Sunday, September 30, 2007

On the Couch, week four

For PV's thoughts on the Viking game, see "Coming off the Ledge: Packers 23, Vikings 16." "On the Couch" is a chance to talk about other NFL games. The title refers not only to sitting on the couch watching football, but to lying on the couch during psychoanalysis. This blog is therapy for me. And that means it sometimes needs to be a place for me to whine. Guess what? This is one of those days.

It's a good week to be grading papers: the Vikings lost to the Packers, and my Hazelweird League fantasy team is staring at an 0-8 week. I don't want to read anything about football this week, and I just want next weekend to come sooner. I suspect I'll get a lot of real work done this week.

Earlier this week I wondered whether Steve Smith should be benched on fantasy teams since David Carr is starting over Jake Delhomme for the Panthers. 32 yards later, I wish I had listened to myself.

My Hazelweird League fantasy squad has cursed another quarterback. Donovan McNabb 2007, join the fraternity that includes Kurt Warner 2002 and Daunte Culpepper 2005.

On a week like this, we have to remind ourselves there are things beyond football to live for. Oh, sure: Family, Church, Work. Of course. But there's got to be some more fun. There's musical theater. At least we still have that, and you never really lose with showtunes. And there's sex. Sex is more fun than football, right? And both Journeyman and Dirty Sexy Money have potential. Ah, hell, those shows don't have enough potential to redeem a crappy Viking season.

I always pay a little attention to the baseball playoffs for one reason: I want to see tortured fans have their pain assuaged with a championship. I know there are a lot of other team fanbases and city fanbases that have suffered a lot of disappointments and championship droughts, and I'm always happy for them when they get to see their teams win championships. So this year the city of Cleveland (no pro titles since 1964) and the city of Philadelphia (no pro titles since 1983) have contenders. And of course there are the Cubs. And the Padres could advance, too, and I don't recall any San Diego titles since the AFL was a separate league. So Cleveland, Philadelphia, San Diego, and Chicago, I'm hoping for you.

By the way, next year I'm following baseball. I don't care, I'm doing it. I'm a depressed Minnesota sports fan. The Vikings stink. The Al Jefferson Reformation (we've got too many Revolutions here, and we've got room for some Reformations) looks fun, but the Wolves aren't doing anything as long as Kevin McHale is the decision maker. The Twins are the best chance for a pro championship in Minnesota (or the Wild, but I have no idea what that's all about). I was a fan as a little kid when Kirby Puckett slapped a couple banners up there (the only pro banners in Minnesota since the Lakers moved to L.A.). I haven't paid attention to the Twins since Puckett retired, but I'm jumping back on the train now. Is there room, Twin fans? Can I root along with you to see the Twins win another title? Oh, hell, it's still baseball, and I'll still be bored. Nevermind. All the best, but I'll just soak in the misery of rooting for the Vikings and Timberwolves.

Thanks for listening to me bitch. I'll try do better next time.

Coming off the ledge: Packers 23, Vikings 16

Here's what we have. The Vikings are really not that far away from being a good football team. Unfortunately, each week they are close to being a good football team, which gives them losses this season by 3, 3, and 7 points (for what it's worth--nothing--the Vikings have outscored their opponents this season).

So yes, the Vikings aren't far from being a good football team, and that means that unless the team tanks, they're not likely to get blown out very often this season. However, they are still short of being a good football team, and that means they'll likely continue to lose close games because of incompetent offense and inconsistent pass defense.

They're not awful--that's why they are competing in close games. But they're not good--that's why they keep losing.

I don't even mind giving in to the despair. Despair is comforting in its way. But I regret giving in to the hatred, the hatred of seeing the Packers succeeding. That way madness lies. That's the path of the Dark Side.

Adrian Peterson and Sidney Rice
This team has a future. Adrian Peterson is, right now, one of the best running backs in the league. He's a hard runner, a quick runner, a great cutback runner, and a runner capable of breaking big plays (how does he have 10 carries for 108 yards in the first half, but only 2 carries in the second half? The Vikings should mix in Chester Taylor to keep Peterson fresh. But not in the fourth quarter of a close game. It's just so clear Peterson is so much better). Sidney Rice clearly had his best game as a pro: he was able to get separation and make tough catches.

