22 November 2011

Tuesday football: Potpourri

Caleb Hanie, the (unknown) future of the Bears.
Something I never thought I'd say:  "I miss Jay Cutler."

And, "We shouldn't have wished so hard for that."

To be fair, when we were booing, flaming, and otherwise disrespecting him, Jay Cutler hadn't been playing well.  We couldn't tell which was worse, Cutler or the linemen who were supposed to protect him.  After some nice preseason performances and a near-miracle in last year's Super Bowl semifinal, Caleb Hanie looked like a great alternative.

But then offensive coordinator Mike Martz finally justified the salary the Bears are giving him.  Finally abandoning his dream of recreating The Greatest Show on Turf, Martz shifted his emphasis onto workhorse running back Matt Forte, while convincing Cutler and his line to work much more closely.  It wasn't the machine Aaron Rodgers is running in Green Bay, but the Bears had finally generated an efficient offense.  For the first time, Bear fans could admit to actually liking Cutler.

Now that Cutler is out through the winter solstice, the Bears now depend on Hanie to see their run through to the playoffs.  Yes, he looked good when Cutler didn't, but he hadn't had to run an offense for two games that counted.  That changes this Sunday in Oakland.  Fingers are crossed from the Indiana exurbs of Merrillville and Michigan City all the way around to the Wisconsin line.  Brrrrr.

Outlook not so bad:  Congratulations to the Los Angeles Galaxy on their latest Major League Soccer crown.  The latest question for the league comes from the status of David Beckham:  will he stay, or is it back to Europe for him?  Some columnists think that MLS still needs Beckham, but I disagree.

The problem with arguments like this one made by NBC Sports' Michael Ventre is that it assumes that the sport hasn't made any advances in the U.S. since Beckham joined the Galaxy five years ago.  Both the U.S. men's and women's teams made nice runs in their respective World Cup tournaments.  Well known (if aging) stars like Thierry Henry, Freddy Ljungburg, Rafael Márquez and Roy Keane have made real contributions in their new MLS homes.  Most importantly, expansion franchises have succeeded spectacularly in Philadelphia, Portland, Vancouver and especially Seattle.  All of that isn't going to suddenly disappear just because one particularly glamourous Englishman left his club in Los Angeles.

Attention, SEC West woofers:  Yeah, yeah, yeah.  I know that LSU, Alabama and Arkansas are 1-2-3 in the BCS standings.  I can understand why you SEC West fans are whooping it up, trying to mock the rest of us.

And I hope this makes up for the fact that, in men's basketball, your little division completely missed March Madness last year.  Not a single SEC West team made the field of 68.

No, you can't count Texas A&M or Missouri.  Try again next year.

15 November 2011

Tuesday Football: F#¢kin' mee-owwww

Joe Paterno's last public act as a "legendary" football coach was to essentially beg the Penn State Board of Trustees for his job.  Had he kept his mouth shut a week ago, he might have at least coached last Saturday's game against Nebraska.  Instead, the trustees fired him and PSU president Graham Spanier for their role in the Jerry Sandusky child-rape scandal, which may now be spreading all the way to Texas.

Penn State was right to fire Paterno and Spanier, but the consequences shouldn't stop there.  If even a fraction of what I have heard and read about this incident in the last week is true, then the university effectively harbored a serial sex offender while he was still committing crimes.  The NCAA has imposed its vaunted "death penalty" on specific programs at specific schools for lesser violations, so Penn State would certainly be eligible for some form of that punishment.  I'm not sure SMU-style sanctions are necessary -- those took out the entire Southwest Conference as collateral damage -- but it would be a good idea for 107,000-seat Beaver Stadium to sit idle for a season or two.

Also, a head or two should roll at a sports-media outlet or two.  Jerry Sandusky was defensive coordinator for a team that won a national championship.  Why didn't anyone ask out loud why he never became a head coach?  On that count alone, this story should have broken out years ago.

A lot of people have wondered how this could have happened under Joe Paterno's vaunted watch.  It's not my place to call Paterno a tyrant, but his power on the PSU campus did bring to mind something I heard on Chicago Public Radio's This American Life the Friday before the scandal broke.  [So far, I can only comfortably call Paterno an arrogant fool, like Bobby Knight.]  The crimes and victims are, of course different, but the media and police are just as clueless. Listen to "Petty Tyrant" below, and see the parallels between the Steve Raucci and Penn State stories for yourself.

01 November 2011

Tuesday Football: Praise be to Suh!

As I noted last Friday, the English language allows nouns, even proper ones, to double as verbs.  Of course, anyone with Internet access can google Google, and when 3-D printers become advanced enough, it should be possible (and with Xerox's permission, legal) to xerox a Xerox.

Now we can add "Tebow" to this list.  The Tebow-Fascist Zombie Brigades™ have declared that ostentatiously praying in public is "tebowing," because Tim Tebow has done it so often on the football field.  As it turns out, ...

... it is possible to tebow Tebow.  Somehow, I suspect that this amuses Tim Tebow more than it offends him.  Whatever floats your boat.

And there I sat, hoping to get a decent wideout for Tebow:  To be fair, Colo Colo had its toughest lineup of the year.  Even with one good receiver, the Ghost-Grey Cats would have struggled to win.  But I really needed a good game from Tim Tebow.  Instead, his value went down, taking my hopes for a decent receiver with it.  Despite getting Michael Vick and Antonio Gates back, the Kittehs' receiving woes continued, causing a 97-87 loss.

While the Cats fell to 4-4, the Fluttering Horde rose to the same level.  Kevin Walter continued to solidly spell Andre Johnson, the Buffalo Bills' kicker and defense performed brilliantly as bye-week substitutes, and the rest of the Horde starters (and Ahmad Bradshaw) kept being bad-asses.  Only Dwayne Bowe's strong effort for Flying Hawai'ian prevented the Horde from doubling up yet another opponent.  Instead, I had to "settle" for a 115-63 win.

Both teams are sit at .500, but only the Horde is set for a playoff run.  The Horde is a serious threat even with Andre Johnson on the mend.