Nov 18, 2009
Going rogue with Christina Hendricks, Lindsay Lohan, a nervous housecat, Miller High Life, Chi-pote-lay burritos, Madden’s eyebrows, and a Double-Bird
So exactly when did this country lose its edge? When Obama was elected? When the Cold War ended? When Kennedy was assassinated? When David Lee Roth left Van Halen? There have been dozens of events which have helped to dull the blade but the real work has likely been done quietly by a toxic mixture of consumer lawsuits, political correctness, and a recently acquired collective sense of entitlement. This country now imports more than it exports. We’re increasingly providing service more than we’re providing product. And we’ve got more people hoping, no, expecting, to be handed a kettle of fish instead of being shown how to craft their own fishing pole. The overwhelming majority of our populace wants to be protected, taken care of, coddled, and told that everything’s going to be okay. America used to be a wiry young dude on a motorcycle, loud & proud, wind in his hair, out on the open road looking for opportunity and ready for trouble. Now we’ve become a nation of five year old girls riding our two-wheel birthday presents with training wheels locked on tight while sporting protective helmets, knee pads, elbow pads, shin guards, and a mouthpiece for good measure. And when we’re done with our ride, you’re damn right we expect to have a complimentary juice box and snack cake ready & waiting for us.
I spend my days dealing with people making financial decisions. Sometimes big financial decisions. Given the current state of the economy, those people, most people, aren’t playing to win anymore but instead are playing not to lose. Do I blame them? Not really. It’s human nature to circle the wagons when you’ve suffered losses. But if they continue to act in this fashion, they’re going to lose. Hell, we’ll all lose.
So what in the name of all that’s red, white & blue does any of this have to do with football? Nothing, and everything, really. In case you hadn’t noticed, football has not so quietly replaced baseball as America’s pastime. It’s tough, fast, and bold. It’s strong young men matching wits and determination on an acre-plus of fertile land, acting as hard working pistons in a profit machine which, despite its internal socialistic revenue sharing, owes much of its success to the capitalistic plain over which it roams. America is football. Football is America. And football, like America, is losing some of its spirit. When the league’s most decorated quarterback (ironically enough wearing a Patriot emblem on his helmet) is seen begging for a roughing call after being lightly bumped, well, it’s disturbing. It’s not his fault that roughing the passer rules include the grazing of a defensive players hangnail across a quarterback’s helmet but it is his fault, his choice, to turn to the referee to throw a yellow voucher his way. And it’s not just quarterbacks behaving this way. Can we even get through just one game, just one half anymore, without watching several plays where receivers act like they’re reaching for and tossing up an imaginary flag in order to beg for an interference call? My Lord, these guys aren’t allowed to be touched after five yards and are given every rules advantage in the world to get open and catch the ball unimpeded but when defended they act in such a fashion that you’d think they’d been mugged at gunpoint. Would James Dean, Clint Eastwood or Steve McQueen have responded this way? No, Hell no, and Are you f-ing kidding me?
The NFL makes no apologies for overprotecting its golden boys and will tell you that they’re doing so for the sake of keeping its product top-notch. After all, they’ll argue, who wants to see Jim Sorgi vs Brian Hoyer instead of Peyton Manning vs Tom Brady? True. They also do it because viewers generally prefer high-scoring games to defensive grinders. Also true. And it’s also about protecting assets by protecting their highest-paid employees. What owner wants to watch $5o million in guaranteed payroll get carted off the field with a shredded knee? So I don’t blame the NFL for the rules but that doesn’t mean that I, or you, have to like them. After all, it’s not our money. We want to see big hits. We want blindside snot bubblers. We want skeleton rattlers. We don’t want to see cheap shots (I’m looking at you, Kimo) but we do want to see, and vicariously feel, the big hit on the other team’s sniper after an afternoon of near-misses. We want to see which team’s quarterback is man enough to get thumped and get back up. We want to see gunslingers racing out of the pocket when necessary and not giving themselves up with a slide. Back in the day, the quarterbacks couldn’t , and wouldn’t, slide. Ever remember seeing little Fran Tarkenton slide? No way. Dude would wriggle away from a half dozen would-be tacklers before getting slammed to the frozen Metropolitan Stadium dirt, then get right back up and get ready to scramble some more. Fran the Man, like most of his time, was wreckless and fearless. As much as I hate to admit it, that’s much of the appeal of Big Ben. He’s a throwback who basically says, “hit me, I don’t care” and fights his way through it as best he can.
It’s always been the American way, sporting a devil-may-care attitude, and it’s mainly served us well. As Hans asked John McClane right before his demise in the first Die Hard, “ …who are you? Just another American who saw too many movies as a child? Another orphan of a bankrupt culture who thinks he's John Wayne? Rambo? Marshal Dillon?” John’s smartass answer was something about always being partial to Roy Rogers and then Yippee Ki Yay something-something, but what he was thinking, what we were all thinking was, “Uh, yes.” Hans didn’t get it. And all of us Americans watching knew that his character didn’t get it. I also think that 21 years later we’ve lost some of that. But, thankfully, I think it may be coming back.
