Posted on: October 11, 2009 10:05 pm
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Josh McDaniels?

I'm stunned that these words are about to appear on my screen, but I'm actually starting to like this guy.  I had a lot of hate and very little in the way of expectations for McD at the conclusion of the preseason.  Here we are 5 weeks later and boy do I look the fool.

Kyle Orton threw his first interception today, but in the context it really didn't matter because it was a toss-up as time ran out on the first half.  Statistically, he has been fantastic so far this season.  I thought this guy was supposed to be some kind of schmuck?  Score one for the new head coach.

Knowshon Moreno is healthy and you could see glimpses of a future stud in his first career start.  Yet, I was so convinced that he wasn't the best running back in the draft and certainly not talented enough to warrant being our top draft choice.  Wrong again.

The defense... wow.  That's about all I can say.  3rd ranked against the pass, 5th ranked against the run, and top of the pile in points allowed and turnover differential.  It's too early to start calling this group the New Orange Crush, but they have been superb nonetheless.  For my money, that has been McDaniels biggest coup on the field.

But the biggest surprise, and the thing that I have found the most surprisingly endearing, was the emotion McDaniels showed at the end of the game.  When have you ever seen a head coach in the NFL do that?  Simple answer, never.  Running to the stands where his family is seated, giving the mile high salute, screaming and fist pumping before he jumped into the arms of his player... it gave me goosebumps and it forced me to acknowledge that Josh McDaniels appears to be genuine article.  Case and point: Bill Belichick.  Not only did the pupil out-coach his mentor, he out-classed him as well.  The Patriots coach, in a move of pure arrogance and cowardice, ran off the field and avoided McDaniels after the game.  That was pathetic.  The coaches always meet at midfield and exchange respect.  Thankfully, it didn't appear to take anything off the shine of this win.

I'm sorry I ever doubted the new coach, but I've never been happier about being wrong.  Bottom line, it's fun to be a Broncos fan again.
Posted on: August 31, 2009 12:24 am
 

A letter to Rodney Harrison

Dear Rodney Harrison,

Thank you.  You're the only person I've heard discuss Josh McDaniels and the Broncos current status with anything approaching honesty and reason.  I know you're not biased, McDaniels used to be one of your coaches and it sounds like you thought he was a good guy.  And yet, you were able to look at the camera and say that you thought he had made some bad decisions.  That's phenomenal in my book.  Chris Collinsworth and Al Michaels are like the rest of the robots I've heard discuss this story.  There are only two options, apparently.  The first is vilify Jay Cutler to the point that people are convinced he is the devil, and at the same time do everything short of shining Josh McDaniels balls to convince the world that he is a golden god.  The second option is to treat Jay Cutler to the ball washing and pretend that Josh McDaniels doesn't exist.  Rodney, you are a good man because you chose the path less travelled.  You actually gave a straightforward opinion and a legitimate assessment of the situation.  You told us that you believe that, although Josh McDaniels is an intelligent man and a good coach, trying to trade away a franchise quarterback for a career backup was clearly the biggest mistake of his career.  You even went so far as to predict that you felt like this one bad decision is unfortunately going to end up defining his career as a head coach.  I couldn't agree with you more, and I agree with you because you've actually discussed the situation like a rational adult.  You've acknowledged that a talented person can make a bad choice, and you've even posited that it has received so much attention and the consequences have been so serious that it could very well be the defining moment of his coaching career.  And here's the amazing part.  At no point during this exchange did I ever see you reach for some wax and a shammy and start searching around for some genitals to polish.  Granted you're one of the dirtiest players in the history of the game and I'll always hate you for being a San Diego Charger, but I would still rather listen to you announce a game instead of anyone else I've heard thus far because I can at least feel confident saying that you're not an imbecile.  So, once again, thank you.  Enjoy your retirement, and please feel free to visit us viewers at home any time you like.

Sincerely,

W4L
Posted on: August 30, 2009 3:17 pm
 

2009 Arizona Wildcats Football Preview

Football returns to the desert in less than a week, so I decided it's time to try my hand at some predictions for the season.  As always, criticisms, questions, or praise are equally welcome.

