Sunday, October 31, 2010

Coming up short

by: J E Cammon

It was touted as "America's Game of the Week." The Vikings carry Favre to Boston to play New England. I say carry because after fracturing two bones in his foot in last week's loss to Green Bay, it didn't seem like the 41 year old quarterback would be able to walk, much less drop back and get separation and scramble the way a successful qb in the NFL ought to (I'd include good decision making skills, but that has nothing to do with his foot, and his judgement is questionable even when healthy).

And true to form, the first quarter featured only a handful of passes. The hardest thing on Brett's plate seemed to be performing the hand-off for the stretch plays to keep up with the double digit hand offs to Peterson. He didn't limp (much), which likely has to do with the excellent chemicals given to him before the game to help him deal with the fact that he should be in a walking boot somewhere. So I guess all's forgiven. To paraphrase Troy Aikman, after everything we've seen of Brett, did anyone really think something like two damaged bones in his foot would stop him from playing (and continuing his streak)?

Which is a fair point. But for some reason, even though I had been looking forward to watching the game without anyone telling me it was the game to watch (I'm also curious about how Brees plays against the Steelers' D), Tavaris Jackson has been occupying my thoughts. You know, the guy who should be playing.

Because there's two kinds of NFL seasons. The first kind is the kind everyone thought the Dallas Cowboys would have, the run at the playoffs and then later the super bowl. The team is good enough to make it to the post season even with injuries and after that, anything can happen. The second kind of season is the kind those same Cowboys are going through right now, the re-building phase where that run to the play offs is put off in lieu of "figuring things out" and "finding our identity." And what with the Packers looking like they should and even the Bears' inexplicable record, it seems like Favre's "last" season is over and no one wants to believe it.

So then, what about next year? Or is the plan to try as hard as possible, to commit as many resources as necessary to making this year happen and disregarding the future? Moreover, even when there was a possibility that he might not start, that the streak might end, did Favre ever take the time to have any words with his backup? For all his faults, it's likely true that the man has forgotten more things about the game than a lot of younger players know. Today was his 292nd consecutive game, which means that if things continue as they are, he'll officially be Mr. 300 by the end of the season. Which if you don't know is the title of a movie starring the late great Bernie Mac. He played a formerly retired baseball player selfishly returning to the game to re-achieve a streak of his own. But in the end, he selflessly sacrificed that last hit not only for that team's season, but for the future of all the younger players on the roster.

It was as heart warming as it was fictional. And yet I still can't help but think about Favre's back-up. And his Vikings. That is, the team Minnesota could be if Brett Favre was doing less playing in his condition, and more teaching.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Heat has yet to Kindle

by: Tony Starks

Everybody knows that the pre-season doesn’t really mean a damn thing, but it’s interesting to point out that the Miami Heat finished with a loosing record of 3-4. While the team and the city that Lebron left in his wake posted a sterling 6-2 in the win/loss columns.

Was the “decision” the right one? Okay, so the point has to be made that there has been no D-Wade thus far for the Heat – we all know about the hamstring that took Wade down 3 minutes into the first preseason game. But still, Lebron and Bosh played some pretty big minutes, both averaging close the 30 minutes a game and leading their team in that category. And you can certainly argue that Lebron never played with someone as talented as Bosh in his 7 years with Cleveland. Even including the excuse of Wade’s injury, wouldn’t you expect better than 3-4?

Oh well, it’s all behind us now and today is the opening tip of the 2010-11 NBA Season, what’s suppose to be a the start of a 7 year reign in South Beach, a season that’s suppose to see the shattering of the ’96 Bulls’ 72 win season. Tonight we’ll get our first real taste of how the “Big Three, Tres Reyes™, LCD™,” or whatever the hell you want to call them, will play as a unit.

