Friday, September 29, 2006

The Pimple, Week 3

A late Pimple this week - alas, that is the reality of having a full-time job. (underworked and overpaid my ass, Ian Mendes). Hopefully you haven't completely forgotten about last week, what with all the T.O. hulabaloo this week. I just knew someone would step up to replace Dilana for my weekly dose of drama!

It would appear that Corporate America has decided that I need "bold" things in my life. Ford and Budweiser both tout their products as being "bold". A car can be made bold by its owner, or by its design in some cases. However, a beer that's been around for over one hundred years cannot be considered bold, I don't think. Anyway, watch for it. Lots of products out there telling you that they're bold, and apparently that's what we're looking for.

Chris Simms gave us a little scare on Sunday night, didn't he? When Bob Costas and Peter King broke into the opening of Sunday Night Football to announce that Phil Jr. was being rushed to hospital and was in critical condition my heart dropped into my stomach (and not because I've got Simms as my backup QB in our fantasy pool). Splenectomy is not a word you hear every day, especially in sports. Didn't Peter Forsberg have a similar operation a few seasons ago?
In any case, I'm happy he made it through without complications. Say hello to the Bruce Gradkowski era. Are the Bucs really as bad as their 0-3 record indicates? They came up just short on Sunday, losing by a field goal after rallying from 18 down to take the lead against Carolina. All this was doubly interesting to us, since Bruce Mr. Turk had earmarked this game as Carolina's big turnaround game, and I had done the same for Tampa. He won, I lost, and now Tampa's season is a wash. Carolina are now back in it.

Some may think I'm really excited about the Dolphins finally winning a game this week. Guess again, CAPI! That game should have been a blowout, but once again Daunte managed to stall several drives with his inability to read defences or evade the rush. The guy just isn't a pocket passer, and is absolutely incapable of throwing short. Every Dolphin drive has me watching in a state of constant fear. I'm not calling for the backup QB (who shall remain nameless for now), but I'm slowly inching my way over to that position. Beating the Titans 13-10 is no cause for celebration.

In a repeat of last week: DREW BREES COULD HAVE BEEN OUR QB!!!! In light of my disapointment, how great was Monday night? For those of you who watched, wasn't that fantastic? There were so many spine-tingling, goosebump enducing moments that I lost track after a while. I felt ESPN did a fantastic job of reminding everyone over and over again that no matter how joyful the occasion was, there was a lot of work yet to be done in New Orleans and that it needed all the support it could get. I never once felt that New Orleans was ok just because the football team was back. It felt exactly the way it should have: a respite of joy in a sea of suffering. On the football side of it, the Falcons remain my Super Bowl Pick. They got beat by emotion, pure and simple. No one would have beaten the Saints on this night.

Considering the way the Eagles-Giants game played itself out last week, shouldn't we all have expected the total opposite of what transpired this week? The Eagles come out and completely dominate the Niners, playing with high energy and purpose. The Giants get totally shellacked in Seattle, unable to ride the wave of momentum on which they were sailing. Funny little game, this gridiron football.

On Monday night, it was being reported by Chris Mortensen of ESPN that Matt Leinart was going to get his first NFL start on Sunday. He turned out to be dead wrong, but would anyone have been surprised? On Sunday, Kurt Warner looked like the Kurt Warner who got benched in favour of Marc Bulger (remember the 6 fumbles against the Giants?). He also made a lot of people flash back to that Giants-Eagles game in the late 70's where the Giants QB fumbled the snap on a kneel-down play, only to have Herman Edwards pick it up and take it in for a touchdown and the win. The whole situation was surreal as the Rams had to undecline a penalty in order for the game to end. You can undecline a penalty? Really?
Things to look for this week:
  • boldness
  • announcers saying that a team is trying to find its identity
  • balls on the ground courtesy of Daunte (Mario Williams gets his first, second, third and fourth NFL sacks)
  • blocks in the back on punt returns

Friday, September 22, 2006

Blue Jays 2006: Failure?

Seems like everywhere you turn recently, you'll find someone eager to pile on the 2006 Blue Jays and label their season a total failure, a huge disappointment and a colossal waste of money futilely spent.

That may well be the case for people who had predicted the Blue Jays as their dark horse World Series winner, or touted them as winners of the AL East. Meanwhile, those of us who kept our heads and knew this was a long-term project meant to secure key pieces of the puzzle for half a decade, are left scratching our heads at all the talk of gloom and doom.

