Friday, February 09, 2007

The National Champion that is Beginning to Look Like it Never Was...

From an AP report that hit the wires this morning - "Southern California is looking into whether it may have violated NCAA recruiting rules while pursuing highly rated recruit Joe McKnight, a university official said.

"McKnight signed a national letter of intent with USC on Wednesday and made comments during a news conference that seemed to suggest communications involving former Trojan Reggie Bush, who is now with the New Orleans Saints.

"Former players are forbidden from telephoning prospective recruits, their relatives or guardians."

Currently the player and his high school coach are denying any contact with Reggie Bush and that the player mis-spoke, however, according to the report, "During the Wednesday news conference, McKnight said Carroll set up a conference call so he and Curtis could talk to Bush and ease concerns USC might face sanctions."

According to the AP story there are several versions of the story that exist -

1. Conference call with Bush to allay fears. (Violation)

2. McKnight's high school coach, JT Curtis (with whom McKnight lives) stating that according to McKnight, "Coach Carroll was talking to Reggie on the speakerphone and Joe was able to listen and hear Reggie Bush's side of the story." (Which still constitutes a violation)

3. Pete Carroll denies story and - "After being informed of Carroll's denial Thursday night, Curtis called McKnight and later said the recruit never heard Bush on a speakerphone."

4. Following the Carroll denial, Curtis's story sounds like meeting in McKnight in his living room (and Curtis wasn't there?) - "'He said when they came in his house, the discussion was brought up about probation and that's when the conversation came up that they had talked to Reggie, but Joe was not there," Curtis said. "He said, 'I was not on the speakerphone. I never called him and he never called me. I want to make it clear I never spoke to Reggie and he never spoke to me. I just messed it up. I shouldn't have said it that way (at the news conference)."'
"Curtis said McKnight may have been overwhelmed by the attention and scrutiny that accompanied his announcement."

I'm sorry, but describing a conference call is not misspeaking, saying "will" instead of "won't" or calling somebody Tom instead of Ted - that's misspeaking.

Something is not right with the way this recruitment happened and it sounds like both Pete Carroll and Reggie Bush (again) are on the verge of causing problems for USC. It is sounding more and more likely that it is going to be found that Bush accepted improper benefits for at least two seasons which will probably result in USC forfeiting their national title, Bush becoming the first Heisman Trophy winner to be stripped of the award, and sanctions against USC that might include being banned from bowl games, and stripped of football scholarships. And that doesn't include the potential problems of this last issue, which sounds likely to result in further sanctions.

One has to wonder if the Saints braintrust is worried about what Bush might do that will be a problem for them.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

How are these guys not on the Bengals?

According to a December article in the Washington Post approximately 35 NFL players were arrested over the previous 12 months – since then there has been at least one more arrest of a Bengal, which means that the Bengals which account for 3.125 percent of the active players in the league account for approximately 25 percent of the arrests.

I would like to propose a rule change: Any player arrested for a felony offense, or on drug charges is to immediately be traded to the Bengals for a player of equal value for tracking purposes. Once there are no players left of equal value without criminal records, then the Raiders will become the new repository for said players.

The following are the folks that I can’t believe that the Bengals personnel office missed on (and these are just the ones I can remember), keeping in mind that some have been acquitted and some are still facing their day in court –

Offense -

Ruben Droughns, RB Browns – Arrested in May 2006 on one count of assault and two counts of harassment. Also acquitted of earlier drunk driving infraction.

Michael Vick, QB Falcons – Repeated links to marijuana including the recent fiasco at a Miami airport when Vick refused to surrender a water bottle to homeland security officials. Also, has a known alias (Ron Mexico) that is linked to a sex-related civil suit.

Koren Robinson, WR Vikings/Packers - Released during training camp after being arrested on charges of drunken driving and fleeing from police.

Randy Moss, WR Raiders – Past links to marijuana use and resisting arrest. Currently doing everything in his power to get traded including yell and swear at his new head coach.

Ricky Williams, RB Dolphins – Drug issues.

Defense -

Joe Cullen, Asst Coach D Line, Lions – Arrested twice during 2006. In August for an alleged indecent and obscene conduct issue at a fast food drive-in. The second at the beginning of September was for alleged drunk driving

Terrence Kiel, S Chargers - arrested by Drug Enforcement Administration agents at the team's practice facility in September on charges of transporting and possessing a controlled substance.

Steve Foley, LB Chargers - Shot and wounded by an off-duty police officer after a high speed chase for which Foley was charged with drunken driving.

Dwight Smith, S Vikings - Cited by Minneapolis police for indecent conduct in a stairwell outside a downtown nightclub with an unnamed woman.

