Wednesday, September 20, 2006

There was a question on one of those "pop up" links on today. One of the ones where you have to be a registered user to weigh in. This one was sponsored by Miller Lite. There were in fact 4 questions to choose from, each with its own forum to "make your voice heard!". But there was one in particular that I almost opined on there before deciding to make it a post on here. That is "Which team has been more impressive through the first two weeks, the Baltimore Ravens or the San Diego Chargers?" And here is my answer. The Ravens.

Let me expand that answer for you (otherwise this would be a short, boring post).

The only real similarity between the 2 teams is that they replaced quarterbacks during the off season. Now on this point they did go in two completely different directions. The Ravens benched a young quarterback that they thought highly enough of to draft in the first round, but who hadn't lived up to expectations (Kyle Boller) and replaced him with a proven veteran, if maybe one that is a little past his prime (Steve McNair). Questions on how much of an upgrade this really is will have to be addressed at another time (I know I keep promising a Boller post. I will get to it, I promise). The Chargers, on the other hand, let a veteran QB (Drew Brees) who had led them to the playoffs in 2004 (where kicking kept them from going deeper into those playoffs) and to a winning record in 2005, showing that the 2004 success was no fluke (a lot of teams with a bad record one season can have a good following season. 2000 and 2001 Chicago Bears anyone?)go and in his place are now starting a highly thought of young quarterback (Phillip rivers). The proof that a team is turning (or has turned) a corner is in the season after THAT, when they have to play a much tougher non-conference schedule (see 2002 Chicago Bears). By posting a winning record in 2005, the Chargers showed that they were for real, even WITH Marty Schottenheimer as their coach (the fact that I could spell "Schottenheimer" without having to check it first- I just did check it- is a little frightening). I am also not going to get into a detailed discussion on the merits of"Martyball". I have spent the last 10 minutes trying to find the "there's a gleam" video. It is on NFL Films at least three times per week (union regulations). On the off chance that you have not seen this clip, find it and see it, as it will show you the "master motivator" at work. Anyway, Drew Brees forced the Chargers to keep their #4 in the 1st round pick on the bench for 2 years with his play, but when Brees got injured it made the decision to switch QB's relatively easy. And by now you should know that Phillip Rivers was no slouch. I am in Maryland, and I watched that young man play the Terps. He is GOOD. Look at his career stats (North Carolina State 2000-2003):

13,484 yards (3rd all time in NCAA)
13,582 total yards (2nd all time in NCAA)
34-17 record as starter among NCAA-record 51 career starts
95 touchdown passes (tied for 5th all time in NCAA)
MVP of four bowl games, including 2004 Senior Bowl
set school and Atlantic Coast Conference career records for:
passing attempts (1,710)
completions (1,147)
touchdowns responsible for (112)
300-yard passing games (18)
400-yard passing games (7)
Seventh quarterback in NCAA history and first in ACC history with three 3,000-yard seasons... Second-team All-America by NFL Draft Report as senior... 2003 ACC Player of Year and first-team All-ACC after leading NCAA in completion percentage (.720) and passer rating (170.5)... Ranked second nationally in passing yards (4,491) and total offense per game (353.9) ... MVP of 2003 Tangerine Bowl after career-high 475 yards and school-record-tying five touchdowns in 56-26 win over Kansas... Second-team All-ACC as junior... Received Award of Distinction from Columbus Touchdown Club... Co-recipient of Governor's Award as team MVP... MVP of 2002 Gator Bowl win over Notre Dame... CNN/Sports Illustrated National Player of Week after five-touchdown game against Navy in junior year. Honorable mention all-conference as sophomore ... ACC Rookie of Year and Academic All-ACC choice in 2000... Newcomer of Year by ABC Sports and Freshman of Year by Football News and Columbus Touchdown Club... MVP of 2000 Micron PC Bowl... ACC Player of Week once, ACC Offensive Back of Week twice and league-record ACC Rookie of Week eight times during career.

It is safe to say he doesn't suck. And he sat for two years learning the playbook and learning the game. He held the clipboard and never complained. He has earned his chance to start.

So who do I give the edge to QB wise? Right now I would have to go with McNair, because he has a history of winning. But the margin isn't by a whole hell of a lot.

Now let's look at the rest of the teams...
RB - Ladanian Tomlinson vs. Jamal Lewis
Edge: Tomlinson

With the exception of 2003, when he ran for 2,066 yards, when would anyone pick Jamal Lewis over LaDanian Tomlinson. Maybe even not that year. I am a fan of the Ravens, and I am a big fan of Jamal Lewis. I think he is a great back. But Tomlinson is better.

