Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Late to the Party

It's been over 10 days since the AFC Championship game, so my self imposed ban from public comment on the game has officially been listed. It's not that I didn't think it was an amazing game (I did), and it's not like I'm not a huge Colts fan (I am), but I broke the cardinal rule of 'true' fans: I stopped watching the game after the Colts fell behind 21-3. I knew that if I started popping off right away about what a great comeback it was and how the Colts finally got past their nemesis, my evil twin (Arrowed) would call me on the carpet for being Mr. Bolts-when-things-look-Grim.

But c'mon. What Colts fan wouldn't turn the TV off? Manning looked jumpy and frustrated when the game was still tied at 0. And when he threw an interception to go down 21-3? Show of hands, who thought the Colts had ANY chance?

Yeah, thought so.

In my defense, I did at least tune in to listen to most of the game on a scratchy AM station as I drove back to Los Angeles. When the Colts pulled ahead late in the game I had to pull off the road. I was just too excited to concentrate on breathing, let alone driving. I'll always remember where I was the moment Marlin Jackson stepped in front of Tom Brady's last pass of the 2006-2007 season: At the intersection of I-5 and West Kamm Avenue in... Tranquility?... California? I can't say for sure. It was a virtually empty interstate exit ramp miles and miles from anything. Just me, a lone coyote, and a serial killer off in the bushes on the lookout for busty teenage co-eds to slaughter in cinematically interesting ways.

I spent the next 20 minutes parked there, listening to the post game festivities, calling friends and family and celebrating, FINALLY, a trip to the Super Bowl.

As for the Super Bowl? I have a bad feeling about it. Even though the defense has played decently the last three games, the spectre of the godawful regular season still hangs over them. And the one thing nobody seems to be talking about is the Bear's superb special teams play going up against a Colts team that seems to have at least one big special teams breakdown every week.

But then, I've always been a glass-is-half-empty kind of guy in sports. Following a team week to week, I'm more prone to notice the weaknesses (small linemen, untested pass defense) than the strengths (Hall of Fame QB, Hall of Fame WR, etc.). Plus as an underdog, there's always the 'out' of not being expected to win. I'm just hoping for a good game.


Okay, I'm hoping for a win, but I won't be devestated if they lose a well played game.

Now Playing on iPod Shuffle - The Refreshments - Broken Record : Best known for doing the King of the Hill theme song and that song that says 'your ID is Jean Luc Picard', the Refreshments were an underrated western-alt-pop-rock band from the late 90s.

The nasty side of football

There's a great article over in SFGate about the consequences of a football career later in life. It focuses on the '81 SF 49ers, who began a dynasty with "The Catch" and the victory over the Cowboys in the NFC Championship game. It's a little distressing to me to hear about Joe Montana's persistent injuries--eye damage, knee damage, and he can't turn his head--considering how lively and happy he always looked.

How is Peyton Manning going to feel after taking every snap for the Colts for twelve years? How will Thomas Jones feel after years of being battered by defenders? How will Jeff Saturday feel after years of brutal collisions at every snap? They wear pads, and the players these days have better medical benefits than the '81 teams did, but the chance of avoiding chronic medical conditions arising from a pro football career is pretty low. 2 of 3 players interviewed for the article admitted to suffering chronic, near-constant pain, and this in a sport that prizes machismo and downplaying injury.

The other thing, though, is that nearly all the players said they wouldn't trade their career for better health. They are aware that what they are doing is rough, and will have consequences, but the rush of playing and the love of competition makes it worth it, to them.

So as you watch the Colts beat the Bears on Sunday (like how I snuck my prediction in there?), take a moment to appreciate what the players are giving up to play the game, and appreciate your own good health.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Barry Bonds Seeks To Join Sport Where Additives Are Encouraged

In other miscellaneous Red Sox news, NASCAR team owner Jack Roush is in continued negotiations with Red Sox owner John Henry to sell part of the Roush team to Henry's Fenway Sports Group. Roush's team includes NASCAR drivers Matt Kenseth, Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards, and Jamie McMurray. The deal would likely result in marketing and sponsorship opportunities from the largely untapped northeast market, who care about NASCAR generally about as much as most people care about ESPN2's broadcasts of the National Spelling Bee or World Scrabble Championship. Additionally, it may result in one of Roush's cars being painted Red Sox colors, and maybe one of their drivers will don the Wally the Green Monster costume during the race. Who knows. Regardless, it'd be a win-win for both teams, considering NASCAR could have the Red Sox stump for them in the northeast and the Red Sox wouldn't have to revenue-share their NASCAR marketing earnings. Granted, first talk of negotiations between the two surfaced in February of 2005, and the latest article says it "could be a while" before the deal is finalized. So, maybe not.

