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  • PUTTING THE SLEEPER TO BED (LONG READ) but good read

    PUTTING THE SLEEPER TO BED.
    By Bill Simmons
    Page 2
    www.espn.com

    After five weeks of the 2006 NFL season, we've only learned 10 things:

    1. If you're a QB, and you blow out a knee or smack your body up in a motorcycle accident, definitely take your time coming back. No rush. Seriously.

    2. The Bears have a chance to be historically good.

    3. The Raiders have a chance to be historically bad.

    4. Drew Bledsoe has added a degree of difficulty for blowing big games. In the old days, he'd just throw a back-breaking interception at the worst possible time. But since everyone knows that's coming now, he added a fascinating wrinkle: An improbable play to throw us off and make us forget he's about to blow the game (like last week's fourth-and-18 bomb to Glenn), followed by the back-breaking interception that becomes doubly back-breaking because of the preceding events.

    WEEK 5 REDUX
    Last week's picks found me on the wrong side of three killer gambling moments:

    1. With the Pats giving 10 and headed for a push, Maroney gets a game-clinching first down inside Miami's 20, only nobody tackles him, so he keeps going and it looks like he's going to score ... NO! He gets pushed out at the 4-yard line. That's followed by three Brady kneels.

    2. The Browns are getting 8.5 points and trailing by 11. Fourth down, 15 seconds left. Instead of taking one more crack at the end zone, Romeo Crennel sends out the FG team for the cover. This actually happened.

    3. The killer of killers: Getting 6.5 points, the Lions are trailing by two at midfield and it's fourth-and-10 with less than 90 seconds to play. Kitna scrambles, two guys pull him down ... and as he's falling, he flips it right to a Vikings lineman, who scrambles untouched for a clinching TD and the cover. I hate gambling.

    5. You're not winning a Super Bowl with Brett Favre or Steve McNair. They're both washed up. Hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it's true.

    6. San Diego has the most talent in the AFC. Unfortunately, the Chargers also have an uptight coach who runs his team about as loosely as Ted Knight handled his daughters in "Too Close For Comfort."

    (Note: Sadly, that show was canceled 21 years ago, making the reference Bermanian for everyone younger than 30. Normally I avoid doing this, but I have two defenses: First, it's the perfect comparison. You really had to see the show. And second, Ted Knight was a comedic genius. So I'm standing by the reference. Now if I only had a clip of me and Glenn Frey standing outside the Hotel California. Back to the column.)

    7. If you're getting points with the Lions on the road and covering in the final minute, and the Lions have the ball, and they're driving, and the only way you could ever lose is if Jon Kitna fumbles a touchdown, throws an interception for a TD, or decides to toss the ball to the other team as he's getting sacked on fourth down -- just for the hell of it, for s--- and giggles -- well, you shouldn't feel even remotely safe.

    8. If you're broadcasting a game with Terrell Owens involved, it's important to blame him at all times for whatever bad things are happening to his team, even if his QB and secondary are the ones blowing the game. And it's imperative that the production crew shows every possible replay of T.O. yelling at someone on the bench without anyone wondering if he's yelling because it's so deafening in the stadium that nobody can hear. Keep playing it this way until we can CGI fake footage of him punching teammates. He's clearly the anti-Christ.

    9. Everyone who jumped on the bandwagon and picked Miami, Arizona or Detroit as preseason sleepers feels pretty freaking dumb.

    10. Everyone who picked New Orleans or St. Louis as preseason sleepers feels pretty freaking good.

    It's the last two items that intrigue me. In five-plus years writing this column, I picked an NFL sleeper each September by using the following guidelines: Can't be a team everyone else was picking; has to be a team with a relatively easy schedule; has to be a team that stunk the previous season; and has to be a team that could start off hot and spark a run of "Where the hell did these guys come from?" articles after Week 4 or Week 5. My accuracy has been pretty good: Three direct hits (the '02 Falcons, '04 Jets and '05 Bears) and two near-misses (the '01 Seahawks and '03 Vikings, both of whom finished 9-7). This year's pick was the 4-1 Rams, who face the Seahawks this week in an NFC West showdown that I boldly predicted before the season. In fact, let's run the exact excerpt so I can feel good about myself, given that I'm three games under .500 and getting my ass kicked by my wife and all:

    "The Rams have a fairly easy schedule that includes San Fran, Arizona, Detroit and Green Bay in the first five weeks, followed by a clash against rival Seattle at home in Week 6 (and Alexander's ACL should have exploded by then)."