OFFENSE

Everyone knows the players we lost, but I think this year's team is fullly capable of absorbing the impact of those losses and still improving.  Willie put together a very respectable career, but at the end of the day their were a lot of chinks in his armor.  I think Matt Scott's unique athletic abilities give him the chance to surpass Willie.  He may not have the accuracy, but he's got the strength, and the kid can move.  At the same time, Eben Britton's replacement, Mike Diaz, will have an easier time protecting the backside than did his predecessor because of Scott's capacity to quickly remove himself from trouble.  That's the other thing working in Scott's favor; he is surrounded by serious weaponry.  Rob Gronkowski is among the best tight ends in the country.  He has proven that no matter how much teams try to smother him, he is always a potential target.  For a young quarterback that is an incredible insurance policy.  G-Kow also will take considerable pressure off the other receiving targets, particularly his brother who figures to continue working into the short passing game.  Terrell Turner may not be Mike Thomas, but he is still a very capable outside receiver.  With the amount of talent spread throughout the offense, he will get plenty of opportunities to take advantage of gaps in coverage.  However, look for a surprising performance out of Sophomore William Wright.  With so much attention going to all the other targets, Wright could be incredibly dangerous as an inside receiving threat.  The backfield will continue to be explosive.  Nic Grigsby and Keola Antolin accounted for 23 touchdowns on the ground last year, and with a new quarterback you can expect their work load to remain steady.  They're both incredible rushers, and they have very distinct styles.  The ability to throw either into the mix at any time will help to keep opposing defenses off balance and allow the Cats to continue to establish the run, and will take considerable pressure off the new QB.

DEFENSE

Last year Arizona had the third best defense in the Pac-10, in terms of total defense and scoring defense.  7 out of 11 starters have returned, and the 4 replacements are all well qualified.  The hardest player to replace will likely be Ronnie Palmer, but the front 7 is solid enough that his absence shouldn't be devastating.  Palmer's great strengths were intensity and leadership, but the defense has these traits in abundance.  Fortunately for Arizona fans, the defense's most capable unit is the one that usually makes or breaks a team; the big men up front.  It is safe to expect very big things out of tackles Earl Mitchell and Donald Horton and ends Ricky Elmore and Brooks Reed.  This group is among the best in the conference, and our success on the defensive side of the ball will ride on their shoulders.  The key matchup for this group for the entire season, and one that could likely determine the Cats final standing, will be at Oregon.  If these 4 players step up and manage to limit the impact of Masoli and his aggressive offensive line, the Cats win the game and establish themselves as a legitimate contender in the Pac-10.  If not, then expect a loss at Eugene and a season that will look very close to what we achieved last year.

SCHEDULE

Sept. 5 Central Michigan  The Chippewas are a talented team, and they've been to three straight bowl games.  But at the end of the day they're still a MAC team that managed to get spanked three times in a row to end their season against Ball State, Eastern Michigan, and Florida Atlantic.  It may not be the blowout some expect, but Arizona wins this game easily. (1-0)
Sept. 12 Northern Arizona   Hell hasn't frozen over, and the Lumberjacks won't win. (2-0)
Sept. 19 at Iowa   Other than their big upset against Penn State and stomping of a down-and-out Minnesota, they really didn't look that impressive last year.  Factor in the loss of Shonn Greene, who was their heart and soul, and I'm not terribly afraid of the Hawkeyes.  Even though I like Arizona's chances in this game, home field advantage carries the day.  (2-1)
Sept. 26 at Oregon State   Oregon State pulled out the narrow win in Tucson last year, we have to play in their stadium, which has been our own personal house of horrors, and Jacquizz Rodgers is back.  The Beavers have won nine of the last ten games in this series, and the Cats haven't improved enough to change their fortunes in Corvallis.  (2-2)
Oct. 10 at Washington   The state of Washington does not appear to have taken any significant steps towards reviving its two flat-lining collegiate football programs.  The Huskies get rolled, again.  (3-2)
Oct. 17 Stanford   We've lost to Stanford by a single point, two years in a row.  The matchup remains fairly even, but we have the motivation and the home field advantage, so the trend stops and revenge is finally served up.  (4-2)
Oct. 24 UCLA   I simply don't believe in Rick Neuheisel.  His career has been spiraling downwards ever since he won the Rose Bowl with Washington in 2000.  The Bruins got spanked in LA last year, look for a repeat in Tucson.  (5-2)
Nov. 7 Washington State   See, Washington.  (6-2)
Nov. 14 at California   2005, Cal won at home.  2006, UA won at home.  2007, Cal won at home.  2008, UA won at home.  2009, Cal wins at home.  Cal is the one team with a very real chance at unseating USC from their perch and Jahvid Best isn't about to squander his chance at making Heisman noise with an upset at home.  (6-3)
Nov. 21 Oregon   Oregon looked very beatable last year and the Cats would have taken the game if the defense hadn't imploded and given up a 40 yard running TD with three minutes remaining in the game.  The Ducks lose Jeremiah Johnson, but they return Masoli and Blount so their running game is still very dangerous.  Like I said earlier, the outcome of this game will be settled in the trenches.  I think Arizona has the talent, the anger over getting burned last year, and the home field advantage.  Those three things will give the Cats the edge they need to pull of their big upset of the season.  (7-3)
Nov. 28 at Arizona State   The Devils lost by 10+ points five different times last year, and they did it with Rudy Carpenter.  Without their star QB expect the whoopings to continue, at home and away.  (8-3)
Dec. 5 at USC   Even though I love our chances now that USC's QB slot is finally in question, and the nightmare trifecta of Maualuga, Cushing, and Matthews is gone, they're still USC.  They're just going to reload and do the same thing they do every year.  I can't justify predicting an Arizona victory against USC until they prove capable of completing the task, especially when the game is being played at the Colliseum.  (8-4)