The Blue Jays are currently 8 games above .500 with 10 games to go. With a four-game series on tap against the Red Sox, the Jays could easily finish higher than 3rd in the division for the first time since their last World Series season of 1993. They have already tied their win total from last year, sitting pretty with 80 victories.

A.J. Burnett has been dynamite for the past 2 months, Doc has been Doc, Stavo Chacin has gone 8-3 in an injury-riddled season and the bullpen has been steady. Aaron Hill has emerged as a stellar infielder (11 errors while playing short and learning 2nd), while his bat has caught up to its potential (.290 as of this writing). Brandon League has made jaws drop with his 100 mph fastball, and been retiring the league's best consistently.

The big money free agents have delivered exactly what was asked of them: Troy Glaus, AJ Burnett (after recovering from injury), Benji Molina and BJ Ryan have strengthened the lineup considerably. With Ted Rogers' proclamation that he wouldn't mind pumping even more money into the lineup, JP Ricciardi should be well-equipped to go get a solid #3 starter and a shortstop since Ted Lilly will surely leave for California in the offseason, and John McDonald looks as bad at the plate as he looks good on D.

With all this in mind, it's mind-boggling to witness the Toronto media's negativity towards this season, when such obvious improvements have been made. Then again, it's the Toronto media.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Sens Preview 06

Alright, well since I dub myself the "Ottawa Sports Guy", I suppose I should write about Ottawa once in awhile.

Not that Ottawa Sports are dull, but I'm kinda pissed at this city for not supporting its sports teams better. Football, soccer and now baseball have all bid "Adieu!" to the city due to one undeniable truth: Ottawa is a one-sport town, and that sport is hockey.

You need a supporting argument? Never mind that the only successful sports franchises in the history of this city are the Ottawa Senators, Gatineau Olympiques and Ottawa 67's, if you tune into our local sports radio channel, Team 1200, and are lucky enough to hear Ottawa sports commentary as opposed to Fox Sports Radio piggy-backing, all they ever talk about is hockey. It can be the middle of July and you'll hear them talk about free agents, rookies, coaching changes, etc. All hockey-related.

However, I love hockey as well. It's not at the top of my list, but I love it and I love the Senators. Let me clarify that: I love the "idea" of the Senators, I love certain players, and will remain loyal to the cause. Having said that, recent events have turned my outlook on the upcoming season to pessimism. The list is long:
  • firing Jacques Martin

  • replacing him with Elmer Fudd (aka Bryan Murray)

  • Trading Havlat for a bag of pucks

  • re-signing Jason Spezza instead of Zdeno Chara

  • going with the red home jersey instead of the classier black

Ok, that last one is inconsequential, but it's a beef that I have. Taking all those points in to account, this is the first time since about 2001 that I don't believe we can win the Stanley Cup (hey, maybe that means they'll actually win it this year!). When you look up and down the lineup there are way too many holes to fill. Allow me to expand on my points:

1. Firing Jacques Martin

You could see this one coming as soon as John Muckler was hired as GM. Not many general managers will tolerate their predecessor's imprint on the team, and Martin had been lucky enough to survive three straight GM's (Pierre Gauthier, Marshall Johnston, Rick Dudley). If you combined all three of those gm's egos, they would still have been eclipsed by Muckler's. And for what? Coaching the Oilers to a championship in the eighties? So John walks in, has to tolerate Martin for a couple of years because the team is playing so damn well, and after another loss to the Leafs in the playoffs takes the opportunity to unceremoniously can him. Nice.

I know a lot of people in this city were calling for the coach's head, but I still maintain that the playoff losses had nothing to do with coaching (plus, fans are predictably fickle when it comes to management, coaching and backups - they always want change). The main problem was goaltending. If Patrick Lalime doesn't have a meltdown in Game 7 of that series, the Sens get the Leaf-Monkey off their backs and go on to greater things. Muckler would have had to smile through gritted teeth and keep Martin. If that had happened, we wouldn't be stuck with:

2. Hiring Bryan Murray

You know when you're dating a girl, and you've been together a while and you think to yourself "wow, I really love this girl. I don't think anything could come between us", and then one day she comes home all excited about her new purchase, and it's something you really dislike like a chihuahua? Well, that's how I felt when the Sens hired Bryan Murray as head coach. Failed coaching stops in Detroit, Anaheim and Florida left me wondering: "We gave up a Jack Adams trophy winner for this?" His supporters pointed to his offensive philosophy and how it's what the team needed going forward in the "new" NHL. "Alright", I said to myself, "let's see and then we'll judge".