    Hah! You have to admit, that's pretty good. And sure, the Rams might get killed this week and finish 6-10. You never know. But given my success picking sleepers -- and remember, I'm an idiot -- after reading Malcolm Gladwell's New Yorker feature this week, I wondered if someone smarter than me could create a formula to determine sleepers and pretenders before every NFL season. Gladwell wrote about a company that predicts the success of record albums and movies using a complicated (but accurate) statistical engine that ties in multiple variables (just read the piece, takes too long to explain). It should be just as easy to figure out the "where the hell did these guys come from?" NFL team, right? Just create a similar engine that factors in records, coaching changes, personnel additions, expectations (high and low), luck (good and bad) from the previous year, strength of schedule, volume of positive/negative predictions and any other relevant variables, then determine which teams were falsely hyped and which doormats could sneak up on everyone else.

    When I picked the Rams, my process was a simpler formula: Easy sked, easy division, new coach, talented guys on both sides of the ball, everyone counting them out. Bingo, I had my team. Fast-forward to my man Michael Smith's ESPN.com column about the Rams on Wednesday, which included this sentence: "Along with the New Orleans Saints, the Rams, with their 4-1 record and first-place standing under rookie head coach Scott Linehan, stand as the biggest surprise of the season's early going."

    So here's my first question: Can we really call it a surprise?

    History tells us -- emphatically, actually -- that one "lousy" team makes a leap to 10-plus wins every season. Wouldn't it have been more surprising if none of those teams made that leap? And how many years in a row do we have to watch consensus sleepers fall short? For instance, this year's "sleepers" (Arizona, Detroit and Miami) stumbled out of the gate, with Arizona's situation becoming so bleak, so quickly, Regis Philbin announced last week that he was changing his "Surprise Super Bowl pick" from Arizona to Baltimore, adding simply, "the Cardinals have won one and lost three." Oh. But was anyone truly surprised that Arizona and Detroit, two of the worst sports franchises of the past 30 years, bombed out of the gate? Or that Miami struggled so mightily with shaky QBs?

    Anyway, I was thinking about it and thinking about it, and something struck me: Whenever teams win a big game, invariably, they play the whole "nobody believed in us!" card. Happens all the time. Hell, the Tigers did it last week. Just in this decade, nobody believed in the 2004 Red Sox, the 2002-04-05 Patriots, the 2001 D-Backs, the 2000 Lakers, the 2004 Pistons, the 2006 Steelers, the 2003 Marlins and the 2001 Ravens. Yup, we didn't believe in them, they fed off this negative energy, and that's one of the reasons they won. Or so they said.

    SPORTS GUY REWIND
    Here's what you missed this week from the Sports Guy:

    The Tysonic Era
    Bill Simmons has a few rules to live by in an era defined by the crazy.

    Virtually Unstoppable
    The greatest golfer (Tiger Woods) does battle with the greatest video game golfer (Bill Simmons) in an epic battle on Hollywood Boulevard.

    So here's my second question: What happens when a team doesn't have anything to prove?

    Look at the Yankees. Everyone handed the World Series to them before the playoffs started, to the point it became a no-win situation, no different than any of the Team USA basketball collapses over the past few years. The Yankees were a peculiar mix of All-Stars, washed-up veterans and nobodies who weren't as collectively good as we thought, a team with some fundamental flaws (defense, chemistry and pitching), a team that could easily be taken down by some live bats and a couple of good arms. As soon as they started struggling, they self-imploded and that was that. Everyone was shocked.

    But was it really THAT shocking?

    This particular Yankee team didn't even seem to like one another -- they carried themselves with the warmth of 25 commuters cramming themselves into the same car on a 5 p.m. subway train. By Game 4, they clearly didn't want to be there anymore. You could see them checking out as the game went on. They had no fight in them. Did the gushing stream of "greatest lineup ever!" angles soften them in the end? Sure seemed like it -- they didn't seem to be like a team that was battling for anything. As soon as the Tigers pulled a Buster Douglas in Game 2 and punched them in the chops, they were never the same. Torre panicked and started switching his lineup around. The bats went silent. Guys started screwing up. A-Rod peed on himself against Zumaya. The Tigers smelled the kill and finished them off. And that was that.