And that's where I share my dirty secret - despite being from Massachusetts, I actually do enjoy NASCAR quite a bit. In fact, I like nearly anything that can be called sport and contains competition and winners. (Which rules out things like hunting and fishing - murder isn't quite sporting. Now, if the hunters got mauled every so often, that would be a much different story.) NASCAR is especially good as background on those lazy Sunday afternoons where I'm puttering around on the internet and completely wasting the remaining vestiges of my weekend. You don't really have to pay attention, and the times you do there's usually loud crashing sounds or the announcers get all excited. Those tight races and daring passes towards the end are, ok, exciting. I don't have a favorite driver or anything, so I default to my usual "root for the underdogs and newbies" rule. That means I get excited whenever anyone I haven't heard of is in contention, or relative newbies like Biffle, Edwards, and Denny Hamlin are doing good. And I've always had a soft spot for Matt Kenseth because he's a good driver and I feel like his 2003 championship, whose consistency apparently bored everyone into instituting the Chase, was unnecessarily disparaged.

So, if you're looking for sports coverage about sports you don't usually see blogged about, I'm your guy. There's some Super Bowl thing coming up and we'll probably be typing our thoughts on that over the next few days, so I'll probably take the time personally to research more into curling, badminton, and professional pillow fighting. I'll leave you with a little of what NASCAR hopes to bring to New England. Good luck, boys!

Monday, January 29, 2007

Super Ramblings

As I was reading through the multitude of sports posts this afternoon, simulatenously hacking up branches of my lung brachioles I apparently didn't need and won't miss, I began to get that uncomfortable, queasy feeling in my stomach about the Colts matching up against the Bears. While 68% of Americans polled believe the Colts to be the favorites of the game, many columnists on a wide array of websites (re:,,, etc.) believe the Bears are going to hoist the Vince Lombardi trophy. Of course, we all know that so called experts are often wrong, and that when you get to the super bowl, nearly anything can happen.

Many of those who say the Bears will win all have the same tag-line: "Defense wins championships." Sure, it does. But offense does as well. If your defense is great and only gives up 9 points, but your offense barely gains 150 yards total, then you'll still probably lose. It will be interesting to see which quarterback lets their nerves rattle them more than the other; will it be Peyton, who needs to shake concerns that he'll end up being another Marino, or will it be Rex, who, let's face it, is a terrible quarterback and wouldn't be in this position if it weren't for his special teams and D helping him out.

So, gameplan? Since both teams play cover 2 defense (with the occasional shift to man or cover 1) by and large, there won't be many surprises as far as formations. Both teams usually drop a safety back deep in order to prevent long passes from happening. While Peyton obviously throws the better long ball, Rex has tossed up a few this year that have been excellent throws and his receivers have excellent hands. Bernard and Mushin have caught some crazy stuff this year, and Reggie and Marvin typically run excellent routes and have an easier ball to catch if they beat their man. But the real story this year I think will be the check-down and the tight end play. Chicago typically does not employ slot formations for 3 WR sets, Indy does. Desmond Clark usually comes off the line and with Freeney and Mathis coming from the ends, he won't be too far down field for Rex to pitch to. Clark, on the other hand, lines up in the slot position quite often for Indy, and is very athletic for a tight end. He's been able to run slant routes over the middle quite well against previous opponents, but then there's the problem. Urlacher could end up shutting down Clark over the middle, and if Chicago goes with man, then it will probably be Ricky Manning Jr., a cornerback, covering a tight end. I don't care how fast you are as a tight end, you better damn well be packing some badass headfakes or you're going to be smothered like Waffle House hashbrowns. Indy, on the defensive side, already knows that once they take Rex's deep game away by playing cover 2, he will have to either check down, throw inside routes, or hand off. You will probably see a lot of defensive end contain formations, with Cato June and Bob Sanders staying put in zone formation until the play takes shape. If Chicago happens to pull out a 3 or even 4 WR set (I don't think I've seen them do that but 3 or 4 times all year), then Sanders and June will most likely drop into a man zone. The key for Indy will be closing down on the run up the gut and off tackle; Jones seems to love running behind left tackle.

