Monday, November 30, 2009

Hines Ward (and apparently 50% of the Steelers locker room) is a Moron

The Steelers lost a big game last night to the Ravens, thanks in part to the inexperience of their starting quarterback that night, 3rd stringer Dennis Dixon. Before that game, Steelers WR (and amateur neurological expert) Hines Ward addressed the decision to not play starter Ben Roethlisberger on Sunday Night Football:

"This game is almost like a playoff game. It's almost a must-win. I could see some players or teammates questioning, like 'It's just a concussion. I've played with a concussion before,'"

"It's almost like a 50-50 toss-up in the locker room: Should he play? Shouldn't he play? It's really hard to say. I've been out there dinged up; the following week, got right back out there. Ben practiced all week. He split time with Dennis Dixon(notes). And then to find out that he's still having some headaches and not playing and it came down to the doctors didn't feel that they were going to clear him or not – it's hard to say. Unless you're the person [himself]. … I've lied to a couple of doctors saying I'm straight, I feel good when I know that I'm not really straight."

It's nice to see that the NFL's new emphasis on head injuries went totally over Ward's head.

I've had a concussion, it's not much fun. And mine wasn't that bad of a concussion on the scale. Still, it was a couple of days before I was totally back to normal, and over a couple week before I was running around again. And that was taking a week off, not going through practices and studying lots of videotape each day.

There's a reason you're supposed to be very cautious with head injuries, they can have long lasting effects. Ask Al Toon, who battled vertigo and depression for years after being forced to retire due to concussions. Ask Ted Johnson, who has said he loses periods of time occasionally. Ask Mike Webster, who ended his life homeless and suffering from dementia. And there are many more where they came from. Concussions won't necessarily get better if you take time off in the offseason, each concussion does more damage and leaves you more vulnerable to future concussions. It's kind of like how a sprained ankle leaves you more susceptible to future ankle injuries...only if you needed your ankle to perform basic day-to-day functions like remembering to eat.

And now, you've got Ward questioning Roethlisberger's manhood for not lying to the team doctors and gutting it out. Nevermind that this is the Berger's 4th concussion, or that he's thinking of his future not to try and avoid a hip or knee surgery later in life, but to try and ensure he doesn't become a vegetable at age 45 or 50.

There is a huge difference between gutting through a sprained shoulder (like Matt Stafford did against Cleveland), and trying to push through a concussion (like Hines Ward wants). The shoulder will repair itself and won't interfere with brain operation later in life. The concussion very well might.

Even worse than Ward's comments, is all the talking heads defending his words. Look, I understand the athlete mentality. You're supposed to sacrifice everything for the team. Taking a cortisone shot to mask the pain of a sprained knee or busted shoulder is expected. And I'm not arguing that it shouldn't be. Part of the beauty of sports is becoming a part of something bigger than yourself and giving yourself over to that greater entity. That's all well and good, but head injuries are a different beast. Giving yourself over to the team should not include frying your brain. Walking with a limp or 2 replaced hips at 40 years old is one thing. Regressing to the mental acuity of a 4 year old is entirely different.

The NFL is finally getting this. Coaching staffs are coming around. It's time the players themselves catch up. Expecting a guy to run away from the trainer with a separated shoulder is one thing. Expecting a guy to lie to play through a concussion is idiotic and malicious.

Hines Ward, you are an idiot and an a******. You, and the unnamed 50% you referenced owe the Berger an apology. And Mike Tomlin, you should require this of your moronic wideout.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

NFL Quick Hits

- Wow Thursday's games were terrible. I'm not sure if it was the turkey or the games that put me to sleep.

- For those of you who were confused after last week's Bengals-Raiders game, no, Bruce Gradkowski is not the answer. For Oakland's fans' sake, I hope the Russell benching is just to send a message, because Gradkowski has proven that he's terrible (of course, so has Russell). If the Raiders truly believe Gradkowski is the better option, then either Russell is even worse than he's looked, or whoever's making the decision doesn't understand the quarterback position.

- I'd say the most disappointing part of Thursday's slate was that the NFL forgot to tell the Giants that this wasn't a bye week for them. Given the news that Eli has a stress reaction in his foot, perhaps they should have just sat at home and ate turkey.