    We watched something similar happen in the NFL. Like the Yankees, the Dolphins/Cards/Lions succumbed from the weight of artificial expectations (on a smaller scale, of course). On the flip side, everyone wrote off the 2006 Eagles as an NFC contender and they've channeled that negativity into a rallying cry. McNabb needed to prove that he can thrive without Owens. The defense needed to prove they were just as good as the other NFC "juggernauts." Westbrook needed to prove he was a big-time back. The receivers needed to prove that they could replace T.O. Andy Reid needed to prove he hasn't been mildly overrated this whole time. Now they're 4-1 and everyone's still raving about the Bears, leading us to the semi-inevitable scenario of Philly winning the NFC in Chicago in January, followed by every Eagle whining about how nobody believed in them all season. I can't wait.

    So here's my advice to the coaches of next summer's potential sleepers: lower everyone's expectations as much as you can. You want to sneak up on people. You want to be able to play the "nobody believed in us but ourselves" card some day. For instance, poor Nick Saban (who looks so distraught at this point, it's almost like he's been captured by The Others) should have spent the summer saying things like, "I have no idea whether Culpepper will be able to run without a limp again, much less play QB for us" and "Look, I can't say anything about our running game, I don't want to say anything more until Ronnie Brown's second hepatitis B test comes back." He should have made a concerted effort to clear everyone off the bandwagon, no matter how much fibbing it took. Next summer, I bet he handles it differently. And he should.

    As for our 2006 sleeper, we're down to the Saints and Rams. Nobody believed in either team ... and maybe that's all that matters anymore.

    Onto the Week 6 slate ...

    (HOME TEAMS IN CAPS)

    COWBOYS (-13) over Texans
    This nonfeud has to be No. 1 on the list of "teams who seem like they should be natural enemies but aren't." No heat at all. It's amazing. The Texans are clearly the second-class NFL team in Texas in every conceivable way. Why wouldn't they try to feud with the Cowboys? If you were Gary Kubiak, wouldn't you be making little passive-aggressive digs to get Dallas people riled up, like: "We have all the respect in the world for Bill Parcells, he was one of the greatest coaches ever," and "We're nervous about playing Drew Bledsoe. We've been dropping easy interceptions all season. This will be a big test for us." They really need to work on this.

    Three other points:

    1. There was a funny stretch in my reader mailbox that coincided with Bledsoe's final drive in Philly: A few e-mails from people predicting the impending INT, followed by a few instant "HA!" and "he did it again" e-mails when it happened, then another 30-40 right afterward from people telling stories like, "I called my buddy just to tell him I knew it was coming" and "My roommate and I were arguing about which Eagle would run it back right before it happened." I think Dallas needs to make a QB change.

    2. My favorite random Bledsoe e-mail of the week, from Eugene in Madison, Wis.: "Did you see Bledsoe getting up after he ran that touchdown in against Philly? His teammates were helping him up like they thought his spine was broken. The celebration looked like something you would see at a company softball game, where the fat, uncoordinated boss that nobody really likes nearly kills himself trying to beat a throw to home, and everyone kinda awkwardly celebrates the fact that he scored, but they don't really like him, and they kinda wish he was little more hurt than he was, but they pretend to kind of care that he might be hurt. Right?"

    Again, I think Dallas needs to make a QB change.

    3. Why wouldn't someone sell framed pictures online of Vanderjagt consoling T.O. on the Philly sidelines last week? It's the perfect joke X-mas present for any friend who likes the Cowboys, right? I would absolutely buy this for my buddy Sal. And then he'd probably smash it over my head.

    REDSKINS (-10) over Titans
    I'm not taking any bad teams on the road this week. No, really. Stop enticing me.

    (Random note of the week: You know what the biggest difference is between baseball and football, other than the ferocious hitting and the fact that you don't actually have to be in shape to play baseball? TV networks are allowed to interview baseball managers as the game is going on. And we're supposed to take this sport seriously? Can you imagine if the Redskins were driving against the Texans in the second quarter and Gus Johnson said, "Right now we have Joe Gibbs live on the sidelines ... Joe, you must be feeling pretty good with your team driving right now!" Ridiculous.)

    BUCS (+5.5) over Bengals
    I'm giving this one the "upset special" tag: Bucs 24, Bengals 21.

    Hey, you know what the worst NFL trend of 2006 is? Guys rupturing or lacerating their internal organs. I'm not a big fan. You know what the second-worst development is? The new celebration penalty, which is like this season's version of the horse-collar tackle -- there seems to be no rhyme or reason to when they call it, but it's 15 yards every time. Why not make it five yards? Why can't the yardage be arbitrary?