They say that art imitates life and I mainly believe that to be true. More to the point, I believe that art often reflects social attitudes. Recently, at least in my little circle, art has been reflecting a comeback of the rebel mentality. In the season finale of Mad Men, Don convinces Roger, Burt and Lane to walk away from their cushy offices and stock options, to fire themselves and start over. On Sons of Anarchy, Jacks gets fed up with not being heard and announces that he’s “going nomad”. In the bookstores, Sarah Palin’s bestseller is appropriately titled “Going Rogue”. Say what you will about Palin but the mere fact that a hockey mom with little political experience can come down from Alaska and outdraw a lot of rock bands says something for the undercurrent that’s rising.
This country has found itself in a malaise similar to this several times before, most recently after the JFK assassination, and has always shaken itself (or been shaken) out of it. I believe that the tea parties and town halls this past summer will go down as a harbinger of a shift in attitude. At least I hope so. And I hope the NFL changes, too. I’m not holding out hope that they’ll change the rules on roughing or even the ticky-tack illegal contact nonsense but I am hoping that the players stop begging for the calls. I’m hoping that enough of them watch game film and start thinking that they look ridiculous. I’m hoping that they start thinking that their heroes wouldn’t beg like that. John Wayne didn’t beg. Hell, he didn’t even say “sorry” because that was “a sign of weakness”.
We need more Fran Tarkentons and Big Bens and fewer Tom Bradys. While we’re at it, give me more Harry Trumans and Teddy Roosevelts and fewer Harry Reids and Lindsay Grahams. More Clint Eastwoods and Steve McQueens, fewer Toby McGuires and Jon Cryers. More Mad Men and Sons of Anarchy and fewer Dr. McDreamies. This is the United States of America, built by men who like their steak medium and tender and their heroes rare and tough. Keep our brand of football tough and it’ll remain our past time. Start taking out too much of the danger and eventually the fans will start going “nomad”.
Now, on with the matchups….
Dolphins at Panthers-
Ronnie Brown is out of action with an ankle injury. Without him, the Wildcat is more like a nervous housecat with an intestinal disorder. On the bright side for Miami, Jake Delhomme has gone three straight games without throwing an interception so the law of averages would tell us that he’s due to get picked about nine times this week.
Pick: Jake Delhomme, four times…. Still, Panthers, 20 - 17
Steelers at Chiefs-
When a bully gets his ass handed to him, there are two ways he can respond after he picks himself up off the floor. He can take it out on the first person he sees, or he can lose his confidence and start doubting himself, walking away with his head hung low. Nothing funny there, just an observation. But I’ll tell you something that is funny. You know what Roethlisberger means in German? I’m told that it’s loosely translated as “beef that’s tainted with the herpes”.
Pick: Steelers, 28 -13
Seahawks at Vikings-
You know, there will be a game this year when Favre throws four or five interceptions and is making more ill-advised passes than Gary Busey at a wedding reception. It’ll be a game they shouldn’t lose but they will. Call me crazy but I kinda think that this will not be that game.
Pick: Vikings, 28 - 13
Bills at Jaguars-
The Bills got their Dick chopped off on Tuesday. Owner Ralph Wilson, apparently tired of thinking with his Dick, fired head coach Dick Jauron after a 3-6 start to the season and a24-33 record after three-plus years at the helm. Was it all Jauron’s fault. Nope. Did it need to be done? Probably. But personally, I think they got rid of the wrong dick.
Pick: Jaguars, 24 – 17
Falcons at Giants-
Here we have two low but equally-stacked players going all-in against each other. Winner stays alive for the Wildcard, loser has to get up from the table and should probably just leave the casino altogether and go get a three-egg breakfast at Denny’s. As we wait for the flop, the Falcons are holding three Jacks and looking for another or at least something that will give them a full house. The Giants have just a pair of Aces and have to pray for a ten of clubs to give them a straight flush. Okay, enough with the poker talk. Why didn’t one of you stop me? That was nauseating. However, all that talk about stacks has put two glorious things on my mind….
Pick: Giants, 24 - 23
Skins at Shirts (Cowboys)-
As the rest of the division scuffles, the Redskins look to continue their improbable rise to the top of the NFC East! Speaking of rising, I just took at the Redskins Cheerleaders new calendar. Talk about a stocking stuffer. Looks like they’re also catching up to the Cowboys in the cheerleader department. Don’t believe me; take a look for yourself…. It’s Cheerleader Posedown Time!
Pick: Skins, 24 – 20
Saints at Buccaneers-
Through their first four games, the Saints defense was giving up an average of 16 points. Over their last five games, they’re allowing an average of 26 points. That’s what we’d call a bad trend.
Through their first seven games, the Bucs offense was averaging just 17 points. In the last two, since Josh Freeman became the starting quarterback, they’re now averaging over 30 points per game. That’s what we’d call a good trend.
Through the first month of the season, I was averaging four Miller High Lifes on Sundays. Over the last six weeks, I’m averaging over nine Miller High Lifes on Sundays. That’s what we’d call Living the High Life.
