 1 seed in the AFC. Michael Vick's season was a great story, but Brady's was better.

Defensive Player of the Year: Troy Polamalu

You got a better pick? Polamalu missed games, but there is no way the Steelers get the No. 2 seed without him. You can point to four or five games where Polamalu was the difference between a win and a loss for the Steelers. Whether it was a crucial interception, or sacking Joe Flacco and forcing a fumble, the team could count on him when they needed him.

Offensive Rookie of the Year: Maurkice Pouncey

This is not just a homer pick. Look at the Steelers' line and you'll understand. They lost their starting right tackle before the season and their left during the season. The left guard can't do pass protection without holding and the right guard is nothing to write home about. Pouncey came in and forced the Steelers to play him at center (he was supposed to start at right guard and ease into center next season). While the line has been a serious issue all year, Pouncey has kept it from being an utter disaster. He probably saved quite a few games himself, but unlike Troy, it's hard to notice when an offensive lineman wins you a game.

Defensive Rookie of the Year: Ndamukung Suh

The man was a beast for the Detroit Lions this year with 10 sacks. He slowed down in the second half, but it wasn't because the level of his play decline. Kyle Vanden Bosch got hurt and the Lions no longer had that double threat on their line. Teams could game plan on just stopping Suh. If Vanden Bosch stayed healthy, Suh would have recorded 15 sacks.

Comeback Player of the Year: Michael Vick

I kind of hate this award. It should have to go to a player who was out of the league, limited to less than eight games, or was injured the previous season. Not just because there was another player in front of you at your position. Vick was in the league last year. He didn't play that much, but it wasn't because he was hurt. But the award goes to players who are a lot better than they were the previous season, which Vick certainly was. The man had a great season and was one of the most exciting players in the league. I don't like him, but you can't deny he played at another level this year.

Coach of the Year: Love Smith

If there was a comeback coach of the year, Smith would definitely win that! This team stunk last year as Jay Cutler was throwing more balls to the other team than his own receivers. Smith was on the hot seat then, and stayed there into this season. If he didn't win the division, he would have probably been canned. But he revitalized his once proud defense and Cutler stopped being a turnover machine. How much credit does Smith deserve for this change of course is tough to say, but I'm saying he was crucial to the transformation.

LVP: Brett Favre

Sorry, Brett. I've defended you quite a bit over the years, but you were terrible this season. You only threw 11 touchdowns compared to 19 picks and seven fumbles. You held out for more money. You were wrapped up in sexting scandal that was clearly a distraction. Your consecutive starts streak came to a halt. Everything that could have gone wrong for you did.

Worst Coach of the Year: Josh McDaniels

The man set the Denver franchise back 5 years. His draft day dealings left the team extremely light on young talent and they didn't have much veteran talent to begin with. At least Denver was smart enough to fire him before he traded their high first round pick for Roy Williams, or something ridiculous like that.

Worst Officiating Call of the Year: The crew officiating the Week 1 game between the Bears and Lions

Calvin Johnson caught the ball and then placed it on the ground after scoring a touchdown. It was a terrible call. I don't understand how anyone could have considered it a drop or loss of possession. Johnson clearly had the ball and had possession. I didn't even have him on a fantasy team this season and I was pissed.

Most Annoying Story of the Year: CBA

The Jenn Sterger-Brett Favre situation was a close second, but at least that story came with new developments. All we have heard about the CBA is that it's not looking good. There is no news to report, yet we hear about it every day. Report back to the public when there is real information to tell us.

Best Story of the Year: Jim Tomsula

Do you recognize this man's name? Probably not. He was the interim coach for San Francisco in Week 17. He was living in his car a few years ago while he coached high school football. He never gave up on the sport he loved and was rewarded with a chance to be a head coach in the NFL, if only for a week. It's a tremendous story and I recommend you look it up.

