Blacking Out in New Orleans

Posted: February 4, 2013 in Bunker

“This can’t be happening,” I said as CBS cut to commercial break.

The eerie silence of the crowd, the mute announcer’s booth and the quick cut to a commercial break commenced a 34-minute delay due to blackout during the Super Bowl. I knew immediately it was a black out and I was even more certain it was going to trigger and irrational response. Twitter exploded with comments and reactions immediately. It ranged from the obvious and mundane “OH MY GOD”, “No Way”, to golden quips such as “George Bush doesn’t care about black people in the Super Bowl” and “Beyonce turned out the lights” was tweeted by numerous people on my timeline. Between the quirky one-liners and mass hysteria, the conspiracy theorists were already cooking up their half-baked assertions about how and why the blackout occurred.

However, I was horrified. It was perfectly clear what would happen after the blackout ended: the Niners were going to make a comeback. Every one feared that would be the outcome. At that moment I made a 180 and began rooting for the Ravens. Not because I was overly concerned about the storybook ending of Ray Lewis or crowning Joe Flacco, but for the (murky and at times questionable) sanctity of the NFL.

Sports conspiracy theorists don’t need much to run amok and the blackout was just that opportunity to do so.

The Super Bowl game is no stranger to conspiratorial allegations of shady behavior. Leading up to Super Bowl XXX, Neil O’Donnell had an impeccable interception percentage. Only during the game his favorite target happened to be the Cowboys’ Larry Brown. In Super Bowl XL, there were a number of calls so dubious the head official apologized to the entire city of Seattle a few years later. Even the Patriots’ Super Bowl XXXVI upset over the Rams four months after 9/11 had 12-year old me screaming about a fix.

The one thing that tends to ruin sports discussions for me is the suggestion that a league, the mob or players themselves fix games. I’m not going to say that it’s never happened (1919 Black Sox scandal being a prime example), but it doesn’t happen nearly as much as some fans suggest.

Not even close.

These paranoid theories are largely based on the idea that random acts outside of the realm of normal patterns have to be a part of some grand scheme either by the players or a higher power. Other top down conspiracy theories imagines an all-powerful puppeteer manipulating players, coaches and referees.

The really nutty aspect about the sports conspiracy theorists is that they watch even suspecting that it’s “all rigged”. To these people professional sports has the same appeal to them as Vince Mcmahon’s WWE. Given the comparisons people make to Roger Goddell and David Stern to the fictional “Mr. Mcmahon” one would think some actually believe that sports is being managed by megalomaniac commissioners who control the outcome of sporting events. I would venture to guess that’s not why most of us watch sports.

We watch because we know although these athletes are professionals, that sports are prone to human error on levels from the owner’s box to the 53rd man on the bench. We enjoy it when they show that sort of vulnerability, that imperfection that reminds us of ourselves.

When the blackout occurred and Kaepernick led the Niners down the field for back-to-back touchdowns, I feared Super Bowl XLVII was only going to be remembered for the controversy surrounding the blackout. I was afraid the dramatics, the ebb and flows of the football game and the power of momentum would be lost in the narrative after the game. Luckily, Baltimore and Joe Flacco righted the ship to a narrow 34-31 victory over San Francisco. Crisis averted.

No irrational talk about the Goddell ordering the blackout to save the 49ers chances of winning nor any speculation of Goddell sabotaging the Ravens chances of winning over some bias against the city. The blackout was just another bizarre accident and an odd footnote in Super Bowl history.

Then I received a text from a 49er fan “Did you see that?!? It was clearly holding on Crabtree! Goddell and the NFL screwed the 49ers just so Ray Lewis could have his stupid Last Ride. It’s all rigged!”

I guess it could have be worse.

 

Super Bowl 47 could shake the NFL up for years to come and I will be rooting furiously for that change.

It’s not that Colin Kaepernick has the opportunity to become the second African-American Quarterback to win a Super Bowl. Doug Williams won Super Bowl XXII in one of the greatest Quarterback performances Super Bowl History and that didn’t prevent people from using coded language to dismiss the potential of black Quarterback prospects. [see accusations of Cam Newton’s alleged laziness and character issues”.] A win for Kaepernick won’t quiet the whispers about the abilities of the “Black Quarterback” on message boards and comment boxes.

But it may usher in a new era of offense in the NFL.

