Friday, January 14, 2005
sports sports sports sports sports sports sports
And now it's time for one of my every-once-in-a-while posts that alienate 2/3 of the people who read this site: let's talk about sports. To my non-sports liking male readers, a large chunk of my female readers, and pretty much all of my international readers, I'm sorry. But really, you know you're gonna read it anyway, because it's Friday and you're super bored at work, so I encourage you to make the best of it, as I try to make it as non-sports specific as possible. Thank you for your time and effort.
Before we get into NFL playoff predictions, let's talk about two of my favorite three things: baseball and drugs (the other favorite thing being women with really, really big nipples).
Yesterday, Major League Baseball announced its new steroid-testing policy, which features much harsher penalties for those who test positive for performance-enhancing drugs than its previous policy. Embattled Commissioner Bud Selig held a news conference to announce the new plan, practically gizzing (or is it "jizzing"?) in his pants about the ground-breaking agreement and what a good move it is.
Bud, I have a question for you: have you been reading any of your local sports sections in the off-season? Do you see what a beating MLB has been taking with all this talk of "the cream" and "the clear"? While the agreement was ground-breaking in that the MLB and the Players' Union finally agreed on something (take notice, NHL), it was more of a necessity than anything else, a plan forged by the need to restore the dignity of the game, not borne of the respect and altruism between the league administration and its players. So quit your gloating and put your erect penis back in your pants.
To me, the major issue with the new, tougher steroid policy is how players who have heretofore have denied using steroids but were in fact using them will explain their sudden weight loss and shrinkage. When Jason Giambi reported to spring training last year looking deflated, he told everyone that he had lost only four pounds and had just worked out differently in the off-season. By "worked out differently", I assume he meant "stopped taking those illegal drugs that made him fucking huge." He then proceeded to have a variety of health problems, and had statistically the worst year of his career (but still collected a $12 million paycheck).
So what happens when the rest of MLB players report to camp in February? Giambi has already ruined their excuse for being noticeably smaller, so I wonder if when asked point blank by reporters any player will come out and say, "Well, training in the off-season was particularly tough this year, what with me no longer being allowed to take all those steroids I've been relying on for the past few years. So I wouldn't expect any big numbers from me this year. But hey - I've had a good run, and I'm rich as a mother fucker, so suck it. Next question please."
Probably not, but that would be fucking awesome.
Ah, the NFL Playoffs...really, there's nothing like them. Sure, baseball playoffs are really great, and hockey is pretty awesome too (NBA - eh), but football is special because it completely transforms Sundays in January into much more than hangover recuperation time.
Honestly, there's not a lot better than waking up at 12:30pm on a Sunday afternoon, your head spinning from the night before and your breath smelling like a mix of Captain Morgan's, cigarettes, and gyros, and rolling from you bed onto your couch to watch football. Of course, then there's the requisite bacon, egg, and cheese bagel to be consumed at the start of the 1pm game, then an order of wings, nachos, poppers, et al to gorge yourself upon for the 4pm game. I mean, if that's not heaven, I don't know what is.
But alas the NFL playoffs have been particularly tough for yours truly over the past few years, a proud and long-suffering Philadelphia Eagles fan. The Eagles have advanced to the NFC Championship game in each of the past three years, but have lost each contest, two of which were at home. Not good. Not good at all.
Six weeks ago, I could ejaculate just thinking about this team, not needing to call on my assortment of pornographic films, nor dial any 1-900 numbers, nor creep around my local yeshiva, surreptitiously spying on all those lil' Jewish boys and their sexy lil' beards. But then after a poor performance at Washington, the loss of star player Terrell Owens against Dallas, and two horrible (though lame duck) loses to finish the season, I'm scared. Not scared in the "I hate werewolves" way, but in the "keep all things flammable or toxic away from me" kind of scared.
But enough about me, let's get on with the picks.
New York Jets at Pittsburgh Steelers
Part of me really wants to pick the Jets. I'm a big believer in running the ball and playing good defense, both of which the Jets do well. Unfortunately for the Jets, the Steelers do both those things too, and they do them better.
I think the Steelers take this game, because:
1) They're rested and at home.
2) The Jets are coming off a huge win against the Chargers (see diatribe about the Vikings below).
3) The Steelers are better than the Jets nearly across the board.
That being said, I would not be surprised if the Jets take this game (although with the playoffs the way they are this year, that can be said about every game).
Indianapolis Colts at New England Patriots
This will be the most interesting game to watch because there are so many storylines. You've got Colts' kicker Mike Vanderjagt mouthing off, Peyton Manning coming off a monster season but with a history of playing slightly better QB than me when he plays the Pats, the element of bad weather, and of course, the dreamy Tom Brady.