- Carson Palmer, thank you for just going through the motions today. I wasn't counting on you for my fantasy team or anything, for only the second time all season. It's not like you were playing a real NFL team, either. You were playing the Browns. They're barely a college-level team. You couldn't have done better than 13/24, 110 yards and 1 TD? And 16 points total? Really? Was it necessary for you to let your charity work spill over into your job? I know the Browns are sad-sack, but it's not your job to keep them within striking distance of your team. Next time, maybe you'll put a full effort into things? Or at least warn us before the game starts? Please?

- 4 interceptions, Miami? Against Buffalo? Jeez, at least Cincinnati won their game against Cleveland. I wonder who Tony Sparano is going to whack after that putrid showing.

- No matter how bad things get for the Seahawks (and they're bad, believe me), at least beating the Rams is still right up there with death and taxes. Matt Hasselbeck threw for 95 yards (don't ask, I don't know how that happened either), and the game was never in doubt. What does this mean? The Rams are awful.

- Jake Delhomme threw 4 more INTs. Congrats on that extension this offseason, Panthers, it looks really great right now.

- Chris Redman has a pretty good gig. He gets to play once every couple of years, chuck the ball all over the place, and win a game. And probably gets 6 figures for it. This one was a real barnburner. Yes, it was against Tamap Bay, but it still goes into the books as a comeback win for Redman, and good for him.

- Philly is the worst good team in the NFL. They're probably going to the playoffs, and they do not put teams away. The Redskins should never have been in this game, and Philly needed a touchdown, 2 point conversion, and field goal in the 4th quarter to pull this one out. Yuck. They won't get back to the NFC Championship game this year. I sense a one and done effort.

- SI writer Don Banks opined that Houston needs to fire Gary Kubiak and go in some other direction. I can't really argue with that. Houston cannot finish a game to save their lives, and it's not because they don't have talent. They have it on both sides of the ball, but it's always either a come-from-ahead loss or a near loss. At some point, it's a pattern and that falls on the coach. I think we're a few games past that point. On the other side, what more needs to be said about Indy. You're going to have to kill them twice, because they've been down in the 4th quarter 5 times now this season, and they're 11-0.

- For anyone wondering why Philly gets the worst good team label over Jacksonville, the reason is simple. Jacksonville isn't good. I don't care if they're over .500, they're not a good team. At all.

- Vince Young just might be a real NFL QB after all. He one-upped Matt Leinart once again, almost 4 years later with some late game heroics. This time it was an 18-play, 99-yard drive featuring 3 4th down conversions, including a 10-yard TD pass to Kenny Britt as time expired for the 20-17 win. Don't look now, but Tennessee has now won 5 straight after starting 0-6 and they take their hot streak to Indianapolis next weekend.

- Baltimore is now losing to the Steelers in the 4th quarter. A Steelers team without their best defensive player (Polamalu, he's too busy shooting commercials), their starting quarterback, or their backup quarterback. This is officially an embarassment. Joe Flacco, pull your head out of your...rectum.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Why Fantasy Football Owners buy Insurance, Reason #37

No, I'm not kidding: see for yourself.

Sure, the main (and right now it seems, only) reason is for injury, but there are plenty of other reasons why fantasy football owners suffer indigestion.

Last night qualifies as one of those causes. Going into the game, I needed Chris Johnson to score 15.8 points to win my head to head matchup. Every yard is 0.1 points, and a touchdown is worth 6.

Tennessee received the ball at their own 6 with 2:52 left in a tie game, and Johnson was 39 yards short of the 158 yards he (well, I) needed. No chance, I've resigned myself to losing the game. Johnson proceeds to rip off 32 yards on the first 3 plays of the drive, which, combined with a (terrible) 15 yard penalty on Houston, put Tennessee at their own 48 with over 1:30 left. Wow, my chances have gone from 0 to well over 50/50. Tennessee proceeded to give the ball to Johnson 0 times over their next 5 plays before Rob Bironas (impressively) booted a 53 yard field goal for a 20-17 lead. Game(s) over, less than 7 yards from victory.

Houston proceeded to drive down to the Tennessee 31 with 6 seconds left. Incredible! Overtime is coming, and I have a chance again. Surely if the Titans touch the ball, Johnson will get a few opportunities and can pick up 7 yards with them, if not significantly more than that. Then Kris Brown steps up, and, true to form over his entire career, shanks the ball so that it goes nowhere near the goalposts.

