I miss Joe Theismann. I wish T.O. was still a drama queen. I keep looking for Bengals on The Smoking Gun. And where are the tales of cheerleaders making out in the ladies room? All these things I used to lampoon and sneer at with a derisive undertone. I would subtly — or perhaps not so subtly — suggest them to be ridiculous, petty distractions from what really counted: the game on the field. And now all these things are gone, and I miss them.
The unprecedented bad behavior of the off season was the last straw. The League, and The Law, came down hard on the worst offenders and rightly so. Tank Johnson is back but on his best behavior. Pacman turned snitch. Michael Vick is in the pokey, still has charges pending, and is probably close to bankruptcy. All of those are non-stories at this point, which is good because we’re talking about serious crimes here.
But the entire atmosphere changed and it trickled down to some places it probably shouldn’t have. Ocho Cinco has been in a funk, both physically and verbally (and dentally). Clinton Portis was so desperate for some sort of fun he brought back his drag act. Have we seen a coach meltdown to the press yet? Can you imagine the show if Dennis Green got accused of cheating or Bill Parcells had an interception return nullified by an inadvertent whistle? At what point did everyone turn into Art Shell?
Last year I was able to dedicate a paragraph or two each week to the unintentionally comic stylings of Joe Theismann. Now, not only is Joe gone, but they banned Jimmy Kimmel for joking about Joe being gone. How’d you like to be the poor sap who thought he scored a dream internship with ESPN only to find his job is to hose down plenty of blankets for use in the MNF broadcast. We do have Emmitt Smith in the studio now, but comparing Joe to Emmitt is like comparing Steve Carell to Gallagher.
Who’s at fault for all dire seriousness? Me, although less so than others. Yes, I did snicker and sneer and condescend at the sideshows, but at least I didn’t get indignant. I didn’t call for anyone’s job. I never went off on a diatribe about the need to be a role model. I never got up on my high horse to wave the flag of self-righteousness. But sanctimony has been a hallmark of sports journalism for quite some time. Mitch Albom and Mike Lupica convene their own little Vatican Council every Sunday morning. As soon as a sports journalist gets any juice the first thing he does is start a hard-hitting expose series called “Outside the Lines” or “Behind the Scenes” or “Under the Couch” or something. Of course, the Internet turns everyone into judge and jury. Just read the comments sections on espn.com or foxsports.com and you’ll see what I mean, providd you can deal with the rampant illiteracy.
The best shot the holier-than-thou have had all season is the Belichick cheating scandal, but we’ve “moved on” from that. Since then things have been so bland and orderly that they had to settle for measured judgments on Andy Reid’s fitness as a parent. Luckily for them Barry Bonds has reared his outsized head again. Coming soon, Reggie Bush and illegal boosterism. You can just feel the columnists at ESPN Page 2 manufacturing their painfully uncertain but appropriately virtuous opinions about that one.
Maybe I should have done more. Maybe instead of just laughing, I should have been more defensive of the clowns and idiots; tried to emphasize their value instead of just using them as column fodder. Maybe that’s what my real problem is. Maybe I just miss the columns that wrote themselves.
Whatever the case, those days are gone. Whether we really wanted the NFL to be all about virtue and pure athletics or we were just griping because it makes us feel better about ourselves, the NFL poobahs took it seriously. The League saw how far the NBA plunged over the past fifteen years as distasteful player behavior chased away fans, and they meant to prevent that happening to football by any means necessary. The clampdown has been total. Like the saying goes: Goodell punishes you by granting your wishes.
This season has been a test of why you are watching. The game on the field is rife with great stories and great performances. Seriously, this season will be looked back on as one of the greatest ever. The Pats and Colts exploded out of the gates for the first half. Now it has settled into the Pats unchallenged while the Colts have to fight through injuries, the exact opposite of the situation last year. Favre and Romo — gunslingers old and new — look to be headed for a showdown. Unimaginably, the Lions and the Browns are winning. Just a great, great year.
And yet, a part of me still misses the lurid fun. It’s like flipping through movie channels and coming across Capote on HBO. Great film. Stunningly talented lead actor. Definitely one for the ages. But there’s still a little devil on my shoulder hoping Road House is playing on Spike for the 1000th time.
So how did our Cathedral teams hold up?