    For instance, Antrel Rolle committed the single-worst facemask penalty since Warren Sapp blew out Jerry Rice's knee nine years ago -- bringing down Larry Johnson from behind (when LJ was running for a game-winning TD, no less) by diving forward, grabbing his facemask and yanking his head backward like he was pulling open a giant can of beer. I'm not kidding; if LJ had ended up getting paralyzed, this would have ranked up there with the Kermit Washington punch. So guess what happens? He gets a 15-yard facemask penalty and that's it. I've said it before, I'll say it again: We shouldn't stop at 15 yards for certain penalties (the Rolle facemask should have been an 80-yard penalty), and players should be banished for a quarter or a half for certain infractions (almost like a penalty box). Right now, you can get the same amount of yards for dancing after a sack and trying to deliberately break someone's neck. It's illogical. And just for the record, if Larry Johnson had broken his neck, Al Michaels would have eventually told us that Johnson was "out with a neck."

    Bills (-1) over LIONS
    I've had it with Jon Kitna. We're breaking up. Even Robin Williams didn't kill Bill Maher's show last Friday as badly as Kitna killed the Lions in Minnesota. Had to be seen to be believed.

    (E-mail of the week, courtesy of Mark in Lansing, Mich.: "As a lifelong Michigander, I am downright insulted that you called the Lions the worst team of the decade. They are the worst team of the half-century and I would appreciate it if you refer to them as such." You got it, Mark.)

    NFL By The Numbers
    Through five weeks, against the spread:

    Favorites: 33-36-5
    Home teams: 39-30-5
    Road favorites: 9-13-3
    Dogs covering + winning outright: 22 of 36
    Home teams the past two weeks: 19-6-3

    RAMS (+3) over Seahawks
    This isn't even one of those "I feel obligated to take them because they're my sleeper team" picks. I truly like the Rams in this one -- the crowd will show up and Seattle can't run the ball. I'm feeling something in the 30-17 range.

    Which reminds me, after I mentioned STATS's old football books two Friday ago, someone from STATS directed me to their subscription-only Web site and gave me a free pass. Good times! I'm not kidding. I spent about two hours surfing around this site on Tuesday finding out things like "Minnesota's Antoine Winfield and Fred Smoot are 1-2 on the list of burned defenders right now with a combined 49 times." Anyway, if you ever watched a Rams game and thought, "Wow, nobody can block Leonard Little," your eyes weren't deceiving you. He leads the league in knockdown/hurries with 18.5 and he's third in sacks with five. I don't see the Seahawks blocking him on Sunday.

    New England (-10) over BYE
    Sorry, this is a convoluted excuse to mention something that needs to be mentioned as soon as humanly possible: I gave you Jonathan Papelbon, I gave you Laurence Maroney, and now, I'm giving you Rajon Rondo. And without giving away too much -- I want to write about him in detail at some point -- I'm going to put this in print right now, and we're going to leave it right here, in this column, in my archives, forever and ever, and then we're going to come back to it in mid-January when everyone in New York starts *****ing about it, and you'll say to yourself, "Wait, I think I remember Simmons mentioning it in a football column back in mid-October." So here it is. And it's not a prediction. It's not even a premonition. It's a fact that simply hasn't become a fact yet.

    Here it is: Three months from now, Knicks fans will be dealing with the fact that taking Renaldo Balkman at No. 20 over Rajon Rondo, as crazy as this sounds, was the single biggest mistake of Isiah's entire tenure, the one misfire that will end up haunting that franchise for the next decade. And that's saying something. But Balkman/Rondo will trump everything else that Isiah inflicted. Just you wait. That's all I'm saying for now.

    SAINTS (+3) over Eagles
    Two words: Letdown Game. And since I have nothing else to add, let's welcome the new annoying announcer trend of the season: Every other play-by-play guy adopting Al Michaels' tendency to describe someone's injury just by naming the body part involved, as in, "The Eagles will miss Brian Westbrook today, who's out with a knee." So we're making time for sideline reporters and their boring anecdotes every game, but play-by-play guys can't take 1.3 extra seconds to detail a relevant injury to a relevant player? Really?

    Panthers (+3) over RAVENS
    Tough one: I don't trust Jake Delhomme on the road against a good defense, but I don't trust McNair against anyone. Anyway, here's my favorite quote of the week, courtesy of washed-up Ravens back Jamal Lewis: "The one thing I can say [is] a 2,000-yard rusher doesn't forget how to run the football." Umm, that was three seasons ago, Jamal. You couldn't burst through the defensive line with a chainsaw at this point. Seriously, does anyone take longer to cut the cord with veterans than Brian Billick? Imagine him trying to decide whether to put the family dog to sleep?

