Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Beast of the East!

Enjoy the biggest collapse ever, Mets fans! We're exorcising the ghosts of '64! How you like that shit, Billy Wagner, you traitorous son of a bitch? How 'bout you, Glavine? Remember when you said you didn't sign with Philly because you wanted a veteran team? Those were 7 veteran runs you gave up in the first inning, sister!

Who knew winning the East was so much fun? Now I'm off to watch the end of the Rockies game, to see who we're going to face. Dare I dream for a playoff, so the Pads burn Peavy before the playoffs start?

Liveblogging the Day of Reckoning...

Wake up, Fish are up 5-0 in the top of the first, Tom Glavine's out of the game already. Nice job Muttsies! First Phils batter, J-Roll, singles and steals second. So far, so good.

Mets have the bases loaded in the bottom. Unfortunate. Rollins steals third. My internet connection at home is fucking up. I wonder if you can buy liquor on Sundays before noon in CA.

Utley ropes a liner to right, Rollins scores on the sac. Manufacturing runs. Not clogging basepaths. MVP!

Howard Ks, back to the most appropriate name in all of sports: Flushing. It appears D-Train got out of that jam. 7-1 Marlins. I wonder if they sell champagne at that Asian market down the street.

Moyer fans Wily Mo Pena on a 78 mph pitch. I can't tell if it's a changeup or a fastball. He's crafty! And I don't mean like those Latinos! I was worried about him needing to outpitch fellow quadragenarian Tom Glavine today. Well, he's done that already.

On a full count, Jesus "Tres" Flores provides the first pucker moment of the day with a long fly foul to left. Then Moyer fans him! I need a beer so badly ...

And they cut to a Tony Gwynn commercial. I don't know why this is on, but it's AWESOME. Begins with Fat Tony getting the HOF call and crying. Then highlights of Skinny Tony, then he shows us a bat with lots of little dimples within a three-by-three inch circle. Contact points. This is really good, but I still don't know what it's for. And they interrupt it to show Rowand hitting.

Call me a homer -- there is no better play-by-play voice in baseball than Harry Kalas. He's so soothing in situations like this! Not like Phillies fans would know, but still!

Pat Burrell smokes a deep liner! Get back! Get fair! Get ... three feet foul. Fuck.

After this inning I am sprinting down to the liquor store. I feel like a bad person for not taking care of this last night. I hope my Phils don't need me while I'm gone. It's like being a bad parent. Seriously -- if I ever have a kid, I won't care about it significantly more than the Phillies, so I'll probably wind up doing things like this to that poor child. "OK, Dykstra, you stay right here in the bathtub. I'm going to the corner store to buy some dad-soda. Be right back!"

3 outs. I gots my running shoes on!

Back at the crib. Now 3-0 Phils, not sure how. Still 7-1 Fish but looks like the Mets have the bases loaded. Just hit the liquor store and bought some beer and a little of the bubbly. Korbel, the good stuff. When the Iranian dude at my neighborhood liquor store saw the champagne, we had the following conversation:

"I hope that's for when the Niners win."
"Actually, it's for the hooker."
"Well, we've got one cheaper than that."

Willis has walked the bases loaded and been removed. Not good. Lo Duca hits a dribbler to the pitcher. Inning over. Mets have left 8 on base already.

Back in Philthy, Moyers fans his fourth. Gramps is dealing. This is so big.

And just as I say that, the Nats score their first run on a Kearns single. Burrell makes a good throw but can't quite get him. It's unearned because Greg Dobbs made a throwing error to let Belliard on. Wily Mo up representing the tying run. And, on cue, my fucking internet connection cuts out.

Don't you fuck with me, Comcast. Not today. I will cancel your ass so quick your head will spin. If this happens one more time I'm driving down to the Bunker to watch the rest. And taking the champagne with me.

Between-innings observation: San Francisco is the stupidest place in America to be a sports fan. There isn't a decent sports bar within three miles of my house, and on the biggest day of the baseball season, a day when there are also a half-dozen decent football games, the only sporting event on my television is Raiders/Dolphins. Say it with me now: WHAT THE FUCK?

Uh ... the Nats are going to the 'pen? It's the fourth inning! Bergmann gave up three hits and three runs in three innings. You're telling me the Nats have someone better? That's a good day for Adam Eaton!

Oh my goodness! Albalawhatever, this new Nats pitcher, just drilled Carlos Ruiz right in the chest. I'll say to him the same thing I said to the hooker: Take it on the chest, Chooch!

I apologize for that last one. Please, God, don't punish me by bringing in Rod Barajas!

11:57 and I just finished my second beer. I should have bought a twelver -- at this rate, I'm going to be drinking Two-Buck Chuck from the bottle by the bottom of the eighth.

The funny thing about this liveblog is that you're just waiting for everything to go to shit, and for me to get wasted and belligerent, since this is a Philly sports event and that seems to be the script. And I'm waiting for the same thing. Enjoy your schadenfreude; I'm opening the my third beer.

Speaking of schadenfreude, I click over to Florida, where the Mets are on their third pitcher, the Fish have two men on with one out, and it's still 7-1 Maaalins.

Out of disgust and contempt for the state of this city's fandom, I change the channel from the Raider game to ... Houston Dynamo at FC Dallas! En Espanol! Si se puede, Dynamo!

Make that 8-1. Biting my tongue ...

Jimmy Rollins makes a beautiful play to get Nook Logan. Best defensive shortstop in the NL. Seriously, give that guy the MVP. He came to play today. Odd how nobody's making fun of him anymore for that preseason comment about the Phils being the team to beat.

Moyer's pitch count is creeping up. We're in the fifth. God, please don't make me watch the Philly bullpen. Not yet -- I've only had three beers!

Back to the pitcher, three outs! We're through four and a half! We're official!

Between-inning aside: my brother recently bought me, for some occasion I can't remember, a personalized Phillies jersey with my last name on the back and number 69. It's the frattiest thing I own, and I've actually never worn it, on principle. But the Utley jersey's dirty, I threw out my Thome home gear, and everybody knows it's bad luck to wear a road jersey during a home game. So out comes the B. Secessionist gear. I'm sitting at my kitchen table in a Phillies hat and personalized Phillies t-shirt jersey, staring at a laptop as if I'm looking at porn again. My roommates keep giving me looks. I am presently the biggest douche you've ever seen.

Have I mentioned how much it sucks living in SF and being a sports fan, especially of an East Coast team? It's noon and it's the fifth inning! The Sunday night Eagles game (which I am loath to even consider right now) starts at 5:15.

Ryan Howard gets an infield hit! Call Ripley. reporting that Carlos Delgado broke his hand earlier when he got hit by a Dontrelle Willis pitch. Hate to see that happen, even to a Met. (See, folks? I'm trying to be classy!)

On a related note, Carlos Ruiz is out of the game after also being hit, and Chris Coste has replaced him. Thank you, Lord, for sparing me Rod Barajas. I hope it doesn't come to this, but imagine if Chris Coste, the folk hero, comes up in a clutch situation later today.

Belliard leads off the sixth with a single. I hate Ronnie Belliard so much. He's so dirty-looking, that stupid hair, always licking his lips.

Tom Gordon is up in the 'pen. DON'T DO IT, CHARLIE!

CBP has gone quiet. What's wrong with you people? It's the sixth inning of the biggest game that ballpark's ever seen and you're winning! Get your asses out of the seats!

Ryan Zimmerman has complained about every strike that's been called on him. And Moyer rings him up looking! Take that, you whiny cunt!

Dmitry Young singles. Two on, one out. And Chahlie's coming to get Moyer. Tom "Flash Flood" Gordon trots out. I need another drink.

In case anybody's interested, it's 0-0 halfway through the first half at Pizza Hut Field. Also, it's a beautiful day outside. And I'm at my kitchen table, drinking two beers at once. I'm not even waiting to finish the old one anymore. I might need to go to the liquor store again soon.

Flash's third pitch ... ground ball to Utley ... tags, throws ... double play! I stand up, clap, and shout, "DP, baby!" In the other room, the hooker starts crying.

Oh, and they're throwing at Pat the Bat's cabeza! Better not throw him a strike next pitch. Nope, they walk him, and Bourn comes in to run. I don't like the idea of pulling the Bat this early. Just going on the record.