The Pats are ludicrous. Tom Brady could take the snap, leave the stadium, hop a plane, fly to L.A., impregnate four supermodels, fly back to the game and his line would still be holding the pocket. And they have the 49ers pick in the draft. That’s like Bill Gates winning a small order of fries in McDonald’s Monopoly. One advantage to the Fins going 0-16 will be not suffering the disgrace and injustice of the Pats getting the first pick. I’m not going to write about the Pats again. They aren’t really even a football team anymore. They just do whatever they want, like a force of nature. Their games should be on The Weather Channel.
The big event in the Indy game was their going for it on 4th and 1 at the Chiefs 3 yard line in a tie game with 2 minutes left. Dungy had it reasoned out well. Even if it didn’t work the Chiefs were backed up and the Colts had time outs available. They would likely get the ball back around midfield with a few seconds left. Plus, since no one in their right mind would take that risk, the Chiefs line would be back on their heels, so the little QB sneak, already a high percentage play for them, had an even better chance. Probably a good decision, but the cost if it failed — if the sneak didn’t work and KC managed to get a first down on their drive — just might have meant Dungy’s job and his legacy; his reputation at least. It’s the kind move only a devout Christian can make because you better be goddam sure Jesus loves you.
Terrell Owens is a genius. Who would have ever suspected he would run in between the defenders instead of right at them? What creativity! What insight! The Redskins coaching staff needs to send the secondary to the Double Deuce so Patrick Swayze can tell them to “expect the unexpected.” Oh, and, “be nice.”
Poor Vinny T. The frozen tundra is no country for old men.[crickets chirping]
The spread picks were 4-2-1, bringing us to 16-7-2 for the year or $3360 returned on a layout of $2750. Net profit so far: $610.
The money line picks suffered a terrible loss — a rare occurrence. Of the six games, the only win was the Cardinals so for our $600 layout we got $255 back, a loss of $345 for the week and dropping the season gain to $722.74.
Bu the money line loss wasn’t the most annoying event of the week. The most annoying thing was having to root for the Hated Titans on MNF. If they won it would have made the money line loss trivial. If they lost by less than three, I could have chalked up another point spread victory. But no, even after a replay gift from Mike Shanahan, Dan Quisenberry had to submarine the last chances away. Oh, how I hate those guys.
Point Spread Picks (spreadsheet)
The standout opportunity is Denver getting 2 in Chicago. Even when you add in the highly unreliable home field advantage, Denver comes out on top in DVOA. The Broncos are on an upswing, Chicago is on a downswing. Pick: Denver +2
Both Cincy and Carolina are DVOA superior after the home field adjustment but are getting points. The Bengals home is within spitting distance of Tennessee so I gotta pass on that one. Both Carolina and New Orleans are a mess. The Saints pass defense is abysmal. Maybe the Panthers can find a flash of the old Steve Smith magic, provided he plays. Pick: Carolina +3
Cleveland is way, way better than the Texans. I don’t think the world has adjusted to the Browns being a good team yet. Pick: Cleveland -3
Likewise, the new and improved Seahawks (minus the Shaun Alexander yoke) are better than they have been, possibly even deserving of a playoff berth for a change. Pick: Seattle -3
Our two pantheon teams in the NFC, Dallas and Green Bay, are giving points. Dallas is giving a whopping 14 to the visiting Jets. That sound about right. The Pack is only giving 3 to the Lions, who still aren’t as good as their record. Pick: Green Bay -3
Now, the Pats, who I am no longer writing about, are giving 22.5 to the visiting Eagles. Biggest point spread I have ever seen. Using my incredibly advanced quantitative skills I can tell you that’s more than three touchdowns. And yet, I can’t do it. I cannot take the Eagles. Normally I would under the assumption that New England could jump out to a big lead and then wouldn’t care if Philly covered in garbage time. But that’s not how they roll. Somebody needs to investigate whether Belichick has a Bodog account.
Money Line Picks (spreadsheet)
I feel much better about these picks than I did last week. A nice mix of faves and dogs, only one real long shot. I have seen money lines on the order of -4000 for the Pats. In other words wager $4000 to win a hundred. Odd thing is, that’s probably still a money losing proposition for bookies.
(Note: the Pittsburgh/Miami line was not set as I wrote this.)
This week marks the start of the holiday season, proper. We’ve been hearing Christmas music getting inundated with Christmas shopping reminders since early November so it may surprise you to hear that. You see, the holiday season technically begins when we start to get Thursday games on the NFL schedule. It also coincides with certain NFL columnists going insane because there are now three fewer days in which to finish the column.
And they keep asking me why I bring my laptop to the table on Thanksgiving.Powered by Sidelines