Wednesday, November 29, 2006

My Big Fat Greek Blog Entry

I watched four games this weekend. Broncos versus Chiefs. 49ers versus the Rams. Bears versus the Patriots. And Green Bay versus Seattle. That’s a lot of NFL football to watch, especially when you’re supposed to be a father, husband, writer, reader, cat owner, snow ball chucker, garbage taker outer, bathroom user, hypochondriac worrier, video game player, Christmas shopper, college basketball fanatic, college football fanatic, hockey fanatic, and all around professional time waster.

And yet I never feel like I know as much as I should know or could know about the game. I think perhaps I am alone in this insecurity, however, since if you spend any time around sports fans, they’ll begin to tell you all kinds of things that simply aren’t so and they’ll be so certain about it you’d think they’d spent loads of time researching the thing—though of course they didn’t.

My wife has a theory about what has gone wrong in the world. She believes there are too many talking heads. Turn on any news program, go to any movie, spend a moment on any blog or messageboard, and you’ll have thousands of people telling you how much your life sucks and how you should hate every minute of it and, why it’s all ______ ‘s fault.

She’s right, of course; that is what’s wrong with the world. A big chunk of our unhappiness, our discontentedness, or dysfunctional emotions, stems from this constant barrage of stupidity that worms its way into our every wakened moment.

This is no less true in the sports world. Spend fifteen minutes on ESPN and you’ll think your team is the greatest thing that ever happened, spend the next ten on the NFL Network and you’ll want to flush your season’s tickets.

And if your team is 4-7…

Well, everyone on your team will be crap. You coach, one year removed from a Super Bowl, will be crap. Your QB, three years into his career will have already seen his best days. Your defense will have been pretenders all along. And every fan will have an opinion about what is wrong and what must be done to fix it. Never mind they watch one game a week, and not four. Never mind they tend bar, and never carried a football that didn’t say NERF on it somewhere.

Losing does that. But moreover, all this talk does that…

Sooner or later, you’ve got to shut it all out—with sooner being the much better option. I think you guys are at that point in your season. For the sake of your sanity, and for the good of common sense, you have to take all the talking heads, including me, including your local yokel idiot reporter, including your cousin Teddy, who thinks Hines Ward just has to go, and throw them out the window.

Really, I mean it.

Take a vacation. Not from here, but from the other media. Nothing there is going to help you figure out what has gone wrong with the Steelers. Nobody in the media knows more about the Steelers than you guys do. Certainly not me, and certainly not anyone at ESPN. They watch four games a week too, if that, and then they ask their “colleagues” about the other games. So they all end up thinking and saying the exact same thing—and half of it is wrong and the other half is dead wrong.

And as it is with sports, so it is with politics and religion and all the rest of it.

How many of us have read the Bible, the Koran, the Tao te Ching, the Book of Mormon, Dianetics, the Confessions of St. Augustine, the City of God by Saint Augustine, the Bhagavad Gita, the complete works of Nietzsche, a Defense of the Faith, Orthodoxy, and whatever other religious or religion-related works are out there?

And yet find me one dope on the internet who won’t tell you all you ever didn’t want to know about why God is stupid or why you oughta be on your knees right now. I’ll do it myself from time to time, being a dope in good standing, with the minor difference being I actually read all that crap. (Well, the Bible isn’t crap. Please, I’d love to keep this blog entry secular, but you guys really have no idea how long my purgatory is already. So repent, you bastards!)

My point is this. Almost nobody is qualified to talk about anything. And those who are qualified aren’t writing in message boards and blogs. And those coaches who can coach are on the sidelines, making millions, not sitting around like Bob Davies or Lee Corso or whatever other fool lost his job 60 years ago and decided to go into something a little easier. And what I just said about coaches goes double for players.

So keep this in mind if you happen to hear people talking crap about your team. Or telling you what’s wrong with your team. Or telling you who you need to kick off your team.

Or—for that matter— anything else.

**

Now that I made it clear that you should pay no attention to me, let’s talk about something else.

I was trying to think of the most overrated and underrated teams this year.

It’s a good question. Last year it was easy. Pittsburgh was the most underrated. No question about that.

Indy was the most overrated team. It wasn’t even close. They could have won the Super Bowl and they would have still been overrated. They simply were never one of the best NFL teams of all time, like they were being billed as.

But this year it’s much harder. Sure, Indy is still overrated, but they are not as overrated as last year, and in some way they are a little underrated, because people just naturally expect them to choke it away in the playoffs this year.