The bland, vanilla (no pun intended) style offense that is widely regarded as “winning football” asks the Quarterback to remain in the pocket. It demands a competent Offensive Line, strict precision passing, accuracy and a trust that the design preached by your coaches is gospel. Who can blame the narrative? It’s been proven over and over that “pocket quarterbacks” are an essential element to a winning pro football team. It isn’t called a “pro-style offense” for nothing.

But a win for Kaepernick in Super Bowl 47, given the copycat nature of the NFL, could mean the possibility of expanding the definition of the Pro QB.

The new breed of QB including Cam Newton, Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick have emerged out of the shadow of men like Michael Vick, whose speed was seen as deterrent to his success rather than an asset. Their respective coaches have loosened the reins on these young quarterbacks and allowed their offenses to take advantage of their skills by using the “pistol” and “read-option” techniques. These new offensive schemes shun the notion that the scientific formula designed by the offensive geniuses of yesteryear hold the only method achieve success on the offensive side of the ball.

The zone read offenses allow for designed improvisation. As if echoing the famous Miles Davis quote “Don’t play what’s there, play what’s not there”, the read option allows the Quarterback to navigate the white space between the lines the offensive and defensive plays. When there’s a breakdown in a designed play, the aforementioned Quarterbacks have the speed, agility and awareness to create beauty in the midst of chaos. It takes quarterbacking from the drawing board and places it on a canvas, from the boardroom to the backyard.

This new style won’t replace the conventional quarterback by any means. QBs like Aaron Rodgers and Andrew Luck who brilliantly fuse their amazing pocket presence with their unique speed are nearly impossible to contain. There’s always room for Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Eli Manning, Big Ben and Matt Ryan.

The pocket quarterback is not going away, but it may give an opportunity to those who were overlooked and undervalued in the past. Men like Eric Crouch, Pat White, and Andre Ware would be given more of an opportunity to showcase their talent in today’s NFL.

But Kaepernick has to deliver a stand out performance. He cannot simply win, he has to be the reason the Niners bring home the title.  There are only 4 Quarterbacks who run a college system, but win could mean the expansion of this exciting offensive philosophy.

Joe Montana and Bill Walsh revolutionized the NFL by popularizing the “West Coast Offense”, Kaepernick and Harbaugh have a chance to do the same on February 3rd.  Like their predecessors, it will take the Lombardi trophy to validate their system.

Lance Armstrong will admit to using Performance Enhancing Drugs.

Barry Bonds is not in the Hall of Fame for the foreseeable future.

Tiger Woods is not the number 1 golfer in the world.

10 years ago it would have been impossible to think that those three statements would be true. Not when Barry Bonds just completed his second of 4 consecutive MVPs. Not when Tiger Woods just completed a 3-year (2000-2002) stretch of complete dominance the likes of which no golfer had ever seen. Not with Lance Armstrong dawning the cover of Sports Illustrated as Sportsman of the Year in 2002.

Barry Bonds’ waterloo came by way of BALCO, numerous Congressional Hearings and an Obstruction of Justice charge. It was a slow death that took about five years and brilliant investigative journalism that eventually crippled Bonds’ reputation.

Tiger Woods’ demise came in flash. His scorned, betrayed wife wielding a club with bad intentions drove Tiger into a ditch. When he resurfaced from the ditch he was inundated with dozens of accusations from numerous women who claimed to his mistress. Tiger’s new brand: Adulterer.

Bonds and Woods will survive their scandals.

Bonds will survive, because his abrasive attitude was never endearing to start. The media’s temporary courtship with Bonds during the later stages of his historic MVP run was always quite awkward. The guards at Buckingham Palace are more approachable than Bonds. The media and fans can live without Bonds in the public sphere. He never really wanted our admiration anyways.

Woods will survive, because he’s still an active golfer. AT&T, Accenture, Gatorade and Gillette cut ties with Woods, but even that was not enough to ruin Woods. Woods is still the main attraction on the PGA tour. Tiger is still box office. We’re captivated by his chase for Jack Nicklaus’ record. We salivate over every Tiger win. Hoping that he’s returned to old form we ask: Is Tiger back? The Tiger we’re used to seeing on the 18th hole closing in on another historic victory. The question “Is he back?” is irrelevant if we’re not nostalgic for his greatness. We need Woods.

Lance Armstrong had a much greater burden than the other two:

He was an American Hero.

Every year, Lance Armstrong traveled across the Atlantic, plastered in his yellow suit with the American flag on his helmet, shoulder or across his back. Every year for seven consecutive years, Lance Armstrong won the Tour de France. Everyone gunned for Armstrong, including his teammates. But every year around the same time, the world would be forced to concede that he was the best. Period.