Chris Coste in his first at-bat. Bourn rolling. Don't like the steal here. And they drill Coste! You listen to me, Saul Rivera, you Mexi-Jew: IF YOU KNOCK OUT OUR TOP TWO CATCHERS AND THEY HAVE TO BRING IN ROD BARAJAS, I WILL RIP OFF YOUR HEAD AND SHIT DOWN YOUR NECK!

Abe Nunez with a byooootiful sac bunt to advance the runners. That's good NL baseball! Move 'em over! Now come on, Iguchi! Calculate us a double!

And they're bringing in Luis Ayala from the bullpen. What the fuck, Nats? Is this such a big game for you that you need to trot out your whole fiery bullpen? This is like the fucking Washington Inquisition.

First pitch, deep fly to center! Atta kid, Tad Iguchi! I rove the way you play basebarr! 4-1 Phils, J-Roll up.

The shadows are brutal right now at CBP. That's a good thing, when you've got our bullpen. No, Charlie, that does NOT mean you can bring in Jose "Brush Fire" Mesa.


Victorino grounds out and the crowd gives J-Roll a standing O on his way back into the dugout. Jimmy Rollins' line so far, in the biggest game he's ever played: 2-3, 3b, RBI, 2 runs scored, 2 SB. He also made his 162nd start this morning. I don't want to hear a goddamned word about Matt Holliday ever again.

J.C. Romero in for the 7th. He's our best reliever. Does this mean Myers is going two? I don't understand. They already used Gordon, and if I hear the words "Condrey" or "Mesa," I'm jumping off my balcony.

Milwaukee has just tied the Pads? Harry Kalas is questioning the decision not to start Peavy. Romero fans his second this inning. God, I hope the Pads or Rockies win. I'm not taking this Phils game for granted, but I don't want the Mets to have any chance to make the playoffs.

Romero gets the third out on a pop to left. At the stretch it's 5-1 Phils. The Mets are losing. I have no idea what to do with myself right now. Time to open the last beer of the sixer. It's 1 p.m. SI SE PUEDE, PHILADELPHIA!

The Niners game is on. Yay.

Cut back to Philly for the bottom of the 7th. They give an update: Mets still losing 8-1 in the eighth. A Phils fan holds up a sign that says, "We believe, Tug!" Don't do that yet! Don't make me get all misty! This game is not over, chief! FOCUS!


... and we're back. I missed a run, apparently by Ryan Howard. It might have been a homer. But that's fine. It's fine. We're all fine.

I want to know who's coming in for the eighth. Are they going to throw Myers for two innings? Leave Romero in? I wouldn't mind seeing Romero go until he gets in trouble, and then bring Myers in if you have to in the eighth. Hell, I wouldn't mind seeing Cole Hamels come in right now -- do what you gotta do, Charlie.

They show a replay. Howard hooked one to the second deck. I love that guy. Kalas reports that it looks like Romero's coming out for the eighth, with Myers warming up. Charlie, you listen! I love it when you listen!

With two innings to go in both games, the Phils are up 5 runs and the Mets are down 7. I'm not taking anything for granted. But I'm starting to get the sniffles.

Felipe Lopez lines a single to lead off the inning. Breathe deep.

Ground ball up the middle! Four ... six ... three! Double play! Here comes that chumpy whining bitch Ryan Zimmerman again.

Romero strikes him out! That's three Ks this game, bitch! Suck it!

One more inning. I cannot believe this. Last night I was telling my roommates to do a suicide watch tonight, in case the Phils and Birds both lost.

Enough of that talk. These games are not over.

At this point I am getting consistent chills.

STREAM ERROR? Don't you fucking do this, Don't you toy with me.

...and we're back.

Wes Helms is pinch-hitting. J-Roll's on deck and the crowd's already chanting, "M-V-P." Enjoy it, Wes Helms. It'll never happen again. Harry Kalas clarifies: "That's not Wes Helms they're cheering for." I love it!

Word I've never heard, from the mellifluous baritone of Harry Kalas: "The Phils are three outs away from clinching the NL East."

Back to a GameCast of the Mets. Two outs in the ninth, two strikes. Brett Myers is in. The towels are out. The crowd is going ballistic. I have never been this happy about a baseball game.


And Myers strikes out Dmitri Young! Two outs away! AHHHHHHHHHH!

Strike, strike. Myers is dealing.

Pop out to left! One out away!

C'mon, Myers! Beat him like he's your wife!





Fuck this blogging shit -- I'm popping the bubbly!

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Die and rot in Hell, Rupert Murdoch

For so many reasons, chief among them your mother-effing exclusivity deal between Fox and MLB. I awoke at noon, checked, and saw that the Mutts are up 10-0 and John Maine is throwing a no-hitter. Time to start liveblogging (same deal as last time, BTW -- one post, I'll keep updating, so just refresh from time to time). I grab my Phillies hat and laptop and move to the couch, prepared to hex it. On the way there, I run into my roommate, Tracey, in the hall.

"Morning," she says.

"John Maine is throwing a no-hitter. Did you know John Maine is throwing a no-hitter?"


"John Maine. A no-hitter. He's a baseball player. No-hitter."

"Oh." She's wearing a towel and she looks afraid. "Great." She walks back into the bathroom.

"No hitter!"

Of course, I soon discover that I can't watch, because the game's not on TV, and it's blacked out on I see a highlight of a fight during the game. No Mets appear to be dead, nor even bleeding. The day begins ominously.

I change to Fox, the Evil Empire. They're doing some bullshit multi-game window thing, switching between the Brewers/Pads, Nats/Phils, and whatever other stupid meaningless contest is about to begin.

They cut back to the studio. HOLY MOTHER, BILL O'REILLY IS ON MY TELEVISION! MEPHISTOPHELES HIMSELF IS NOW COMMENTING ON BASEBALL! I've got an idea -- I'll just go back to bed and pull the covers over my body, then pretend to be asleep, and we can start this day over. Whaddya say, God?

Cut to an Audi commercial in which a bunch of people walk around their houses saying things like, "In twenty minutes, I'm going to be in a three-car pileup." I feel like we should have a Phillies commercial like this. "In 15 minutes, my team plays the most important baseball game I've watched since I hit puberty, and Adam Eaton is starting." Except they have sophisticated safety systems to protect them. I only have Pabst Blue Ribbon.

The Fox dude is talking about how Jimmy Rollins should be MVP. No, not Jeannie Zelasko -- the other dude.

CAN YOU JUST TELL ME WHICH GAME YOU'RE SHOWING ALREADY? I've passed up a big drunken Cal barbeque and a pickup game full of literary household names to watch the Phillies play today, and if I'm going to have to go to a sports bar by myself to see it, I need to know before the first inning!

THEY CUT TO SAN DIEGO! MOTHERFUCKING FUCKITY FUCK! I cannot fucking believe this. WHO CARES ABOUT THE PADRES? NOBODY CARES ABOUT THE PADRES! NOBODY! There's no drama in the Padres game! Here, let me save you the trouble of watching the Friars for the next week and a half: They'll make the playoffs and choke in the first round for the billionth year in a row. THE PHILLIES NEED THIS GAME TO MAKE THE PLAYOFFS FOR THE FIRST TIME IN 14 YEARS!

Fuck this. I'm going to the bar. Liveblog is cancelled.

(Later): Or maybe not. Maybe I'm not going to the bar, because the only sports bar within three miles doesn't have the baseball package (only in San Francisco), and the second-closest bar assured me that even though it does have the package, it still can't get the Phils game. In other words, despite the fact that I have Fox, am willing to pay to go to a bar that pays for the baseball package, and pay for so I can watch out-of-market games (often on Fox) -- EVEN THOUGH I'M HEMMORHAGING FUCKING MONEY TO THE FOX NETWORK, WHICH USES IT EXCLUSIVELY TO FURTHER THE FORCES OF EVIL IN THIS WORLD -- I can't see the fucking Phillies. It is impossible. Nobody in San Francisco can watch the Phillies.