Brown is a career 77.8% kicker, which isn't bad, but isn't outstanding. However, I don't think I have ever seen someone botch so many end-of-game kicks so horribly. He's pretty much the anti-Vinatieri. Even when Houston was terrible and picking first in the draft, Brown was kicking balls into the parking lot when the game was on the line. Really, it was my own fault for getting my hopes up.

And, just to add icing onto this cake, none of this should have been necessary. On a 2nd quarter drive where Johnson accounted for 42 yards on 3 carries, who did Jeff Fisher call on for 1st and goal from the 1 yard line? Lendale "fatty tequilla" White. Humbug.

In the interest of full disclosure, I cannot complain too much. I've been on both ends of narrow margins of victory this season, and over time, the breaks do even out. Still, it does make one think (only for a second) about this insurance thing. Then you quickly remember that it's fantasy football, and you're definitely not the guy who buys insurance on his fantasy players. Much better to be the guy who uses his blog for therapeutic rants. Yeah, that's a totally different class of person. Much, much suaver.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Quick Hits

Chuckles Weis should do the honorable thing next weekend. And what I mean by that is, at the end of the game against Stanford (win, HAH, or lose) he should do what Olympic wrestlers do when they hang up their spikes: remove his shoes, leave them in the middle of the field, waddle off and consume 150% of his daily recommended calories at dinner, then retire from collegiate head coaching. Given Notre Dame's talent at the offensive skill positions, there is no way they should be 6-5. Are they a great team? Heck no. But should they be losing to the UConns of the world? No. Whatever "schematic advantage" Weis thought he was giving the Irish, something's getting lost in the translation from Weis to the players.

Everyone who thinks the BCS is right up there with the Edsel should be rooting for the following things to happen:
- Oklahoma State to lose to Oklahoma
- Texas to lose the Big XII Championship Game
- Cincinnati loses to Pittsburgh
- TCU and Boise State win their remaining games
What this will do is one of 2 things: Put Boise State in the BCS AND put TCU in the BCS title game, or force the voters to engage in hijinks to keep one or both of those events from occuring. IF there is going to be a change in how the national champion is crowned in college football, it's going to take- either the most blatant screwjob of a non-BCS team ever, or a couple of bowls with such terrible ratings (due to non-name schools playing in them) that even the bowls and conference commisioners have to take notice. Odds aren't good (Texas is much better than Nebraska, as Texas plays defense AND offense), but it's at least possible.

- Terrible (wait, let's cue up Bill Walton) TERRR-IBLE day for the AFC North. Pittsburgh kicks things off by losing to Kansas City. The Berger leaving in OT with what looked like a concussion isn't good either, but losing the the Chiefs is just about unfathomable.
Shortly thereafter, Cleveland fell to Detroit despite jumping out to a 24-3 lead. Against Detroit. Cleveland gets some credit as the referee's threw a flag for defensive PI on what should have been the final hail mary play of the game. In order to qualify for PI on a hail mary, there should be a dead body on the field. I haven't seen a good replay yet, so I won't lambast the refs, but I'm inclined to believe Cleveland got a bit hosed. Still, if you go up 24-3 on Detroit (even if you're Cleveland), you shouldn't be in a position for that hail mary to matter.
Then Baltimore fell to the Colts. That in and of itself wasn't so bad (the Colts being undefeated and all), but Baltimore lost because Flacco threw a pick easily within field goal range with less than 3 minutes to go while down just 2 points. Seriously? You're not a rookie anymore, Joe.
And then Cincinnati, the class of this division, topped it all off by losing to the Raiders. Yes, the Oakland Raiders. For shame.

- Seattle lost. It wasn't close. Favre went 22-25 and 4 TD. Tarvaris Jackson even threw a TD off the bench. Steve Hutchinson did not suffer a season-ending injury. I hate this season.

- Did you see how that guy drove around a track so much faster than all of the other guys (even the older guy who used to be sponsored by Viagra)? I hear it was really exciting. More importantly, NASCAR is over. Back to real sports.