FINAL ANALYSIS

The Cats finish with a record of 8-4 overall and 6-3 in conference.  That many victories in the Pac-10 will be a huge coup for Arizona, but whether it's good enough for a third, fourth, or fifth place finish will be a painful matter.  I'm predicting a three-way tie for third place between Arizona, Oregon, and OSU with each team losing to Cal, USC, and one of the tied teams.  Arizona will have a home win against Oregon and a road loss against OSU, Oregon has a home win against OSU and a road loss against Arizona, and OSU has a home win against Arizona and a road loss against Oregon.  How the tie breaker plays out is beyond my capacity to estimate, but it will determine what bowl game the Cats are invited to.

Posted on: August 14, 2009 7:14 pm
 

Big Papis, and Mannys, and Vicks, oh my!

David Ortiz failed a drug test and so another hero fell.

Manny Ramirez defends Big Papi, not because he believes that Ortiz didn't cheat, but because he doesn't care and doesn't believe anyone else should care either.  A fallen hero defends his recently fallen brethren, but somehow makes the situation feel worse.

Michael Vick signs with the Philadelphia Eagles, and his access to privilege and unimaginable wealth is once again open.  Vick isn't even a hero, he's a wolf in sheep's clothing, but the world still watched the heroes suffer another crippling blow.

What has happened to professional athletics?  Where have all the good men gone?  I love the Red Sox, and it tore my heart out to know that they won the World Series, twice, on the backs of cheaters.  Granted, they have given the usual, "I was careless with supplements, but I don't think I took steroids" denial.  But I don't buy it, it's all so disingenuous.  They can't say, "I didn't do it" because deep down they probably know it's not true.  Maybe I'm wrong about one or the other of these guys, but I can't be wrong about all of them.  When was the last time that baseball had a hero who didn't fall under the shadow of steroids?  Albert Pujols, you are baseball's only remaining hope for a savior, please don't break our hearts.  We want to believe in you.

And Michael Vick, what can I even say about him?  It pains me to think that I used to enjoy being entertained by someone who is so morally bankrupt.  And yet, here he is, once again with the keys to the castle.  Most ex-cons have to start from the bottom when they're released.  It's not a part of the punishment, but it's an appropriate situation.  You wronged society, and so you're not allowed to take back whatever privileges and blessings you previously enjoyed.  You've fallen to the bottom rung of the ladder, and now you must learn to climb again.  Not if your name is Michael Vick, however.  You can wrong society, you can be socially deviant, you can participate in illegal gambling schemes, brutalize living animals, and then regain the fame and riches that you lost, for a while anyways.  You've served your time Vick, now here's your silver spoon, we're sorry we deprived you of it for so long.