This is inexcusable. I hope Rupert Murdoch dies of a particularly slow-moving form of canker of the anal canal. Biggest game since Joe Carter and I'm watching a motherfucking GameCast.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Metropolitans, prepare to meet thy maker

Tomorrow my favorite baseball team plays its most important game in 14 years and Adam Eaton is our starting pitcher. There will be liveblogging involved, and prodigious daytime drinking. Bracing for this necessitates a speech. I'm thinking Shakespeare, slightly modified:

By Jove, I am not covetous for Pennants,
Nor care I who doth feed upon my cheesesteaks;
It yearns me not if men my jerseys wear;
Such outward things dwell not in my desires:
But if it be a sin to covet the playoffs,
I am the most offending soul alive.
No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from Jersey:
God's peace! I would not lose so great an honour
As one man more, methinks, would share from me
For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!
Rather proclaim it, Jimmy Rollins, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made
And crowns for convoy put into his purse:
We would not win the NL East in that man's company
That fears his fellowship to lose with us.
This day is called the feast of William Penn:
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named,
And rouse him at the name of Utley.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say 'To-morrow is the 29th of September:'
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars.
And say 'These wounds I had on Championship day.'
Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day: then shall our names.
Familiar in his mouth as household words
Pat Burrell, Cole Hamels,
Rowand and Ruiz, Kendrick and Lohse,
Be in their flowing cups freshly remember'd.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Championship Day shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember'd;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in Philadelphia now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That watched with us upon NL East Championship day.

See you bitches tomorrow.

Monday, September 24, 2007

But Donovan McNabb is not Rex Grossman!

That's really the crux of my whole counterargument every time somebody takes the "lots of white QBs get criticized, so it's not racism" angle. While I agree with just about everything you said in that post except for the Grossman comparison -- the Manning and Favre comparisons function on a lot of different levels, and could each be entire posts in themselves, but I don't really want to devote the time to writing them -- I just really don't think you can compare McNabb to any of the white QBs who've gotten ripped like he has. (Especially because, really, only Rex Grossman can claim anything near the treatment McNabb's gotten.)

You (and a lot of others) point to Grossman. In a comment to my first post, C mentions Eli Manning, Grossman, Matt Leinart, and Chad Pennington. The criticism of those white QBs means nothing whatsoever relative to Donovan McNabb. Let's take a look at that list:

Matt Leinart -- has not yet started a full season's worth of NFL games, and has never done anything of particular note as a professional.
Sheli Manning -- has gone to two playoff games. In the first one he threw three picks and the Giants lost 23-0. In the second one he played adequately and the Giants lost again.
Chad Pennington -- well, at least he's been to a Pro Bowl, which gives him the honor of being the only one of the bunch remotely appropriate to mention in the same sentence. Then again, that was before those two major shoulder surgeries that made his arm so weak he can't throw a football forty yards.
Rex Grossman -- has thrown less TDs in his career than INTs. Has posted a quarterback rating of zero multiple times. Career QB rating is 69.3. Won two postseason games in his career despite having a career postseason QB rating that's even worse, at 67 and change.

And then look at McNabb. Five-time Pro Bowler. Finished second in MVP voting during his second year in the season, and again in 2004. Career QB rating of 85.5. Has the highest winning percentage of any active quarterback with 95 or more starts. Has more playoff wins (7) than any QB in Eagles history. Has the second-highest TD/INT ratio in NFL history. Holds both the first and second longest strings of consecutive completions, and actually once completed 25 straight passes against the Chargers, but was disqualified for having to spike the ball. Has rushed for nearly as many TDs in his career as Grossman has passed for. He also once threw for four touchdowns on a broken leg, something Tom Brady would be bronzed for doing, although you'd never hear about that in all the fragile talk.

Not to mention that he single-handedly reversed the fortunes of a miserable franchise. He got drafted by a 3-13 team and took it to the NFC title game two years later, and for three more years thereafter. And -- not that you'd ever hear this from anybody -- he was actually pretty fucking good in that Super Bowl, throwing for the third-highest yardage total in SB history and three TDs. They lost by three points, folks. There's no good reason to call McNabb a choker for that performance -- it's not like he pulled a Hasselbeck.

So, do white quarterbacks get criticized? Yes! Nobody ever said they didn't! Especially bad white quarterbacks! But no white quarterback who accomplished what Donovan McNabb has would ever get treated like he does by the Philly fans, the Philly media, and the national media at large. It just wouldn't happen. Peyton Manning prior to last year is the only ballpark comparison, and the only shit I ever heard him take was from Pats fans like Simmons -- his hometown papers weren't roasting him for every press-conference slipup. He was an icon in Indy.

And then there's what none of our regular readers (except for B, I would imagine) seem to understand, nor would you have any reason to or way of doing so, since none of you have spent significant time among a major East Coast fan base. In places as segregated as Philadelphia and New York, sports teams become emblems for the racial tensions of the city. I have personally heard Donovan McNabb called the n-word in public by Philly fans. (I'm not even going to mention what I've heard Giants and Cowboys fans call him.) I've heard him called a spook. I've heard it insinuated and said outright that the reason he hasn't succeeded as a quarterback -- because apparently he hasn't, in the eyes of many -- was because he was black. A guy at the Bar once started talking to me about Philly sports and then said, "Well, just look at the numbers. How many black quarterbacks have won a Super Bowl? One? And how many white ones have? I'm not racist, I'm just a realist."

But when he brings up race, white people across the country get up in arms and start pointing to Rex fucking Grossman as if he's a token of their own cultural sensitivity, instead of just a bad quarterback who gets rightly criticized. Because that's what white sports fans do: they claim racism isn't a concern, or at least not when it comes to them. They claim mentioning race is like playing a card, as if nation-building slavery and separate but equal were just game pieces used by blacks to move up a space. Well, in this case, the comparison just doesn't hold up. If you want to convince me that D-Mac is wrong, you're going to have to do a hell of a lot better than Rex Grossman, or even Peyton Manning.

If you want to read a couple of pretty interesting articles from other people who agree with him and know a thing or two about the Philly sports culture, click here and here.

I dunno ...

This entire D-Mac/media/race thing strikes me as a little bit of old news, and a little bit of a non-story. I'm a little surprised, Pepe, that you see this as being as vast a problem as the protagonist apparently does, because I think it's a little thin.

Yes, a point is made of McNabb's color, because he's black and he plays quarterback and that's just the way it is. I, like you, get aggravated by "rocket-fueled legs" and idiocy of saying that McNabb's career is over if he can't run anymore. But I also don't quite see the malice here, or at least don't see the vitriol directed toward him as being any different in basic composition as other quarterbacks who struggle in massive (and caustic) media settings. I agree with the point that the Philly media's stance toward Donovan is horseshit, but there are two caveats: 1) I'm not sure big-R "Racism" is the motivating factor; and 2) I would blanch to think what Philly would have done to Rex Grossman/Kyle Boller/Akili Smith/Tim Couch/Drew Brees (he sucked early) ... in general, I can't imagine any focal-point athlete in that city being able to have a shitty game without someone writing that it's time for the backup.

Ultimately, we have to understand that columnists have to write about something, and that in the process of writing those things are probably going to fall back on stereotypes. And, sure, I'll buy that the Philly media has cast a more wary eye on Donovan than they would have Peyton Manning, though I'm pretty sure Manning would be known as "Truck-rally Redneck boy" if he had been drafted by the Eagles, because that's Manning's most obvious trait. Furthermore -- this is important to remember -- Manning was the most mocked quarterback in the league until winning the Superbowl. You might think Simmons' one stupid comment about McNabb is worthy of a punch to the face, but the Sports Guy has made a fucking career out of deriding the league's best signal-caller for the last five years. I have yet to hear the term "McNabb Face" in popular sports lexicon.

I'll be the first to say that the media's strange obsession with Favre is inappropriate, and by contrast the treatment of other quarterbacks then appears discriminatory. But I think it's less about Favre's whiteness than it is his ability to attract fanboys with his style of play, and the fact that he always looks unshaven. He's football's Darin Erstad, only with talent. He's also the exception to the rule; most QBs who perform like he does -- be they white, mobile or calculating -- would get taken to the woodshed.