- Buffalo lost their first game under new head coach Perry Fewell. Perry needs some tutoring in 2 minute clock management. He took a first-half situation with the ball at about the 6, about 15 seconds left and the clock running with 1 timeout and turned it into 1 running play that had no chance of scoring and barely 1 second left after calling the timeout. Instead, he could have called the timeout right away and gotten about 2 shots at the end zone before kicking the field goal. He did get the field goal, but he blew the chance for at least an extra shot (and at least 2 extra better shots) at the end zone in a game his team lost by 3. I think it might have made a difference.

- Mark Sanchez looked, ahh, less than up to the task against New England. He's a rookie, and there will be growing pains, but he's trying way too hard to make a play, and is showing his inexperience (he started for just over 1 full season in college) running an offense, especially an offense where his supporting cast isn't significantly better than the defenses he's facing. 4 picks, 1 pick-6, and lots of missed receivers. Bad showing.

- Arizona beat St. Louis, but it was closer than one would expect (21-13). This is explained by Kurt Warner missing about half the game as a precaution due to concussion-like symptoms after a first-half hit. Arizona better hope Warner is ready to go next week, as unless Tennessee is willing to settle things with a contest of how many coeds you can get into a hot tub with your QB, Matt Leinart isn't going to be much help.

- Hey, MLS, what nitwit decided to put the MLS Finals on Sunday in primetime directly up against the NFL? Why oh why wouldn't you put it on Sunday afternoon, or (even better) some OTHER day of the week? How many viewers are they missing out on? Luckily we have twitter.

- Denver had (an admittedly gimpy) Kyle Orton under center and still lost to San Diego 32-3. Apparently the annual Denver fade has come a few weeks early this year.

- Dallas scored a grand total of 7 points against the Redskins. That's awful, that offense should be ashamed. Luckily for them, because they were playing the Redskins, it was enough and the Cowboys won 7-6.

- Finally, Jay Cutler looks awful but Eagles ineptitude and a showing by the Bears defense still have Chicago up 20-17 in the 4th quarter. Cutler has morphed from gunslinging Jay who kills his team with interceptions to gunshy Jay who kills his team by being too scared to make tough throws. It's really odd to watch.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Girl Gone Wild

The BYU-New Mexico Women's soccer game quickly turned into something else least for Elizabeth Lambert.

Disgusting display from Lambert. Hard fouls are a part of the game, yes. But she could have ended someone's career with a couple of those tackles. She has since been suspended indefinitely from the team by her school, and has issued the terse "I'm sorry I got caught" response those who follow athletes know well. However, as bad as Lambert behaved on that pitch, she was failed herself as well.

First, the officiating crew for this game should be suspended. One of the jobs of a referee and his/her assistants is to not let the game get out of hand. This crew failed miserably. The only reason this game didn't get totally out of hand and end in a riot, is that the BYU players did not step up and protect their teammates. If there were 2 serious infractions and they missed one, okay, referees aren't perfect. But there are 6-7 instances of rough and dangerous play from Lambert, and at least half of those are on the ball, where the referee's eyes should be. You're telling me none of the 3 pairs of eyes officiating this game saw anything but the one trip that earned her a yellow? Quite frankly, the tackle before the hair pull on the video above should have been sufficient for a red card. There was no attempt to play the ball and full attempt to go after the player's knee.

If this were a men's soccer game, there's no way the defender would have gotten 6 or 7 shots like Lambert did. But there's a mindset among many that girls don't want to win at all costs like boys do. That's crap, and it does women a tremendous disservice.

Another failure was Lambert's coach. As a coach your first instinct is to back your players. And, as BYU was the better team, he might have told his players to get physical with them. But there's getting physical and there's assault. Once Lambert started to veer out of control, the coach had to do something to try and calm her down. He does have a responsibility to make sure his team isn't intentionally injuring theother team, yes. But he also has a responsibility to his team to protect them from the inevitable frustrated retaliation by the BYU players. It's hard to say the coach did nothing, as I've just seen the highlights, but he certainly never took Lambert off, so he didn't do enough. This makes the suspension look purely like CYA, and had the cameras not caught Lambert's behavior, I'm not convinced she would have suffered any punishment.