We're not watching a team that isn't going anywhere--we're watching a team with talented young players developing. With young players like Adrian Peterson and Sidney Rice on offense, and E. J. Henderson and Kevin Williams on defense, this team will be back in the playoffs soon.

Love for "Brett"
In separate conversations, my dad, sister, and brother told me I was lucky to be at the game so I didn't have to listen to the announcers.

Marino and Favre
I saw Dan Marino play live in 1994. He torched the Vikes for 431 yards in a 38-35 Viking victory. For what it's worth--nothing--I was more impressed seeing Marino live than I was seeing Favre live.

Seeing Favre
I'll admit: a palpable, physical feeling came over me when Favre first ran onto the field to warm up. A mixture of awe and disdain for the man who I have seen thousands of times in video and picture form, a man who has dominated my sports fan life as much as any Minnesota player.

But Jim Marshall started 270 straight games.

The Experience at the Dome
It was a good experience seeing a Packer-Viking game at the Dome. There were a lot of Packer fans there, which meant the stadium was always loud for one reason or another. It was almost like being at a high school game when there are fans for everybody there and the fans have a certain momentum of their own.

I was rather despondent walking out after defeat.

Let me add another difference between the Packer fanbase and the Viking fanbase. There are more of them. That's just true. A Packer diehard and a Viking diehard are very similar (we walked around the tailgaters before the game and saw people dressed up as honest to goodness Vikings). If you're comparing individual Packer and Viking fans, the biggest difference is the color of the clothing.

But (and I know this from experience, attending college and working in Wisconsin) support for the Packers in Wisconsin is widespread. Every family roots hard for the team, and there are just lots and lots of hardcore fans (and even many of the casual fans have a bit of hardcore in them). There aren't as many Viking fans--there are a lot of families and people in Minnesota that might follow the team but don't really care about it deeply. So it doesn't surprise me that Packer fans can have such a strong presense at a Viking game in Minnesota (the location helps--Wisconsin is right there, while Green Bay is a haul from here. The lack of tradition and local appeal for the Metrodome is another reason Minnesotans aren't usually clamoring to get into the stadium). I don't think individual Packer fans are fundamentally, essentially superior to Viking fans. But rooting for the Packers has seeped into the culture of Wisconsin in a way that rooting for the Vikings hasn't been a part of the culture of Minnesota, so Packer Nation is larger and deeper than Viking Nation.

By the way, downtown Minneapolis really doesn't want people to be able to get to 94, or to St. Paul.

Viking Offensive Line
The Vikings have blocked well for the run and blocked poorly for the pass much of the season.

After the Bye
Before the season, it appeared September was the easy stretch for the Vikes. Now we can look back and see that the Vikings' losses were to teams with a combined 9-3 record. It also appeared that the four games after the bye were going to be killers, but now that stretch includes a game at 1-3 Chicago, home against an Eagle team that has been having its struggles, and home for 1-3 San Diego. So you never know--it's possible the Vikings' schedule actually gets easier.

The Vikings haven't won a road game against the Bears since 2000. That in itself would be a nice nugget of joy for the season (but Brad Childress's record in the NFC North is now 2-6, so I guess we'll just have to hope).

Life Sucks.


Saturday, September 29, 2007

Saturday Night Blizzard: Brett Favre is still chasing Jim Marshall

A day away until another visit to Thunderdome. A day away until more Viking Agonistes (goodness, could I be any more pretentious right now). The last three Viking victories over the Packers (all in calendar year 2005: the playoff win at Lambeau, the Edinger 56 yard field goal game at the Metrodome, and the Monday night win at Lambeau) each gave me feelings of euphoric joy that carried me for days. I don't want to have to wait longer for that feeling again; I want to have that feeling tomorrow.