It started out beautifully. The Sens could not stop scoring. All that talent on offence, and nothing was getting past Redden, Chara, Phillips and Hasek. For the first half of the season I was coming around to the "Bryan Murray era". In the second half of the season things didn't go as well, but it was nothing to worry about: we were going to glide into the playoffs and to top it all off, the Leafs were going to be left playing golf - sweet. Then we won a series against Tampa, and Buffalo was our next opponent - a foe we had dominated in the regular season. All was not well, though, as Dominik Hasek had yet to play a game following his injury in the Olympics, and although he looked good in practice, Murray could not convince him to play. We were left with a rookie goaltender in Ray Emery (who fought valiently but could not replace a future Hall-of-Famer).

I'm not blaming the coach for the loss. All I'm saying is that he ran into the exact same problem as his predecessor: questionable goaltending in the playoffs. There was no good reason to fire Jacques Martin - it was change for change's sake.

3. Trading Martin Havlat for a bag of pucks

I may eventually eat my words here, but I doubt it. The bag of pucks in question are defenceman Tom Pressing, prospect Josh Hennessy and a second round draft pick. Preissing may work out as an average defenceman, à la Brian Pothier, and Josh Hennessy may well turn out to be a star. However, Martin Havlat was on the cusp of stardom. If you're telling me that Havlat had a tendency to play with his stick a little too high, or had some sort of mean streak that the organization wasn't going to stand for, then fine: I'm all for letting morals get in the way of good hockey deal. On the other hand, if your argument is that we are getting more bang for our buck out of the trade, then I call you out. Yet another reason for the trade may have been Havlat's refusal to sign more than a one-year deal. Economics in the new NHL make for difficult decisions. We'll see.

For the moment, I'll stick to my guns and say that we're sorely going to miss Havlat's speed and proficient stickhandling. If he gets another suspension for hitting another guy in the face with said stick, then I'll shut up and chalk it up to a character trade.

4. Re-signing Jason Spezza instead of Zdeno Chara

I'm a big fan of defence. Not the New Jersey devils type of strategic defence, but great defensive plays by talented defencemen. I knew coming into this off-season that there was a choice to be made. Re-sign two of the following three players; Jason Spezza, Wade Redden, Zdeno Chara. Wade Redden, barring a last-minute tug to the heart from his Western roots, was a lock to remain a Senator. Sign he did. It then came down to Chara and Spezza.

Jason Spezza drives me insane. This is an actual quote from an email to my buddies Bruce Mr. Turk and Serge the Psycho, after playing NHL 07 on XBox 360:

"Guys, I'm afraid there's a huge bug in NHL 07. It sucks, but what can you do? I've alerted EA by email, and maybe they'll put it in a patch. Here's what happened. I was playing a game with the Sens against the Habs, and I was up by a couple. Koivu gets the puck and rushes up ice, and dekes out a couple of my players. It was all good, though, because Spezza backchecked hard and made a stellar defensive play. Hopefully EA will fix this bug. "

Watching him play gives me no satisfaction. Every time he makes an amazing offensive play I find myself thinking "Within 20 minutes, he will undo the good he has done". I'm almost always right. Spezza does not have a defensive bone in his body. His sole focus is to score goals, despite his large frame and potential ability to intimidate the opposition's forwards (think Mark Messier - he's got that much potential). For this reason I wanted them to trade him away this summer and keep Chara. I was to be disapointed.

Most of the city loves Spezza. He's an electrifying presence in the offensive zone and can make the entire arena buzz when he's on his game. He's Canadian, he's got the "aw-shucks" attitude people relate to, and the women love him. Chara is a Czech, doesn't speak English fluently, and has a freakshow quality to him. I can see why management made the decision, but it was not hockey-related.

Rumour out of Senators camp is that Spezza bulked up in the offseason and will be much stronger on the puck. Here's to hoping he uses that bulk to back-check and help on the defensive side of the ice. I won't be holding my breath.