I watched last night as the fortunes of a team that can't run the ball, has average-at-best wide receivers and a very mediocre offensive line, got nonetheless hung on the shoulders of a quarterback who has started roughly one season's worth of games. This isn't to say that Rex Grossman isn't deserving of criticism, but he's certainly not deserving of all the criticism. Chicago is a team with lots of problems, but the one behind center is going to get the most attention. That's just the way it is. And, whether or not anyone else is willing to accept it, McNabb's failures -- real or imagined -- have been on some of the league's biggest stages, like Manning's were. That's just the way it is: When you play in games that are being covered by 100 different columnists, you can expect dozens of ill-informed takes that ultimately rely heavily on stereotyping and cliches.

I'll also say that the injuries issue with McNabb is a big one. Yes, Simmons is an idiot, but there's a lot of justified worry (including some on your part, no?) that McNabb might just never be healthy for an entire season again. Now, you can call that bad luck, which is probably the case. But, again, writing, "He gets hurt a lot and no one knows why," makes for stupefyingly boring copy, which isn't exactly going to fly in Philly. So, columnists will stretch to explain the otherwise unexplainable, which leads to a lot of what I think both you and D-Mac perceive as unfair treatment. Again, while hypotheticals like this are usually dumb because there's no good way to verify it, I think any wicked-talented quarterback with that track record in that city goes through pretty much the exact same thing, only with different adjectives.

You know, I read over this, and then I think of "rocket-fueled legs," and I understand why you're so adamant about this. But, shit, it's an argument blog, so I'll leave it be.

Get out those erasers, haters ...

The Kevin Kolb era has officially been postponed. Check back in two years.

You may have heard in a prominent sports outlet or two that Donovan McNabb had a rough couple of games to start the season. I could list them -- two quick searches yielded a dozen browser tabs' worth -- but what's the point in pointing fingers? It would be revisionist and petty to recall the suggestions that his career was over at 30 because he can't run anymore, the hasty gravedancing from idiot homers writers who let a 2-0 record go to their head, the fact that he outplayed Our Lord and Savior Brett Favre in the first of those losses, the fact that he came a dropped pass away from coming back to tie the second. Two bad games, and scribes are prepping his obituaries. Two bad games, and half of Eagle Nation is calling for some scrub rookie out of Houston who will never be a regular starter in the NFL. All of which, naturally -- of course! -- was the same exact treatment a white quarterback in his situation would have gotten. How dare he suggest otherwise by answering a question HBO asked him during a long interview that was supposed to be about his career. In August.

Today he came out and put up this line:

21-26, 381 yds, 4 TD, 0 INT, 158.3 QB rating.

If you don't consider garbage time, he was 21-23. At one point he completed 19 consecutive passes. Andy Reid decided to run the ball 50 percent of the time, and all of a sudden play-action worked and the line could protect him. The Eagles demolished a 2-0 NFC team and put up the most points they've scored since those heinous blue-and-yellow jerseys weren't throwbacks.

Imagine that.

Not too shabby for a guy nine months removed from major reconstructive knee surgery. A guy who's supposedly so inaccurate, despite those 19 straight today, and despite holding the NFL record for the most consecutive passes completed. A guy whose days in green and white (or yellow and blue, as the case may be) are supposedly numbered.

So enough already. Stop the booing, Philly. Stop the gravedancing and race-baiting, sports media. Everybody stop mentioning Jeff Garcia, and for the love of all that's holy, let's shut the fuck up about that alliterative nobody, Kevin Kolb. If you run the ball a decent amount and give him adequate protection, Donovan McNabb will consistently be one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. He's proven that for years, and nothing is any different now.

I don't want to hear this same overblown shit every time he has a couple of bad games, because you know what? That treatment really doesn't happen to white quarterbacks. Our Fearless Leader Brett Favre was the 7th- and 4th-worst quarterback, statistically, in the last two respective seasons. That's not two bad games -- that's two horrible seasons. And yet he wins three games and not only is all forgiven, he's somehow a "dynamic force" and -- unlike the 30-year-old McNabb, whose career is over if he can't run, but Simmons didn't mean that in a racial way, of course -- is also ageless. You hear all about his tying Marino for the all-time touchdown record, and nothing about the fact that he's also, oh, two picks away from the all-time INT record. Maybe instead of daring to mention obvious racial issues, McNabb should have just gotten hooked on Vicodin. Then all would be forgiven, since white and black quarterbacks are treated exactly the same.

The Eagles still might not make the playoffs. It's anybody's guess which Andy Reid will show up on any given week, or which Kevin Curtis, for that matter. But one thing should be abundantly clear at this point: McNabb doesn't just give them their best shot at the playoffs and an eventual Lombardi -- he gives them their only shot.

I've got a whole lot more on this McNabb/race thing -- especially as it relates to fans, as opposed to the media -- but that'll have to wait for another post.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Guess who's back?!?

That's right, mofos: One of the true O.G.s in the team-killing G.M.-ing game is back in business. Give a hand to the humongous, yet strangely empty, dome of Eddie Motherfuckin' Wade, A.K.A. The Shitty Reliever Whisperer.

I'm sure Frenchy has some pointed barbs for Wade, but I'm appreciative of the opportunity to get in here first. Listen, Ed Wade is not only a horrible G.M., he might actually be one of the worst I've ever seen, regardless of the sport. Unlike other horrible G.M.s who have to juggle the demands of their stunning levels of incompetence with tightwad/meddling/corporate ownership, Ed Wade actually managed to skullfuck the Phillies without outside interference. He was permitted a competitive payroll, a great market, and some really good young players around whom to build. And yet, he managed to make the kind of franchise-killing mistakes one usually reserves for the likes of Kevin Malone.

Part of what makes this so much fun is I was just listening to an interview with Michael Lewis today, and (not surprisingly) the subject of Moneyball came up. On that subject, he commented that most surprising about the response to the book was that other teams didn't rush out to try and ape Beane's now-exposed strategy, and instead mocked it (though, with the caveat that many GMs now started paying attention to OBP a little more). That was true a year after the book came out, and is apparently still true now. There is no less-deserving man in America of another G.M. post than Ed Wade, yet he's been handed the keys to another franchise. At least the cupboard is so bare in that franchise that there won't be the added torture for Astros fan of watching Wade destroy a good thing.

I don't want to start throwing around the "-isms" here, because it's done too often and rarely well-defended. But I am going to say that there are a lot of "non-traditional" candidates for G.M. positions right now — including Kim Ng, Ruben Amaro, DePo, Logan White, etc. — that have been on the shelf for a while now, waiting for some club with a little bit of imagination to take a shot. I'm not saying that all are equally qualified, or good fits for the Astros, or are even most deserving of a job when held up against the field. But I do know that baseball is a fuck of a lot more discriminatory in its hiring practices that just about any other major business out there. It's not even about race or sex so much as it is simply about the fact that the strongest force in the game is inertia. Ed Wade has done everything in his power to demonstrate, beyond a reasonable doubt, that he's not fit to run a group of beer vendors, not to mention a major league team. Yet, he's another in a long list of old, white men who find that it's virtually impossible to not get a job in baseball once you've already had one. Unless your name is Cito Gaston.

Monday, September 17, 2007


And in the first comment of the postgame, Stuart Scott squints his lazy eye and mentions the time Philly fans supposedly booed Santa. I will rip off your head and piss down that spineless tube you call a neck, you silly piece of catch-phrasing shit.

Andy Reid's on now. First two sentences, "I've got to do better, we've got to do better."

You know what, I don't want to hate this guy. He's obviously upset, short of breath, red-faced. He's morbidly obese. One of his kids is in the joint for drugs and guns, and the other's on his way. The entire city hates him. He refuses to throw anybody under the bus, even though his receivers -- and, let's be honest, his quarterback -- have been atrocious. He takes the blame, and he should, but still, he's standing here trying to answer every question from the media. He's a hell of a lot classier than, say, Bill Belichick. I really feel bad for the guy; he's a heart attack waiting to happen.

I wish all the best for Andy Reid. Just not with the Eagles. I just don't want him to be the head coach of this team anymore.

Cut away to Sal Pal, who's giving us "the pulse of Philly." Loud boos, Sal, no shit. And he's the eighth person to bring up Jeff Garcia.

Listen, everyone: Jeff Garcia is not a better QB than Donovan McNabb. He's really good, and he might be better suited to Andy Reid's bullshit offense. But he's not better. D-Mac's nine months removed from major knee surgery. Give the guy a fucking break. Apparently, that's too much to ask.

The question is, what's Andy Reid's excuse?