So it’s not Indy.

The Bears come to mind. I dislike the makeup of the Bears. They are Indy in reverse. Indy is all offense and no defense. Chicago is all defense and no offense. And what does Indy draft in the first round? Offense. And what does Chicago draft in the first round? Defense.

They are going nowhere with Grossman, though, and everyone knows it. I am tempted to call them overrated because I think too many people think they’re a shoo-in for the SB and I don’t think they are at all.

But that defense is pretty darn good. So I can’t call them the most overrated, since they are just a little overrated.

So what about Denver? Well, maybe earlier they could have held this title, but who is overrating them now? Not me. And not you either. Not with a rook coming in as QB and all that that entails. Nobody really thinks Jake Cutler is going to lead this team to the promised land.

Giants? When they were 6-2 and everyone had declared them locks for the second seed, yes. But now, after the collapse to the Titans? You can’t even get anyone to donate some petrol for that bandwagon.

New England? No. They’re flawed, and everyone knows it, but still pretty good, and everyone knows that too.

San Diego? They struggled against the Raiders, but they’re still a solid team. Lots of people like me think they are right where they deserve to be, as one of the favorites to go to the big game, but not a team that anyone would be shocked to see lose in the playoffs.

Dallas? I admit they might be overrated. They choked away that game to Washington. But I think this team is for real. And unless somehow T.O. implodes, they'll be in the Final Four, so you can’t well call them overrated.

The Seahawks? Heh. The Hawks couldn’t be overrated if they tried. Everybody knows we’re a joke, but a possibly dangerous one, at least at home.

You know what I think?

I don’t think anyone is overrated.

Or underrated.

At this moment in time, I think the whole league is rated about right. All the teams have flaws. All the teams have strengths. The contenders are who you think they are and the pretenders are who you think they are.

Last year Pittsburgh was underrated and Indy was overrated.

Last year the Hawks were underrated and Chicago was overrated.

This year nobody is either.

Last year Pittsburgh and Seattle were great teams and either team would have been a deserving champion.

This year nobody is great and the best you can say about anyone is that they’re not as mediocre as the next contender.

Is this parity in the NFL? Or is it a parody of the NFL?

**

I would like to say one thing.

The Hawks caught a break from the officials.

For years I have said, they have never caught a break from a bad call that turned a close game. Last night it happened when Jenkins was called for Roughing the Passer against Hasselbeck.

I can see why the ref made the call. It looked like Jenkins was swinging his arm at Hasselbeck’s head. But he wasn’t. It was just a bad call.

There really isn’t any point to this. I just wanted to mark the moment that something went the Seahawks way and they got something they didn’t deserve.

I still can hardly believe it.

**

Booing.

Should a fan boo?

It’s a good question. You had a lot of booing this past week. Atlanta fans were booing the Falcons, obviously leading to Vick’s gesticulation of love. The Rams fans were booing their offense for handing off to their stud and league-leading rusher—during a win. And the Seahawks fans booed Jerramy Stevens after his 289832832nd drop.

I have never booed anyone in my life.

No, really. I haven’t. I don’t believe in it. I believe in criticism, but I figure it’s better to give that criticism in the form of full sentences, and not by muttering a monosyllabic groan that sounds like it came from a cow.

Also, I figure most people are trying their best. I always do. Even if a guy isn’t trying his best, I wonder if not trying his best is the best he can try right now.

Yeah, that hurts my head too.

I don’t know. Football games are expensive. If I paid $500 for a couple of tickets, I might want to express my displeasure by growing udders too. But I doubt it.

So booing is for cows.

Keep this in mind when you hit the comments button…

**

Hawks Biggest Obstacles:

1. San Diego
2. Dallas
3. Indy
4. Chicago
5. Baltimore
6. New Orleans
7. New England
8. Cincinatti
9. Kansas City
10. Denver

Picks

Pittsburgh over Tampa, Seattle over Denver, Baltimore over Cincinatti, Rams over Cards, Saints over 49ers, Arkansas over my Gators, Navy over my Army yet again, anybody with football pads over Notre Dame, Rambo over Rocky, blogs over message boards, Shaun Alexander over 100 yards finally, Cowher gone over Cowher limbo, Alastair Sim over all other Scrooges, regular suicide contest over that lame one Sonny came up with, purgatory over hell. Enjoy.