But why? Because he can run fast and throw a ball far? No, I don't think it's quite so innocent as that.  It's because he sells jerseys and tickets.  That's why they have allowed him to dip his hands back in the coffers, because the NFL is every bit as greedy as the rest.  Because sportsmanship, and honor, and decency have all but died as virtues that professional sports leagues are willing to pursue.  All that is right in the world of sports is forced to bend its neck to only that which is green.  Money counts, nothing else.  And with every one of these disgraceful attacks on the ranks of heroes and good men, my faith in sports falters a little more.  It's hard to admit, and harder to watch.  I grew up idolizing sports stars that everybody seemed to like and admire.  I always thought they were supposed to be the good guys, but that doesn't seem to be the way it is anymore.  I feel worse for future generations of young sports fans because they will never know the difference.  They're going to grow up in an era where sports is synonymous with getting paid and doing what you want; with spitting in the face of the establishment and living with reckless abandon; with disdaining rules and morality; and with shunning the responsibility of being a good role model.  Someday kids are going to think that's all normal, and I think that's what makes me the saddest.

And who is left to show them otherwise?  Donte Stallworth took a human life because he's not responsible enough to not drive drunk.  Ben Roethlisberger is accused of sexually assaulting a young woman.  Jay Cutler put on a clinic on how to publicly disgrace oneself and one's team, and he learned how to do it from Brett Favre.  Plaxico Burress took a gun to a club and shot himself in the leg.  The list just never ends.  Peyton Manning, you seem like a good enough guy, and you're talented enough that people can believe in you.  I hope there are no skeletons in that closet because football needs you as desperately as baseball needs Pujols.

Posted on: June 26, 2009 2:36 am
 

And now for something completely different!

I'm going to preface this entry with a couple short disclaimers:
  1. This entry has nothing at all to do with sports
  2. I generally don't have a problem saying things that other people might find offensive, but if you have sensitive eyes and ears you might want to steer clear of this one
And without any further ado, here it goes... the following is a list of reasons why I don't feel the need to join in the international mourning frenzy for Michael Jackson.

First and foremost, I didn't really like his music.  I don't know how he earned the name, "the King of Pop."  I guess it must have been a process of elimination over the years; he simplly outlasted his competitors.  He had some good songs, I even like to listen to a few of them every now and then.  At least I do until I stop and think about who it is, but that point will be addressed later.  Simply put, I don't think Jackson was that great.  I can list on one hand the number of songs that he made that really had a significant social impact.  I'm not a critic, I have low standards.  And that's why his inability to impress me counts for something.  If you can't really blow me away then you must not be that spectacular.

Second, I genuinely do not believe that Michael Jackson was a decent human being.  Don't worry, I'll give some context to that statement.  In 1984 Michael Jackson entered bidding for the publishing rights to nearly every Beatles song ever written.  The rights to the songs had initially been signed over to a company called Northern Lights, which was created by Paul McCartney and John Lennon (members of the Beatles for those not in the know) in order to lighten their income tax burden.  When the publishing rights were released and went up for public auction in 1984 Jackson lavishly outbid every other contender for the rights to the songs; including the man who had written most of them, Paul McCartney.  Owning the rights didn't give Jackson total control, but it guaranteed him at least 50% of all royalties made off of the songs.  He supposedly willed the rights to the songs back to McCartney, but even if he did, he still gave a giant middle finger to the man for more than 25 years.  He stole the rights to the songs that he had written, and which had defined his entire life and career.  It was at once the most greed-driven and under-handed moment of the modern era of popular music.  It tore McCartney's heart out, and Jackson was remorseless about it.  He wanted his money, he wanted his royalty rights, and he didn't give a good god damn about anyone but himself.

Third, and most importantly, Michael Jackson has an ugly history that I do not believe can be overlooked.  People laugh that he transformed from black to white over the years, but when you look at it more analytically, I think it's more scary than sad.  It speaks to a deep self-loathing.  In an interview in 1993 with Oprah Winfrey, Jackson claimed that he suffered from Vitiligo, a skin condition that causes depigmentation in patches of skin.  This claim is palpably false if you do a little research.  There are a lot of pictures of MJ from the 70s through the 2000s, and in not a single one of them is there any splotchiness to any segment of Jackson's skin.  The color was uniform throughout, making a smooth transition from dark to light.  That is simply not how Vitiligo works.  It affects only sections of the body, and does so at splotchy, intermittent spurts.  The skin doesn't simply change shades evenly.  There is no natural occurring skin condition with that effect.  But that's peanuts.  What bothers me, and what is obviously the elephant in the room, is the supposed history of sexual abuse towards children.  I won't get into the details here, because it opens the window for a massive debate that I don't feel is necessary.  My points of consternation are: 1) where there is smoke there's fire; and 2) the allegations he admitted to are no less bizarre and inappropriate than the ones he denied.