As a South Floridian transplant, I have to admit that I’m pulling for them. And as a sports fan, I like to see history – I as much as I dislike Tom Brady, I was a bit remiss when the Pats lost to the Giants in Super Bowl XLII. So I’m one of the few who is actually hoping that the Heat’s 3-4 preseason was just a new team trying to build some chemistry and not the foreshadowing of a humiliating reality check for Lebron’s “Decision to take his talents to South Beach,” and his bold proclamation of 7 NBA championships. But I believe tonight they’ll get the formula right and instead of the Heat just starting to kindle, we’ll see a spontaneous combustion!

Monday, October 25, 2010

About nothing

I just now realized why they don't give champions their rings, banners, and pennants in the off season. Well, one of the reasons, anyway. Tomorrow night, the Miami Heat will be starting their long awaited, oft-predicated "championship" season at Boston. If they beat the three party, there will be much ado about the dynasty Wade, James, and that other guy Bosh will build together.

However, to those of you who are on that particular wagon, you might want to have a look at a different team pre-labeled with greatness. They play in Dallas; their billion dollar stadium will host the super bowl; they have the most talented roster in their sport. And they're 1-5.

Even better, you might also want to tune in to another team playing that night. I'm not really sure who their opponent is because their opponent isn't nearly as important as the ceremony that will take place before the ball is tipped: the players on the LA Lakers get their rings for winning last year's championship. That's a good way to start a season, if you ask me, not only for the defending champions but for everyone else too that just might forget that the throne waiting at the end of a season's worth of red carpet isn't empty.

And of course something could be said about champions when looking at the New Orleans Saints (Cleveland, really? Cleveland?). It's possible that Kobe and company might fall flat. You only need so many rings, right? It's also possible that the Cowboys make the playoffs, and then host the super bowl (don't hold your breath). But that's why they play the games.

Monday, October 18, 2010

In the hereafter and embellishment

by: J. E. Cammon

On Tuesday, ESPN is debuting another of its documentaries in its 30 for 30 series, this time featuring Tim Richmond, who is remembered as living the way he drove. And he was a professional race car driver, which  probably means that he lived his life pretty fast. I would expect things to be 51/49, that is to say at least 51% of people on record remembering the man fondly for all his foibles, and no more than 49% having more bitter memories than sweet ones. Of course, all of this is after those memories were made.

Take the Brett Favre situation(s). Things are murky week in and week out, from off season to pre-season (at least for the past few years) but years from now, when they make the movie about him and his legend, a lot of the negativity is going to be left out, or rather forgotten. Conveniently. No one is going to say, "Hey you remember when Favre cheated on his wife even after she threatened to leave him? Fun times." No, it'll be five million yards this and thirteen hundred touchdowns that. We say that we'd like things to be more sophisticated, but it's only hot air, really. In the end, we won't take the necessary steps.

Take the collision situation. If you didn't see the hit on DeSean Jackson in the Falcons-Eagles game, I am 152% certain that you can find it on youtube. That wasn't the only incident Sunday either in a football weekend that was a bit more concussion-prone than most. No one talks about it until a few seconds after it happens. And I say that because no one cares until someone gets hurt, and even then that doesn't really sink in until the bodies are prone on the field, the players' still forms twisted unnaturally and the air goes out of the entire stadium around them.

But what fills that space is not horror; it isn't even shock. It's awe. Because the coliseum, for all its new innovations, its libation dispensers and televisions in the lavatories, is a very old construct in human society. Violence is one of those things that is awful in the present and romanticized as it gets folded into the past. Removed from the situation, we get to make the victors into heroes and the losers into villains, or the unworthy, or the tragic. And for long times, we've taken every opportunity to control it, to bottle it, sell it, and where necessary punish it. And likewise, Donta Robinson will likely be fined for a mistake, for something he wouldn't have been able to correct and still done his job (he didn't know Jackson wouldn't catch the ball, which is the only grounds for a receiver being defenseless). But this week in practice on every level of the game, coaches will tell their players that except for the possibility of helmet-to-helmet contact (it actually looked like his helmet struck Jackson's shoulder), that 'the awful collision' was a textbook hit.