5. Red v. Black, Cartoon v. Class

I'm an adult and have no kids, so maybe my attitude about this will change when I have little ones running around and asking for Sens jerseys for Xmas. For the time being, I will keep being an old curmudgeon who doesn't like changing uniforms, and doesn't like cartoon-like designs for sports teams. The original, post-1993 Senators logo had nothing wrong with it; crisp lines, classy logo, great classical colours. Our white road jersey is still much like the original. On the other hand, our home jersey has been sabotaged by focus groups and marketing experts who certainly told Senators brass that they could make more money by going with a hip-looking, stylized logo coupled with a brightly coloured jersey. The satanic spawn of this boardroom decision-making was the candy-apple red jersey with cartoon-looking logo you see the Senators wear at home. Yuk.

I don't seriously believe that grown men - professional athletes - are affected or intimidated by the other team's jersey colour or logo. If some team was called the Chatanooga Squirting Monkeys, I don't think it would influence results on the ice. But the pretense is fun. It's cool to think that having black jerseys might make your team look ominous. It also looks a lot better to my eyes.

So there are my thoughts on the upcoming season - pretty dire, huh? I'm ready to be proven wrong, and will cheer hard the entire way, especially when we play the hated Leafs who, it would appear, look even worse than last year.

Anybody have a tissue for me? I just watched Tie Domi's NATIONALLY broadcast retirement press conference.

The Pimple vol. 2

Ayoye (French for "Ouch that hurts like a bitch" - quite literally)! Two weeks does not a season make, but watching my Dolphins, and more specifically Daunte Culpepper, trot onto the field and get trounced by the hated Bills, at home, does not give me much hope for the season. Every time I catch Saints highlights and see Drew Brees light it up I think: "That's the guy who was the perfect fit for Miami".

At this point in the Dolphins progression, a game manager who can surprise you with the occasional deep ball is what's needed. Daunte gives us what? Memories of Randy Moss? I hear Jay Fiedler is still a backup somewhere (pining for Jay Fiedler is not what I had in mind for this season). Dan Marino (may Buddha bless him) is still only 45. Wasn't Steve DeBerg 68 when he played for the Chiefs?

Unfortunately, this is going to be another good Miami defence gone to waste. You know who I feel bad for? Zach Thomas. This guy has been the heart and soul of the Dolphins for 10 years, and will probably end his career without even one memorable playoff run. If ever you're watching a Dolphins game, notice how he always seems to be in on the tackle, no matter where the play ended up. My buddy Jason and I were watching the season opener against Pittsburgh, and the Steelers had just scored on a passing touchdown. I pointed out to Jason: "Well, at least Zach was close to the guy who scored." Jason replied "Yeah, but that's the safety's job!". Exactly.

On the bright side, if the Dolphins go 0-16, they get Brady Quinn! Not that they would take him, since they've already broken the bank on Mr. Love Boat. And oh wait, the Raiders would actually have to win a game for that to happen. Never mind.

Speaking of the Raiders, anybody else pissed that Aaron Brooks is already on the bench? Art Shell is withholding some key unintentional comedy there. Andrew Walter? Nothing's funny about him! I think I'll start an Aaron Brooks petition. Who's with me? However, as Bill Simmons pointed out in this hilarious column, Art Shell provides plenty of comedy on his own.

Anyone else watch the end of the Vikings v. Panthers game? Now there's a game neither coach wanted to win. First John Fox gives the go-ahead for that dumb, dumb, dumb trick special teams play on a punt return - WHEN THEY WERE LEADING BY A TOUCHDOWN!!! So Chris Gamble promptly messes that one up nicely, and Minnesota recovers. Fine, then the Vikes do nothing with it and send out the FG unit. Hey Carolina, you think maybe this is going to be a fake, since the Vikings need 7 to tie the game with time almost running out? I guess not, because they got caught flat-footed as Ryan Longwell, the Vikings kicker, threw an easy TD into the endzone.

Off to overtime we go. A few things happened, but let's fast-forward to the end. Vikings work the ball to inside the Panther 5 yard line for a first down. It's overtime, remember. Kick a field goal and it's over.

5 yard line.

Field goal.



What do the Vikings do? Run up the gut on first down for no gain. Surely, someone upstairs is calling down to the sideline to make them realize they only need a field goal, and don't need to risk a turnover? Nope. 2nd down, run up the gut, no gain. My buddy Bruce and I are freaking out on the couch, yelling at the TV. Ok, maybe only I was the only one yelling, but I'm more emotional than Bruce Mr. Turk. Now I'm hoping they run the ball again and fumble, it's all they deserve, but common sense (FINALLY) prevails and they kick the field goal to win. Still can't believe it.

