Tuesday, October 31, 2006

America’s Second Favorite Team--- Yeah, Right…

Happy Halloween.

Has the season been sufficiently scary for you?

Do you like Ben Roethlisberger’s costume as a confused and mistake-prone rookie? A little old to be wearing it, but he never got to be one as a kid.

Do you like Shaun Alexander’s costume as The Invisible Man?

How about the Steelers’ and Seahawks’ defenses matching costumes as screen doors? There’s always someone who has to spoil your mojo and wear what you intended to wear.

How about Jerome Bettis’s costume as a television color commentator?

How about Steve Hutchinson’s costume as traitor?

Bitter? Me? Never.

When I signed on for this gig, I figured there would be an audience here waiting to read it. However, I can’t imagine Steelers fans are going to want to do much reading about their team or the NFL in general after losing to basically everyone who has ever played high school varsity football, and the Raiders too.

My Seahawks aren’t much better. Watching them play is like putting your foot in a meat grinder. No matter how hungry you start out, who the hell wants to eat after it’s over. If we lose another player on offense to injury, we’ll be starting Frasier at RT, Ichiro at RB, and the Space Needle at QB. And that’s on the good side of the ball. On the defense, those substitutions would be improvements over the starters.

I don’t even think we’ll get any referees to read this. They might be having the biggest Super Bowl jinx of all. Or perhaps they’re out to prove that the SB wasn’t corrupt, they just suck like that all the time.

Anyway, for the two of us whom remain, one of which is me and the other of which is whatever opponent Roethlisberger is throwing to, there’s no sense in trying to break down what’s wrong with our respective teams. I leave that for better minds than mine.

Which means anyone who doesn’t work for ESPN.

**

What I want to talk about instead is New Orleans.

Now, the minute I utter the name “New Orleans”, like one of Pavlov’s salivating dogs you’re supposed to intone back one of the following things.

1. Ah, what a great story!

2. The best story of the NFL season!

3. Good for them. After all they’ve been through, maybe this football team will bring a modicum of light and happiness to their otherwise destroyed lives, which kept the 24 hour cable news outlets from having to dig up any other news for months.

4. George Bush hates black people.

So there I am. First Monday night of the season. Yeah, I’m ready for some football, a Monday night party, and all that Hank Williams Jr anthem nonsense. I’ve got my comfy recliner, which is about 40 years old, and my wife, who is about that old too, and I settle in for the game. (Why does my wife keep geting older, while I remain forever 14 years old?)

Sure, I expected some talk about Katrina. Of course I did. This is ESPN after all. Same Network that has 7 camera crews for every mentally handicapped kid playing a high school sport in America. You give them 15 minutes, and they’ll give you “Rudy” and “Radio” and all the sickening After-School-Special Bob Ley monologue you can stomach.

You can almost hear the intended audience for this crapola:

“Why just look at that retarded kid run, Bobka.”

“Yeah, Hemald, but how’s acome nobody’s got a mind to tackle him?”

“Coach says don’t do it. He’s what you call ‘retarded.’”

“Well, it ain’t playing football iffen he’s just runnin, is it? That’s called, well, that’s called ‘runnin.’”

“Don’t be smart. You know we ain't good at it.”

“Is the retarded kid the runnin one or the ones don’t know how to tackle?”

And so on…

So I expected some of this kind of maudlin sentimentality. Go ahead. Gush forth with the clichés. A terrible thing. This community needs this team. They did a great job on this dome. Boo LA for even thinking about wanting this team nobody wanted a couple years ago. Look at how the fans support the team. New Orleans is back!

But after the game starts, well, it’s a game, right? Call it like a game. Call it evenly. Call it like you would any other. Well, not like any other, you should aim to be more objective than that.

But no. It started to work on me around the end of the first quarter. The announcers were actively rooting for the Saints. Not only that, but they insisted that I root for the Saints. Even if I was a Falcons fan, even if I was a Falcon player, I was supposed to be rooting for the Saints.

The Saints were “everyone in Amerca’s second favorite team.”

Which I thought was kind of funny— since for years they were everyone in New Orleans’ second favorite team.

**

Hold on a second. It’s important you know I have a great respect for New Orleans. It’s one of the world’s great cities. Its culture is perhaps the most interesting in the nation and its food is unbelievably good. You can’t go to New Orleans and not have fun— unless you go during Mardi Gras. Then you’ll be puked on from a balcony.

