Moment of truth?

I am literally sitting at my desk with the homepages for ESPN and NFL.com on the screen in front of me hitting “refresh”…”refresh”…”refresh”…

This is what it has come to.

30 minutes ago the banner ad on NFL.com read “Player Union tells NFL it plans to decertify.”  No sooner had I texted that to my boss than it changed –  I swear I saw it flip – and I caught the words “pulls back on decertification”…but when I refreshed, it was all gone.

At the moment the banner reads  “Custom Gear: there is no one else like you.  NFLSHOP.com.”

What the heck is going on out there?!

It is fascinating to me that an industry the recession couldn’t do in, couldn’t topple, one that still thrived despite massive unemployment and changes in public spending habits, survived that only to potentially be undone by massive greed.

Similarly, it’s funny that a massive recession didn’t really threaten my job, but an NFL lockout might.  Not so much ha-ha funny though as morbidly ironic.

10 minutes and counting…

nfl-lockout

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Dallas strikes again.

cowboysblechA quick thought.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones decided to add some 15,000 temporary seats to Cowboys Stadium in order to break the Super Bowl attendance mark of 103,667, set in 1980 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.

And that idea turned out like this, and this, and this.

But…I’m confused.  Regular seating capacity in Cowboys Stadium is 80,000 with a maximum capacity (including standing-room-only seats) of 110,000.  Cowboys Stadium already holds the NFL attendance record for a regular season game at 105,121, when the Cowboys lost the opening game of the new stadium to the Giants in 2009.

So why, in this brand spanking new stadium designed to hold up to 110,000 in which they have already successfully seated 105,121 did the quest for 103,668 woefully fall more than 400 seats short?  What am I missing here?

It’s not like Roger Goodell woke up Christmas morning and said “By jove, let’s have the Super Bowl in Dallas this year!  Quick, get Jerry on the phone!” and then 1,000 little Texan elves ran around feverishly trying to get things set up in 6 weeks or less.

In addition, word on the street is the Cowboys’ organization knew there would be problems more than a week before the game, but let 1,250 people who had tickets that wouldn’t correspond to actual seats show up anyway.  Worse still…they accommodated about 800 of them and hung the other 400 out to dry.

To quote Tom Hanks in the fine documentary film Big, “I don’t get it.”

But I’ll tell you what…this is the kind of stuff that give me less and less sympathy for the owners in all this labor negotiation talk.

Silver lining:  time and money aside, at least only half of the 400 displaced people are really really furiously angry they missed the game.  The other half are Steelers fans.  And as a Bills fan I can testify:  sometimes it’s just better you don’t watch.

What a SUPERB Bowl this will be!

My church recently announced that this Sunday, February 6, it will be hosting a “Large Concave Dish Party.”

With a nod to the slight exaggeration, this is necessary because the actual words “Super Bowl” are copyrighted and cost a lot of money to use.  I consider this to be exceedingly bizarre and ridiculous.  For business to even refer to the name of the actual event, they must pay the NFL large copyright usage fees.

How is it that we call a tissue a “Kleenex” (brand name), a photocopy a “Xerox” (brand name), and have turned nouns like “Google” and “Facebook” into verbs, adjectives, adverbs, pronouns, prepositions, AND tattoos…and yet to refer to the biggest event of what is arguably America’s favorite sport, companies are forced to use a patronizing euphemism?

I’ve had my fill of reading about the “Big Game,” the “Big Game Bash,” the “Championship Party,” the “Biggest Sunday in Sports, and “The Game.”  Apparently any reference to a  mysterious sporting event using capital letters means we’re talking about the “Game That Must Not Be Named.”

Can you imagine if this applied elsewhere in the NFL season?  “This week, the ‘Ferocious Grizzly Species of the Windy City’ host the ‘Motor City Kings of the Jungle’ to determine who will claim the ‘Uno-Play-That-Allows-You-To-Choose-Any-Color-You-Like!'”*

But as the NFL continues negotiations with the Players Association, continuing toward (or away from) a new collective bargaining agreement, the “Game That Must Not Be Named” gives us a pretty good analogy of what we’re dealing with:  the NFL is all-powerful and, bottom line, it’s always about the money.  Let’s just call a spade a Black Skyward-pointing Upside Down Heart With A Trunk-Like Base.