Fourth Quarter

That's three straight third-and-long conversions for the 'skins. Now Dawkins is down on the field. We have no backup for him, literally -- we have three safeties and two of them have gotten hurt this game.

Touchdown, Washington. And Clinton Portis, who has done nothing in his Redskins career worth dancing about, is celebrating.

21-9, Redskins. Here's a prediction for the postgame press conference: Andy Reid will mumble something about the blame being on him. The phrase "we just didn't get it done" will be muttered. He'll be right.

Hold on a second -- my gamecast says the Phils just brought Fabio Castro in to close out the game. Fabio fucking Castro? Dude was in AAA a month ago! Why did you move your best starter into the pen if you're not going to use him now? This is unbelievable. Just unbelievable.

Thank you, Tony Kornheiser, for pointing out the franchise's complete failure to ever give McNabb any legitimate WR threats. If only TO weren't such a sociopath.

Can we just schedule McNabb's season-ending injury for later in this quarter, so I can get all the misery out of the way and focus on the Phillies, and their misery?

Fourth and four in Redskins territory. This is pretty much the last gasp. I'm predicting one of two things: a dumb play-action pass where McNabb has no time to find the receivers who aren't open because the secondary didn't bite because they never run the ball, or a screen pass to somebody shitty like Thomas Tapeh that nets them three yards and a turnover on downs.

I've been watching the second half with my roommate, who came home at halftime and started asking dumb questions about football and calling the Redskins the "Indians." I might punch him in the teeth soon.

And McNabb threads his first needle of the night. First down. OK, Donnie. You just keep me hangin' on. And then he nearly airmails Westbrook. At least he's never boring.


Dawkins has a "neck injury." Three of the four starters in our secondary are hurt. Lovely.

Why does it always take the Eagles six minutes to go from the opponents' 40 to the 10?

Don't you dare show that red zone graphic, goddamnit! Last time you did that he threw a pick-six!

Fourth and a long two. Hey, could we please get another screen pass? Really, it'll work this time. Not like the last six.

Another field goal. Whoo.

Russell Branyan is batting with two men on? NOOOOOOOOO! This is like The Perfect Storm of sports! We're taking on water!

Trey Wingo confirms that the Phillies have won! Nice! 2 1/2 back of the Mets, which is great, since the Padres are apparently going to win every game for the rest of the season. Howard with 2 homers!

Too bad Jeff Fisher got an extension. I wish he was the Eagles' coach.

Santana Moss was just as open as I've ever seen anybody. I don't even know if they replaced Brian Dawkins with anybody, because nobody was playing safety right there. I don't understand how Campbell overthrew him.

Reno Mahe. Soft hands.

Ha! Donny shaking the rush and shovel-passing! Look who's decided to show up!

2nd and 1, Andy runs the ball! Progress!

McNabb evades pressure, throws a laser, first down. Ruh roh!

D-Mac tries a deep ball into triple coverage. Through the defender's hands. I am taking small breaths.

A DRAW? On 3rd and 2? A fucking DRAW? You finally decide to run the ball and it's a draw on third and 2? Even Tirico said it was a stupid playcall! Mike Tirico makes more sense than you, Andy Reid!

Fourth down again. I can't handle this.

AAAAHHH! REGGIE BROWN! We missed you, tiger! Sort of a bad pass ... first down.

Another first down.

Rush to get a play off, Mr. Badclockmanagement. McNabb gets pummeled. Incomplete. Timeout.

If I had to predict right now, I'd say they score a TD, and then blow the conversion thanks to a stupid playcall.

Short pass to Kevin Curtis. He is not very good. Not even as good as Stallworth.

Curtis wide open and he overthrows him. Fuck. Fourth and six. Tough spot on the field to make this playcall.


D-Mac delivers and Kevin Curtis drops it. Hard hit, but he should have held on. Glad we spent all that money on this guy.

Game over. Fuck this. We're probably going to lose to Detroit next week, with three members of our secondary out. I hope the Eagles lose every game for the rest of the season, just so I don't have to watch Andy Reid coach my team anymore. I hate that man so much.

At least it's still baseball season.

Third Quarter

The Chuckwagon is in the booth! While we're sort of on the subject, has there ever been an athlete with better nicknames? Thump (or was he Bump, and Rick Mahorn was Thump?), the Round Mound of Rebound, Sir Charles, the Chuckwagon. I love that guy. Still my single favorite basketball player ever.

Dropped passes, errant passes, bad playcalls, two punts, penalties, and a field goal. That sums up the first ten minutes of the third. And most of this game.

13-6, five minutes to go in the third, Eagles ball. The pizza finally showed up earlier and now I'm refueled. Hopefully McNabb is, too. One of the hallmarks of D-Mac's career has been his ability to salvage horrible first-half performances -- of which there have been many -- by being however good he needed to be to win games in the second half. There's a reason he has one of the best winning percentages of any active quarterback.

First play, right through Reggie Brown's hands. Beautiful.

Holy shit! D-Mac's running! I can't believe it! Doing whatever he needs to do.

WHAT? They just said the Phils blew that 11-0 lead? Oh my God, this could turn out to be a rough day.

Tony Kornheiser just said McNabb has been injured so "specifically" three of the last five years, that he couldn't finish the season. Which isn't true, because he played the last game of every season except for 2005 and 2006.

Hey, look what happens when you get your best player the ball! And I don't mean Donovan McNabb, goddamnit! The Weapon of Westwood!

What the fuck is the deal with the playcalling? We haven't had an open wideout all game. What happened to this offense?

No pressure on the quarterback, open receivers everywhere. Our pass defense blows and the playcalling is preposterous. Just keep blitzing, JJ. It's working great.

The Eagles look worse today than they have since the Colts game last year. At least last week they lost because of a couple special teams gaffes. Today they're just inept.

Halftime thoughts ...

Two reasons the Eagles are losing this game: the offense and the defense. OK, more specifically, the refusal to run the ball, as always, and D-Mac's inaccuracy. Jason Campbell has clearly been the better quarterback thus far.

On defense, it's the playcalling. Jim Johnson's constant blitzing is just as tired as Reid's constant running. I'm so sick of watching these two dickheads coach my favorite team.

There's a French dude who lives in the apartment below me and listens to techno all the time. It's bumping right now, vibrating the floor. He's a firefighter and he speaks with a thick French accent, and when I see him on the stairs, he says things like, "My man, these 21-year-old bitches, they all want to fuck me. I tell them, I'm all fucked out. I can't fuck no more." He has a French flag covering the window of his front door. He's definitely my second-favorite neighbor, behind only the smoking-hot brunette mother of three next door, with the freckles and the yoga pants.

Quarter Two

Wait, there's an entire show based on the Geico caveman commercials? Are you fucking kidding me?

Holy schnikes, D-Mac just hung Reggie Brown out to dry. Reggie Brown, where you been all my life?

Fantastic catch by the guy who's fast replacing Brown as the go-to guy, Jason Avant. Great hands on that guy.



42 yards in two rushes. Approx. 9 broken tackles. Best RB in the NFC.

Hey, can we talk about Britt Reid some more when the Eagles are about to score? Please? I want to know about Andy Reid's kids! If gun-toting cokeheads are so fascinating, there are plenty on the Redskins to talk about ...

David Akers, former steakhouse waiter in Louisville, converts the field goal.

3-3 halfway through the second. I picked the worst game ever to live blog.

So while we're on break ... apparently Doyle objects to Westy's primary nickname, Weapon X. I've heard him called other things, so I did a google search. Apparently, he has an IMDB page. WTF?

William James! I take it all back! That interception was profound and cerebral!

Re: the nickname issue, I kind of like The Wizard of Westbrook. Can somebody be "of" their last name? Oh, grammar, thou art a cold mistress.

LJ Smith with a catch. He's playing with a sports hernia. That always works out well.

And we have an Andy Reid run/pass graphic! 7/16 today, and he has the most skewed ratio of any head coach in NFL history! Thank you, ESPN! And now it's another incomplete pass! I will now hang myself.

6-3 Eagles. Man, is the Phillies game on?

Clinton Portis goes nowhere. He sucks.

Oh shit, Considine is hurt. We only have 3 safeties on the roster. This could be very bad. Now warming up, Quinton Mikell. From ... ? C'mon, Doyle, you should know this.