10 Comments:

Blogger Sonny said...

I liked this post a lot. I've been hashing out the Steelers season on my own and abstaining from media versions of it.

Unlike my earlier promises, I will actually post this opinion this week.

And I find it funny that you've never booed...I haven't either. I think, maybe, I've booed the Ravens or Bengals when they ran out of the tunnel. But not the team I was rooting for.

That doesn't mean I don't understand booing (or whistling as they do in European soccer). I mean, when I yell "Santonio, please hold the ball with two hands as you approach potential tacklers!!!" from Section 524....he rarely hears me.

2:39 PM  
Anonymous Signor said...

In my opinion, the most overrated team in the league has to be my dear Steelers. Every week as I watch the game and we find new ways to diminish last years accomplishments, whoever is calling the game will inevitably refer to us as the "reining Super Bowl Champs" in a way which implies that it is shocking that we are in a perilous position and poised to let another winnable game slip away (or be declared officially out of contention as was the case on Sunday.) It should have been readily apparent at 1-3 that we weren't even a shadow of the team that hoisted the Lombardi trophy in Febuary. This years team somehow actually traded Randel-El to Washington for the perrenial Redskins "paper champs" distinction. Losing 3 and a half starters from a Super Bowl calibur team should not lead a team to a season where they have an uphill battle in December just to finish at 9-7.

Even though it gets said so much that it has become cliche, Parity does really exist in the NFL. What separates the 12-4 team from the 4-12 team is not so much talent or coaching, but bringing all pieces togeather just right and perhaps getting a few fortuitous bounces along the way. The worst thing to affect this years Steeler team was ironically enough Winning the Super Bowl. If we would have lost that game, or the game in Indy, this team would not have 6 losses right now and be a footnote in the playoff race. Oh well, I have all the confidence in the world that we shall return triumphantly next year, aided by what should be a much easier schedule, and perhaps a bit of that so called "chip on their shoulder" becuase everyone must now assume that the team we fielded last year was not the powerhouse we had all hoped, but rather a team of destiny that was indeed propelled by good fortune to the top. How can they not really? Did anyone really think that Tampa Bay was really a team to team to fear 2 years after they won the Super Bowl and a year removed from a season where they failed to make the playoffs?

5:46 PM  
Anonymous Signor said...

One more thing,

I would have to say that with the exception of the Patriots, the Hawks top obstacles should mostly be populated with Playoff calibur NFC teams. If the Seahawks do make it back to the big game, they will have Super Bowl experience that all of those other teams lack. (Well maybe not Baltimore, they do still have a defensive core of players who have been ther plus McNair has SB Experience.) I never realised it until last year while watching SB XL, but the Super Bowl has gotten so huge that it affects even the most experienced professionals and can adversely affect their game. If the Seahawks play any team that has no Super Bowl experience, I've got to give them the edge.

5:54 PM  
Blogger Sonny said...

Nice work, Signor. I agree with a lot of that. I should send you an invite so you can post stories.

I had this discussion with my dad today. I don't think you can chalk this season up to complacency. It's the NFL--and the line between 4-7 and 7-4 is razor thin. Certainly, it can be explained by a QB that turns the ball over and awful special teams.

As for Super Bowl experience, the Patriots might trump the Hawks in terms of big-game know-how. But that's it. Personally, I'd like to see how Peyton would hold up to the big spotlight.

7:06 PM  
Blogger jb said...

The one thought that continues to come back into my head surrounding this year's Steelers team is that is like a "perfect storm" (apologies for the lame reference).

There is no way coming into this season that anyone could have predicted that the season would start off in this way. Ben's two surgeries, the huge rash of turnovers(from a team that prides itself on ball control), the offensive line play (after returning all of their starters), and Troy's shoulder injury (a bigger problem than I think people have identified).

I understand injuries and the unexpected impact every season, but these things together have thrown the steelers to the bottom half of the rankings in what has been stated above as "a thin line between 7-4 and 4-7".

10:15 AM  
Blogger Dunn said...

Valvis, this was a really great post, seriously man, great writing.