But for right now, there’s still got one more game to be played, so GO PACKERS, and have a Superb Bowl on Sunday!

 


* That was ‘Chicago Bears’ host the ‘Detroit Lions’ to determine the ‘Wild Card.’  Was that not clear???

The Cutler debate RAGES on (while Cutler himself still just looks a tad miffed)

My friend Jessy sent me an excellent article on the Cutler debate, Bears Jay Cutler Was Hurt By Lack of Character.

Aside from the initial few paragraphs the author spends lauding the ’99-’00 Dallas Stars (they STOLE that Stanley Cup from the Sabres!  STOLE it.  NO GOAL! NO GOAL! NO GOAL!) I agree with the premise, especially this paragraph,

“Because nowhere in the symptoms of Grade II MCL tear does it include the inability to high-five a young QB who threw a TD pass to get your team back in the game, looking disinterested or giving off a quit vibe. And I challenge anybody to find an MRI that shows him engaged on that sideline. There is no medical relief from that charge.”

The argument isn’t really whether or not Cutler was hurt, it’s how he handled himself.  Which brings up the interesting point that as fans, we decide whether to cheer or jeer an athlete largely based on his commitment to team.  It’s why we love underdogs, the 6th man, the fake punt (you know…when it works).  We love people who show up every day and do their job every day without the spotlight…and we love when they get their 15 minutes.

Flip that, and it’s why no matter how stellar of a season Brett Favre had, once he left Green Bay he was collectively switched from our “good” lists to our “naughty” ones.  Right or wrong, Favre’s actions scream “Favre,” not “VIKINGS!”  (or “JETS!’ …ha.  remember that season?)

But let’s think for a minute.  Cutler wasn’t playing that well before his injury.  Throughout the year he usually played well enough to win but didn’t exactly have career numbers (23 TDs, but 16 INT and 9 fumbles, sacked 50 some times…)  Which begs the question:  if Cutler had stayed in and played hurt and played terrible football…would he have been in any better position with the fans/media than he is now?  Wouldn’t we be calling for his head for playing poorly while hurt?  Finding grace at the pro level is incredibly difficult when there are 2 to 4 people in the wings waiting to take your job should you fail to perform it well.

So Cutler plays poorly, he get lambasted.  So he leaves injured, he gets lambasted.  He leaves with unknown injury and mysteriously sulks on the sidelines, he gets lambasted.  You only want an injured, struggling Jay Cutler at the helm if he’s an inspiring leader – a guy whose very presence on the field through countless trials rallies his teammates and compels them to win one for the gipper!

But Cutler is not that quarterback.  So why exactly is Chicago so angry?  What did they really want out of all this?

Just a win.

Vindicating Todd Collins. Wait – strike that, reverse it.

Hey-o! How ya been?  Yeah me too.

Just thought I’d throw up my two cents on the Packers’ playoff ouster of the hearty Chicago Bears.  Everyone wants to tan Jay Cutler’s hide but I must say, I think that’s misplaced blame.  For starters, haven’t you been watching this season?  He’s not exactly the Bears’ knight in shining armor.  Yes he’s a fighter, playing with diabetes and all.  And no one’s disputing that he’s got a rocket arm – DeAngelo Hall agreed as he picked off 4 rockets in one game.  It’s accuracy and game smarts that we’re struggling with here, Jay.

I do believe Jay was hurt.  If I find him guilty of anything, it’s callousness and sheer stupidity.  I’m not into faking injuries…so if you are actually hurt, would it kill you to look a little hurt?!  He had to know Chicago was going to crucify him.  For a guy who finds it impossible to smile, would it have been so hard to grimace?  In addition, Charles Barkley is on point (whaaaa?) that it was poor form of Jay not to be giving Caleb Hanie every ounce of advice and encouragement he could between offensive series.

The way I see it, we have 2 problems, and thus 3 problems.