Sean Taylor, S Redskins – As of last January was facing three counts of aggravated assault and potentially faced up to 46 years in prison. Also has had an issue with spitting on other players.

Adam “Pacman” Jones, CB Titans – Arrested for assault for spitting on a woman at a nightclub in October. Also had a previous run in for which he was charged with public intoxication and disorderly conduct.

Ricky Manning Jr, CB Bears - Arrested was arrested for assault with a deadly weapon in April.

Tank Johnson, DT Bears – Arrested several times over the last couple of season for a variety of offenses including felony gun charges, six misdemeanor counts of unlawful possession of a weapon without a Firearm Owner's Identification card and aggravated assault and resisting arrest.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Championships, fans and trashtalk

Trash talk amongst team fan bases is tradition. The more intense the rivalry, the more the trash talk. Of course, as fans, we often get into ruts to prove our points - utilizing facts that had relevance once, but, due to recent developments, no longer have impact.

For example - no Colts detractor can talk about Dungy's or Manning's inability to win the big one...well, they could, but they would come off as petty and in denial, much like most of Barry Bonds's supporters at this point.

As a life-long member of Red Sox Nation, my favorites are the ones that no longer have any impact on Red Sox fans (except for the truly insecure), but are still used by Yankees fans when they're put on the defensive. Such as; "yeah, well the Yankees won 26 World Series." The problem, that Yankees fans don't seem to understand, is that sports is a "what have you done for me lately" world, and the Sox have won more recently than the Yanks, so we really just don't care. While not happy about things like the Buckner gaffe (which wasn't completely his fault - there are plenty of other places to point the finger in 1986), and the 1978 meltdown, a lot of that gets washed away by 2004.

2004 provides us Sox fans with the best fuel of all for not only did we win the series that year, but it gave us the gift that will keep on giving until the Yankees win the series again - the Yankees are now the OWNERS of the WORST MELTDOWN IN POSTSEASON HISTORY. That takes a lot of sting out of just about any trash talk a Yankees fan can try to throw out there.

(Fill in team here) suck! Amusing, but holds no real value for me, but I'm not into trash talking. I'd rather discuss the merits of a team on a head-to-head/player-by-player basis - Would you rather have Brady over Manning/Varitek over Posada/the San Francisco Giants braintrust condoning illegal behavior or the Cincinnati Bengals braintrust condemning it (but having difficulties finding a solution)? You know...that sort of thing. That being said, I have to admit - the Raiders really do suck. Anyone interested, I'm willing to elaborate, but have a hunch I don't need to. Also, hard to argue with someone saying the Atlantic Division in the NBA sucks, but I addressed that earlier.

Unfortunately, not all fans have the good sense to understand that you stay away from certain subjects where death is involved. It is what has prompted players to go into the stands after fans (a couple of years back a pitcher left the bullpen to go after somebody that had the good grace to comment on the pitcher's stillborn son). It is also why I was not disappointed in the final score of this year's Super Bowl, in spite of the fact that I don't like the Colts.

I know the guy pictured above does not represent all Chicago fans, but somebody needed to say something to him - because that sign was not just classless, it was tasteless and it was not the only one of its ilk at the NFC Championship game.

The Weigh In and Super Bowl Advertising...

This morning I was at 179.5 - down 13.5 from the beginning of the little contest, and 14.5 overall. I have a legitimate shot at entering this year's Australian rules football season at about 165, the lowest I will have been in 14 years - might actually mean that I get back some of the speed and stamina that has deserted me in recent years. Woohoo.

Overall I thought the advertising in this year's Super Bowl was kind of weak. Here are what I thought were the best ads that aired (for my purposes, I'll eliminate ads I know I saw before, so T-Mobile's ad with Dwayne Wade and Charles Barkley is out, as is the Coca Cola Grand Theft Auto which has been playing at movie theaters)...

1. Bring our troops home - People that have been supporting Bush and his war in Iraq should pay close attention to this ad. It was powerful and affecting and it featured a whole bunch of veteran's of today's war telling our government to get the troops home. I'm waiting to see if the Republican brain trust is going to dredge up Swift Boat tactics on these people and try to demonize them for speaking out against the war like they did to Kerry.

2. Rock, paper, scissors (Bud Light) - It appeals to the Three Stooges humorist in me.

3. Hitchhiker (Bud Light) - As a horror film fan and a fan of comedies like Airplane, this ad spoke to me. And you have to love the end when the guy with the axe, in a panic says, "dude, he has a chainsaw!"

4. Emerald Nuts Robert Goulet - As I always run out of gas in the middle of the afternoon I felt that this ad explained a lot about the work place and why we're always saying, "I could have sworn that memo was right here."