I go there once every other year or so. I love doing so. I come back home with a lot of beads and a bigger gut every time. I especially like the early mornings in the Big Easy. Nobody is yet awake, except the folks hosing down the puke and grime from the sidewalks, and you can walk and look at all the shops and strip clubs and grab yourself a couple of beignets at Café du Monde and a cup of java. The windows are all shuttered and the heat is stifling but if you keep walking soon you’re down at the Bayou and a nice breeze is there.

Later you can hit the seafood places for lunch, maybe take the bus out to Tulane, and then return to the motel until evening. Rest up, and then hit a bar for a while. Maybe Pat O’ Brien’s.

It’s a good time.

But there’s a problem with New Orleans.

It’s underwater.

**

People act now, after Katrina, like they’re shocked the city of New Orleans is under sea level. You can’t find a politician from the president on down who won’t shrug and say, “New Orleans is under sea-level? Who would’ve thunk such a thing?”

Well, everybody who’s ever been to the city. That’s who.

One of the biggest tourist traps in the city is the graveyards. They’re pretty interesting. They don’t bury people individually in New Orleans. They bury them in family bone centers. They just chuck the bodies in there with all the other bones. It’s pretty creepy, when you think about it, and that’s why Anne Rice makes millions.

Anyhoo, these graves are built of stone and are raised up from the ground. This is because, when they tried to bury people in regular cemeteries, back when the French were running the joint, the bayou would flood the area and carry the bodies and bones out to sea.

This is your first clue that a big hurricane is going to be a major problem if it ever hits.

**

All right, so here’s the deal. I have a limited amount of sympathy for anyone who tempts fate, who laughs in the face of common sense. If you live in New Orleans, you know, you damn well know, there’s a possibility, maybe even a likelihood, that the water’s coming for you.

So you prepare, right? Take precautions? Heed warnings?

Yeah, right. Sure they did.

Further, when I look at the disaster, I see a lot of the suffering was not caused by the storm, but by New Orleans natives themselves. Yeah, it’s a bum deal to have to pack a grocery bag and head to the Superdome. But what business have you got raping anyone? Who says you have to go around looting your community in a disaster?

If George Bush hates black people, how about the scumbags who for so long made their city so dangerous—so that you feared for your life just going into the graveyards for the number of muggings that took place-- and, in its toughest hour, did all they could to make it tougher? Don’t they hate black people too? Aren’t they as much a villain as the hurricane they knew was coming and an incompetent local and state government they themselves elected?

So New Orleans is a big part of the reason New Orleans was devastated by Katrina.

But you won’t hear Joe Theisman say that. You can’t set it to a Kenny G tune.

**

No, I love the city, but move it to where it won’t drown every few years. Please.

And New Orleans isn’t my second favorite team. I don’t have a second favorite team. I will continue to support the causes I support, which helped in the Katrina aftermath, and I will continue to help the New Orleans economy by visiting there. But I believe that the best respect I can show the New Orleans Saints is to treat them like a true conference rival, and wish them nothing but the worst. Failure and total disappointment for their team.

I certainly don’t want my Seahawks players rooting for them if we meet in the playoffs.

So stop with the brainwashing, ESPN. Please?

Though, I gotta admit it.

That retarded kid makes me bawl every time.


TOP TEN HAWKS OBSTACLES

1. Colts
2. Bears
3. Patriots
4. Atlanta
5. Jacksonville
6. Baltimore
7. Denver
8. New Orleans
9. Cincy
10. Bears defense

PICKS:

Cincy over Baltimore, St Louis over KC, Miami over Chicago like last time they were undefeated, Denver over what’s left of the Steelers’ dignity, Minnesota over San Fran, Seahawks over injuries, this week at least, Batch over center after halftime, Brady over Manning by three SBs, treats over tricks. Enjoy.

Monday, October 30, 2006

The Blog That Only Loses To The Worst Frickin' Team in Football

Well, what did you expect?

You invite an interloper like me onto the blog-- and there goes all the Mojo. I'm clearly stinking up the luck with my Super Bowl loser jinx, and now you've gone and lost to the Braiders.

If any of you Steeler fans want to know who's at fault for your team going into the toilet, look no further than Sonny here. If I were you, I'd hunt this guy down, tie him to a post, and have yourselves a nice little wicker man weenie roast.