The Cars - Shake it Up

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Delayed weekend review: Get well soon, Sid

By Jeff

The Pittsburgh Penguins are 0-3 since Sidney Crosby went down with a mild concussion last Wednesday in a game against the Tampa Bay Lightning. In that three-game losing streak, the team has scored a combined three goals and surrendered a 2-0 lead in the final 4 minutes of their latest loss.


Despite his incredible numbers this season (32 goals and 34 assists), the play of the Penguins in Crosby's absence might be his strongest case for MVP. When Crosby is down, the team is down. Players like Pascual Dupuis and Chris Kunitz, who Crosby makes into legitimate threats, don't have nearly the same impact they usually do.
Remember when they were 1A and 1B?

The easy road to take is blame Evgeni Malkin for not playing up to his $8.7 million per year contract. Malkin only has 15 goals and 25 points on the season. While he has shown signs of his talents, he has not come close to consistently producing like he did in the 2007-2008 and 2008-2009 seasons, where he established himself as one of the game's top five players.

I'm not a hockey expert or a psychologist, but it's starting to look like Malkin just doesn't have the mental game to be a true leader. He takes dumb penalties and doesn't seem to be focused at all times like Crosbys and Lidstrom's of the league. These guys might have bad nights, but it's not through lack of effort. It's because teams develop game plans to specifically counter these players.

Another problem with Malkin is I'm not sure he cares enough to want to improve. Crosby was bad at faceoffs and didn't score a lot of goals (well, for a player of his caliber) coming into last season. So Crosby worked his ass off all offseason to improve these categories. The result was Crosby tied for the league lead in goals last season (51) and was 11th in the league in faceoff percentage (55.9 percent).

Malkin has always stunk at faceoffs and still does. He is so bad, he was moved to wing this offseason to make room for Jordan Staal on the second line. He still takes dumb penalties, is lazy in his own zone and turns over the puck too often for my liking.

I'm not trying to tear Malkin down. I don't think we've seen his best hockey yet. The problem is he needs to want to get better and reach his ceiling.

No matter what the outcome of this season, I think Crosby should invite Malkin (and his family) to Canada this summer for the offseason. Someone needs to light a fire under him, and Crosby might be the only one capable of doing it. If Malkin declines, then the Pens should think long and hard if they want him to be here for the long term.

The rest of the weekend review will include Monday. Sorry, I was sick Monday and had no energy to form coherent sentences.

  • The Seattle Seahawks lost a lot of people money Saturday with their win 41-36 win against  defending Super Bowl Champions New Orleans Saints. What was even more surprising was it was the most entertaining playoff game of the weekend. 
  • Did you see Marshawn Lynch's touchdown run? I so don't want to be stiff-armed by that man.
  • Can we please get over Gregg Williams as this elite defensive coordinator? Other than his Tennessee Titans defense in 2000, which ranked second in points against, his defenses have not been that elite. The Saints we good this year, and the Washington Redskins had one excellent year under him, but the rest were mediocre. He was 17-31 when he was the head coach of the Buffalo Bills. The man does a decent job, but he is very overhyped. His defense just gave up 41 points to the Seahawks.
  • I get that Darrelle Revis is a phenom. But that is still no excuse for Peyton Manning only going to Reggie Wayne once in the Indianapolis Colts' 17-16 loss to the New York Jets this weekend. 
  • First, Rex Ryan said it was personal between him and Manning. Now he is saying it's personal between him and Bill Belichick. With a 3-1 postseason record as a head coach, Ryan clearly knows what he's doing, but this "personal" thing is getting annoying. Maybe his players like that he takes attention away from them and places it on himself, but I don't. Maybe I have a thing against fat people, though.
  • The Kansas City Chiefs' offensive coaching staff is stupid. How do you give the rock to Jamaal Charles only three times in the second half after he tore holes through the Baltimore defense in the first half? Once again, I might just have something against fat people. I'm looking at you, Charlie Weis.
  • Sunday was a sad end for the Michael Vick comeback story, as his last play was an interception in the endzone. Vick played a solid game other than that one throw. It's not his fault receivers were dropping passes and David Akers missed two field goals within 50 yards (one was from 32). That being said, the Green Bay Packers played a great game defensively and earned that win.
  • Pitt hired/stole Todd Graham from Tulsa to be the Panthers' next head coach. Seems like a decent hire. I don't follow coaches at the college level, but Graham was successful at Tulsa and brings a fun offense with him. We'll see what happens.
  • As noted above, the Pens are sucking right now. Yes, there is still about half the season to play, but every point matters. You don't want to be the No. 4 or 5 seed this year.
  • "Scott Pilgrim vs. The World" is a weird movie. I thoroughly enjoyed it, but I doubt people who don't love video games will get it or enjoy it. I was laughing for about 3 minutes when Michael Cera's character learned the bass line from Final Fantasy II and was really pumped about it. And just about everyone who reads this blog is now shaking their heads. These people probably would not enjoy the movie.
  • Auburn won the National Championship last night. I was sick and in bed by 10, so I missed all the good stuff. Sorry.
  • The shooting in Arizona Saturday was a tragedy. I disagree with all the hate and irresponsible statements made by media and commentators on the right and left. These people are hurting society more than they are helping. But with that being said, to blame these people for one person's actions is also irresponsible until all the facts come out. This was a mentally disturbed individual who should have never had access to a gun. Blaming one political party or another is using a tragedy for personal gain and it's sick. Now, if you want to blame the gun control laws in Arizona (or lack thereof) and across the country, I'm with you.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Letang earning every cent of extension