To the first point, if people accuse you of being a child molester for more than two decades, there might be something to the claim.  Most rumors die, but the accusations against Jackson, and the implications of his sexual preferences, were constant on the legal and social fronts.  They never wavered.  That's a lot of smoke for no fire.

But even if by some miracle there was no fire, the things he admitted to were no less disgusting and outrageous.  He freely admitted, at both of his criminal trials, that he had close relationships with 13 year old boys, and often shared a bed with them.  You can claim with any mixture of attempted piousness or pretend outrage that you've never violated a child, but when you admit to willingly sharing a bed with an adolescent boy, then your word becomes meaningless.  To what extent he violated those children, no one will ever know for certain but him and the young boys involved.  I won't speculate any further, but I will say that any man who at the very least tip-toes that close to the line of sexual abuse of children is not a person worth remembering.

The only thing that prevents me from truly unleashing my disgust and rage towards him is the fact that he has passed, and part of me clings to my belief in showing respect for the dead.  I've not made a good show of it, but I will do my best to show him that small measure of decency.  At the end of the day, I still feel no need to mourn the loss of Michael Jackson.  If anything, I think I'll breath a quiet sigh of relief.
Posted on: May 25, 2009 2:47 pm
 

Why I feel OK disliking Josh McDaniels

I think it's funny the way that sports often finds a way of making itself look a lot like religion.  Take, for example, the Denver Broncos:

Whether or not you're a fan of the Orange and Blue, you're probably aware that some dramatic things have been happening of late in the Mile High City.  Old coach fired, new coach hired, franchise quarterback gone, funky off-season moves, highly criticized draft... it's been a weird five months for the organization.

Yet, none of that is what really irks me the most.  My problem, and the reason I feel OK disliking Josh McDaniels, is what has happened to the fan-base.  Granted, I've only been a Broncos fan for 23 years, but I've never seen Denver fans so vehemently and boisterously divided.  And the battle lines are clearly drawn: zealots vs. heretics .

One camp has decided to follow the new head coach on pure faith; they disregard the fact that he has no track record as a head coach.  For these fans, the fact that Pat Bowlen anointed him the new sheriff is reason enough to support him without question.  The other camp is full of skeptics who point to McDaniels' inexperience, his offense's meltdown in Super Bowl XLII, and what some experts have declared were questionable off-season moves and draft selections.  These fans won't cut him any slack, and some are unwilling to get behind the new coach until he achieves the kind of success that we all expected from Mike Shanahan.  And so the situation has devolved into a battle royale between the McDaniels Apologists and the Head-Coach Head-Hunters .

That is the saddest part of the whole affair; the fact that you can't read a Broncos message board on this site or any other without seeing the angry mudslinging.  The pharisaic supporters have begun to call for the fan cards of the heretics who do not follow the new coach, and the non-believers are responding with their own vigorous vitriol.  The entire situation is just so... ugly.

That's why I don't like Josh McDaniels; I don't have to wait for him to coach a game to see the damage he has already done to the Broncos.  Pro sports teams are built on the support of their fans, and we have always had an excellent club because our fans have always been so united and energetic.  But now the energy is waning and the fans are anything but united.  I'll withhold judgment on his ability to scout talent, draw up Xs and Os, and motivate players until I see the results on the field.  But the head coach of a pro sports organization is more than simply a coach, he is the representative of a brand.  McDaniels has represented our brand horribly and he has created a massive rift in one of the most passionate fan-bases in the NFL.

I hope McDaniels succeeds, but because I want my team to win, not because I want him to do well.  So if there was any doubt before, there is no longer; I am indeed one of the heretics.  But before you come calling for my fan card just remember that on Sunday afternoons I'm cheering for the same team you are.



"The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one."

~ George Bernard Shaw

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com