Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Observations after a politically busy week

No one has mentioned this, even though it was often mentioned as a possibility when Roger Clemens was at the forefront of the news for a slew of stupid decisions, but W has left office with a bare minimum of presidential pardons. The Rocketman's name wasn't on that list. And the Grand Jury investigation continues.

Can't help but think that, in the end, Rusty Hardin figured on a pardon from Bush, a long-time friend of the family. Also can't help but think that Clemens is pretty well screwed now. I wonder what the strategic move is now?

I think one of the more compelling story-lines through to the Super Bowl is going to be that part of Bill Cowher's brain-trust - Ken Whisenhunt and Russ Grimm scheming against players that they coached for years.

I still like the way the Red Sox are going about business this off-season. I have to say that the Yankees just seem like they're doing more of the same - blowing big dollars on guys that had great contract seasons, but, for the most part, have questionable histories in regards to being real impact players.

Dave over at the Coffin Corner has an interesting post about Mayor Daley in Chicago lobbying the NFL for a second franchise in the Windy City. My theory is, in spite of all the Bear-love that the citizens have for the hometown team, that Daley senses a dissatisfied undercurrent running through the voting populace there in how the Bear ownership runs their team - there is a definite sense that they run the Bears as though they were in a small market.

I can understand the fan-base's frustration, if this is indeed the case, given the fact that Chicago is the second largest television market in the NFL, and third overall. The only top ten television market in the United States without an NFL team is Los Angeles - and, as much as the NFL wants a presence in that market, teams have just not worked out there.

Ironically, even though the Bears play in the second largest media market in the NFL, they're ninth in team valuations according to Forbes. The top three, in order, are Cowboys, Redskins, and Patriots - the sixth, seventh, and eight largest markets respectively in the NFL. The sixth and seventh most valuable teams on the list - the Texans, and the Colts - the 10th and 22nd largest media markets in the NFL respectively.

While Bears management hasn't been as brutally bad as say San Francisco, the league's third largest market, now hosting two of the league's three least valuable teams, one has to question what Jerry Jones, Bob Kraft, and Daniel Snyder know that the McCaskey family doesn't. Even the value of the Jets breaks the top five in the NFL.

Obviously, there are revenue streams that exist that the McCaskey's have never figured out how to tap, and they use that as an excuse.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Catching up

It's about time I got back to this.

It's been a very, very busy week. So...onto the playoffs.

Well, I was right on one out of the two. Arizona made it, Baltimore did not. I only saw the second half of the Arizona game because I was in a two-hour organizational meeting regarding a blues festival that I'm organizing. Philly made a game of it, but I was right - if it became an offense-oriented game, it favored the Cardinals.

Some thoughts on the Pittsburgh game. The Ravens chances died on the Willis McGahee fumble when safety Ryan Clark lowered the boom on McGahee. I'm up in the air on the legality of the hit, given the rules that have been on the books for some time -

NFL Rule Change 1996
" using any part of a players helmet (including the top/crown and forehead/hairline parts) or facemask to butt, spear, or ram an opponent violently or unnecessarily; although such violent or unnecessary use of the helmet is impermissible against any opponent, game officials will give special attention in administering this rule to protect those players who are in virtually defenseless postures."

NFL Memo Clarification to referees 2007
"Officials will be reminded this week to pay strict attention to these rules and disqualify the fouling player if the action is judged to be flagrant," Pereira wrote in the memo sent to the 32 NFL teams. "Actions that involve flagrant helmet to helmet contact are the likely acts that will include disqualification. Our commissioner and this office remain very focused on the safety of our players."
While McGahee certainly wasn't defenseless, my concern comes from the 2007 clarification that utilizes the term "flagrant." Admittedly, that hit in and of itself is not flagrant, I have to look at Clark's body of work throughout the season and wonder.

I have watched four Pittsburgh games in their entirety throughout the course of the season, and parts of a fifth. In each and every one Clark has had a hit like this - whether it was the shot on McGahee, or Wes Welker, or any of the other players I've seen him hit, he has gone helmet-to-helmet. I haven't seen that from any of his teammates. Not Troy Polamalu, not the linebackers. None of the other big hitters has gone helmet-to-helmet in every single game.

Just Clark.

It makes me wonder about his intention when he's tackling.

That said, we're now looking at a Steelers-Cardinals Super Bowl.

There's going to be a ton of hype between now and Super Bowl Sunday, and usually I like to digest some of that, listen to what the pundits say, and then ignore them accordingly. In this case, I'm going to say it up front. In two weeks time, the Steelers will officially become the second most dominant team of the first decade of the new millennium, becoming only the second team in the last ten years to win multiple Super Bowls.

A separate piece of entertainment -

A week ago this past Saturday I covered a ghost hunt at a local brewery. The local ghost hunters spent over an hour and a half prepping myself and roughly two dozen brewery employees and their family members. To say that the ghost hunters were, um, interesting, is an understatement.

I will write more about it after the article hits the stands at the beginning of next month, but I will say that it stretched my ability as a journalist to approach something with an open mind. To be more precise, I had to work very hard during the orientation part of the evening to maintain a straight face.