By Jeff

When Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang was given a 4-year, $14 million contract extension last season, it was met with mixed reviews.

Some fans called in and said it was a great deal, and the 23-year-old would look like a bargain after a few years into the deal. Then there were those who saw it as a sign the team wouldn't attempt to resign Sergei Gonchar and thought it was a bad deal.

Anyone that has watched even just a few games this season knows that the former idea was the correct one.

Don't believe me? That's fine. Just read what Hall of Famer Paul Coffey has to say about Letang. He knows more about this kind of thing than just about any person on the planet.
Pens fans can look forward to this
scene for the next four seasons.

Letang is playing at an incredible level at both ends of the ice this season. His 36 points is third in the league for defensemen, and he is everyone's conversation for the Norris Trophy as the league's best all-around defenseman. Well, maybe Detroit fans aren't putting him in that conversation. But they don't think anyone but Nicklas Lidstrom is deserving of the award.

The offense is great, but Letang has also been a force in his own zone. He's not a big guy, but he's so strong on his feet that he is rarely overpowered. It also seems like he's delivering more hits this year than in previous ones. The plus-23 rating is pretty nice too.

Pens fans and coaches have seen Letang's potential for years, but this is the first time they're seeing it on a consistent basis. There were times last season, where I would get a little anxious every time Letang touched the puck. You just didn't know what was going to happen. He could have made a great play, or he could have tripped over his own two feet and allowed a two on none break.

I've yet to get that anxious feeling this year watching Letang.

The big difference is not so much that his skills have improved, but the confidence that Letang's playing with. In the past, Letang would get indecisive with the puck and on defense. He wasn't sure of himself and what he was doing. That small delay would usually lead to bad things. That has changed this season. Every time Letang has the puck, he knows what he's doing. The game has slowed down for him and he can make decisions while moving at full speed.

Just watch him closely every time he touches the puck Saturday night against the Minnesota Wild (Ladies, this will probably be easier for you.). When he's bringing the puck up, he's thinking "Should I skate by three people and take the puck into the zone myself, or should I make a nice outlet pass to start the rush?" Last year in these situations, Letang would take an extra second to make that decision. This season he is doing it on the fly. The result is a more complete player that has been instrumental in the Pens sitting atop the Eastern Conference.

For those of you still missing Gonchar, he has 18 points and a minus-20 rating. Still questioning that Letang contract?

Queen - Don't Stop Me Now