    JETS (-2) over Dolphins
    "Coming up on the 'E! True Hollywood Story': Daunte loses his starting job to Joey Harrington and officially hits rock-bottom. And coming up later: Daunte finally finds redemption with the Toronto Argonauts!"

    The Sports Gal Speaks
    I can't watch "The Bachelor" anymore because they keep selecting guys who shouldn't need a reality show to find a wife. I liked the first two seasons when they were just nice looking guys who had normal jobs and seemed normal. Now the bachelors come on to become famous; they don't care about finding a soul mate. They want to break up with whoever they picked in the Final Rose episode and hook up with Kristin Cavalleri at a Sunset Strip club the following week. It's so easy to see through them. Like, this year's Bachelor is a rich Italian prince who can't speak Italian and went to Rollins College. It's like Joe Millionaire, only without the twist at the end. Why would I root for a fake prince to fall in love?

    Instead of picking princes and quarterbacks, I think ABC should go in the other direction. My friend Melissa thinks we have hot homeless guys out here in L.A.; she calls them "the hot homeless." We can't figure out why there are so many good-looking ones. Maybe they're failed actors, I don't know. But since it's practically hopeless for single women over 30 in L.A., Melissa thinks they'd have a better chance by taking in a hot homeless guy, cleaning him up, getting him a job and trying to turn his life around. I agree. I'd like to see ABC pick a hot homeless guy as the next "Bachelor." They could clean him up and introduce him to 25 girls at once. His whole life could change, right? Although he'd probably fall for three of them at the same time, settle on the slut with the biggest rack, give her a promise ring, then dump her the following week to hook up with Kristin Cavalleri. Forget it, this could never work.

    Here are my picks for Week 6: Bengals -5.5, Titans +10.5, Texans +13, Lions +1, Seahawks -3, Giants +3, Saints +3, Ravens -3, Dolphins +2, ***** +10, Chiefs +6.5, Raiders -15, Bears -10.5.

    Last week's record: 5-6-3
    Season record: 40-29-5

    FALCONS (-3) over Giants
    Have we ever figured out what's happening with that bizarre Briscoe High commercial that Nike runs? Jill Arrington and Jillian Barberie are in it. Deion Sanders is in it. Don Shula is the coach. The team has all these recognizable NFL players, including Mike Vick, but they need a Hail Mary to win a high school game. Everything about it is confusing. Why would I buy Nike products because of this commercial? It's almost like the entire company had an "I'm Keith Hernandez!" moment. Like they decided, "Let's make the weirdest, most incomprehensible commercial possible just for the hell of it, and nobody will say anything because we're Nike." I never thought I'd long for the days of Mars Blackmon.

    ***** (+10.5) over Chargers
    You know, we can spin this thing all we want, but these are the facts: LaDainian Tomlinson and Michael Turner are platooning. I'm sorry you had to find out this way.

    (And speaking of disturbing revelations, what was more jarring this week: The sight of all those washed-up stars from the '80s in that new Trivial Pursuit commercial -- including Kareem, Philip Michael Thomas, Cyndi Lauper and an almost unrecognizably heavy Kelly LeBrock -- or Howard Stern watching the Screech sex tape during his Sirius show and revealing that Dustin Diamond is hung like a camera tripod? At gunpoint, I'd have to go with the Trivial Pursuit commercial because it can pop up at any time. I don't have to worry about randomly seeing Screech's anaconda, but a 200-pound Kelly LeBrock dressed in her "Weird Science" outfit is a constant concern. Let's just move on.)

    STEELERS (-6.5) over Chiefs
    This has all the makings of a "when Damon Huard is your starting QB, that means Damon Huard is your starting QB" game. We've been waiting for it for four weeks. Pittsburgh seems like the right place. By the way, did you see that Sienna Miller got in trouble for bashing the 'Burgh last week? How can someone not like the 'Burgh? They don't come any better than people from the 'Burgh. That's like bashing Milwaukee. Now I'm glad Jude Law cheated on her. You can't diss the 'Burgh.

    BRONCOS (-15) over Raiders
    The Art Shell Face hits prime time again, this time on NBC! I'll let the readers carry this one:

    Dave from Washington: "The Raiders suck so bad that they are 15-point underdogs to a team that scores 12.2 points a game. This has to be a sports first. The sickest part? The Broncos are a mortal lock to cover."