Simply put, everyone knows the sand in the coliseum is red. They even know why. But changing that, actually changing that, would require too much change. After all, it is all fun and games until someone gets hurt. It's harmless flirting until the story breaks. And it's just a touchdown celebration until someone gets flagged.

Monday, October 11, 2010

He doesn't play fantasy football

by: J E Cammon

Recently, fantasy football has sapped my interest in the real sport it strives to imitate (or "for real" as Mr. Lewis asserts). I masquerade on my breaks from work as the manager for a team I've named, and lament over the small, terrible things that cause me to lose by a point, or even a tenth of a point. The delay of the Monday-night contest between the Jets and Vikings by lightning seemed like the nail in the coffin. I was going to catch up on other TV shows that I normally miss because typically I'm watching football. 

As it turns out, the storm was not an omen, but perhaps more like the almighty Himself was looking for a place to park His cloud. Because He had showed up to watch yet another Brett Favre show-stopper. And I openly admit that I'm completely glad that I never changed the channel. 

Okay, perhaps I'm being overly dramatic, given the horrible fist half, some of the footage slashed with droplets of rain so thick that it obscured visibility. But the second half, especially the fourth quarter, turned out to be why people (and by people I mean me) watch football. Because man exists, if for no other reason, than to ask questions. But a rare kind, many of them sportsmen, exist to answer them. And there was nothing so gripping than to watch Minnesota's miracle-worker (though I prefer Old Silver Fox) do his best to fend off quicker, hulking defenders, and then be crushed feebly to the ground. And then rise. There was nothing so amazing than to watch him rocket tight spirals from his back leg, off balance, falling down and then work his throwing elbow as if even he was afraid that its time was up. And then do it again. 

I can't predict the future. And actually even the immediate past is foggy, too, but I feel confident that when it came time for most viewers to turn the game off and go to bed, that they, like me, ignored the responsible impulse and kept right on watching. The storm even eased up considerably as if some spectator up above was moving clouds out of the way to get a better view. And on 3rd and 5, about three seconds after things had become desperate, one of the gunslinger's bullets hung in the air for about a whole minute, waiting for Fate's coin to stop spinning through the air and finally lay flat. It might've been a completion, which would lead to a first down, and others then finally a game-winning field goal. It might've been another Favre-live interception that ended with him holding his face mask to keep from reaching out and demanding he have the throw back. 

But I'm sure you know who it all went down. You were watching, just like me. Right now, I'm not afraid to say that the real, great fantasy would be more football like that.

J E Cammon is a writer working and living in the Atlanta area. Some of his writings can be found at He isn't the fan of any particular team. He's a fan of sport, and the sportsmen and women who practice the pursuit of perfection.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

NFC East: Week 4 Round Up

by: Autumn Arnett Jones

It was supposed to be the match-up of the week: Redskins @ Eagles, McNabb’s return to Philly, two of the decade’s most prolific quarterbacks struggling to redeem themselves in an exciting NFC East face-off.
What transpired instead was much less epic.  McNabb did not get booed as many predicted (and maybe hoped?).  Instead, Philly fans gave him a standing ovation when he was introduced for the Redskins.  Shocked?  As blunt as they can be, there is no arguing the five NFC East titles and one Superbowl appearance McNabb led the squad to in his 11 years in green and black. 

Here’s what was interesting: the Redskins’ defensive line learned how to hit. Hard. Mike Vick fell victim to the Redskins’ improvements and went out with a rib injury in the first quarter.  So much for the Monday morning storyline.  Enter Kevin Kolb, and the Eagles would struggle both offensively and defensively for the remainder of the game, making the last three and a half quarters painful even for Skins fans.  In the end, the Skins pulled out a sloppy win to sit atop the conference, but the team still has a lot of work to do if they’d like to remain in the number one spot. 