Armstrong could never make cycling mainstream. He didn’t have to, he was cycling. Americans didn’t have any noteworthy history in cycling. Cycling didn’t matter unless Armstrong’s name was involved. He was bigger than the sport. We were proud when he went overseas, won every year and returned with the trophy draped in the American flag. That was the essence of his heroism. We never questioned him. Others tried, but their words conveniently fell on deaf ears.

No one bothered to discuss the pervasive doping and cheating in Cycling. Big Cycling names like Jan Ullrich, Marco Pantani and Floyd Landis didn’t mean anything to us. Armstrong was incomparable. It made sense to us that he was the cleanest sport where many of its prominent champions were suspected or guilty of doping at one time or another. It’s what made him a Hero.

And when it comes to our heroes, the use of logic is obsolete.

But Armstrong’s greatest battle and triumph took place in a hospital. Before the Seven consecutive titles he won from 1999-2005, Armstrong battled testicular cancer and survived. He used his story to raise over $500 million through the Livestrong charity. By 2012, his net worth, according to Forbes magazine, was over $125 million. The charity has helped millions of Americans, brought awareness to the importance of cancer screenings and funded extensive cancer research.

His success was a win for America and for cancer survivors across the world. Armstrong was the embodiment hope, strength and perseverance. Armstrong was a reflection of American ideals. He fought off cancer like John Wayne and then dominated a sport like Michael Jordan. It was as infallible as an American Icon could get.

Now that Lance Armstrong came cleen of his PED use his name is forever tarnished. But it makes sense. Armstrong had too much to protect. The survival of Livestrong and all of his philanthropic ventures hinged on his success and his squeaky-clean reputation. It was protecting his story as much as it was about winning the Tour de France for Armstrong, it was about maintaining the purity of his brand. His brand demanded that his name remain clean.

Deny any allegations at all costs. Never give in. There was too much at stake. At every chance remind the people who you are:

Inspiration. Humanitarian. Survivor. Rinse, wash, repeat.

Inspiration. Humanitarian. Survivor.

Those are words I could have never associated with talented prodigies like Tiger Woods and Barry Bonds (I’ll explain why he’s added later). It’s what made Armstrong unique. Bonds and Woods were aloof; men who were closer to the Gods describes in legendary epics than men in which we could relate. Isolation is not what we demand of our heroes. We want more and Lance delivered. Bond and Woods never particularly wholly embraced the adoration of their supporters. They were professionals; their goal was professional immortality. With Lance, well there was more. More we cared about, more that we wanted to embrace. There was no quantitative goal (756 Home Runs, 18 majors) that defined Armstrong like the others.

An admission to Oprah was about as well received as LeBron James’ “The Decision”. [Without the irrational backlash] Even Armstrong’s most ardent defenders have come to this conclusion: Lance Armstrong, (to borrow a phrase from Dennis Green) was not who we thought he was.

Fraud.

 

We must protect our history.

“I may never go back to Cooperstown — it wouldn’t be a sacred hall anymore.” – Goose Gossage.

Goose Gossage is against the idea of including suspected steroid users in the Hall of Fame. He’s not alone, more than 60% of the members of the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) writers left Bonds, Clemens and Sosa off of their ballots. Two things motivate the writers: punishing the alleged users and protecting of the Hall of Fame. Steroid re-wrote the history books and now baseball purists are looking re-craft the narrative once again, but for whom?

We must protect our history.

“My Ancestors Are Slaves. Stolen From Africa. I Will Honor Them” – Spike Lee.

For Spike, slavery is pain, slavery is about the heroic triumph of his people, and it’s his heritage. Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained” re-writes Spike’s history by cataloguing the brutality of slavery through the use of a spaghetti western. By urging others the boycott, Lee and other critics of “Django” cling to the notion that the slave narrative must be fashioned in a particular manner. 

We are a country that attempted to scrub history by removing the “n-word” from Huck Finn and slavery from the Civil War in an attempt to simplify historical narratives. Confronting nuance has never been our strong suit. But it always felt as though the national pastime’s obsession with history would allow it to maneuver the nuances of their own history.

The MLB used to be a societal trendsetter. Think about it for a second. The MLB (with an unmistakable assist from Branch Rickey) leapt ahead of American society by placing Jackie Robinson (an African-American) on a whites-only field. By the time the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964, every team fielded at least one black baseball player. Far before southern society ripped down their “Whites Only” signs from schools, water fountains and other publics spaces, African-Americans stole the show on nightly basis on the baseball diamond.  