Patrick Reusse talks to Chuck Foreman, who is getting inducted into the Viking Ring of Honor tomorrow.

Len Pasquarelli talks about his personal relationship to Marino and Favre. At Epic Carnival, Shorty says Dan Marino is still better than Brett Favre. Well, in the most objective thing I ever have or ever will write about Brett Favre, I find them to be pretty even.

Don Seeholzer says "Kelly Holcomb and Chester Taylor hope to get Minnesota Vikings' offense untracked this week." I don't really know what "untracked" means, and I don't think Seeholzer does either (although he probably didn't write the headline anyway). I mean, I know what it means, I just don't know what it means, if you know what I mean. Evidently a commenter at that article is annoyed too. For more on "untracked," see Language Log.

Bob Sansevere (via Fanhouse) writes about how nobody knows for certain if Jim Marshall started 270 consecutive games, or between 271 and 282 consecutive games (though some think it's 270). But it was at least 270, and that's more than Favre. Remember this, people. At least let Viking fans have this. I'm also pretty sure Bob Sansevere once offered me some promotional keychains at some sort of radio event. Can that be true? Can I have dreamt that?

JJ Cooper writes about Chester Taylor starting for the Vikes tomorrow (a little nugget from the above linked Seeholzer article), and Adrian Peterson coming off the bench. This weekend Holy Hitter and I discussed how Chester Taylor's return really does help AP (I won't call him AD. I won't). In the Kansas City game, Peterson was very sharp in the first half, but seemed worn down in the second half. If the Vikes can mix up the carries, Peterson can stay fresh and effective the entire game.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Behavior of NFL Coaches: controversial

Moderately Cerebral Bias conceived a blog series called "Controversial or Not." In the first installment, MCB argued that Tiki Barber is not controversial, and The Serious Tip declared Randy Moss to be not controversial.

This post is a part of this series. For more, see The Serious Tip on why Daniel Snyder should be more controversial, and Moderately Cerebral Bias on why Jesus should be a controversial NFL figure.

NFL players are sometimes controversial. If a player yells at an official, at a teammate, at a coach, we’re supposed to judge him as selfish or childish. If a player questions the authority of the coach in any way, it becomes a controversial subject for the media and fans. Somehow, it’s on Michael Vick and Terrell Owens to be role models to children, and if they fail, shame on them.

But what about NFL coaches?

Coaches are controversial for how they coach and the decisions they make, but their general behavior is generally held as non-controversial. For some reason, it’s not on coaches to set good examples for children. But let’s look at the examples some NFL coaches are setting.

Authority Figures Can Berate Their Underlings.
Tom Coughlin screams at his players in a demeaning, abusive way. Jon Gruden grimaces at mistakes by his players, as if the player personally affronted Gruden. Coaches can yell at players, can complain about player performance to the media, can act as mean-spirited despots if they choose. Is that what kids should see? Authority figures are absolute monarchs over their realm, and can tyrannically eviscerate those under their authority?

Authority Figures Can Pass Blame and Avoid Responsibility.
I’ll never forget the ending of the Titans-Steelers playoff game in 2003 (after the 2002 season). A questionable roughing the kicker penalty was partly responsible for the Titans defeating the Steelers. As the game ended, the officials were jogging off the field. Steelers’ coach Bill Cowher (widely respected by the media) ran down the field. He ran to stand in front of the head referee. He screamed into his face, pointing and yelling. At the press conference after the game, Cowher talked about how sick it was to have a game end like that. It wasn’t his fault and it wasn’t his team’s fault: the officials screwed him over. And now he can yell and berate those officials, he can complain about it, he can pass blame onto another source. When players try to pass blame, they are criticized for failing to take responsibility for their actions. Coaches do it all the time, and are generally still respected. Again, is this what we want to see? Authority figures responding to failure with screaming anger, and blaming others for their own failures?