    Craig from Santa Monica: "The NFL no longer shows sideline shots of Art Shell. Believe me, I watched most of the CLE-OAK game hoping to see Shell doodle on his clipboard as the Raiders were blowing a 21-3 lead. Instead I got shots of other Raider coaching staff, including defensive coordinator 'Joe Eszterhas.' "

    Jonathan from San Fran: "Is there a bigger success disparity between two teams who play in the same city right now than with the A's and Raiders? It's like having divorced parents, and your mom is a high-powered executive who lives in the penthouse, and your dad is unemployed, living under the freeway overpass, and cleaning himself up at the bathroom at Starbucks."

    (Random question: What's your favorite part of NBC's Sunday telecasts so far? Is it Pink belting out the theme song and looking like a trannie? Is it the halftime show where five guys break down three minutes of highlights as Sterling Sharpe sits quietly in the right corner with one of those confused "I still get paid if I don't say anything, right?" looks on his face? Or the fact that we have to go online for stats during the game because they won't show us any?)

    Bears (-10.5) over CARDS
    I tackled the key points of this game in this week's edition of "Beat the Sports Guy." Just remember, we won't know about the Bears until we see how they handle that five-game stretch starting in mid-November that goes "at N.Y. Giants, at N.Y. Jets, at New England, home for Minnesota, at St. Louis." Until then, to paraphrase the great Winston Wolf, let's not start sucking each other's popsicles yet.

    Last Week: 4-7-3
    Season: 33-36-5

    Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine. His new book "Now I Can Die In Peace is available on Amazon.com and in bookstores everywhere.

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  • Nick
    Dr. Z's TV Commentator Awards
    by Nick
    TV Commentator Awards

    Dr. Z, SI.com

    I have streamlined my Seventh Annual TV Commentator Awards. No more pregame shows to be rated, no more postgame things, no talk shows, etc. Because -- and how can I say this without sounding like I'm about 90 years old -- the shows are basically top-of-the-head garbage.

    Well, not every bit of them, of course. I'll catch ESPN's Chris Mortensen for information. And the same network's Andrea Kremer is the only one who presented, out of the great expanse of Reggie White memorials, a coherent and three-dimensional picture of the man. But in the meantime ... oh my God, the trash.

    ESPN's NFL Countdown, for instance, is an exercise in noise, where facts flee like frightened forest things and a thought expressed at anything but full volume will be mercilessly ground underfoot. Fox's NFL Sunday used to hold my attention, but now they've tricked it up, first with some horrible cartoon, fan fantasy football creation that got you into the show, and which, thankfully they did away with, and then with that Ten Yards With Terry Bradshaw thing.

    You know, the quick Q&As. What does Jake Delhomme like better, hunting or fishing? What do all of them like better, Play Station II or Xbox? My God, they're asking about toys. Toys! Why not just get my 4-year old grand-daughter on there. Natasha, what's better, jacks or Slinky?

    The best one was when Bradshaw gave Jerry Jones the Q&A routine. "NFL before Fox or NFL since Fox?" Gosh, that's a tough one. Deep thought. "NFL since Fox." Wow? Sound the cannon. Release the pigeons.

    And this is what we must listen to, pretending it has been created by adults, for adult consumption. Insults such as that horribly dull, wooden "You've Been Sacked" that masqueraded as halftime entertainment on the Monday night show -- before it got sacked itself. ESPN's Stuart Scott on the Monday Night Countdown, previewing St. Louis-Green Bay: "A game so silly good it'll make you want to sop it up with a biscuit."

    Enough already. They'll just have to get by without my help. But I will mention one thing about a trend I've noticed in the regular game telecasts, something that was just raising its head last season but now seems to be spawning: Talking through live action. Failing to describe or even notice it. Talking through a referee's announcement of a penalty, even though it might be important to the game. They just turn down the ref's volume, so that, if I hold my ear next to the speaker, I might get a faint murmur, without really catching the words.

    All at the expense of ... what? Story lines. Themes. Informal essays. Anything but honest reporting and a real interest in the panorama that unfolds on the field. The broadcast teams the network consider top of the line are most guilty of this. The guys lower down in the lineup usually...
    -01-12-2005, 08:40 PM
  • Yodude
    Some funny stuff if you're in the mood to read....
    by Yodude
    By Bill Simmons
    Page 2

    Could this be the greatest Sunday of championship games ever? Check out these 10 subplots, in no particular order:


    1. Two proud franchises hosting home games in cities where football means a little too much. Not that it's a bad thing. But it's true.