In consideration of all these points, I think the biggest so-called X-factor is managing each team's respective QB nerves. Neither Manning or Grossman have been in this position before. They both have a lot to prove (Manning that he can win the big one, Grossman that he truly doesn't suck). I think if I were an offensive coordinator, I'd take the ball out of my QB's hands as much as possible for this game. Both teams employ excellent two RB sets and both run off tackle and stretch plays very well. Indy will most likely take this approach except with the option play, while Chicago will most likely just stick with the run 75% of the time. Indy will most likely run stretch to the outer tackle to prevent Urlacher from closing too quickly, while I expect Chicago to run it down Brackett's throat.

And here's what you're all waiting for, my 10 super bowl predictions:

1. Colts will win. It will be close the first half, but Indy will pull away in the second half as bad Rex's time at the ball nears midnight. Colts 28, Bears 17.
2. The longest kick or punt return Chicago will have will be 40 yards. I know this is a big number, but there won't be a TD return. There hasn't been a punt return for a TD YET in a super bowl.
3. Peyton will throw 1 INT.
4. Grossman won't throw any. He'll just be terrible.
5. Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne will both be held under 100 yards.
6. Brian Urlacher will have 10+ tackles.
7. Jones will score 2 TD for the Bears.
8. Addai will score 2 TD for the Colts.
9. Hunter Smith will prove to be an incredible punting weapon for the Colts, keeping Devin Hester from getting too set up for a return by either kicking it OB or high enough for Colts defenders to reach him for a fair catch.
10. Super Bowl XLI MVP- Joseph Addai


It's a fairly slow week as we prep up for the Super Bowl. How slow? Even CNN placed our Big Beautiful Baby Boy's passing on its front page. CNN obviously agrees that this is surely a sad day for the world that Barbaro has passed. It's clear that Barbaro's fans didn't write their well-wishes hard enough or fast enough to give the gallant colt the will to survive. But, somehow I will go on, and manage despite my grief to make a post. Perhaps afterwards I can write Barbaro a letter that someone will read to him, which will have about the same effect on him dead as it did while he was alive. Pat Forde writes about how he left his mark on us all, but how great was he really? I mean, Barbaro didn't even remember 9/11, being born in 2003. That doesn't sound too heroic to me.

There's a few rumblings in Red Sox-land, so why don't we check in with the Evil Metropolitan Area? (We're not quite an Empire, yet.)

-- Nearly two months after J.D. Drew accepted the Red Sox's five year, $70 million deal to do approximately the same thing Trot Nixon was doing anyway (run around in RF, hit every so often, and get hurt all the time), the contract was finally settled. It only took 12 days longer than Noah had to float around on his big animal crap-filled boat (also known as the SS Royals). J.D. is now a member of the Red Sox, and team doctors will soon be scouring local morgues for cadaver ligaments they can use to bolster his right shoulder. If they fail in their quest (perhaps because of their drunken driving), the Red Sox can still opt out of the contract if Drew spends 35 days on the DL during his 3rd and 4th years with a preexisting right shoulder injury. Sure, I'm happy with the signing - I mean, now we have someone in RF who, instead of being absymal against lefties (Nixon's .336 OBP in 2006), is slightly less absymal (Drew's .338 OBP in 2006). Sounds like an upgrade to me.