Rather than ignore the MLB’s problematic relationship with the Negro Leagues, the Hall of Fame enshrined many of the Negro League greats into the Hall of Fame. They accounted for their embarrassing policies during the early decades of their inception.

There’s a lesson to be learned from that. Let’s put some ice on that black eye.

The steroid era, however, has caused baseball writers and analysts trouble alike.  It seems as though many have agreed to usher in the “post-steroid testing” era by muting their mentions of those who prospered during the steroid era. During Miguel Cabrera’s Triple Crown season in 2012, there were many prominent journalists who proclaimed Cabrera had the greatest offensive season in the past 40 years; a slap in the face for anyone with 20/20 vision watching Barry Bonds from 2001-2004.

Baseball has lagged behind most of society when it comes to the steroid issue. Some of baseball’s prominent names are linked to Performance Enhancing Drugs: including, Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz, Jason Giambi and Rafael Palmeiro. It’s no longer 2006, where we can delude ourselves into thinking that PEDs were limited to Bonds, Canseco, Sosa, McGwire and Clemens. Steroids were as pervasive as amphetamines in 70′s and 80′s and spitballs were in the early 20th century.

Instead of having an adult discussion about how to reconcile the steroid era, with their vote this past Wednesday has decided to redact the black mark, rather than embrace it as many of us have over the past few years. No one was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2013. It was the second time in 42 years and the first since 1996.  They would like you to believe that the careers of Barry Bonds, who holds the record for MVPs (7), Roger Clemens who holds the record for most Cy-Young award wins (7), Sammy Sosa (most 60 HR seasons) and Mike Piazza, the greatest hitting catcher are not Hall of Fame worthy.

Redacting the steroid era by omitting its best players is a counter-intuitive venture. Very few approve of the way the BBWAA handled this year’s vote. For every year we move further away from the steroid era, the closer the baseball community will have to come to embracing the PED era and its participants. The Hall of Fame voters already seem petty given their recent history: denying anyone who even hinted of PED use, Ron Santo and other absurd practices that keep deserving candidates off the first ballot. Keeping out some of the greatest players of all-time without banning them completely from baseball has the potential to ruin the legitimacy of the Hall of Fame.

Cleansing and sanitizing history into a neat narrative never works. Especially not in a social media driven society that does not follow the old static “baseball purity” narratives that are more fit for 1980s audience than one in 2013.  The Hall of Fame is the final frontier in baseball conventional wisdom. The walls are crumbling, the times are changing, hopefully they figure out before it becomes too late.

They can continue to follow a script written for yesteryear and risk irrelevancy.

Spike Lee learned very quickly after his critique of “Django Unchained”, that it wasn’t enough to just express an objection a portrayal of slavery written by a White American.  Substance and nuance was essential to any real critique of the movie and protesting the movie without viewing the movie in its entirety was insufficient for a more sophisticated public open to new ideas. Newer faces in the African-American media community, such as Toure, came out in support of the movie with an in-depth analysis of the movie more appropriate for times.

The steroid era records still stand; the numbers are still etched in books without asterisks or footnotes.  Bonds still has 7-MVP awards and Clemens still has 7 Cy Young awards.  It’s there. Tarantino will continue to collect Golden Globe and Academy Award recognition, despite the protests of a few.  Nothing will change and baseball has not and will not step in to alter those numbers.

One day Bonds, Clemens and the others will have their plaques in Cooperstown.

Until then we all get snicker at those old and out-of-touch writers of the BBWAA.

Welcome to 2013!  I’m happy you made it but PLEASE don’t read into it.  Nothing bothers me more than those elaborate 2012 reviews that casually ignore significant sports stories like Lebron James being unclutch, to Lebron the champion, to Lebron putting up 30-9-7 and no one is shocked.  They always seem to miss how bountygate became a story about Commissioner Roger Goodell’s suspensions and Saints brass seems to have gotten a total pass about the bounty system THEY started and were warned about by…the Commissioner’s office.  Oh and how about the Associated Press’ Male Athlete of the Year being Michael Phelps; I understand the temptation to give it to an Olympian but to not give it to Usain Bolt is pretty egregious (USA bias?).  All of those things are best left to professionals.  I can only offer you two of my favorite things: the 2012 Commissioner of the Year award and an updated assessment of the ALL Sports Defensive Team.