The Giants, Eagles, and Redskins all boast (if one could be so liberal as to say a .500 record is worth boasting) 2-2 records, and the Skins’ offense is shaky.  They made the offensive line improvements everyone cried for and traded their young, nimble quarterback for a seasoned veteran in McNabb.   In the short-run, it wasn’t a bad idea.  McNabb is a good quarterback and may have another good year or two left in him.  A better offensive plan, however, would have been keeping Jason Campbell and having both in rotation.  McNabb as #2 on the depth chart – and not only to be used if Campbell got hurt as Philly did with McNabb, but to add an additional threat to the Redskins’ offense -- might have been awesome. 

Jason Campbell consistently posted respectable stats with no protection from the O-line.  And no matter how many times he got sacked, the boy got back up and took another snap without so much as a grumble.  But now, because the team didn’t make it to the playoffs in the three years Campbell led, he’s been traded to Siberia, er, excuse me, Oakland.  The difficulty is Mike Shanahan seems not to have noticed that McNabb is injury-prone.  Even with decent blocking by the line, he is still guaranteed to go down by week 8 every season.  Relying on Rex Grossman to lead an offense is like relying on Kevin Kolb.  It’s all bad from there.
At the rate they’re going, the Redskins and Eagles will again both be relegated to NFC East bottom-dwelling. 
I’m just saying….

Autumn Arnett Jones is a journalist trying to figure out what’s next as the industry continues to evolve and traditional print media is phased out. She was the first female sports editor of Morehouse's Maroon Tiger, and has two awesome children who she's grooming to be Eagles/Lakers/Nationals/Longhorns fans, much to the dismay of her husband and father.  

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Ryder Cup, golf’s greatest event?

by: Tony Starks

Okay, so here’s the setting. Thousands of screaming sports fans dressed in their team’s colors, screaming and chanting, cheering their squad on. The players belt out sounds of joy and pump their hands to sky motivating the crowd to get louder and louder.

No folks, we’re not talking about the NFL here. We’re talking about golf. You’ve got to be kidding me, right? I know that’s what you’re thinking. But it’s for these very reasons that the Ryder Cup trumps any other tournament to claim the title of golf’s greatest event.

In every other event PGA Tour players are trying to do everything they can to beat out the next guy, but the Ryder Cup gives them something else to play for other than themselves: their country, their teammates. What other opportunity do you have to see Tiger Woods cheer when Phil Mickelson makes a birdie? I mean, these guys are painted as being arch enemies. And it’s not that they hate each other, they just don’t like each other very much. You won’t catch these guys having a beer together, taking in a movie or eating lunch at Perkins.

Anyway, I digress. The Ryder Cup, golf’s greatest spectacle. Week in and week out those guys are out there grinding on the Tour. Playing for big bucks, big trophies and the respect of their peers and the golfing community. But not once can I recall one of those guys being brought to tears because they came in second, or didn’t win the tournament.

If you had the chance to see the finishing hole of the Ryder Cup where Hunter Mahan duffed a chip shot and dropped to his knees in agony before Graeme McDowell made the putt to seal victory for the Europeans, than you would know that the Ryder Cup is about more than golf. If you saw the closing ceremonies when the Europeans were presented with the Ryder Cup, and Mahan had to hide face cover up the fact that he was balling like a baby while Phil Mickelson tried to calm him down like a big brother would do an inconsolable child who just dropped his ice cream cone. Almost saying “Come’on, quit crying. We’re in public.” If you saw that, than you would be certain that there is no other golf event like the Ryder Cup.

That’s what separates the this event from others. The emotion, the passion, the rivalry and the camaraderie. That’s what makes it golf’s greatest event.

Can hardly wait another two years, when the Ryder Cup to returns to American soil. see you at Medinah team Europe! Make sure to keep our trophy nice and shiny for us.

Tony Starks graduated from Morehouse College in 2007 with a BA in English. He currently serves as the Editorial Assistant for PGA Magazine.