Finally, I was shocked by one other thing (though I won't call it a failure): BYU's players didn't seem to retaliate. This is why the referee has to maintain control, as soon as the players feel like you're not keeping others in line, they start taking actions to protect their teammates. Sure, maybe it results in a card or 2 and yes, this is the conference tournament, and BYU expected to move on (and was winning), but it got to the point where every interaction with Lambert was an injury risk for the BYU players. Sometimes, when the system fails, the only people who can look out for you and protect you are your teammates. To be fair to BYU, they never should have been put in this position.

Good luck to BYU for the remainder of the season, and hopefully New Mexico's team, the officials, and Lambert will take a long hard look at themselves for allowing this to happen.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

NFL Quick Hits

The Quick Hits are a little slower getting off the ground, this week, but they are here nonetheless:

- Normally I wouldn't talk about the Rams-Lions game, as it pretty much lived up to its pregame Toilet Bowl designation, but 2 things caught my eye:

We've all heard of the pick-6, well the Rams went ahead and came up with the pick-minus-2. Rams DB James Butler intercepted a tipped pass from Matthew Stafford in his own end zone, got up, started to run with the ball out of the end zone, in the course of his run looped back into the end zone and was tackled there. Now, had he caught it in the end zone and stayed there, the Rams would have gotten the ball on their own 20 yard line. Because he left and came back into the end zone, the Lions got 2 points and the Rams had to kick off to the Lions. Of course, it being the Lions, they didn't score again until the 4th quarter.

3 touchdowns were scored in this game. 1 of those TDs was the result of a fake-FG pass from Rams kicker Josh Brown. Normally, an avid fantasy football player like myself would consider this a slap in the face, but this being the Rams, more people are likely to have Josh Brown on their team than Rams QB Marc Bulger.

One more note: my favorite comment I heard regarding this game: "Scouts came away from this game convinced Rams RB Steven Jackson can make it at the next (read: NFL) level."

- The Seahawks, excuse me...(retching noises)...there, that's better.

- The Colts actually had a game on their hands Sunday from the 49ers. I know, I'm as shocked as you guys. Given Arizona's implosion at the hands of Carolina, the 49ers just might have the defense to win the NFC West, even with their offense in the hands of former-failed-1st-overall-pick Alex Smith.

- Maybe this isn't true in general, but on Sunday, coaches were idiots about going for 2 points. This will be covered more in a follow-up post, but met me start with Dolphins coach Tony Sparano. You're up 11 and you go for 2...why? To be up 13 instead of 12? With the rate that kickers are hitting extra points these days, the penalty for missing (Jets needed a TD, 2pt, and a FG to tie instead of 2 TDs) is much greater than the reward for making it (if you can block/use voodoo to cause a miss of 1/2 the XPs, you won't fall behind). Indefensable decision.

- Remember that Eli? I remember that Eli. Giants fans remember that Eli, and not fondly either.

- The Broncos finally lost a game. Having not seen it, I can't be sure of the reasons for that, but this stat seems to mean something:

Kyle Orton: 23-37, 153 yds, 0 TD, 0 INT

You want to know why people refused to take the Broncos seriously? It's because of Orton? Why not take Orton seriously? Lines like that*. 6.7 yards per completion? 4.1 yards per attempt? That's awful, I don't care what defense you're playing against.

*Well, and the neckbeard

- The Jaguars, with the exception of Maurice Jones-Drew, have given up. Tennessee used this to win their first game of the season. It had nothing to do with Vince Young starting, and everything to do with the Jags not tackling Chris Johnson.

- Brett Favre throws 4 TD passes and rips the hearts out of Green Bay fans in Lambeau. And now he has a groin injury. I'd make a tasteless joke about Fox, but I think all that's been played out.

- The Cardinals are officially the NFL's Jekyll and Hyde team. They had just won 3 straight road games, beat the Giants in the 3rd of those 3 games (which looked a lot more impressive last week) and were coming home to Carolina this week. Carolina, of course, having Jake Delhomme at quarterback, the same guy who, the last time he saw the Cardinals, turned the ball over 6 times. So naturally the Cardinals allow 270 yards rushing, Delhomme only has to throw the ball 14 times, and the Panthers win 34-21. Of course.

- Are we really ready for a Colts-Saints Super Bowl? Neither of these offenses can be stopped for 60 minutes, even when they're only allowed to be on the field for 15 minutes (see Colts v Dolphins back in week 2). If both are able to secure home field, watch out.