"Did you go to bed last night? Did you figure the Bears were done? That the undefeated season was toast? If you did, let me be the one to set you straight: Without scoring one offensive touchdown, the Bears rallied from 20-0 down at halftime to beat the hapless Arizona Cardinals 24-23."
And my jaw dropped.
For 3 and a half quarters, the Bears looked nowhere near able to win this game. Matt Leinart was handling himself like the winner he is, and Rex Grossman looked like Neil O'Donnell. Just brutal. Turns out they should have just trotted the defence out on the field every time they had the ball. The Bears became the first team in the 80+ year history of the NFL to come back from a 20 point deficit without scoring an offensive touchdown. That will teach me to stay up and watch the damn game!
A few things from the game did stand out for me. First and foremost, the game story was Matt Leinart. While he needs to work at being effective for four quarters, he is showing every sign of a wonderful career in the NFL. In fact, I can't recall a QB getting off to such a great start. I'm too young to remember Marino's first games, and Peyton Manning was shackled by a terrible team. The closest comparison I can think of without digging into stats and such is Tom Brady. There is a poise there that only the best possess, and Leinart definitely has it. I'm looking forward to watching this story progress. Now if only the Cards had a running game...
I love having players miked during sporting events, even if in most cases we never get any kind of insight. It's usually a collection of whoops and grunts, and some "Way to go guys, keep it up, this is our house" stuff. On top of that I'm always a little skeptical regarding the earnestness of such an exercise, since the player knows he's miked up, we're hearing is what he wants us to hear. What I really yearn for is a time in the future where there is a special "R" rated channel for certain sporting events, where microphones pick the real banter between players, coaches, referees and hecklers - quality family viewing that would be. Anyway, all this to say that I saw and heard something last night that made me re-think the low amount of respect I have for Kurt Warner. My former disdain for Kurt stemmed in large part from his crazy "Cruella De Vil" wife, and his attributing all his success to his Faith. I can't stand athletes who Jesus this and Jesus that.
Last night though, I saw Kurt Warner through the prism of ESPN's "Miked Up". What I saw was a benched Kurt Warner revelling in every Matt Leinart success, a benched Kurt Warner who was doing everything possible to help Matt Leinart be the best he could be. He seemed almost intoxicated by the moment, as if he was reliving his own early successes. When I contrast that to a certain #4 in Green Bay who flat-out refused to take Aaron Rodgers under his wing and show him the ropes, it gives pause for reflection. My view of Favre was dented by that petulant move just as much as I admired Warner for being so self-effacing.
For most of the second quarter last night, we had a 4-man booth. Charles Barkley was this week's celebrity guest on MNF, and he was the best so far. I love Chuck even though I can't stand basketball. However, is a 4-man booth really necessary? Bruce Mr. Turk disagrees vehemently with me on this, but I don't even like the 3-man booth. In fact, my favourite commentary is for soccer when there is only one man in the booth. Television never adapted when sports went from radio to TV. In radio, the play-by-play man had to describe everything that was happening, for obvious reasons. In radio, dead air is poison. In television, do we really need to fill up every moment with someone yacking? Does the play-by-play man really need to be telling me what I can see for myself? Just shut up already: when you have something insightful to say, then be my guest. And here I go with my desire for that "R" rated channel with only the sounds of the game to keep enlightened.
One positive improvement on the broadcasting side that I've noticed the past couple of weeks: it seems the networks have figured out how to use make-up in the HD era. Either they've figured it out or they've decided that because of the picture quality they don't need any makeup. I wish someone knew the answer to this. It was quite evident last night that Tirico, Theismann and Kornheiser had little or no makeup. Hurray for that. And is it just me or does TSN's Jennifer Hedger look better in HD? Too bad HD doesn't fix her voice.
One of the greatest things, no, THE greatest thing happening in sports right now is the Saints in New Orleans. What we are witnessing is sports at its best. From Drew Brees' decision to sign with the team, to opening night at the Superdome, to the last-minute FG in what will go down as the game of the year this past week: this is why we watch. Peter King describes the scenes in New Orleans much better than I ever could.
Depending on your point of view, there were some other feel-good stories in the NFL this weekend. People are rejoicing in Tennessee, Tampa and Detroit as their teams are now on a level playing field with Miami (sometimes you have to look REAL hard for the silver lining). For me, it means I lose in Dr Z. survivor pool, where you had to pick the last team to either be undefeated or winless (I had chosen the Titans). The Raiders, Colts and Bears are the only remaining options, and I won't embarrass myself by selecting one. Let's just leave it at that. Along the same lines, I'm hesitating to get on the Saints bandwagon, for fear of jinxing them - I'll just admire from a safe distance.
As undeserving of praise as Steve McNair was going into last weekend's game, it's not fair to pine for Kyle Boller following his exit due to injury. Boller had three seasons in which to stake his claim to the starting job in Raven-land, and he failed to do it. This whole situation speaks to sports fans' fickle attention-span, misplaced loyalties and failed collective memories. It's not just sports fans, either. Change for change's sake appears to be this generation's opium, as can be witnessed by the eagerness to go with the backup in every aspect of our society; from the Liberal leadership race to the Senators' goaltending situation to "new and improved" products, people always seem to be in a hurry to try the alternative. How else do you explain the current party in power in Ottawa? Get better, Steve McNair, and let's keep the clipboard firmly in Kyle Boller's hands.
From one current QB controversy to one from the past: Isn't it nice to see both Drew Brees and Phillip Rivers excel? Here are two guys that handled their head-to-head battle in stride, with class, and both are reaping the rewards. On the flip side of that, it wounds my soul when T.O. has success such as he did Sunday. Watching him celebrate, arms outstretched and looking to the heavens, as if he is some sort of apparition, some sort of saviour, turns my stomach.
Things to look for this week:
- Rae Carruth signing with the Bengals, to "Get His" against the Panthers
- Chuckie eating some bird
- LJ vs. LDT
- The former Cleveland Browns defence vs. the current Cleveland Browns offence
- Leinart continuing his ascent to superstardom in the Black Hole (of Raider Wins)
- Clinton Portis