WR - Keenan McCardell & Eric Parker vs. Derrick Mason & Mark Clayton
Edge: Mason and Clayton

It is hard to believe, given the press that the Ravens offense gets (and justifiably so), but I would take Mason and Clayton over McCardell and Parker any day.

TE - Antonio Gates vs. Todd Heap
Edge: Push

I know Gates is a great TE (if you remember from an earlier post, I have him on my fantasy team, and I picked the first TE off the board, so I could have had Heap if I wanted him. My reason for picking Gates was the points system in the league), but I don't think he is better than Heap.

DEF - Chargers vs. Ravens
Edge: Ravens

The defenses are hard to compare, just because San Diego is a 3-4 base while Baltimore is a 4-3 base. So I go to the litmus test of if I needed a defense to stop another team on 4th and 1, game on the line, who would I pick? If given the choice of the Chargers and the Ravens, I am picking the Ravens. I think the majority of you would too.

Okay, now we have all of that out of the way. The teams are very similar, which makes discussing who is more surprising a valid debate. I did give four of five "edges" to Baltimore, but not by enough of a margin to give either team a distinct advantage or disadvantage. And when the present is a wash, you look at the past. First the past two years. The Ravens went 9-7 in 2004 and missed the playoffs. In 2005 they went 6-10 and didn't even sniff the postseason. The Chargers went 12-4 in 2004 and won the AFC West. In 2005 they went 9-7 and barely missed the playoffs. From that standpoint the Ravens being 2-0 should be more surprising than the Chargers. So let us look at recent history. The Chargers have wins against the Oakland Raiders and the Tennessee Titans. Neither team did anything last year nor are they expected to contend this year. The Ravens have wins against the Raiders and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Raiders are a commom opponent that neither team had any real problem with. Tampa Bay went 11-5 and won their division in 2005 (but to be fair, they were 5-11 in 2004, so that record was arguably inflated against lesser opponents. But even with that, who was expected to have a better season, Tampa Bay or Tennessee?).

So both somewhat recent and very recent history trended towards the Chargers having a playoff worthy season and the Ravens having a realistic shot at 8-8. So, to me, there is no debate as to which team is more surprising. Now as to which team is BETTER, well, we will get the first real answer to that on Sunday October 1st at 1pm.

Now I really need to get back to work. They are "paying" me after all.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

How fantasy football ruins the game.

I have helped friends with fantasy football leagues, but until this year I have never participated myself. After turning down countless reproaches, I joined some friends of mine in a league. I cannot say that I considered it a passing fad, but I can honestly say that I never expected it to be as big as it is, to the point that it is all but impossible for me to ignore. It is the definition of the elephant in the room. DON'T LOOK!

One week in, and I am already beginning to regret my decision. I have always been a fanatic for pro football. I like to root for teams, rarely if ever do I root for specific players on a team. I have always rroted for the Baltimore teams, from the Colts to the Stars to the Stallions to the Ravens. Pictures of me as a tot in my Baltimore Colts pajamas and opening my Christmas presents of a Colts helmet lamp and Colts parka etc., I was raised in football. In a very real way, the Colts leaving deprived my father and me of the one thing we probably could have talked about during those "difficult" years.

Now I am in the unenviable position of rooting for Edgerrin James to have a good game against the Seattle Seahawks, but also to root for the Seattle Seahawks to shut down the Arizona offense, as I "drafted" BOTH James and the Seahawks defense. Last week I was supposed to root for Joey Galloway to have a good game against "my" Ravens, and when he was held without receptions (and therefore scored me no points, contributing to my last place finish in week 1) I was supposed to be upset. I wasn't. To tell you the truth, I completely forgot that I "had" Galloway and was worried about nothing more than the Ravens getting the shut-out, making myself late for work to watch the end of the game.

I made some changes on my "team" this week, and we will see what happens during the course of the season. I will not quit mid-season, just because I don't quit halfway through something. But unless the beauty of this thing makes itself apparent to me, I will not be there next year.

Just so you know (on the off chance that you care), here is who I am starting this week:

QB: Peyton Manning
RB: Edgerrin James
RB: Corey Dillon
WR: Joey Galloway
WR: Troy Brown
TE: Antonio Gates
W/R: DeShaun Foster
K: Josh Brown
DEF: Seattle

Last week, I started all the same players except for Eddie Kennison in the W/R, Kevin Brown in the Corey Dillon RB spot, Nate Burleson in the Troy Brown spot, and Mike Vanderjagt as the K. I tried to make some last minute adjustments, but the internet was down at home and I couldn't get on to make some switches. Now let's see how this works for Week 2.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Sports Fans and Entitlement.