Authority Figures Can Treat Others As Less Than Human.
Watch old press conference footage of Bill Parcells or Mike Ditka or a whole host of other NFL coaches. They yell at the members of the media. They dismiss them. They demean them. They evade their questions. Generally, they are allowed to treat members of the media with total disdain, as a sub-human species unworthy of the slightest politeness, dignity, or respect. Of course, if players are rude to members of the media, they become sources of constant criticism. Coaches generally do it and get away with it. Again, is this what we want kids to see? That when they reach a position of power, they don’t have to respect other human beings anymore? They have power and authority, and now they have the right to treat people like crap?

I’m not trying to be the morality police, running around telling everybody how to act and how their behavior is influencing children. But a lot of announcers, commentators, and writers (those who play a major role in driving controversy) are. When players complain, they’re judged. When players are rude, they’re judged (think about Peter King praising draft prospects for calling reporters “sir”—he expects players to be polite to him). When players express themselves, in anger or in joy, they’re judged. Essentially, when players act like coaches act all the time, they get criticized for it.

Certainly coaches and players are in different roles, and different behavior is required and expected for each role. But why does that particular role affect the acceptance of the player or coach complaining about calls, berating each other publicly, or dismissing the media? The role really shouldn’t matter: part of this is just human decency. But we treat the players as controversial, and pretty much ignore the coaches.

The behavior of coaches should be more controversial than it is—especially in a context when almost all player behavior is controversial.

National Friday League, week four

MPR tells me this game is a hot ticket. I'm really sort of amazed that I'm attending a Packer-Viking game, and one in which Favre is still the quarterback for the Packers. I look forward to spending the day in my seat right in front of a big advertisement (it's really nice attending a game with nobody sitting behind you. Seriously). And there's good reason to sit through halftime, as Chuck Foreman enters the Ring of Honor.

Since it's Packer week, we get to hear from Packer fans about how the Vikings haven't won a Super Bowl, how we're lousy fans for this, and all that. So I thought I'd chime in not with the adolescent jokes about the attractiveness of the fans or childish puns like "Viqueens," but actually examine the fundamental differences between Viking and Packer fans. What is the difference between a typical Packer fan and a typical Viking fan?

1. Geography. Let's not kid ourselves: which state we're born (or which team our families grow up rooting for) pretty much dictates which team we root for.

2. Packer fans tend to think being a Packer fan makes them superior fans. I've encountered this attitude many times in my days in Wisconsin. Packer fans seem to generally see themselves as more loyal and more devoted than fans of any other team.

3. Viking fans tend to expect failure and disappointment more than Packer fans. Packer fans have had their disappointments (4th and 26), but their team has also won a lot of championships. Viking fans root for a team that has never won a championship and has had seasons end in highly dramatic and traumatic fashion (Nate Wright, Gary Anderson, Nate Poole), and these events have tended to make us, on some level, expect the worst.

Without engaging in immature, foolish name-calling, do you see other differences between Packer and Viking fans?

We might also remind readers of wwtb?s message for fans of teams that have championships, and his feelings about Packer fans living in the Twin Cities.

The actual game? Who knows. The Packers will throw a lot: maybe that will mean a lot of turnovers in Thunderdome, maybe it means the Packers torch the Vikings for long drives. Hopefully the Vikings can run the ball against a stout Packer defense (and if they could complete a pass or two over 10 yards, all the better).

Now that Denver has Champ Bailey AND Dre Bly, does that mean they can stop both Marvin Harrison AND Reggie Wayne? I guess no, and that it doesn't matter anyway--the Colts can run, the Colts can find other pass catchers, and the Colts can seemingly play defense. But it will be fun.

Philadelphia-New York
I expect Donovan McNabb to so utterly destroy the New York secondary that I'm seriously considering subbing Kevin Curtis in for (possibly) Reggie Wayne in fantasyland. For some reason, this game seems fun to me.

Mark Craig writes that young QBs often struggle in their first few starts, and we need to be patient with Tarvaris Jackson.