I'd join in, but the Seahawks aren't doing much better and there's a mob of Hawks fans outside my window shouting something.

Oh, goodie. They look like pitchfork salesmen...

Sunday, October 29, 2006


SFR Sunday, October 29
Steelers vs. Raiders Game Thread
Each NFL weekend I will post a thread for general comments and discussion about the weekend. The Steelers have a chance today to go down two very seperate paths today. A win puts them at 3-4 with two home games that could help them crawl back into the division race.
With a loss, they would clearly be a team in the '06 Season Scrapheap. There is no easier way to put it that this:
With a Steelers loss today, Oakland and Pittsburgh would have
the same record.
I cannot bring myself to utter the famous words that appear on the Al Davis book above. But the sentiment is exactly what the Steelers have to do.
Let's see if there is any Steel For Real magic in the '06 season......

Thursday, October 26, 2006

SFR Friday, October 27

Friday's Picks-- Lock of the Week and Suicide Pool
Okay, first week of the SFR LOTW and Suicide Pool. Just comment here with your two picks by Sunday at 1 p.m. Late picks won't count, obviously.
Here are the spreads....
Favorite Underdog
TENNESSEE 3 Houston
PHILADELPHIA 7 Jacksonville
CINCINNATI 4 1/2 Atlanta
NY GIANTS 9 1/2 Tampa Bay
CHICAGO 16 San Francisco
GREEN BAY 3 1/2 Arizona
KC 6 Seattle
NEW ORLEANS 2 Baltimore
SAN DIEGO 9 St. Louis
Pittsburgh 9 Oakland
CLEVELAND 2 N.Y. Jets
DENVER 3 Indianapolis
CAROLINA 5 1/2 Dallas
New England 2 MINNESOTA
I'll put my picks first as an example....
LOTW: Atlanta + 4 1/2
Suicide: Philadelphia
Best of luck................
SFR Thursday, October 26 Edition
Raider Week Haiku
Ben might be woozy.
But this was not a bike crash.
Sorry Charlie...Batch.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

SFR Wednesday 10.25 Edition: Find the Wins
Later today: Haiku Wednesday and Fantasy Time


When I was in elementary school, my back-to-school supplies would always include a Steelers notebook like this one. On the back was the team's schedule. Inevitably, after six or so games in to the season, the Steelers would be 2-4 or 3-3 and I would plot a path to the playoffs.

Many of my social studies classes turned into a game I called "find the wins". I would estimate how many wins it would take to get into the playoffs and search the rest of the schedule for the likely suspect.

Currently, that number is 8. 10-6 won't neccessarily get the Steelers into the playoffs. But I'm pretty certain that 9-7--with losses to Jacksonville, Cincinatti and San Diego already--won't. And I won't consider that a team this inconsistant has a shot of winning 9 out of 10.

So, everyone, grab you folders. Flip them to the schedule side and push aside your maps of Southeast Asia. It's time to play "Find The Wins"......

The optimistic 4th Grade Sonny says.....
Oct. 29 at Oakland W
Nov. 5 Denver W
Nov. 12 New Orleans W
Nov. 19 at Cleveland W
Nov. 26 at Baltimore W
Dec. 3 Tampa Bay W
Dec. 7 Cleveland W
Dec. 17 at Carolina L
Dec. 24 Baltimore W
Dec. 31 at Cincinnati L
The realistic modern-day Sonny who has been crushed by many cold AFC Championship game losses is skeptical that this can happen.
This assumes wins against very hot Denver and New Orleans at Heinz Field--which hasn't held the greatest home field advantage.
My realistic outlook: If they pull things together and win these next three-- Oakland/Denver/New Orleans and get to 5-4, they have a fighting chance. If not, the climb is much too steep.

Random Photo Caption

I knew I should have splurged and bought the three-ply.