Since we're on the subject of the Vikes-Panthers game, I need to air something Bruce Mr. Turk pointed out during NBC's Football Night in America. They have a feature where fans are asked to pick the biggest turning point of the day. There were 4 options, and one of them was the botched special teams trick play by the Panthers: definitely a turning point. However, the other 3 were not turning points but game-deciding plays. Example: Eli Manning's game-winning TD pass to Plaxico Burress in overtime. That's not a turning point, it's game over, as Bruce Mr. Turk pointed out. A better example in that game would be the ill-advised kick to the groin that Trent Cole administered to a Giant defender, making the tying field goal a 35 yard instead of 50 yard attempt. That's a turning point. Boo on you for that NBC!

While we're on the subject of broadcasters, here are some quick hit observations:

  • Someone at ESPN needs to have a handkerchief ready for Chris Berman at all times. Having his sweaty face on my TV was scary, especially in HD. Can't we get an intern to wipe him down when he's not on camera?
  • Brad Nessler, Dick Vermeil and Ron Jaworski were superb in the second part of the Monday Night Football doubleheader. The shame is that they won't be working another game until who knows when?
  • Costas' chair was still too big. Bruce Mr. Turk couldn't believe it when he saw it for the first time on Sunday. It's New York, people, I'm sure they sell chairs for little people there! (see, I didn't use the word midget).
  • Can we eliminate the part in every MNF game were they get a star to come to the booth? In week one, it was Jaime Foxx complaining about being in the third row of Daniel Snyder's luxury box. This week, Wayde Dwyane (or whatever his name is) talking about how excited he is for the upcoming NBA season. Look, I realize one of ESPN's major properties is the NBA - I GET IT. But I want football, at the very least. Warren Moon is in the house and wants to come to the booth? Fine. Lawrence Taylor? Sure. For everything else non-football related we have Tony Kornheiser. Stick to the program kids.
  • Another point from Bill Simmons with which I agree: Fox's pregame show decided to dispose of James Brown in order to have Joe Buck lead the telecast. The only problem is, Joe Buck is their lead play-by-play guy for NFL and MLB. Therefore, the broadcast has to travel to whichever city Buck is announcing in for that weekend. Doesn't that seem like an extreme and expensive solution to replace James Brown? Are you telling me there is such a black hole of talent in broadcasting that you had to turn to this costly solution in order to put a show on the air? Seriously, this is what the anchor does: "Hello everyone and welcome to Fox NFL Gameday. Lots of good matchups today...Howie?" There you go. Howie, Terry and Jimmy yell at each other for 15 minutes, you pretend they're funny and fake-laugh through it all, then say "you guys are great - we'll be back after these messages". They couldn't find anyone else for this? Was the monkey from Most Valuable Primate busy? What about the creepy golden shower monkey from the Telus commercials? Oh well, it's not like anybody watches that show to begin with...

Looking good after week 2:

  • Jacksonville's D
  • Rex Grossman
  • Alex Smith
  • Sean Taylor's hit on T.O.
  • Joey Porter
  • LaDainian Tomlinson
  • Falcon's run game

Looking horrible after week 2:

  • Culpepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (includes such hits as "Ripping the Soul From my Team's Chest" and "Oops, My Team's Not Dressed in Blue this Week")
  • Chris "My Daddy won a Superbowl" Simms
  • Eagles character
  • 700 page offensive playbooks
  • T.O.'s finger (CRUNCH, BITCH!!)
  • Art Shell's retirement fund

See you next week!

P.S. Did I miss any topics you wanted me to discuss? Send you suggestions and I'll try and address them next time around).

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Pimple

I'm going to try a new feature this year, and that's The Pimple, which will be a MMQB of sorts. Why The Pimple? Skiing Penguins are native to Northern Ontario, more specifically north of Kapuskasing and Moonbeam. The most famous (and only) ski hill in the region has "The Pimple" as a nickname, because of its shape. So there you go.

DISCLAIMER: I was working this weekend and only got to watch the Sunday Night game. That's why most of my focus will feature that contest, and more specifically NBC's new broadcast, report card included.

I can't start this column off any other way than to talk about the Thursday Night game, Defending Champions v. My Beloved Dolphins. I must admit that I bought into the Daunte hype. Silly old me, but how could I not? Since Marino (may Allah make his soul eternal) retired, we've had this wonderful lineup of QB's; Damon Huard, Jay Fiedler, AJ Feeley, Brian Griese, Ray Lucas, Gus Frerotte and Sage Rosenfels.Therefore, I only half-apologize for getting excited about Daunte Culpepper. Not that I'm writing him off or anything, but based on his performance, gifting the game to the Steelers, it looks like 2005 Daunte as opposed to 2003 Daunte.