My pick? The Pats. Why? Simple: I can't see the banged-up Pats secondary containing those wide receivers (give me a minute here). That being said, in the history of football, there's always been the classic chicken-and-egg argument when it comes to QB/WR combos. I remember being a kid and getting into an argument with one of my friends who said after Steve Young's ascendancy in San Fran, "Anybody can be Joe Montana when they have Jerry Rice to throw to."
I don't think this is the case with Peyton Manning (nor did I with Joe Montana), and I think Bill Belichick knows this. I think he's smart enough to worry less about containing the trio of Harrison, Wayne, and Stokley and instead focus on getting to Peyton Manning, which they have consistently done in the past, far better than anyone else in the league. I can't bring myself to take the Colts in hostile environs on a cold, slow field against a team that has owned them in the past. To me, regardless of what happens after this game, this is where we learn if the Pats are a dynasty. If Bill Belichick can stop a quarterback that has had (statistically) the greatest season in the NFL with a patched together secondary in which I might see some snaps in nickel situations, we all owe him and his team a tip of our caps.
St. Louis Rams at Atlanta Falcons
I have absolutely no idea what to make of this game, or these two teams. This is partially I saw so little of the Falcons during the regular season, but also because the Rams have more personalities than my schizophrenic cousin Will.
So with a flip of the coin I go with the Falcons, for no other reason than their track record. The Rams played in the weakest division that I can ever remember and beat a really bad team in the Seahawks (who lost on a dropped TD pass) to advance. Sure, Bulger is playing very well and Atlanta has a dome, but I still have to go with Atlanta, though I can't offer a single definitive reason. Can I pick both? Because I really have no idea.
Minnesota Vikings at Philadelphia Eagles
I hate, hate, HATE what the Eagles have done since crushing Green Bay in early December. They played poorly against a surprisingly feisty Redskins team, played poorly and lost TO to a bad Dallas team, and rested just about everybody in their last two games, which was some of the most boring, crappiest displays of football I've seen in recent memory.
Having said that, here comes a diatribe...
Football is a game of minutiae. This is played out every week in the league in a variety of "if" scenarios: if only the running back had the extra inch to get the first down, if only that linebacker got to that pass a half-second earlier to deflect it, if only the cornerback hadn't jumped at the play action fake and lost that half-step on the receiver, etc.
But if we recognize the importance of minutiae when we talk about on-the-field analysis, so must we recognize the importance of subtlety when we hypothetically analyze games. And nowhere is this recognition of subtlety more important than in knowing the difference between a team playing with momentum and a team that has blown its load.
(Are you still with me?)
Last week, the Minnesota Vikings went into Green Bay and dominated from the start. Both their offense and defense were clicking on all cylinders, and they pulled out a victory that many didn't expect them to achieve, especially so easily. The beat the fuck out of that Packers team, and there's no question about it.
The question is: do the Vikings take that momentum into their game against the Eagles this weekend, or did they blow their proverbial load against Green Bay?
My take: they blew their load. Two reasons:
1) Brett Favre played some really bad football last week. My dad has a theory (that he's proud that he thought of on his own, but it's a sentiment shared by just about every person who knows a good deal about the NFL) that Brett Favre is good for two or three "What the fuck did he do that for?" plays per game. An example is in the divisional playoff last year against the Eagles, when Favre was under pressure and simply threw the football as high as he could in the air, to have it picked off by Brian Dawkins.
Favre had more than two or three of those type plays (albeit not as dramatic) against the Vikings, which I can't recollect right now because I don't have the fucking tape in front of me. He played very poorly, and I have no doubt that this was a major factor in the Vikes' win. I think the moments of Brett Favre being able to put it all together and dominate a team are getting fewer and farther between by the week.
2) Are the Vikings as good as they were last week? I don't think you'll find a person outside of Minnesota that says yes. This is an 8-8 team that has consistently played with no heart, dropped 7 of their last 10 games, and has a star that is not only a dick (but pretty fucking funny), but a selfish player.
I know that the Vikes really brought it against the Packers last week, but this week they're not playing the Packers. They're playing a well-rested team that has been down this road before, and was 7-1 at home this year (the loss coming in the garbage-time last game of the season against the Bengals). Sure, the Eagles' offense has sputtered, but their defense has played very well. Throw in the fact that Moss' ankle leaves him at less than 100%, and I have to take the Birds here (even though it's much cooler to take the Vikes, because everybody's doing it).
I know - I'm picking all the home teams, and the odds of that happening are very slim. But hey, I can do and say whatever the hell I want, since it is my website. Jerkoff.
So that's it. Be advised that there will be no post on Monday, because like most of America I will be off (I never thought I'd love a black person more than Jeff Goldblum until I realized that I got off from work on Martin Luther King Day). So have a safe and kick-ass weekend.