MDS writes about why Roy Williams isn't quite as cheap as reported (but Roy, you have to be a good tipper. I respect cheapness: George Costanza is my fictional hero, and I write for a blog that is occasionally about frugality. But you have to tip delivery people and waiters well--you've got to respect the working people. I actually tend to order carry-out just to avoid having to tip a delivery person, actually, but if a delivery person is coming to your door, giving him or her some change, man. Just round up. Or better yet, stay cheap, but keep a stack of autographed cards by the door to give out. Or do whatever you want, and score 6 TDs this week for my fantasy team. Whatever you'd prefer).

Daily Norseman doesn't think the Metrodome should honor Favre if he breaks the TD record.

In pointing out the racist history of Washington's nickname I Dislike Your Favorite Team notes that L. Frank Baum used the word in arguing for genocide. Ugly. I wonder if Gregory McGuire knew this when he wrote Wicked, since that book inverts Baum's heroes and villains, and features an oppressive and violent government that marginalizes and destroys groups of people and beings.

Enjoy your weekend everybody. Except Packer and Bear fans.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Top Three Moments in Announcers Gushing Over Favre

Favre hurts team but has fun: everybody laughs.
In the 2004 season playoff game between the Packers and Vikings at Lambeau Field, not much had gone right for the Packers in the first half, but as halftime neared, the Packers were driving. With under a minute left they were near the goal line. Favre scrambled past the line of scrimmage and was heading toward the end zone; it appeared that he could make it in. He could have dove, risking a hit but scoring the touchdown. At the very least, he'd be tackled at the one yard line and the Packers would have a good shot at a touchdown. But to avoid taking a hit, Favre--well past the line of scrimmage--zings an underhand pass to an open (obviously) receiver. Favre gets called for an illegal forward pass past the line of scrimmage.

The announcers (Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, and Cris Collinsworth) thought it was a hoot. They were laughing and laughing. We were told how much fun Favre was having. We were told the referee was laughing (it didn't appear that he was). We listened to laughter and enthusiasm over the entertaining Favre.

Of course, Favre's penalty hurt the Packers: instead of either scoring or getting the ball at the one, they got backed up (eventually the Packers missed a field goal). Favre hurt his team with a penalty, but instead of talking about that, the announcers laughed with and praised Favre.

Joe Theismann thinks Brett Favre can rescue humanity from all its ills.
During one Sunday night game on ESPN, the announcers talked about their conversation with Favre that week. Joe Theismann chimed in that he wished everybody in America could sit down to talk with Favre for five minutes.

Why? Is Favre some sort of holy man, a spiritual guru that could bring all individuals to enlightment in five short minutes? Could Favre provide answers to all of society's problems? To the great philosophical questions of the ages? I'm still not sure. But Theismann wants everybody in America to sit down for five minutes with Brett Favre. We'd all be better off if we could just spend a few moments with the emanating spiritual being of perfection that is Brett Favre.

Favre throws interceptions, evidently because his receivers are cowards.
In a 2002 game against the Buccaneers, Brett Favre threw four interceptions. On one interception, Favre threw a slant pass to Terry Glenn, and it appeared Glenn stopped on the play, allowing a defender to catch it. Cris Collinsworth proceeded to chastise Glenn not merely as a poor excuse for a football player, but a poor excuse for a human being. Glenn was a coward. How could Glenn possibly leave Favre hanging like that? We mustn't blame Favre for such an interception: that was all Glenn's fault.

Later in the game, Brett Favre badly overthrew a wide receiver in the middle of the field and was intercepted. Cris Collinsworth was incredulous. How could this keep happening? How could receivers keep quitting on routes? All these atrocious and lazy wide receivers were making Brett Favre look bad. Of course the replays kept showing the ball flying far over the head of the intended receiver. Troy Aikman pointed out that it was a bad pass. Collinsworth couldn't take it: it was all horrible wide receiver play that was tarnishing Brett Favre.

Only later did Collinsworth reluctantly admit that the more times he watched it, that interception "was on Brett." Only reluctantly could Collinsworth admit that an interception (on a horribly overthrown pass) could be the quarterback's fault, and his criticism of Favre was an ah shucks first name chiding, not the virulent, vitriolic anger he showed when he thought it was a wide receiver's fault for the error.