Juqua Thomas with the sack. If it weren't for Kearse's $7M salary, he'd be a starter.

Memo to Jim Johnson: STOP FUCKING BLITZING ON EVERY THIRD DOWN! Everybody knows it's coming.

Nice play, Reno! Very cerebral! Or is it crafty? Calculating? What do you call Pacific Islanders? Paging Joe Morgan ...

Hey look, they're running the ball. Hey look, it's working. Driving at the 2-min warning -- here comes some bad clock management, folks!

OK, OK, I'll say it: Donovan looks like shit so far this season. I retain faith in him, if not the coaching staff.

On the flip side, and I know I'm jinxing myself here, the defense has looked much, much better than I expected.

All I'm seeing here is non-mobile black QBs overthrowing receivers. It's like Byron Leftwich has been signed to be all-time quarterback.

Campbell scrambles for 20 yards on a blatant hold.


Speaking of bad clock management, nice work, Redskins! Three consecutive penalties when you're on the 2-yard-line!

Turns out I spoke way too soon about the Philly defense. The secondary still can't cover. Touchdown Redskins. Fuck.

I was on the phone when the timeout was called on the field goal. Did Andy Reid call that timeout? Or was it the 'skins? And if he did, WHAT THE FUCK IS HIS PROBLEM? God, he even manages the clock poorly when he doesn't have the ball.

10-6 at halftime. But the Phillies are winning 11-0! And the Mets are losing!

First Quarter

Akers' kick returned by Rock Cartwright. Great name.

James Thrash makes an appearance! Does he look white or black tonight? I can't tell. This is important, folks! When he looks white, he plays like crap. When he looks black, he's good!

First series: Portis 3-yard run, Campbell throws a beautiful ball Cooley drops, short out to Santana Moss for a first down. William "the Philosopher" James on the coverage, sort of. Why are you giving a ten-yard cushion on third-and-7?

Takeo does the intros. THAT's what Takeo Spikes looks like? I didn't know we signed Deebo in the offseason. Jesus, buy a grill or something.

Two third-and-longs, two out routes to Santana Moss, two first downs. I miss Lito Shepphard already.

Fucking offsides. Clinton Portis would have gotten stuffed. It's Kearse on the penalty. He got paid $60 grand for that play.

Third and three. I smell a short pass to Moss coming. Nope! Cooley drops another one. Bad throw, but he was open. Why is everybody open on third down?

RENO! Well played, sir. His full name is Sateki Reno Mahe!

Birds coming out for their first possession, pinned on their own five. I feel some ill-advised play-action coming!

More Reno Mahe trivia while we're on break. He's of Tongan descent. According to Wikipedia, Tonga is the second-fattest nation on earth, at 90% obesity rate. No. 1? Washington, DC!

They ran the ball! I love it! Who cares if it was for no gain? Progress, I'm telling you!

Hey, anybody notice how when Jason Campbell scrambled for three yards, nobody said he didn't look very explosive? Is that progress, too? I mean, he is a mobile QB.

Short route to Weapon X, first down. Run that play all day.

Deep shot to Kevin Curtis, who has a little James Thrash in him. Maybe it's the lighting. D-Mac just called him White Lightning! He has been christened.

Hey, look, lots of short passes, punt. That's the Andy Reid we know and despise.

Introducing Sav Rocca, the Eagles new punter, a thirtysomething Aussie rules football player. We lost the porniest name in pro football, Dirk Johnson, but Sav Rocca's not bad in that department, either. (The name, folks, the name. Get your mind out of the gutter.)

Hard to tell with all the blitzing, the but Eagles' front four looks pretty good so far. Haven't said that in a few years.

Four possession, four first downs, four punts. That's some attractive NFC East football.

Eagles come out firing ... more short passes over the middle. Dropped. Kornheiser and Tirico use this as an excuse to discuss D-Mac's decline. Now he gets sacked. Here comes discussion of his lacking explosiveness #17 of the night ...

45-yard pass to Moss. William James is getting scorched. How can you be that far behind him when you gave a 10-yard cushion? No safety help, either.

Michelle Tafoya looks like Mango tonight.

One quarter in, 3-0 Offensive Mascots. What a shitty quarter of football.

The first-even TGWNA liveblog!

I'm watching the Eagles game at home for the first time in years, because it's on TV and I actually have cable, and because I'm not sure if I should be out in public if the Eagles should happen to fall to 0-2 (which won't happen). You know you're pumped.

Here's how it's going to work: a different post for each quarter. I'll just keep editing it and adding on, so you can scroll to the end for new stuff. Not too complicated.

Pregame. Just ordered some pizza. Got my home Donovan McNabb jersey on, because I seem to have lost my black Dawkins gear, which is a tragedy of epic proportions. I can't even think about that right now. And after last week, the Westbrook Super Bowl jersey is one more stupid loss away from being retired permanently. Nothing but bad luck, that thing, ever since the SB.

Tom Jackson just picked the Redskins! Fuck you, Tom Jackson! Where's the loyalty? Even Steve Young and Emmitt picked the Eagles. (I think Young picked Philly -- it's hard to tell through the mumbles).

EVERY STATE IN AMERICA HAS PICKED THE EAGLES TO WIN! Ha ha! DC's not even a state, you bitches! I never thought I'd be so happy to see an all-red map of America. You vote for a team from a non-state and the terrorists win!

Stay tuned for the first quarter. My prediction: Eagles by six.

And Mike Tirico just called the NFC East the most attractive conference in football! I know that when I think of South Philly, DC, the Meadowlands, and Dallas, the first word that comes to mind is "attractive." That, and "unidentified black male."

Somebody steal Michelle Tafoya's spatula! Jesus, woman!

Suzy Kolber, you are one hot Jewess ...

AND WE'VE GOT A RENO MAHE SIGHTING! Suzy tells us he's living in a hotel! Can't he just crash with Vai? What happened to this Pacific Islander sense of family? Hey Reno: if you ever need a place to crash in San Francisco, call a brother!

Nice opening montage of Donovan mumbling and talking about naysayers. Jesus, enough already! TO'S GONE! RUSH LIMBAUGH WAS FIRED! SHUT UP ABOUT THE NAYSAYERS! GO PLAY FOOTBALL, YOU DOUCHE!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Memo to online sports media outlets:

HIRE EDITORS! Yahweh almighty, this story is an absolute disaster, and everything I've read from this guy looks the same! I IMed Lyan a link to one of his Braves gamers a while back just to point out how terrible it was. Really, it's not even the writer's fault -- the story has everything it needs in terms of reportage. It's even kind of funny. But can't an editor take a look at that and realize more than 75% of the grafs begin with a clunky dependent clause, and the rest still manage to butcher grammar in some way? (For instance, from the fourth-to-last graf: "It was an event that was scheduled ..."? I understand that it needs to be passive voice because of the long series of names that comes after, but what's wrong with "the event was scheduled..."?)

I've wondered this before, but do these places actually employ editors? And if so, what the fuck are they doing? Because it sure ain't editing!

Just hire me already.

(Oh, and apropos of nothing, I have to post my new favorite t-shirt:

God bless Eagles fans.)

Thursday, September 13, 2007

A couple of great articles on D-Mac ...

This Onion piece on McNabb is hilarious.

This one is even hilariouser.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Football's back!

and it's gonna be trouble. I didn't make it to Kezar Pub, where the Birds fans congregate, because a couple of friends went early and it was wall-to-wall by 9:30, partly because of the rugby world cup. Wound up watching the game at an English pub in the Haight full of fucking cheeseheads. Missed the first half (I know that makes me a bad fan, but I had a good excuse), got there when it was tied, talked a bunch of painkiller smack on Favre, made a Mark Chmura crack or two, the usual.

Thoughts on the game: I've seen worse. The one thing that really bothers me is that it's an NFC game, so it might come back to haunt them in tiebreakers and such later (a la the horseshit 62-yard field goal loss to Tampa last year). We'd beaten the Pack five straight times, including probably the greatest single Eagles play I've ever witnessed -- one of those few plays for which I'll always remember where I was when it happened (although that's sort of easy, since the answer's usually Old Chicago), so they owed us. Plus it was in Lambeau, and they've got a good defense.