There was a story on the AP wire recently. For those of you who are unaware of what happened in Charlotte NC during a recent preseason game, here are the details...

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Greg Good, the Carolina Panthers fan who dresses up as "Catman" at home games, will receive a new pickup truck from Fox Sports after an on-air practical joke during a preseason game went awry.

During the second half of the Aug. 24 game between the Panthers and Miami Dolphins, Fox Sports announcers Dick Stockton and Daryl Johnston started billing a car giveaway as a reason for fans to stay tuned after the teams' starters left the game.

"Now all you fans out there, you might be thinking, 'Well, the starting units are out, we might change the channel.' We're going to do something special to try and keep you here tonight. We're giving a car away tonight," Johnston told viewers.

With 1:56 remaining, the telecast went to a shot of sideline reporter Tony Siragusa standing in front of the 6-foot-4, 340-pound Good, who was sitting in a front-row end zone seat wearing an electric blue wig and black-and-blue cape.

"The car is coming in right now," Siragusa said. "Here it comes. Beautiful. It's white. It's a Porsche."

He then handed a toy car to Good.

Good says he believed the toy was a token of the real car he was to receive and expressed excitement and joy. That turned to anger after Good, who counsels troubled youths, found out it had all been a joke.

A Charlotte Observer sports columnist took up Good's cause, writing a front-page column in Wednesday's newspaper that resulted in outraged fans e-mailing Fox Sports.

That led Fox Sports chairman David Hill to announce he would personally give Good the keys to a new Ford F-150 pickup.

"I'm coming to Charlotte Friday to apologize to Mr. Good for a joke that went terribly, terribly wrong," Hill said.

Hill said there would be punishments at Fox Sports over the incident, but said none of the announcers involved will be taken off the air.

"I take the reputation of Fox Sports very seriously and I don't want it to be sullied," he said.

Good expressed excitement at the turn his story had taken.

"I'm so surprised and so happy," he told The Observer. "I thought all I was going to get was an apology."

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

Now as a fan, I feel I am entitled to certain things. I am allowed to cheer as loudly as I please as long as my cheers are not offensive to those around me. In other words, what I say in a bar while watching the game might not be appropriate for the left field bleachers, and I need to acknowledge that. Also, I am allowed to boo as loudly as I please, and the same restrictions apply. I am allowed to refer to the team as "us" and "we". I can say things like "We need to win this game". No I am not a player or coach. But as long as I am buying tickets and/or merchandise either representing the team or from sponsors of the team, I am contributing to the fiscal survival of the team. I am an investor of both money and emotion, and I consider myself a part of that organization because of that. And my boss be damned, I am allowed to occasionally surf or to get updates on my team or any other issue that is keeping me from concentrating on my tasks at hand. Especially if they are playing an afternoon getaway game and I work in a cubicle in the basement of a building and cannot get the play by play any other way than with the streaming internet feed. If these things are not actually rights protected by the Constitution, they damn well should be.

What I do NOT have the right to is to think that because of a joke made on the air that I fell for that I am entitled to restitution because of my embarrassment. If I am a large man (I would consider 6'4" and 340 lbs as big. If anyone of that stature and girth takes offense, my sincere apologies) who dresses up in an electric blue fright wig and a cape (obviously a plea to be on camera, however fleetingly, so as to impress friends/family/ego) and is in fact singled out on camera and fall for what is really an old joke (who didn't have this done to them for their 16th birthday, or know someone who had it done to them by a family member or friend. My Dad was famous for this one). If the fact that Tony Siragusa was giving the actual prize away didn't make it click, I have no sympathy for Mr. Good for being so unaware of the budgets for locally broadcast preseason games. And then whining about it and getting a bunch of other people who have no sense of humor to write letters until the "guilty party" gives up and gives him his "real prize" just to shut him up, well that smacks of spoiled child syndrome. Technically, he was given exactly what was promised. As long as the toy car was new, it fits all the criteria of what they said was being given away.

"Good says he believed the toy was a token of the real car he was to receive and expressed excitement and joy. That turned to anger after Good, who counsels troubled youths, found out it had all been a joke."

So he believed that the toy was a token of the real thing. That makes him gullible and more than a little naive. It does not make him to be owed a car by the perpetrators of the joke.

And on a quick side note, what does his profession have to do with what he either believed to be true or what happened? I hate it when things like that are dropped in, trying to manipulate sympathies. If he had been employed as a day trader would he have deserved the "real" prize less? More? If he can afford season tickets and multi-colored capes, he should be able to afford a serviceable vehicle. If not, he may have to sacrifice his career as a tights wearing "SUPERFAN" and settle for TV coverage (maybe splurge of NFL Sunday Ticket if he must) and get himself that truck. I work helping special needs patients get the dental care they need. Is someone going to pay my mortgage for me? And if so, would they please contact me as soon as possible? I'd like to know if I can start allocating that money someplace more deserving, like PSL's and overpriced cups of beer at my local taxpayer funded stadium.