Pick: Saints, 31 -27
Browns at Lions-
As soon as this game mercifully comes to its conclusion, Commissioner Goodell should just immediately walk to a podium placed at midfield and announce, “The (Cleveland Browns/Detroit Lions) are now on the clock.”
Pick: Tie, 3-3
Niners at Packers-
Damn the Niners, damn them straight to hell!
Pick: Packers, 24 - 13
Cardinals at Rams-
This matchup always confuses me. Maybe it’s because the Cardinals used to be the St. Louis Cardinals. Maybe it’s because there still is a team named the Cardinals in St. Louis. Maybe it’s because Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner used to be St. Louis Rams quarterback Kurt Warner. Maybe it’s because I’m easily confused and sometimes put into a trance by the swirling horn on the Rams helmets. What’s not confusing is the key to this game. The Rams do one thing, and only one thing, well- handing the ball to Stephen Jackson. The Cards do a few things well and one of them is defending the run. If they bottle-up Jackson, it could get ugly. If they can’t, it could be less ugly.
Pick: Cardinals, 31 - 16
Colts at Ravens-
Like the Cardinals – Rams, this one also pits one team playing another team who resides in the city where the one team used to reside before they left for another city but for some reason didn’t change their name. For some reason though, this one isn’t as confusing for me. But one person who is confused is Joe Flacco. The last couple of weeks, he’s looked as confused as Britney Spears watching a spelling bee (as a baby in a topless bar, as a blind lesbian in a fish market, as Keith Olbermann at an Ethics in Journalism seminar, as Nancy Pelosi at a balance-the-budget meeting, as my friend Johnny B trying to properly pronounce the word Chipotle…It’s Chi-pote-lay, not Chi-pole-tay. The T comes before the L, people. Please make a note of it). Over the last two weeks, he (Flacco, not Johnny B) has thrown two picks, no touchdown passes, is averaging just 175 yards passing while leading the Ravens to just 17 offensive points. Maybe he needs a cilantro-laced burrito from the Ravens Chipotle Burrito Club to clear his mind.
Pick: Colts, 23 - 17
Jets at Patriots-
You don’t suspect Belichek is looking to take out his frustrations on anyone, do ya? And if that’s not bad enough for the Jets, their defense is suddenly as easy to score on as Lindsay Lohan post coke-snort in the private party room of a bisexual dance club. Oh and I almost forgot…. J! – E! – T! – S! … Suck! SUCK! SUCK!!
Pick: Patriots, 49 - 3
Bengals at Raiders-
The Bengals have never won a game in Oakland. Never. Nine losses, zero wins. They’re O for Oakland. In fact, the only time they’ve ever beaten the Raiders on the road was a 45 – 21 victory in Los Angeles in 1988 (the Bengals last Super Bowl season). Just in case there’s some kind of curse going on here, I’ve recruited a witch doctor to settle the spirits. He tells me that he’s gonna need the bark of a redwood tree, four live crabs, a case of Linekugel, an MC Hammer cd, and some of John Madden’s eyebrow hair. Luckily, I have everything except for the redwood bark and he says we can use shavings off of my daughter’s redwood-stained play set, so I think we’re good to go. The incantation is going down in my backyard Saturday night at midnight if anyone wants to stop over.
Pick: Bengals, 27 - 16
Chargers at Broncos-
There’s an old Chinese proverb that says, “When you riding three-game losing streak and have Chris Simms as quarterback, you now riding four-game losing streak.” True dat.
Pick: Chargers, 24 - 13
Eagles at Bears-
Time for this week’s pop quiz…
Who was the last quarterback to not embarrass himself while wearing a Chicago Bears uniform?
a) Brian Griese
b) Rex Grossman
c) Kyle Orton
d) Kordell Stewart
e) Jim Miller
f) Cade McNown
g) Rick Mirer
h) Steve Walsh
i) Jim Harbaugh
j) Mike Tomczak
k) Jim McMahon
l) Vince Evans
m) Sid Luckman
n) Jeff Banks, a childhood friend of mine who sometimes wore a faded Gayle Sayers jersey when we played pickup games over at Bridgetown Fields.
Answer: n) although if it had ever gone public that Jeff was using a performance-enhancing Pop Rocks-Mt. Dew mixture before games, the answer would’ve been m).
Pick: Eagles, 23 - 14
Titans at Texans-
Titans owner Bud Adams was fined $250,000 for flipping off Bills fans multiple times near the end of the Titans 41-17 win last Sunday. Go ahead, read that sentence again.
Here’s his shining moment…
Crazy old country-fried coot. All he was missing was a white suit, a big cigar, and two bumbling sidekick deputies. So what’s ol’ Bud got in store for Texans fans on Monday night? He already flipped them off when he moved the Oilers to Tennessee twelve years ago, didn’t he? My advice to him would be to lay low with Roscoe & Enos and watch this one from his office in the back room of the Boars Nest.
Pick: Texans, 30 - 24
Posted by Smitty