2012 Commish of the Year

It’s been a busy year for the fearless leaders of the Big Four professional sports leagues in North America.  I give the Commissioner of the Year honor out to recognize the best of the most hated people in sports.  No one gives people greater angst than Tim Tebow professional sports commissioners but we should always stop and realize that they do oversee the things we love despite the fact that fans think they could do a better job with greater ease.  It should also be noted that you (yes YOU) probably cannot come close to doing their jobs because they work for the owners and you hate the owners.

This year was much harder than last year because lockouts really helped to cut down the pool by two people.  2011 saw Alan Selig storm to victory late in the year past Gary Bettman (gasp!) primarily because Selig and the MLBPA peacefully sat down and passed a collective bargaining agreement which got no media attentions because it wasn’t confrontational.  Furthermore, the deal that passed made the game more entertaining with the added wild card play in game.  Yes, instant replay is a problem and yes MLB does have the strongest players union but credit goes to the guy who provided stability and excellent playoff baseball to the views.

With that said, the final standings are:

4) Gary Bettman

Locked out again after an amazing hockey run.  Any bit of momentum created by this league is thrown away with an ease second only to the XFL.  No one respect Bettman and players have a viable alternative to hockey (though not viable in the long term).  Bettman does seem to do a good job with owners as not playing is more cost effective than playing but fielding no product is just not good enough.

3) Roger Goodell (2010 Winner)

For all my issues with how Bountygate has been misled it still has been a black eye on the commissioner’s office.  Anyone that does Adderall is apparently exempt from punishment for cheating because it’s not like football has a steroids issue. (Seriously have you seen these players?!  Don’t bother me about steroids in baseball if the NFL is loaded with muscular freaks) Oh the replacement referee debacle all falls on him and although ratings did not suffer, it’s never good business to allow less than your best to be on display.

2) Alan Selig

Not much to report other than baseball STILL has not adopted instant replay because old man Selig is old.  The changes to the playoff format, while great, were rushed through leaving glaring holes on what to do (re: one-game playoff rosters allowing for expanded slots for more pitching changes than Tony La Russa could think of).  Not a bad season just not good enough for high honors.

1)      David Stern

Started the NBA season better than anyone could’ve imagined.  For all his shortcomings (namely his world class personality), he totally embraced the bad guy role this year.  Check out the beginning of the NBA draft amid a healthy set of boos. “Woah…thank you for that warm welcome…” and the hand to the ear at the :49 second mark is stuff of pure gold.  Great season after a rough start in the lockout era and most importantly pushed through his grand idea of a “World Cup of Basketball.”  Congrats on this awards and announcing his retirement.

ALL II Defensive Squad Update

As many of you know, I defend a ton of people for pretty good reasons.  Often times these people get no credit or respect because their narrative is totally miscast by the broader media/fans.  Can’t pull a fast one by me.  It’s time to update the defensive team by sport: who’s in, who’s out, and a brief (I promise) explanation how we got here.

The National Basketball Association Wing (aka The Dirk Wing)

CURRENTLY IN: Russell Westbrook, Vinny Del Negro, Carmelo Anthony, Deron Williams (Suspended for sucking)

OUT: Chris Bosh, Erik Spolestra

Won a title and Bosh’s absence made things much harder for Los Heat to do it.  Value on display.  Second best player that playoffs for the Heat.  Spo won the chip and revolutionized line ups.

In: Mike Brown, my father Avery Johnson, Brook Lopez

Brown: Fired after five games without getting his entire healthy team on the court.  Kobe wanted the Princeton Offense.  Can’t fix being old as s**t.

Johnson: Won coach of the month the same day he was axed.  In the mist of a bad run led by an injured Lopez and career low shooting from Williams.  Got kiss of death from Williams.  Honestly a .500 team on pace to finish above .500 (by a game but still).

Lopez: underappreciated as an offensive force.  Team loses when injured.  Team wins when healthy.  Needs to get totally healthy but team is undeniably better when he is active and on the court.

The Major League Baseball Wing (aka Playing without Steroids Wing)

CURRENT: Ichiro, Carl Crawford

CHIKA CAN NEVER TALK ABOUT BASEBALL AGAIN AFTER ICHIRO’s PLATOON SPLITS WITH THE YANKEES LOOKED GREAT.

OUT: n/a

IN: Mike Scioscia, Justin Upton, Mike Trout

Scioscia is going to be under extreme pressure to win immediately after their loaded line-up missed the playoffs last year.  Smart manager.  Proven winner.  Thin ice.