And the Eagles played well enough to win. The Eagles offense is what it is: baffling, maddening, inconsistent, but occasionally explosive and good enough when it needs to be. (Even in a weak effort, the offense played well enough to win today.) The playcalling sucked, overall, and yet the fact that the play breakdown was something like 28/33 run/pass is very heartening to me. D-Mac didn't look sharp, and his stats weren't great, but there were four or five dropped passes in the third quarter alone that really hurt. He often starts seasons poorly; he'll be fine. Reggie Brown disappeared for a game, as he is wont to do, but Jason Avant had a nice game in his place.

The defense was what really worried me going in, considering they had three new starting linebackers and a few new d-linemen, and they were really bad last year, especially against the run. Granted, it's the Packers, but the D was stellar: no offensive TDs allowed, right around 50 rushing yards, a couple of turnovers.

Special teams lost this game. Specifically, Greg Lewis and J.R. Reed's respective foibles -- Lewis botching one kick that wound up a Packers TD, and Reed screwing the pooch completely on a hapless fair-catch attempt that directly cost the Eagles the game. But I have a hard time blaming either of them, considering neither has returned punts before. We had a reliable and sure-handed, if decidedly non-dangerous, returner for the last few years in Reno Mahe, whom I like perhaps too much because he's Vai Sikahema's cousin. He also worked at Chickie and Pete's part-time in the offseason and is reportedly related to the Barbarian. Then we cut him because Reid and Co. were so high on Jeremy Bloom, a skier who has since been cut himself. Luckily, I think this whole punt-return situation is a pretty easy fix: sign Reno, who's still a free agent, mostly because he's not very good at anything but catching punts. Rumor has it (on Igglephans) the team plans to bring him in for a tryout. At least you know what you get with him: he's never returned a punt for a TD, but he had one of the NFL's best YPRs last year, and he rarely fumbles. Besides, if the Birds are in a situation where they really need a big return, they've still got this guy. (The first play of that clip is one of my all-time Eagles top 5. God, I love beating the Giants.)

Then just cut Reed to make room for him. He's expendable, as much as everybody likes him after that ghastly injury and his gutsy comeback. He was never that good to begin with.

In other words, despite what the predictable Philly reaction has been thus far, the sky's not falling. But we absolutely must beat Washington next Monday.

Thoughts on other games I watched, at least in part:

LT is the single most amazing football player I've ever seen play. If he were an Eagle I would probably become his stalker. I've always put away my homerishness when it comes to him, and agreed that he's the best back in football, so I often think that I realize how good he is. Then I watch him play, and realize that I didn't realize. I'm no historian, but I can't imagine there's ever been a RB who was clearly better.

That said, the Chargers as a whole did not impress me, and Philip Rivers in particular does not -- and never has -- strike me as anything more than an above-average NFL QB. And not that far above average.

On the flip side of that game, the Bears are pretenders, just like I've been saying. Their best scoring option is a punt returner.

Regarding other predictions I made a while ago ...

I wish I had considered the Rams' defense before anointing them.

I stick with my Lions pick.

I might be wrong about the Panthers/Saints, but I'm not conceding that just yet. Let's see the Panthers do something against a team that has a secondary. (Why the hell don't opposing DCs just game-plan to triple Steve Smith? He's the only good player on that entire offense!)

The Giants are in real trouble.

Next season, the Redskins might be as good as everybody seems to think they are right now.

I hate the Patriots more than I have any right to hate a team from another conference.

I didn't get to see the Seahawks game, but it sounds like they had a solid performance against a mediocre team, which -- in all seriousness -- is harder than it sounds. And the stats seem to indicate that both Hasselbeck and Alexander played well. Still, the fact that the Bucs were trailing by 4 in the third quarter in Seattle should keep Seth's claims of NFC dominance in check for another week or two. Or dare I dream? I'm curious to see what they do against a good team.

Thus far, their defensive travails notwithstanding (Plaxico Burress is the most underrated WR in the NFL by a wide margin), I would have to say the best team in the NFC is not the Bears nor Saints nor Eagles nor Hawks, but the Cowboys. Now let me go wash the taste of vomit out of my mouth ...

Friday, September 07, 2007

Well, color me stunned

Of all people, it's Jayson fucking Stark that gets out first a the spot-on take.

Man, it's a whole lot harder disliking him right now.

Salvo No. 1

Post-Dispatch columnist Jeff Gordon was the official voice of pseudo-reason for the sports section today, putting together a fairly well-intentioned column about the Ankiel situation.

But then, lurking close to the bottom of the piece in the "let's keep these things in mind" section, is this cute little bullet-point:

- Ankiel did not grow a freakishly oversized skull or a comically over-muscled torso, as Barry Bonds did. As Steroids Era poster boys go, he looks pretty normal. He got stronger, but not unusually so.

What's that, Lassie? The St. Louis media is already starting to disseminate ignorant justifications and defenses on Ankiel's part, invoking the name of convicted steroid user and dog killer Barry Bonds?!?

I would like to think Gordon, who has a certain je na sais quoi about him in that rakish mug of his — mischievousness? I like that in my sports writers — will on retrospect realize he's falling back on the old "muddying the waters" trick. Bonds has absolutely nothing to do with this case. NOTHING. To bring his name up in this circumstance is journalistic malpractice, plain and simple.

Also, I would like to note for Pat that Bonds is black, and Ankiel is still white (pending review by the St. Louis Chamber of Whiteness). See! They're racist! I TOLD YOU!

And now, the first real test

Oops, Cardinals fans. Can anyone do anything for that franchise without either doping or becoming mortally injured?

You know, I really hate St. Louis in general, and its sports fans in particular. Everyone talks about how "great" the fans there are, but they only seem to be "great" when said player is white, pretends to be "aw shucks" about everything and doesn't ask to be paid what the market dictates he should be. Plus, they didn't kill off the Mormons when they had the chance, which is enough to condemn the entire state to eternal damnation (yes, I know St. Louis isn't anywhere close to that, but screw your "facts." St. Louis is the reason you can't get a beer in SLC with more than 5 percent alcohol, and I ain't hearin' any differently).

But, I'm not here to shed light on my irrational hatred of everything St. Louis. I am here to wonder, in written form, what the reaction is going to be from those red-clad, holier-than-thou Cardinals fans now that their Golden Boy has his name on the fucking HGH receipt.

Something tells me, no matter how lame Ankiel's apologia, the fans will figure out some way to justify it and look past it.

Look, I don't really care. First, HGH doesn't help baseball players, unless they're concerned about how they look in the shower. Second, I think the "outrage" over doping in baseball is 80 percent media and the rest a vocal minority of idiots who don't seem to realize that there are plenty of things to get all moralistic over these days that are a little more lofty in reach than professional athletics.

But I do love watching sanctimonious assholes get it shoved right back in their face. Who's the first St. Louis columnist to admit all the platitudes he crapped out about Ankiel were misdirected? Who's the first national columnist to admit that PED use really isn't restricted to giant, easily targeted sluggers like McGwire and is instead was (and probably still is) endemic throughout the entire game? And who's going to be the guy to admit that maybe it's time we moved on and stopped making Bonds the scapegoat for this entire issue? Because, believe it or not folks, your blue-eyed, Aryan heroes were/are just as juiced as those uppity blacks and latinos.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

More Links!

In case you were wondering, ASU's football program is still more fucked than UA's will ever be. (credit Ryno for the tip)

Man, I knew Erickson was one of the dirtiest coaches around, but I didn't even know half the shit he did.

Credit where it's due

This is a pretty great story on Donovan McNabb. And our friendly neighborhood sports journalists ought to love it, too, because the author manages to give an insightful and fresh take while avoiding the elephant in the corner. Hmm ... I also wonder why McNabb is treated differently, by fans and the media alike, from the other quarterbacks mentioned in the story: Favre, Brady, Manning, Palmer, Hasselbeck, Brees, and Garcia. What could the difference be that makes him a "lightning rod for criticism"?

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Tuesday, September 04, 2007


Has J-Stark been reading TGWNA?

I'm telling you, Jose Reyes is the most overhyped so-called MVP candidate for a New York team since ... well, since every year I can remember. He's the third-best shortstop in his own division.