Ze Red Barons owner joined me for the game, and since he has Daunte as his QB we were both quite grumpy by the end of the game. The Real Chazz Batch even showed up for a while, and it looked certain that the Dolphins would take full advantage, but alas, it wasn't enough. Back to the drawing board.

So I was working yesterday, during my lunch break (1:30 to 2:30) I decided to go the only sports bar on Sparks Street (I work downtown), Hoops. I walk in, look at all the TV's, and it's on TBS. I don't need to point out to you hardcore NFL'ers that TBS does not show football. So I walk over to the bartender, and ask the barmaid "Excuse me, are you showing any of the football?". Her reply: "Oh, right, I haven't even checked what's on." I stood there for a few minutes thinking "ok, anytime now she'll switch it over". I then promptly walked out. Lesson: There really aren't any sports bars on Sparks Street.

I therefore had to wait until I got home to watch some pigskin fly through the air. Fortunately, the 4pm game between the Cowboys and Jaguars was a doozie! I underestimated the entertainment value of cheering for Drew Bledsoe to be Drew Bledsoe, and watch the ticking time bomb that is Your 2006 Dallas Cowboys. How many more bad throws to #81 will it take for it to explode? That made for some compelling viewing. You can see the cracks being exposed slowly. There was a point in the game where Dallas went 3 and out, and Terrell was yapping on the sidelines, while Drew was trying to study those black and white photos of the defensive alignments. T.O. must have said something to Drew, because if you were looking for it, and I was, there was a flash of something that momentarily came into Bledsoe's eyes, and he replied without looking at T.O. We like ill will. Bring more ill will. Sidenot to Fox Sports: The Fox Bots have NEVER been cool. And now that you've got an acutal guy in a robot suit dancing around, it's CREEPY. Enough with the robots.

The Sunday Night game did not disappoint, but before I get into that let me spend a little time talking about Football Night in America, the new highlights show on NBC, and the production qualities of the actual game. First off, let me say that I was quite upset when it was announced that the NFL had given its Sunday Night highlights package exclusively to NBC. That brought an end to a legendary broadcast that we all grew up with - ESPN's NFL PRIME TIME. Chris Berman and Tom Jackson worked perfectly as a team, and it was sad to say goodbye. It was upsetting because it was a pure financial decision by the NFL, not based on the show's quality.

Having said that, I kept hearing about how good HBO's football show was, and that show's crew would be doing the Sunday night thing. That piqued my interest. So how was it? Football Night in America works for me. Works very well. I've always loved Bob Costas and Chris Collinsworth. Jerome Bettis comes off as well as an analyst as he did as a football personality, unlike Shannon Sharpe of CBS. Sterling Sharpe, who's firing on NFL Gameday a decade ago I never understood, is good as well. He's the antagonist on the panel, but he does way better than Michael Irvin, Terry Bradshaw or his brother Shannon.

The set looked gorgeous. Much better than ESPN's flying saucer setup. I don't get the current set on ESPN, it's terrible. NBC's set is classy, understated, perfect for a Sunday night. It's feels like football zen after a day of testosterone and over the top announcers and analysts. My only complaint is that it took 18 minutes to get into highlights, and Costas looked like a Liliputian in those oversized chairs. Nice to see they're giving midgets some important jobs in television. We could always use more midgets on TV (sorry Bob).

As for the game broadcast, I was disappointed. Not in the clarity of the HD, which was beautiful, but the presentation. Where are the stats? Hasn't CBS laid down the blueprint of what football fans expect in terms of stats? They kept showing Manning stats all night. Well guess what, we want to know how the other players are doing as well! Same producer as MNF, Fred Gaudelli, and I guess he doesn't like stats.

Opening music: YUK! Bill Simmons spearheaded the argument against using 20-30 year old songs in opening sequences, and no one is listening. Pink doing "I Hate Myself for Loving You" is a terrible decision. I guess they were hoping for a long standing hit like Hank Williams' "Are you Ready?", but come on...Joan Jett? Hopefully we don't get 10 years of this song, or I'll have to slit my wrists.