-- In news that's not really news because delusional people who listen to AM radio first started it, Curt Schilling is experiencing a groundswell of support to run against Senator John Kerry as a Republican in 2008. If you define "groundswell" as "100 people calling in to some radio station wedged on the dial between screaming Spanish amigos and classical jazz elevator music." When people immediately made news of his startled, honest non-denial, he quickly retorted by stating he's not going to retire after 2007 as was previously stated. Unless he's planning on campaigning while simultaneously playing baseball, which would be immensely entertaining. But why not Curt Schilling for President? He's a loudmouth, everyone is already sick of him, and at least when he throws the first pitch he could get it over the plate.

-- The Red Sox are also apparently in talks with Colorado to acquire Todd Helton, because we're not quite exactly like the Yankees yet, and thus we obviously need an old slugger on the decline to catch up. So far the best thing to come from these talks is the following YouTube video, from some guy calling himself the StatsGuru, who BaseballMuses from what seems to be either the public library or a cramped corner of his bedroom the merits of acquiring Helton over our favorite Jewish first baseman Kevin Youkilis. It's "probablistic" that "Helton doesn't get to as many balls as Youkilis." Yeah. Pretty much.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Taking the fall

No team likes to fire a coach at mid-season. Usually it happens if a team, say, starts 6-24 in a season with playoff expectations. Minnesota has now fired their coach in the middle of two of the last three seasons, first the most successful coach in franchise history, with a team record of 25-26, and now his replacement, with the team sitting at 20-20.

The thing is, when Saunders was fired, the Wolves had started 13-6 and then gone 12-20. Under Casey, they'd started slow, gotten to 20-16, and then lost four straight. Four straight is worth a firing, with the team definitely in contention for the playoffs? How does Doc Rivers still have a job?

Much has been made of Kevin Garnett's increasing frustration with the franchise's mediocrity, so of course a move like this would not have been made without his approval, if not his outright encouragement. Randy Wittman, longtime Wolves assistant and former Cleveland head coach, was brought in at the beginning of the season, in hindsight clearly for just this eventuality.

Casey didn't deserve to go. But at this point, as a Wolves fan, I'll take whatever keeps Garnett happy and motivated. The one who really needs to go is McHale. We need a GM who can make good evaluations of talent, smart trades, and good drafts. The wins will come from that, not from anything the coach can do. If Wittman continues to have to try to win with McHale's decisions, look for another update in this space in about a year or two, when the Wolves are again around .500 at the All-Star break.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

If You Can't Beat 'Em..

As the resident Boston sports fan, this is the absolute worst time to start up this blog. The overachieving Patriots finally bowed out of the playoffs a round longer than they probably should have, the Celtics and the Bruins arzzzzzzzz, and the Red Sox don't start their season for approximately fifteen years, give or take. It's so bad that I even managed to care about the Massachusetts - Rhode Island basketball game yesterday and was genuinely disappointed that the Minutemen lost. If that's not sad I don't know what is.

Ok, actually, I do know what is - the fact that I'm openly rooting for the Celtics to continue losing and not feeling even slightly guilty about it. Red Auerbach must be doing backwards somersaults in his grave. Even Doc Rivers and Al Jefferson are making quips about getting Greg Oden, though I'd also be quite happy with Mr. Kevin Durant as well. Of course, we'll likely wind up with neither. (1997 & Tim Duncan, anyone?) I've been told that the games are immensely entertaining with all our hard-working youngsters, but there's still too many sharp objects within 50 feet of my television for me to dare watch.

The low point so far is last night's 82-76 loss to the Atlanta Hawks at home, the Celtics' 9th straight loss. After having a 18 point lead after the first quarter and a 15 point halftime lead, the young Celts just turned over and Schruted the game, getting outscored by 21 in the second half. By the Hawks. At home. Ryan Gomes went 1-11, Allan Ray went 0-9, and our leading scorer Delonte West went 5-14. Eight Celtics players played in the game; the most veteran of these was Kendrick Perkins, who was drafted in 2003. The oldest was Gomes, born September 1, 1982. But this is good, right?

I remember drinking the Kool-Aid after the Celtics beat Charlotte on the road on Dec 16. It wrapped up a five game win streak that left the Celtics at 10-13 after wins at New Jersey, at New York, at Philly, and vs Denver. I figured we actually had a chance to back into the playoffs by winning the Atlantic. Then Pierce got hurt; we've been 2-16 since.