1.  The Packers played well enough to win.  Point blank.  Not amazingly the entire game, but amazingly when it mattered.
2.  Remember that time the Bears put in 39-year old Todd Collins for two series in the middle of the NFC Championship game in 2011?

Let’s examine this.  I was but a pre-teen child 15 years ago when Collins was drafted into the league by none other than my beloved Buffalo Bills.  Granted, as successor to the great Jim Kelly, Collins had very big shoes to fill, but not even once in the year he started for the Bills (1997) was I a fan.  In 15 seasons as a mostly backup quarterback, Collins has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns (24 to 22).  The last time he resurfaced to the general populace was in 2007 when he came in for the Redskins in relief of Jason Campbell to defeat…why, none other than your Chicago Bears!  And I remember sitting at Duffy’s and freaking out, saying things like “Todd COLLINS?!?!  He’s still PLAYING?!?!  How is this possible!??!  Does anyone else think this is ridiculous?!??!”

But no, no one else did.  Because at that point no one in Chicago knew who he was.

But I knew.

Three years later, here we are.  Two previous game appearances for Collins this year resulted in 0 TDs and 5 interceptions.  Shades of Chan Gailey/Trent Edwards…do we really believe that Collins beat out Caleb Hanie for the backup position?  NFL Fact:  “open” competitions for a position are rarely “open.”

So, to sum up.  I don’t blame Cutler.  I don’t even blame Collins.  I blame problem #3, Mike Martz.  This was a disastrous offensive game plan from the start, even before Cutler got hurt, and it got worse before it got better…and even then it never got good enough.  I’m sure Todd Collins is a very nice man (well okay, I’m guessing that he’s probably a decent guy), but he had no business being in that game on Sunday.  And that is Mike Martz’s bad business.  And that’s why the Packers gave the Bears the business.

$10 says Randy’s playing Triple-A baseball by March.

I’m sorry.

I’m sorry I haven’t written, okay?  But it wasn’t my fault.  Honest… I ran out of gas! I–I had a flat tire! I didn’t have enough money for cab fare! My tux didn’t come back from the cleaners! An old friend came in from out of town! Someone stole my car! There was an earthquake! A terrible flood! Locusts!

Okay but seriously, here’s why I haven’t written lately:

Football is killing me this year.

I can’t focus.  I don’t even know where to look.

I don’t want to look at my fantasy team.  The aptly named “Underachievers” (taglined “Just like the Bills, only with more wins.”) have thrown me a gelatinous mess of stats that couldn’t beat a goldfish.  Miraculously, I have 4 wins.  Or, despairingly, I have only 4 wins.  Either way, that’s twice as many as the Bills have.

So I don’t want to look at the Bills.  I correctly chose and was affirmed in my decision to NOT watch the Bills this year, because they stink.  Then they almost won 3 straight games.  Then they DID win 2 games.  Then they almost won one more game.  GetmyhopesupGetmyhopesupGetmyhopesup…and they got crushed last week.  My heart is not a yo-yo and my love is not a toy.

I don’t want to look at the players.  The number of 3rd string quarterbacks starting games is unreal.  I have been in pro football longer than some of those guys.  Beyond that, Peyton Manning is turning into Brett Favre and Brett Favre is turning into Al Davis.  James Harrison can’t turn sideways without being fined, and Stevie Johnson is going Chuck Knoblauch on us.  The 2 highest paid Redskins have both been benched at least once this year, and I’m not sure even Randy Moss knows what team he plays for.

I don’t want to look at the coaches.  It’s a waste of time paying attention to someone who’s going to get fired next week.  (What’s that Jerry Richardson?  John Fox’s job in Carolina is safe for the rest of the season?  Whew!  You heard him John, now go get that second win!)

And finally, I don’t want to look at the best team, because then I’d have to look at the Patriots, and I try never to look directly at them.  (Should be quite the challenge seeing as how I will be at the Bears-Patriots game this Sunday.  Although probably one or more of my eyes will be frozen shut.  Chicago.  Always the problem solver.)

Bring on Week 14!