Please, share your favorite moments in announcers gushing over Favre.

Marino and Favre

It's somewhat ridiculous how similar the career numbers of Dan Marino and Brett Favre look. Marino played in 242 games, Favre 244, and here are how their career numbers average out per game:

Dan Marino: 20.5 of 34.5 for 253.5 yards, 1.7 TDs, 1 INT
Brett Favre: 20.9 of 34.2 for 239.2 yards, 1.7 TDs, 1.1 INT

The differences are pretty negligible: by the cumulative averages, Favre and Marino are virtually the same player.

Let's examine some other numbers to compare the two players.

Career High TD Passes in a Season: Marino 48, Favre 39
Kurt Warner and Peyton Manning join Marino as the only QBs with 40+ TD passes in a season; Marino is the only QB to do it twice, tossing 48 in 1984 and 44 in 1986.

Career High Passing Yards in a Season: Marino 5084, Favre 4413
Another big advantage for Marino; as I've written before, 5084 is a very sturdy record.

30+ TD Pass Seasons: Favre 8, Marino 4
This is the Favre record I'm most impressed with: it's just tremendous to have 8 seasons with 30+ TD passes, especially considering 4 is the second most. I'm more impressed with a high number of really good seasons than I am with cumulative numbers. Favre also has a total of 12 seasons with 20+ TD passes; Marino has 13.

4,000+ Yard Seasons: Marino 6, Favre 4
This is a pretty arbitrary number, since Favre has another 7 seasons with 3,800+ yards, and Marino has another 2 seasons with 3,900+ yards.

These are two very, very impressive careers: you can pretty much pick either over the other and justify it. Sure, Favre has the Super Bowl ring, but if Marino played with a #1 defense, and had Desmond Howard setting up field position, he would probably have such a ring too. And they're both winners: Favre has 149 wins as starter, Marino 147, and both have been known for fourth quarter comebacks. It's hard to make an argument that either Favre or Marino is clearly better than the other. Whether you prefer one over the other will depend on your allegiances and your personal preferences.

A few other notes:

While there is a lot of talk about Favre potentially breaking Marino's TD record and Blanda's INT record against the Vikings this week, did you know that Favre is just 10 attempts away from tying Marino for the career record in passing attempts? I'll be witnessing history! Egh.

While I dislike Favre immensely and like Marino immensely, I have to admit, it will feel special if I get to witness this record live, especially this record, which has meant a lot to me (remember, Marino broke Fran Tarkenton's record of 342 TD passes).

Really, I just want to see the Vikings win against the Packers. A Minnesota win over Green Bay gives me a feeling of physical euphoria that carries me joyfully through life; a Green Bay win over Minnesota drives me into the depths of anger and despair.

Fantasy Dilemma: Steve Smith without Jake Delhomme

The Charlotte Observer (via Ballhype) reports that David Carr is probably starting for the Panthers this week. Will Brinson asks whether Carr is a valid fantasy starter this weekend. I've got a different question:

Should Steve Smith go to the bench?

On it's own, that question has an obvious answer: God no. So let's revise that:

Should Steve Smith go to the bench, provided you've got a viable alternative?

Last season, Steve Smith caught no TDs when Delhomme was out (and even had zero receptions in one game). Carr is better than Chris Weinke, and he did enjoy forcing it to Andre Johnson as much as Delhomme enjoys forcing it to Smith. But Carr doesn't seem as likely to connect on deep passes with Smith, he doesn't have the same chemistry with Smith Delhomme has, and at any rate they'll be facing a tough Tampa defense.

I'm thinking of benching Smith, one of the top 2 or 3 fantasy WRs, this week. To personalize this, I can start four of the following: Adrian Peterson, Laurence Maroney, Steve Smith, Reggie Wayne, or Roy Williams (I suppose I could slip Kevin Curtis in against a weak Giants' secondary, but I won't). I planned on leaving Maroney on the bench, but with Jake Delhomme out, I'm now considering benching Steve Smith.