Monday, September 03, 2007

My afletes is mo numerously than yo's

Reader Brett left an interesting comment on the last post — which has, since the start of me writing this post, been buttressed by even more commentary — in which he posits that, perhaps, Appalachian State's upset of Michigan wasn't such a monumental upset after all. It brings up the question as to how, exactly, I-AA football teams — at least the best ones, like the Mountaineers, Montana, Maine and North Dakota State — stack up against I-A opponents, in terms of win probability.

I don't know how one can take an analytical approach to this question, because we simply don't have the tools available to do the work. Football Outsiders are attempting to bring a sabermetric-like approach to the NFL, but the analysis suffers from the inherent issues brought about by small sample sizes and the fluid nature of the sport itself. College football is an even less forgiving terrain, thanks to the sheer number of teams; it's difficult to establish controls when teams that are vying for the National Championship rarely play each other, or even common opponents.

Turning to anecdotal evidence, it's tempting to think that Brett's close to being right. In the last four seasons, there have been three victories by I-AA teams in guarantee games: Appalachian State's win over Michigan, Montana State's win over Colorado in 2006 and Maine's victory over Mississippi State in 2004. However, one has to remember that there are upward of 40 of these matchups per year (46, by my count, this season), so the approximate odds of a I-AA "upset" are 53-to-1. But I don't think there's very far to go with this number; no one's arguing that the majority of I-AA teams stand a chance against I-A opposition, just that the very best I-AA teams can hang with the big boys.

We have some proof that they can, obviously, with the three "upsets" mentioned above. I use quotation marks because I think part of the snag here is the definition of an "upset" itself: I think it's best to say that a win by any double-digit dog is an upset. And, make no mistake about it, virtually any I-AA team is going to be a double-digit dog to virtually any I-A team, or at least any major-conference I-A team (it's too difficult to get into the particulars of teams in the Sun Belt, for instance, since many of them were I-AA programs not too long ago and are barely hanging onto I-A status). The reason for the bookmaker's view is simple: I-AA doesn't have the soldiers, and I don't mean that in the Windslowian sense.

A I-AA football team gets 65 scholarships, compared to 85 for a I-A school. More than any other factor, this is what would make it impossible for an Appalachian State to compete with any kind of consistency against I-A opponents. Those 20 scholarships are what would usually go to third-string linemen, an extra kicker/punter, perhaps a dedicated long snapper, or a sixth wide receiver. People don't often consider these players, but that's because most people don't really understand what all goes into creating a football team. Injuries cause massive attrition over the long haul, and fatigue does so within a game, particularly on the lines. Your average I-AA team is lucky to have one backup for each spot, not to mention two or three. And while many of the starters on a I-AA are "good enough to play with the big boys," the backups often aren't anywhere close. Thusly, in a guarantee game, you'll have fourth-quarter situations where a defensive tackle who has played every down of the game is going up against a center or guard who might have played 2/3 of the offensive team's snaps. That's a massive difference, and the main reason why most I-AA teams that are able to put some points on the board early tend to "fade" as the game goes on. It's not that the bigger/better team got any more wise to what the smaller team is doing ("halftime adjustments" are the most overrated things in football); it's just that the smaller/overmatched team gets too tired to actually do it.

I used to have a picture that could illustrate this point perfectly, taken on my cellphone from the press box of the ISU-SDSU game a couple of years back. The ISU sideline looked about half as populous as SDSU's, and I'm pretty sure the numbers themselves weren't that far off.

The fact that Appalachian State's starting lineup, particularly on offense, is probably I-A quality doesn't mean it's a I-A-quality team, despite the fact the Mountaineers played like one for a day. If we're talking about determining where a I-AA team fits in the national picture, regardless of classification, than we've got to consider what would happen if that I-AA team played a 12-game schedule against 11 or 12 I-A teams. If that happened, the I-AA team would be lucky to win one game, not to mention two. It's virtually impossible. If Arizona, a team I'm convinced is either the 9th- or 10th-best team in the Pac-10, played Appalachian State 10 times, the Wildcats would win 9.5 times, and Willie Tuitama would look like Brian Brohm. This may sound like hyperbole, but it's the nature of football. Speed may kill, but depth is what determines the battle.

Situations like the Appalachian State are what hooks bad gamblers into betting boxcars at the craps table: When you see it hit once, you tend to forget that 30:1 odds means that it's supposed happen at least once if you roll the dice 31 times (actually, the true odds of rolling boxcars are 35:1, but we'll not enter into a discussion of vigorish right now). Instead of simply viewing it for what it was — an occurrence that isn't all that surprising if you see guarantee games not as isolated events, but as part of a larger, continuing series of games — it's tempting to ascribe more to this win, such as a skill level on Appalachian State's part that justifies the victory. But while it may not be intellectually satisfying to attribute events to luck, or the probability that a super-outside shot comes through every so often, it's nonetheless the case.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Putting an upset into context

Lost amid the schadenfreude most of the country is experiencing on the heels of Appalachian State's historic upset of Michigan, Saturday, is the impact of this game years down the road on college football scheduling. And, for the I-AA folks out there, the result is unlikely to be well-received.

Any sports fan worth a damn knows the double-meaning of a "guarantee game," so there's little point in getting into how poorly the Mountaineers played up to their end of the bargain. I haven't been able to find out exactly how much the guarantee was in this game, but based on the figures I've seen, it's likely that the visitor made somewhere between $750,000 to a million for the pleasure of making Lloyd Carr's final season with the Wolverines even better for the Sack Carr folks.

While there's little doubt that a lot of high-fives were exchanged in the offices of I-AA football programs Sunday, one has to wonder if there wasn't a little apprehension mixed in with the celebration. Even if Appalachian State goes on to win the I-AA title, it won't provide any salve for the humiliation felt by Michigan. Couple Saturday's upset with last season's 19-10 upset of Colorado by the Big Sky's Montana State — in new head coach Dan Hawkins' debut, no less — and that's two season's worth of proof for I-A programs that the only guarantee these games provide is a no-win situation.

College football program are notoriously risk-averse, unless a five-star recruit with a rap sheet is involved. Most programs have realized that the K-State model to program building — schedule horseshit opponents in the early season while voters aren't paying attention — is both effective and the correct percentage play. That's why guarantee games have exploded in popularity in the last 10 years, with most teams playing a I-AA opponent at least once every two seasons, if not annually.

But what sounds like exploitation is actually a fair shake. The idea of financial viability for collegiate athletic programs is mostly a mirage — Arizona's can count itself as one of a half-dozen or so that actually pays for itself — and is a complete fantasy for programs relegated to I-AA in football, which aren't allowed to feed from the BCS television contract trough. The growth of guarantee games presented an annual opportunity for smaller programs to get a piece of the pie, converting the "pocket change" of I-A programs into financial windfalls. Idaho State's $200,000 or so guarantee for a 2005 matchup against San Diego State — a smaller sum because of the Aztecs' mid-major status — represented a little less than 1/10th of that year's athletic department revenue, if my memory serves.

While Idaho State, a mid-level program that rarely glimpses the playoffs, is unlikely to pull off an upset when it plays Oregon State in two weeks, one has to wonder if the Beavers are a little worried. The talent gap is much smaller than perceived by many fans, especially at the skill positions, between the Idaho States and the Oregon States of the world. The real rub comes at the lines — the Bengals once played an entire season with a 235-pound right tackle — and in depth. While those differences would be extremely apparent over the course of an entire season against I-A competition, it's less important in a one-game trial. Even if the odds of an upset are less than 5 percent, there's still a 5 percent chance that an entire season could be destroyed. While a loss to a I-A bottom-feeder like Louisiana-Monroe would be humiliating, at least it's a I-A school.

There's already some indication that guarantee games might start to peter out. Odds are good that any program that doesn't already have a scheduled game against Appalachian State won't be in a rush to book them, and it's been years since perennial power Montana has been able to attract any I-A program in its region to take the challenge (though the Griz athletic department, which is a financial titan within the Big Sky and the rest of the I-AA landscape, spins the situation by claiming it's not in the market for guarantees).

Most of the 2008 scheduling has already been arranged, and any cancellations would cause a shitstorm. But I wouldn't be at all surprised to see a noticeable downturn in the total number of I-AA programs playing with the big boys in 2009, who are probably figuring out right now that there are better uses for those hundreds of thousands burning a hole in their pockets.