Now there will be "punishment" for the offense? David Hill takes the reputation of Fox Sports "very seriously" and will not tolerate its image being "sullied"? Amazing. This is the same organization that employed (or still employs) Jimmy Johnson and Jerry Glanville, and he says he takes the reputation of Fox Sports seriously? With all due respect to the men for their playing/coaching careers, but Chris Collinsworth, Howie Long, and Terry Bradshaw were NOT on the air because of their analytical ability. Jimmy Kimmel and Frank Caliendo making fat and bald jokes were definitely entertaining, but were in no way an attempt to win any awards that Edward R. Murrow would have been jockeying for. We won't even get into the journalism brought to the table by Jillian Barberie. The only "serious" broadcaster was James Brown, and he was more like a supervisor at the playground than anything else. So Mr. Hill, how about we don't take that particular route. If you just come out and say that you are doing damage control and that the cost of buying this random yahoo a truck is less than the cost of spinning it to your advantage, we will all be better off.

Really, what sums it all up for me is the statement by Mr. Good that he thought he was only going to get an apology, but now he is happy. Of course you are happy, you are being given a brand new truck for being a whiny little (rhymes with "witch").

I do think that teams owe the fans a lot more than they give them. For the amount of gouging that the fans put up with on a regular basis, the teams should be doing a lot more for the community and should be a lot more accessible. But no one is owed what Mr. Good felt HE was owed, and there is no way he should have received what he is being given. So a hearty "boo" to Mr. Good for taking a harmless joke WAY too seriously, and a bigger "boo" to Mr. Hall and Fox Sports for caving. And I will boo as loud as I want, because it is my Constitutional right.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Ashley Lelie follow-up...

It is official. Lelie has agreed to pay the Denver Broncos a grand total in the realm of of $982,000. It breaks down like this:

23 days skipped in training camp at $14,000 per day for a subtotal of $322,000.
1/5 of his $3.3 million signing bonus (he originally signed for 6 years, but because he reached certain incentive clauses in his contract the 6th year was voided) which comes out at $660,000.


His contract calls for him to be paid $600,000 for 2006 (he could have made $700,00, but he decided to pass up on the $100,000 bonus he would have received for joining the team in "voluntary" workouts, deciding to stay at home and work out there), which means that he is going to have to pay Denver $382,000, and that is AFTER he signs over his paychecks.

If you remember, he was holding out because he felt he deserved to be classified (and of course PAID) like a #1 receiver. As I said before, the numbers don't show he deserves either of those things. But I do think he would have had a better shot at MAKING them in the next year or two if he had stayed with the team that has a quarterback who knows how to be a passer instead of a thrower (with a 1st round pick rookie QB who will be, in my humble opinion, a star in the NFL within a few years) and two receivers who are either a 12 year veteran who won't be playing a whole lot longer or a receiver who is coming back from MAJOR reconstructive knee surgery. Now he is in a pool of receivers who are at best non-descript (how many of you drafted Brian Finneran, Michael Jenkins, Adam Jennings, Roddy White, or Kevin Youngblood to be on YOUR fantasy team this year?) and with an inaccurate quarterback who has the greatest value in Franchise Mode of Madden '07. Lelie was never a huge fan of going over the middle (questions about his toughness abound), and now he is going to be required to do so MORE often if for no other reason than to help clear out a space for Alge Crumpler, who is probably the best receiver on their roster. I am expecting more than a few "alligator arm" catches (or lack thereof) this year.

Right now I am making an open plea to the Denver Broncos to use this money for a good cause. If there is nothing local that really catches the eyes of the front office, may I suggest a donation to the Ed Block Courage Award Foundation, a charity that helps abused children in NFL cities and has a goal of building a Courage House in every city that has an NFL team. Seeing how Denver is currently lacking such a Courage House, a donation of just under $1 million dollars could go a long way to breaking ground on one.

Just to be clear, there are currently 17 Courage Houses. They are located in the following places...

New York
Saint Louis
San Francisco

There are 32 NFL teams. That means that 15 cities have no Courage House. Denver can make amends for that here.

Sorry if I got on my soapbox there. It just seems like one of the best ways to use money from a self centered, egotistical sap is to use it to build a place that is the antithesis of "me first". And please, if you are reading this, take a moment to check out the website ( the Ed Block Courage Award Foundation ) and see what you can do to help.