    2. There's also some serious baggage potential here. In Pittsburgh, the Steelers are hosting their fifth championship game in 12 years ... with mostly tragic results. In Philly, if the Eagles blow their fourth straight NFC championship, not only will the city suffer its biggest psychological blow since Clubber Lang won the heavyweight title, but these 2002-05 Eagles would take their place alongside the '60s Lakers, '90s Bills, '70s Vikings, '90s Blazers, '70s Royals and every other memorable team that couldn't get over the hump.


    3. The Patriots need two more victories to clinch "Official Dynasty" status.


    4. The Falcons haven't made the Super Bowl since the "Dirty Bird" season; and looking back, I'm not even sure that actually happened. All I remember is Eugene Robinson getting caught with a hooker. Does anyone remember the actual game that year? Plus, between the always-intense Jim "Don't Call Me Junior" Mora and that lunatic special teams coach they have, there's a decent chance that somebody's head could explode on the Atlanta sidelines this weekend.


    5. A classic collection of coaches: Andy Reid looks like the star of a CBS sitcom where the portly guy is married to an improbably hot chick; Mora looks like one of those clean-cut porn stars who isn't quite reliable enough to get his own one-on-one scene; Bill Belichick dresses like the lead singer of an '80s cover band; and Bill Cowher looks so much like Sergeant Slaughter, you keep waiting for the Iron Sheik to attack him. Just a fantastic group. If only we could get Bill Parcells' body involved somehow.


    6. Have I mentioned that there's a 16-1 team getting three points at home this weekend?


    7. All four starting QBs could end up in the Hall of Fame some day: Brady, McNabb, Roethlisberger and Vick. I'm not saying it will happen. Just that it's possible. There isn't a Stan Humphries or Bubby Brister in the mix.


    8. The rematch everyone's been waiting for: Dan Marino vs. Boomer Esiason. Greg Gumbel should come on the air this weekend holding a taser.


    9. The Michael Vick Era always carries the 30-percent chance that something special could happen, like Vick slapping together three straight Pantheon-level performances and carrying the Falcons to a title. Now we're one-third of the way there. And he's edging dangerously close to Favre/Sanders Memorial "Don't bet against me under any circumstances" status.


    10. The Patriots-Steelers game...
    -01-21-2005, 04:53 PM
  • evil disco man
    Steven Jackson Blog: A Week To Remember
    by evil disco man
    Steven Jackson | A Week to Remember | Official Website of Steven Jackson www.sj39.com

    10/07/2010 - 02:02
    A Week to Remember
    by Steven Jackson

    Welcome back to my blog, everybody. It's been a great week for the Rams, and a great week to be a Rams fan.

    I have to start this out with a shoutout to all of my fans. The encouragement I've been receiving from you all has been very humbling. You have been there since day one, supporting me through the thick and thin, and acknowledging my efforts and my competitive spirit. It's something that I will always have and the support is something I'll never overlook. I'm greatly thankful for my fans and their kind words.

    The Rams fan base as a whole has been amazing. To give them something to cheer about has been special. The Dome is starting to get loud again. With the noise they're creating, offenses are picking up penalties, which are helping us. To be able to have them behind us, to support us and give us energy, it's been a blessing.

    It really does help a lot. It allows for the us to feed off the energy that the crowd is creating for us to give our team that extra boost and pull out whatever we have left in us. The win over Seattle was great for all of us and I just knew going in that I had to be in there with this team.

    I knew that this win could potentially propel us to turn this organization and this team around because Seattle has had our number for so long. Our last win against them was in a 2005 playoff game my rookie year. It's been quite some time since we had a chance to beat that organization and since then, the division has been going through either Seattle or Arizona for the title.

    Every year we set a goal to win our division and then hopefully to go on and win a Super Bowl, but in order to even get to the playoffs, you have to win your divisional games. It was a huge game that we all knew was going to be a tough task. They've had our number. They know our personnel really well. They're a team that matches up with us really well.

    So last week when I injured my groin and I had my MRI and everything came out to be a minor deal, I wanted to take every chance to leave the window of opportunity open to play in the game. I knew then that I was going to do everything in my power to make sure I could get out there and play.

    I worked like crazy to get myself back and be able to take part in that game. I felt like, even if I didn't have a lot of yards, or statistically my numbers weren't that impressive, my presence would draw enough attention that it would allow our other playmakers on the field to get open. I knew I could play that chess match with the other players and Seattle's defensive coordinator.