Anyway, here's the Celtics season in a nutshell: Tony Allen taking an axe to his ACL and MCL after the whistle blew the play dead - and he didn't even make the irrelevant dunk. Enjoy.

Arrested Developments

With all the hubbub surrounding the Super Bowl, it's hard to notice a lot of other news that's happening in the NFL right now. Sure, the Steelers, Dolphins, Raiders, and Cowboys and others are making important staff changes that could have a profound effect on who Bill Simmons and Tim Keown discuss as being the next worst personnel blunder. And even though, for once, an Indiana team has (I think) a legitimate chance to finally win the big one (c'mon, let's face it, the 2002 Indiana Hoosiers basketball team versus Maryland and the 2000 Pacers versus the Lakers were just flukes), the big football story of the week is the Cincinnati Bengals. Yes, the Bengals, that team who has as much offensive talent as the Colts do and yet failed to make the playoffs.

News of this week is that Chris Henry, the 3rd WR of the Bengals, who caught as many TD passes as Chad Johnson in the 2006 season, is serving two days of jail time for his conviction of attempting to get high school teenage girls drunk enough to have sex with him (I hear the courts are calling that "unlawful transaction involving a minor" these days). Henry has shown, through prior convictions, that he's not exactly the most colorful crayon in the box. He pled guilty to a weapons charge in Florida earlier this year to avoid jail time, since, well, it's hard to suspend belief about mistaken identity when you're wearing your own freaking jersey, waving a gun at someone, and talking about yourself. If only someone had actually told Henry that the much easier and more legal way to get teenage girls into bed (minus the pedophilia charges that will obviously ensue afterwards) is to give them free copies of Teen Beat that you've slapped your John Hancock on and passing them notes in 5th period Spanish that say you'll, like, totally go out with them.

But it wasn't just Henry who was making headlines this week, no, there was a ninth arrest of the season that Jonathan Joseph, a rookie cornerback and likely replacement of former Pro-Bowler Tory James, helped to add to the already lofty total of criminal charges brought against the black and orange. In a truly inspiring team effort, Joseph helped the league-leading Bengals increase their hold on total time of marijuana possession. Joseph's charges (and most likely eventual guilty plea) could help inspire the Bengals to go for double digits this year. Hell, it could even happen before the super bowl. Now, wouldn't THAT be something special? "Jonathan Joseph, you just got arrested for marijuana possession, what are you gonna do now? "I'm going to Kenton County Jail! Whooo!"

Certainly the Bengals' players aren't the only ones in the entire NFL who are smoking doobies, enjoying the sauce, or beating their wives. They're just not very good at hiding it. Perhaps, instead of cracking down on team misconduct, as Marvin Lewis is supposedly doing (great track record since you instigated that policy, by the way, Marv), the Bengals organization should just hire some con men to show them how to get away the crimes they'll eventually commit, or align themselves with whatever mafia's present in the Queen City (the UC Bearcats?). After all, you're only guilty if you get caught.


... to Three and Out, a sports blog with five writers, so far. We just wanted a place to write about our favorite teams, players, and sports stories, share our joys and pain (there are Eagles and Vikings fans here, so plenty of pain), and laugh at each other. So here we are. And I'll kick it off with a commentary on everyone's favorite sport: tennis!

David Foster Wallace has said much better than I have time or insight to match how good Roger Federer is. But in case you didn't hear, at the Australian Open (motto: "Technically a Grand Slam just like Wimbledon!"), he let Andy Roddick get up 4-3 in the first set and then ran off 11 straight games to put the match away. Roddick, you might have heard, under new coach Jimmy Connors, has been rejuvenated, blowing through the tournament like, well, a poor man's Roger Federer. Federer, with his typical modesty, dismissed it as a lucky game: "I had one of these days when everything just worked, I was unbeatable. [...] I am shocked myself. The tournament is not even over yet, so let's not get carried away."

Considering he's just matched a seventy-year-old record for consecutive Grand Slam finals, maybe it's okay to get a little carried away, wouldn't you think?

"Let me do it one more time," says Federer, a statement which must make Fernando Gonzalez and Tommy Haas feel good. They play late tonight in what we might call the "NFC championship game" of the Aussie.