5. Lady and the Tramp Snickers bar - What can I say, I like twisted humor.

6. Blockbuster I can't get online with this mouse - While I don't condone animal abuse, there is something viscerally funny about what was done to that mouse (besides, why do we laugh at Wiley Coyote's pain anyway?).

6. Doritos crash - What dude hasn't at least almost done this, nearly get into an accident while checking a woman out on the sidewalk? Once again, we descend into the slapstick.

7. Career Builder office jungle series, annual review - Why do we take so much joy in watching other's pain? Is it because of our own, or is it because we like to see others suffer...oh, never mind the deep shit, there's just something comically surreal about someone covered with binder clips. Ouch.

8. GM Carwash - I know in my household I'm in the minority on this one, but I found this damn funny, if not somewhat disturbing.

9. Career Builder office jungle series, jungle fight - I may have worked at this place, I think I knew the deliveryman at the end of the ad.

10. Career Builder office jungle series, volunteer for training/lemmings - Who hasn't felt like this? Hands? Yeah, that's what I thought.

Honorable mention -

Snapple EGCG
Chad Johnson's Super Bowl Party
Bud Light Slapping is In
Coca Cola Happiness Factory
Fed Ex Don't Judge a Book by It's Cover

The Kevin Federline ad was amusing, but not as funny as it should have been, and Garmin's Ultraman ad interesting, but not particularly compelling. I know my wife doesn't agree with all my choices, but I'm sure if she wants to discuss these choices she'll do her own blog posting, or will respond here.

To view the ads yourself, go here.

Monday, February 05, 2007

I Guess Because Ho-Hum Bowl Doesn't Sound as Good...

I have seen better.

Granted, I have also seen worse championship bouts, but this year's Super Bowl certainly wasn't in the top 50 percent of the games played. This was a game in which both teams did their damnedest to give the game away - Chicago just worked a little harder at it.

The Colts turned the ball over three times on offense (twice from the game's MVP), missed an extra point and a field goal. The Colts high-powered offense accounted for 22 total points on a rainy night.

Unfortunately for the Bears, their offense could manage only 10 points and Rex Grossman was responsible for three of the team's five turnovers (two interceptions on poorly thrown balls and one fumble on the center exchange) - two coming at a time late in the game when the Bears still had an opportunity to pull ahead on touchdowns. Grossman had a later fumble on the exchange that he recovered himself.

It was a sloppy game with few exciting moments (I am not saying this because I am a Patriots fan - I still feel that the Giants-Bills game in January of 1991 is amongst the best ever, the conflicts between the Steelers and Cowboys are epic - except for a mediocre game in the mid 1990's, and the 49ers-Bengals game was special - and I don't like either of those teams).

As for the game MVP - I think the selection of Manning was weak, and probably based more on sentiment than what he actually did to win the game. Let me qualify this by adding that I don't necessarily feel as though there was a clear cut candidate.

His game wasn't horrible, but it wasn't "Most Valuable Player" quality either (Hell, Rex Grossman completed as many touchdown passes to Colts as Manning did). I think that Dominick Rhodes was just as deserving for his ability to keep the Bears offense on the sidelines and to wear out the Bears D while racking up 113 yards and a touchdown on 21 rushing attempts.

Another option would be safety Bob Sanders. Granted he had only two tackles, but also forced one of the Bear fumbles and had an interception (returned 38 yards) and a pass defensed. And a final, although unlikely candidate - Adam Vinatieri. He accounted for 11 points, and after the initial kickoff, kept the ball away from the dangerous Devin Hester.
The Prince of South Beach -
Ah, Prince and the half-time show...It was one of the better halftime shows that I have ever seen, but I have to admit to some surprise at the lack of outrage from middle America about the sexual suggestiveness of the shadow-theater at the tail end of the mini-concert (see the Reuters picture above).
Racial Barriers -
This morning on ESPN's Mike & Mike radio show Mike Greenberg made a big deal about "racial barriers" being broken. It is, at its core, a ridiculous sentiment that implies that there was someone, or some group of someones in control of the NFL that have consciously been trying to hold back black head coaches.
If Tony Dungy were the ONLY black head coach in the NFL right now (he wasn't even the only one in the Super Bowl), I would concede that this Super Bowl win was about a racial barrier that has been broken, that his win would probably mean that other black coaches would get shots at more of the top spots, but this is a guy that's been a head coach for a decade and he's not alone as a black head coach in the NFL.
Here's the real trick - name a Latino head coach. Asian? Hell, try for assistants - outside of Ron Rivera of the Bears, it's pretty hard, isn't it?