Upton is the cause of great concern with his numbers regressing last season.  Many outlets are reporting that Arizona is looking to deal him (again) after signing Cody Ross.  Still like the talent that is in Upton; pure athlete that can put it together for a solid career though a jump to the American League may stunt that growth.

Trout should’ve won the MVP by MILES.  Best all-around player.  People don’t understand that defense is part of the game.  Do better.

The National Football Association Wing (aka Nate Kaeding Wing)

CURRENT: Alex Smith, Roger Goodell, Anthony “Tony” Romo, Joe Flacco

OUT: Pete Carroll, Steven Jackson, Reggie Bush

IN: Mark Sanchez

Romo is easily a top ten quarterback.  Over his career he consistently throws for 4300-4600 yards completing 65% of his passes with a 2:1 TD/INT ratio.  Yes he makes some poor decisions in huge moments but it’s not like his defense is helping him.  Winning late to make it into playoff contention should also mean something.  If Dallas thinks jettisoning Romo is going to make them better then they are bound to fail for the next five years.

Sanchez plays with no one talented.  Get that man a talented person at a skill position and then bother me.  (He is also here for comedic relief)

SO thats it.  Expect me to rant about how no one will be admitted in the Hall of Fame and I will reveal my clear cut NFL MVP which I declared in week 14.

ALL II

Posted: December 24, 2012 in Bunker

According Rich Cimini, Tim Tebow requested he not be used in any Wildcat packages in today’s game against the San Diego Chargers. Tebow was unhappy about being passed over as the starting QB sport. The irony is of course, in Denver, Tebow was the 3rd string QB when John Fox, handed the starting QB spot to Tebow over Brady Quinn.

 

When the Jets acquired Tebow for 3rd and 4th round pick. It was widely assumed that it was only a matter of time before Tebow took over the Jets offense. It was a combination of Tebow’s immense popularity coming off of his 7-4 record (including a playoff win in Pittsburgh) and Mark Sanchez’s wildly inconsistently play in his first four years as the Jets QB.

 

True to form, Sanchez was excellent (Week 1 vs. Buffalo), horrendous (Week 15 at Tennessee) and an embarrassment to the position of Quarterback (Thanksgiving vs. Patriots). But each week Coach Rex Ryan would announce that Sanchez would start the following week. Other than a handful of gimmick Wildcat packages, Tebow didn’t play. He never started for the Jets. When Sanchez was benched, he was benched for Greg McElroy, not Tim Tebow. Jets fans clinging onto any desperate glimmer of hope and Tebow enduring fans claimed the Tebow deserved to be the starting Quarterback.

The Tebow deserves it crowd bases their argument on the assumption that because Sanchez was such a horrific Quarterback, that Tebow, who was told he would have the opportunity to compete for the starting job, should take over. There are several aspects that I find problematic with this assumption. This assumes that the fan, who has no access to practices or Tebow’s, knows better about Tebow’s abilities than his coach. Second, every player is given the opportunity to compete for a starting spot during training camp and during practices. It was clear from the Jets preseason, Tebow was mediocre at best. It was made even clearer by his teammates that they did not trust his ability to lead the team offensively. In the few opportunities Tebow received the Jets saw no real discernible difference in offensive production. But yet we’re supposed to make an exception for Tebow.

 

There seems to be very little possibility in the minds of Tebow supporters that there is a possibility Tebow could be significantly worse than Sanchez. There seems to be no possibility that much like Tebow the year before, Greg McElroy outplayed Tebow in practice and thus was bumped from Third String to starter. There couldn’t be any possibility that the man whose career completion percentage is a porous 47%. Tebow is a that caricature 47%-er Mitt Romney described.

 

Tebow (and his fans) felt the sense of a entitlement that he deserved the spot, because he wanted it and was told he had the opportunity to get it. Tebow may be the hardest worker in the business, but at some point hard work, talent competency have to meet. Tebow’s not the only diva professional athlete we’ve ever seen, except for some reason his fans seem to make an excuse for his behavior. At every point, Tebow’s been coddled and defended with sports platitudes that haven’t translated into very much of anything this year. I wonder if this were Cam Newton, Andrew Luck, RGIII or Russell Wilson would we use these same excuses? What if this was Terrell Owens?

 

In the end, the Tebow story has to die. It has to fade. More Meril Hoge rants are necessary, we can’t have continue to let these double standards exist. He’s the gutsy underdog but then a prima-donna. He’s just a winner, but can’t start over Mark Sanchez. He brings teams together, but the teams he’s on seem to be divided about his presence. We’ll see what’s next for Tebow in Jacksonville, hopefully he earns what he deserves. 