Sig, welcome aboard.

you know, I have never booed either. Isn't that funny? a well adjusted, normal, fully functioning adult should never purse their lips and make a loud cow sound to convey feelings of angst, I'm sorry, it's just ridiculous. (not that I am even remotley close to any of those things, but you know what I'm saying)

Sonn, I kind of have to disagree with the complacency issue, I can't see another thing that could affect this team so adversely. The guys they lost, while character guys, did not make much noise on the field last year. forget the "We need a big back" stuff...I havent seen Parker get stopped on the goal line yet. Kiesel, with the exception of John Ogden hammering him like he was Jenna Jameson last week has been solid. We clearly miss Hope in the secondary and Antwaan on Returns, but the team has had no fire, no urgency, no answers, no heart...they have to be fat and happy don't they? there is a thin line btween 7-4 and 4-7, but any other Steeler team we have watched in our lifetimes would be 7-4 right now, completley losing discipline and concentration is a sign of not being focused and not really having your head and heart in it.

obviously, Ben had a terrible offseason, but he hasn't been the culprit in the last few weeks, every phase has broken down at one point or another, the entire team has lost mojo, I dont know what else you can attribute it to.

like Valvis said though, too many ideas and opinions to even think clearly on the damn subject.

I think I'm still angry that some dolt actually suggested that Pittsburgh should trade Sidney Crosby to stock up for a playoff run today, my brain has hurt ever since....

go Ravens.


Dunn

9:41 PM  
Anonymous Signor said...

I don't think that it is complacency that is plagueing us, but rather overconfidence. The Steelers do not handle being the favorite very well. They almost never cover the spread even if they do win, and always seem to play to the level of their opponents. How many time did we lose games to the pitiful Bengals of the 90's when we had teams that should have mopped the floor with them? Look at the '94, '97 or '01 AFC Championships, hell even '95. We were already thinking Super Bowl and lost or played poorly in all those games. I think that a sense of overconfidence has always shown itself in out offensive playcalls that so frequently backfire.

In '97, we are looking at 3rd and 1 from inside the 20 and instead of giving the ball to one of the greatest short down yardage backs on the history of the game, we have Kordell take a shot at the endzone, with disasterous results. Last year, after surprising teams with our capable air attack and getting to the Super Bowl, I think it happened again. After getting completely smothered on our first several possessions, we finally get a first down and what do we do? We go deep on first down and throw an interception, killing the momentum we depserately needed at that point. Did they really think that Seattle didn't know that we could air it out by that point?

I think that a lot of that has carried over into this season. Week 3, we have 1st and goal inside the 5 against the Bengals and what do we do, we throw an interception on a pass in the middle of the endzone. Why did we have the audacity to think that was going to be a surprise? At this point, Davenport hadn't played yet, Sweatpants was still in sweatpants, and Fast Willie hadn't been officially named the short yardage back yet. Yet somehow Cowher and the Wiz thought that this was a good idea. What happened? Instead of going up by 14, which all but guarantees a Cohwer victory, we turn it over and then they march 97 yards and score a TD.

I understand that you gotta mix it up or you become too predictable, but why not throw a safer pass here? Something that is either a touchdown or an incompletion would work. I know that our receivers are not tall enough for the fade route, but why not try the old "Steelers Fade" that worked so well with Thigpen? He used to run a quick slant, stop on a dime, then run straight for the sideline and dive for a touchdown grab that had been thrown before he even made his cut. I know that if it could have been so successful as a Kordell to Yancey play, that it would flourish with Ben and Hines. Defenses wouldn't even know that we were gonna pass since Hines is widely regarded as one of the best blocking wideouts in the game.

This overconfidence has also been apparent at the way the team reacted to each loss. It was always "it isn't time to panic yet," and then soon enough it becomes time to panic when its too late. Come on, Holmes is still returning punts? PLEASE! The only time he should ever be on a speical team is if he is cast to star opposite Johnny Knoxville in "The Ringer 2." They should have put Hines back there, or Troy, or anyone who can catch the ball, run with it and not fumble. All he does now is call fair catches. If that is all he needs to do, why don't we rush the other 10 and try to block some punts? Hey, it worked in SB X.

This is only the 2nd time that the Steelers under Cowher have been all but eliminated from playoff contention with more that 2 weeks left in the season. At least in '97 and '98 we were poised to make a run before we imploded. This year and '03 were have been junk from the beginning, and I think that it was overconfidence both times. This year, we thought that we could just show up and win without making too many changes though previous weeks would beg to differ. And in '03 we thought that opening up the offense with an insurance salesman at the helm was gonna redefine our team. Look how that worked out. Does anyone else think its suspect that we have passed the ball nearly 60% of the time even though we have been in every game well into the 4th quarter except against Baltimore?

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