Al Michaels is losing some of his appeal, in my book. I used to love Al Michaels. I grew up watching Al Michaels with Frank Gifford and Dan Dierdorf in the MNF booth. But I'm officially losing my affection for Al. He's pretty much given up on telling the game story, describing what's going on. He'll do the play-by-play, but he always seems so eager to break away from the action on the field to wax poetic about the topics of the day not related the present game. That used to be charming in late blowouts, where the action on the field has become irrelevant, but now he does it all the time. I wish he'd tell me about the players on the field, the strategy, the backups, the stats.

Madden is a lot better with Michaels than he was with Pat Summerall. It's like he woke up (who can blame him - I'd fall asleep to listening to Pat Summerall for 10 years). He says insightful things at times, and he's not too over the top as he once was.

Pre-game - Football Night in America:

Host (Bob Costas): A
Panel (Bettis, Sharpe, Collinsworth): A
Set: A- (would have gotten an A+++ if not for the oversized chair)
Content: B

Sunday Night Football:

Presentation: F (for Pink and that song and no stats!!)

Play by Play (Al Michaels): C

Colour Commentator (John Madden): B-

Picture quality and direction: A- (looks beautiful, and brought us some very good images from the game...I won't give an A+ until they give us more live sky cam - that's the way the game is meant to be seen)

Overall: B+

Room for improvement, but the pre-game and halftime stuff were outstanding.

As for the game itself, Vinatieri f'cked me over with his 49 yard FG. I would have won my pro line Props if it hadn't been for that. I thought he had a bum planting foot?!? Oh well. This was an entertaining game, but I'd like to ask an open question to Corporate America: Who decided Peyton and Eli are marketable? Aren't they two of the most despised football players right now? Don't most people find them annoying? There is definitely something unlikeable about both of them, but apparently this does not matter since every second commercial last night featured one or both of the Mannings. Tell me this isn't what I have to watch for four months?

Who I've got tonight: Tomlinson running wild over the Raiders D, and Washington clobbering Minnesota.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Season Predictions

Ok, the season begins tomorrow. Here are my predictions.

AFC East:

New England
NY Jets

Yes, I picked the Bills over the Jets. Why? I picked Chad Pennington in my pool, and he's bound to go down with a season-ending injury, and Willis McGahee is a stud. He'll have a monster year. Patriots over Dolphins - it comes down to Tom Brady v. Daunte Culpepper. The Dolphins have caught up some, but Brady is untouchable.

AFC North:


Baltimore is going to have a huge year. I think McNair will stay injury-free, and the defence will be typically Raven. Cincinnati will have a huge drop-off this year. I feel Marvin Lewis has already lost the locker room.

AFC South:


Indy will dominate the AFC again - in the regular season. Jacksonville will miss the playoffs, and Tennessee will be just as bad as last year - when you're debating whether to start Billy Volek or Kerry Collins, and Collins is winning the debate, you're in trouble.

AFC West:

San Diego
Kansas City

Aaron Brooks is in this division. That's 2 guaranteed wins for everyone else in the division.

AFC Playoff Teams: 1. Indy 2. New England 3. Denver 4. Baltimore 5. Dolphins 6. Pittsburgh

AFC Champion: New England

NFC East:

NY Giants

I have a feeling this division is going to beat itself up all year, with no one winning more than 10 games. Each and every one of these matchups is a bitter rivalry. Only Dallas makes the playoffs.

NFC North:

Green Bay

I think Favre has "some" magic left. Enough to win 2 or 3 games by himself. Detroit is a mess and will continue to be until they Matt Millen. Chicago will win this division without too much trouble. You're welcome Jason.

NFC South:

New Orleans

I have three playoff teams in this division. I think Atlanta will be a monster this year. I think Tampa are going to kick ass. I think Carolina's D will be tremendous. New Orleans will win as many as last year (3), but Reggie Bush will have 1500 all-purpose yards, almost half and half.

NFC West:
San Francisco
St. Louis

It will be a depressing year in Ram-country. It's sad to see the "Greatest Show on Turf" die a gruesome death at the hands of Jim Haslett. Never liked the Rams, but at least under Martz they had pizazz. Yes, I used pizazz in a football column.

NFC Playoff Teams: 1. Seattle 2. Atlanta. 3. Dallas 4. Chicago 5. Tampa 6. Carolina

NFC Champion: Atlanta

Super Bowl Champion: Atlanta (Vick! Win one for Mexico!)