 

Bob Costas recited the end of Jason Whitlock’s December 1st article urging the NFL to cancel the game between the Carolina Panthers and the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead stadium. Costas received quite the backlash from the public, who didn’t think it was the appropriate time to “debate” gun-control. I quibble with this characterization for two reasons. Bob Costas did not debate the gun-control issue, he opined about gun-control, which whether we like it or not played a role in deaths of both Kassandra Perkins and Jovan Belcher. Whether or not it was the primary issue is irrelevant, Costas’ essay is a platform for him to give his opinion about a subject concerning the sport of football. He did not ask to repeal the 2nd Amendment, he spit a cold hard truth about the platitudes we use when tragedy strikes sports.

 

The irony of it all is that the point both Costas and Whitlock were attempting to make in their respective essays were reinforced by the responses by many in the public. “There’s no place for political commentary in Sunday Night Football.” Sunday night football and Monday Night Football and national televised sporting events have always been political. From the 5000 sq. yard American flags draped on the field to the passionate singing of the National Anthem at every game. When players showboat or don’t look the way we think they should at a particular position, we comment and boy do those comments always toe the line of racial and cultural politics. But when the issues aren’t easily dismissed by saying something along the lines of “this isn’t a racial issue,” “he doesn’t play the game the right way,” or “player safety” the public tends to cower away from the issue and decide that sport is not the place to play out those so-called political agendas.

 

Unless it’s tied up in feel good story, an answer or a human interest documentary we have very little room in the sports world to address the deeper political issues that play out on a regular basis. Whitlock wasn’t too far off when he compared NFL on Sundays to church, there are some things we aren’t allowed to bring into the Church. Guns are one of them and this past Sunday, Costas brought guns into our sacred grounds and the senseless unproductive mudslinging commenced. 

There is a significant difference between doing what is honest and doing what is right.  Significant may be a stretch, so between you and me, we can probably agree that some circumstances may lead to the separation of those two ideas: honesty and moral right.  My generation of football witnessed the death of an illusion, the end of an era of looking the other way, the conclusion of what some would suggest “the greatest good” winning in the end.  Football’s celebrated violence is now incredibly controversial, with concussions leading the way as the poster child for our beloved, barbaric sport.  For whatever reason, this usually splits casual observers and fans into two camps: pro-players or pro-league.  The pro-players stance is really simple: players make BILLIONS of dollars for the league and should be supported more; owners and particularly Roger Goodell (because people cannot figure out he represents the owners) should support players better with health care and make the league safer.  On the contrary, the pro-league stance suggests players do not HAVE to play football and if they do they should play it safely.  The NFL places no restrictions on if players can use “safer” helmets and if they really cared about safety they would wear all of their equipment (which they don’t), wear safer equipment (which they don’t), and should listen to team doctors upon injury.  Brian Urlacher says eff that!   One thing that is missing from this conversation is the potential avalanche created by fear, not fear of losing money or permanent injury but both.  It’s the fear of replacement.

This takes us to the Monday Night Football extravaganze between Da Bears and the 49ers featuring Colin Kaepernick and Jason Campbell.  Somewhat surprisingly, Kaepernick played phenomenally against a very good Bears defense and dominated from beginning to end.  Inevitably this one game success leads to a quarterback controversy in the media.  “I usually tend to go with the guy that has the hot hand and we have two quarterbacks that have a hot hand,” Harbaugh said after Monday’s 32-7 victory.  WOAH!  That’s not the media, that’s the head coach!  Legit quarterback controversy after one game!  That seems a bit rushed especially since Alex Smith has been…very good in his last two starts (25-27, 304yds, 4TDs/0INTs – injured in the second game) and good all season.

Loss of job from injury + what have you done for me lately.  That’s a huge blow for someone who was built up from mediocrity/instability in the organization.  Thoughts of Smith’s playoff win over the Saints and his carving up the Green Bay defense this season seem like years ago.  How does this all relate to concussions?  Last week, prior to being taken out the game, Smith stayed in the game SIX MORE PLAYS after being concussed and experiencing blurred vision.  He threw a touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree on his final play of that game without being able to see straight.  I am far short of being a medical doctor but I cannot imagine the injury risk of being hit again after already suffering a concussion.