    I didn't go into the game thinking I was going to break an NFL record or anything but I knew that me at 80 percent or 90 percent was still going...
    -10-07-2010, 08:16 PM
  • Bruce=GOAT
    Hulk Hogan: I thank God I'm alive
    by Bruce=GOAT
    http://www.thesun.co.uk/article/0,,2...351002,00.html


    WWE wrestling news The LilsBoys' Over The Top Rope


    EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW
    Hogan: I thank God I'm alive

    By SIMON ROTHSTEIN of THE LILSBOYS
    August 04, 2007


    WRESTLING legend Hulk Hogan has lashed out at the industry which made him a megastar.

    And he has demanded an end to the decades-long cover-up of steroid abuse in the sport.

    Hogan, 54, took the muscle-enhancing drugs almost daily for 16 years during his career and says he can spot a user a mile off.

    With more than 100 grapplers dying before the age of 50 in the last decade, he is begging others to face up to the crisis.

    The Sun has been leading an anti-steroid abuse campaign since wrestler Chris Benoit murdered his wife and seven-year-old son before committing suicide in June.

    A handful of former stars have already spoken out and prompted US politicians to start investigating the industry.

    But many in the WWE, the world's biggest fight franchise, deny there is a problem and have blasted their ex-colleagues as bitter failures who haven't wrestled in years.

    They cannot same the same about Hogan, wrestling's equivalent of Pele or Muhammad Ali who was fighting for them just 12 months ago.

    In an exclusive Sun interview, he said: "Are steroids a problem in wrestling? Oh God yeah. They have always been a part of the business. It's prevalent.

    "But there's not some big mystery to it. Just open your eyes and it's there. You can look at a wrestler and pretty much tell.

    "They will be above their weight range, with these big veins. My body weight is around 285lb, depending on how much junk I eat. Even if I was 25 and clean, I could probably only carry 300lb.

    "Yet when I was wrestling I weighed anywhere between 320 and 340lb, because my body was full of water weight.

    "My face was puffy, my arms were so bulky I couldn't touch my shoulders. You could take one look at me and know I was on something.

    "Steroids have been around for ever in other sports too, but if we have to pick on somebody now then let's pick on wrestling.

    "I'm glad the business is in the spotlight because they're probably the only ones smart enough, after being able to dodge it for so long, to know how to fix it."


    The Hulkster added: "I remember up until the early 1990s any wrestler could walk into a doctor and they'd write you a prescription for steroids.

    "Then there was a huge trial where WWE boss Vince McMahon was unfairly accused and rightly acquitted of distributing the drugs to his workers.

    "This ushered in the era of wrestlers playing 'hide and seek'.
    ...
    -08-05-2007, 02:28 AM
  • djccon
    Now That I've Cooled Off...
    by djccon
    The results of the game with the 'Aints are inexcusable and unacceptable. That means I am inconsolable. There cannot be any consolation from this game, nor do I see any positives coming from it. However, here are some observations that I have come away with now that I've had some time to cool off and think objectively:

    1) I am FED UP with hearing regularly about the "ball maintenance" drills these guys run every DAY in practice, only to watch them cough it up week after week. Obviously it isn't working - so, Mr. Martz, FIND SOMETHING THAT DOES!

    2) I never cared for Bobby April when he was in Pittsburgh. I liked him less in Atlanta, even less in New Orleans, and I am convinced he must have pictures of someone naked with a hooker to be able to stay in the NFL. Who deemed this guy a guru? Every week we can count on opponents starting at least 2 possessions outside their own 35 after kickoffs. You can look it up.

    3) Was it just me, or did Canidate seem totally exhausted by half time? I thought Martz said he planned to rotate backs a little more. I think being tired contributed greatly to his struggles. As tired as he looked, I just KNEW it was only a matter of time before he put it on the carpet.

    4) The dropped passes are unforgiveable. When you get that much $, catch the dang ball, ESPECIALLY when you're trying to keep control and move the chains.

    5) 1st and 10 near midfield, up 24-6, and a fumble. The defense holds on 4 straight downs, again near midfield, and an INT. Control the @#$% ball, and put the game away ASAP! Blowing a 24 point lead at HOME is unforgiveable.

    6) I don't care what those two-toothed, cousin-marrying morons in Louisiana say, all the 'aints proved Sunday is they need 8 turnovers to beat us. Had they gotten only 7, they'd STILL have lost. How does that sit with you 'aint fans - knowing you only got 1 or 2 "takeaways" - you know @#$% well those were "giveaways" (i.e., you didn't TAKE, we GAVE)?

    7) This game convinced me of one thing - the only team good enough to beat the Rams, is the Rams. There is no consolation in this, neither do I consider it a positive since they were SO @#$% willing to do just that.

    Out for now. Peace!
    -10-30-2001, 05:43 PM
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