2006 Real Steel Grand Opening -- Everything Half Off!!!
Tuesday's Edition -- 3 posts today SCROLL BELOW
a.) This one-- Catching up on my Haikus (normally these will come on Haiku Wednesday and EVERYONE must write a Haiku about the NFL)
b.) Who the F*&k Are You? -- Introduce yourself. I did.
c.) What is Wrong With the Steelers? Post Your Opinions
Coming Tomorrow: Haiku Wednesday/Belated Cowher Press Conf/Fantasy Wednesday
Catching Up on the Haikus
Week 1 vs. Miami
A title defense.
With hometown Charlie no less.
Snugly on the thumb.
Week 2 at Jacksonville
Roethlisberger back.
Something is not like old times.
Like scoring some points.
Week 3 vs. Cincinnati
Beat by turnovers.
They are from Cincinnati.
Except we Bungle.
Week 4 at San Diego
Young Mr. Rivers.
Looking like our rookie Ben.
Longing for those days.
Week 5 vs. Kansas City
Troy Polamalu.
Tackled by his flowing locks.
Better days ahead?
Week 6 at Atlanta
Hey there Dick LeBeau..
I believe your a genius.
Cover the tight end!
Now it's your turn.....
Who the f^*& are you, anyway?



When I started this blog, my hope was to bring together the passionate Steelers fans that I know. The fans that I talk football with are enthusiastic about the sport, but also smart. This experience is not the same that I've had on most message boards and chat rooms. And it certainly isn't what I hear on talk radio or hear from talking heads on T.V.
If you've been invited to this blog, it's because I'd like you to be part of our conversation on a daily basis.
So, in this thread, I was hoping that we could get to know each other a bit. I have invited people that I know from back home (Pittsburgh), college (Indiana U.), where I live now (Washington D.C.) and some random places around the internet where I've met some good football fans (The Seattle Times Seahawks blog).
Anyway, here's my short and sweet football bio:
Grew up in Penn Hills, basically a Steelers season ticket holder my entire life thanks to my parents, grew up watching Pitt...the pain of the 80's Steelers mediocrity...knowing EVERYTHING about the 70's Steelers and never seeing a championship myself....saw many tough AFC Championship game losses...loss to the Cowboys in SB XXX....went to Indiana and studied journalism....the Hoosiers taught me what REAL football losing was all about...covered the Big Ten....Antwaan Randle El (who would later throw my favorite pass EVER)....moved to Delaware where I covered Delaware State football and plenty of high school games...now I'm at the Washington Post where I'm learning first hand how NOT to put together a football team from Daniel Snyder, covering high school football here.
And, oh yeah, I saw the Steelers win Super Bowl XL in Detroit with Josh, Tim, Mark and Lauren....all of which should be contributing here soon.
Howzabout you?
2006 Thus Far--Playing Catch-Up

Okay, the best way to play catchup is to play the "What's our biggest problem ?" game.

When you've only won 33% of your games--you have a lot of them.

I'll get the ball rolling by writing a Top 10 list of problems as I see them. These are my opinions and theories that I've heard. I don't subscribe to all of them. I'll include my thoughts.

10. Cowher--The whiners are coming back out of the woodwork again. Was he just lucky last year?
9. Complacency-- Are they fat and happy? They certainly haven't found the tough ways to win.
8. Bad Karma?-- When your franchise QB has two surgeries and a concussion, it's worth asking.
7. No consistant Big Back-- IMO Bettis needed holes. Willie runs through them just as well.
6. Offensive Line--Improving. Certainly hasn't helped Ben stay healthy though.
5. Injuries-- Chad Brown is a Steeler again for God's sake. But every team is injured.
4. Special Teams--Ralph Wiggum, "I'm Special!". Steelers '06. No, you're not.
3. Ben's Health-- 0 points in Jacksonville and AWFUL picks against the Bengals.
2. Receivers-- I think the corps will shape up. Love Santonio's progress and Washington may be stepping up. When will Wilson finally be the No. 4 guy?
1. Turnovers-- DING! DING! DING! DING!

The fact that the Steelers had only two coached for the past 40+ years has insured one thing about their play: They might get beat. But they would not give away the game. Teams have had to earn victories over the Steelers.
Unfortunately this season, Pittsburgh has given far more than it has taken. In 2005, the Steelers were +7 in turnover margin with 23 turnovers (1.4 per game). In 2006, they are -2 with 14 offensive turnovers (2.3 per game).
There is no more direct correlation in football than turnover margin to wins. In fact, and this is a SteelForReal exclusive, of the Top 16 teams in the league in turnover margin, only ONE of those teams (Arizona) has a losing record.
In fact, it can be argued that turnovers were the direct cause of both losses to Atlanta and Cincinnati. The difference between 2-4 and 4-2.
Conclusion: HOLD ONTO THE FRICKIN' BALL!!!