What drives players is competition, especially those who are not comfortable in their situations.  Who knew that the world would spin so quickly for the fourth rated passer in the NFL and all the talk of supporting Alex Smith who fade after Kaepernicks’s first completed 10-yard out route against the Bears.  Harbaugh unnecessarily brought drama on the NFL’s best team and it remains to be seen if Kaepernick can sustain this success. (Remember Vick coming in for Kevin Kolb against the Packers a couple of years ago and lighting the world on fire?  Or how about giving $10 million guaranteed to Matt Flynn after one great game?)

What remains true is that players will continue to put themselves in harm’s way because tomorrow cannot be guaranteed.  Shameful really but the sport is also a business, and business is just business.

Oblivious GF GM

Posted: November 11, 2012 in Bunker

During the Mavericks vs. Knicks game, my part-time bedroom partner who knows very little about the NBA other than LeBron James is really good and Chris Bosh makes egregious faces asked me following:

“Is Mike Woodson a good coach?”

Before I answered, I inquired why she would ask such a question. She answered:

“He just doesn’t look like someone who’s that good.”

She was spot on. Just by looking at him, she said to herself “I don’t want THAT guy coaching my team.” I wanted to know what she thought about other coaches in the league. She could perhaps be the anti-Nate Silver, but just as effective. I decided to test the theory out by pulling up the Google Images of various coaches from random eras across the history of the NBA. I posed the question in a very simple manner: Is this person a good coach?

Here are the results

Phil Jackson – Good

Cotton Fitzsimmons (Random I know) – Bad

Isiah Thomas - Bad

Lionel Hollins – Good

Vinny Del Negro - Good

Avery Johnson - Good

Scott Skiles – Bad

Lawrence Frank – Bad

Gregg Popovich - Bad

PJ Carlesimo - Good

Larry Brown - Good, “Would venture to say even really good”

Kurt Rambis - Bad

Alvin Gentry  - Good

Doc Rivers - Good

Some reasons cited for the choices:

“Guys who point with confidence seem like they would be better.”

“eeeh his face seems too intense”

“He looks unhinged”

“Also, it’s more than the pointing, there needs to be a mix of smile and fierce faces. You need to let your players know when they’re sucking, but you also have to be able to celebrate their successes to boost morale. People who look dead in every picture clearly can’t do that”

Message to GMs – Apparently it’s a lot easier to tell a bad coach than it is to tell who is a great coach.

Brooklyn Nets, New York Knicks

Posted: October 31, 2012 in Bunker

Hurricane Sandy’s devastation brought New Yorkers from all five boroughs together in a common bond over tragedy at worst and inconvenience at best. A storm so influential, it postponed one of the more exciting events in the city’s recent history. The Brooklyn Nets hosting the New York Knicks.

I’ve been asked by most of my friends outside of the Big Apple if I will be jumping on the Brooklyn bandwagon. Born and raised in Brooklyn it’s only logical that I get on board. But I’ve been through too much with the Knicks to bail now. I’ve spent too many years being laughed at for defending Patrick Ewing’s greatness, while being laughed at some of his worst moments. I sat through a time where Keith Van Horn, Allen Houston and Latrell Sprewell were the answer. The Starbury era. The Isiah era(s). I would be a turncoat and fair-weather fan to leave now.

But the chasm I find more interesting is what the two teams will represent culturally. The demographics of Brooklyn have been changing over the past 5 to 10 years. However, the stigma of Brooklyn exuded by some of the legendary black entertainers (Spike Lee, Jay-Z, Notorious B.I.G., Chris Rock, to name a few) still remains. With the influx of Yuppies in neighborhoods like Clinton Hill, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Red Hook and Crown Heights (traditionally Caribbean and Latino dominated areas) Brooklyn has a whole new style now. It feels as though it’s all-inclusive. Yet it still has a sense of exclusivity with its “swag” and the Nets with their black and white simplified color scheme exude that style.

 

The Knicks on the other hand seem passé, old-school, traditional. In an attempt to keep up with their counterparts, the Knicks have introduced new jerseys. While not the fashion statement of the Nets, you have to give them credit for trying. The Knicks have the advantage of playing the remaining basketball institution in this country, Madison Square Garden. The Knicks are the family’s team, Grandpa was old enough to remember when Willis Reed limped out onto the court, and Dad was old enough to remember when they finally made it back to the Finals in 1994. The Knicks won’t go for cool points, they’ll rely on nostalgia.

I know who I’ll root for this year, but as long as the symbol of Knick leadership remains James Dolan and the Nets Sean Carter, it’ll be hard for me hold onto that allegiance.