Would you bench Steve Smith if you've got a viable alternative? The liars in the Hazelweird League are free to answer (though we should ignore them). And I'm not raising the question just for myself, but for all those fantasy owners out there loving the Steve Smith Experience. Is this a week to bench Smith?

Hello, My Name is Holy Hitter and I am . . .

Hello all, my name is Holy Hitter. I write on this blog every now and then, but please do not confuse me with the creator PV. Pacifist Viking. You see, I am no English teacher and I don't really analyze everything I write for logical fallacies, etc.

Remember pay attention to who the author of each post is, because I don't want people to think that my sometimes wild and crazy and willy-nilly rants on Childress, the Vikings, PFT, and whatever I might rant about are written by Pacifist Viking.

All that babble is to say look below the post and see what name is authoring the post. It could be one of three people:

Holy Hitter (me)
What Was That Bang! (some dude PV knows)
Pacifist Vikings (the creator and maintainer of this blog)


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

I might not be a head coach, but . . . . .

Check out this question and answer posed to Brad Childress found at

"Q: Are you going to give Antoine Winfield his wish and let him take Donald Driver?
A: It’s really kind of more in-depth than that. He going certainly to see Donald Driver by virtue of the fact that he plays his corner position and he also plays in the nickel. If we do that then that means he has got to follow him off the field when Driver comes off the field, and I don’t necessarily want that to happen."

Okay, maybe I am misreading this, but it really doesn't make any sense to me. "It's really kind of more in-depth than that."? Well Brad I figured this much and I would guess most people would realize that a defensive scheme is going to be more in depth. But seriously how idiotic is this statement, "If we do that then that means he has got to follow him off the field when Driver comes off the field, and I don't necessarily want that to happen." Holy Crap!

I might not be a head coach in the NFL, but even I know that having Antoine Winfield cover Driver no matter where he is on the field does not mean that he has to go off the field when Driver comes off the field. It means that when Driver is on the field then the scheme needs to be adjusted to allow for Winfield to cover him no matter where he lines up even if he lines up in the slot. This might be the most idiotic answer to a simple question that I have ever seen and Childress' logic is flawed.

Wednesday Blizzard

I'm finding myself easily annoyed with people and things this week, and in a way that I might not be if the Vikings won Sunday. How silly, really. Why should such a thing affect mood so profoundly? Alas...

Here's CHFF's Big Play Index through three weeks.

Here's Dr. Z's power rankings. I don't do power rankings, but if I did I'd call it something else; why should everyone's power rankings be called power rankings? Why not "list"? And should it be "rankings" or "ranking"?

Viking Update says to expect the Packers to pass a lot Sunday.

The Ragnarok wants Brett Favre to throw interceptions this week. In all seriousness, if Favre ties George Blanda's INT record, the Metrodome PA better make notice of it, so we can all give our sarcastic cheers. I just realized, it's Wednesday, and on Sunday I'll be attending a Viking-Packer game.

Nosebleeds wants Brady Quinn to play now. Play Now! Like where George worked for two episodes.

Go, smile, live. just made steam shoot out my ears.

See my profile at Check out what it says under "My Blog":

"This member doesn't have articles in their blog"

Perhaps my brain is just working its way into paper grading mode, and that's why I'm leaping out of my seat. "Their"? Who is "their"? "Member" is singular (that's why it's "This member doesn't," instead of "These member don't"--obviously the writer got the rest of the grammar right). "Their" is a plural possessive pronoun, and shouldn't be used to refer to a singular subject. The correct grammar form here is "his or her." Hell, since the site requires members to supply their genders, the site could choose correctly between "his" or "her."

I will rage, rage, rage, against using "they" or "their" as singular genderless pronouns. Sure, there's legitimate debate about the history and current usage of forms of "they" as singular pronouns, but I'll always stand firmly on one side of that debate. When I'm dead, I won't complain about this anymore. But not a day sooner.

Antoine Winfield speaks wisdom

In last season's Packer-Viking at Lambeau Field, I watched incredulously as Donald Driver lined up in the slot and consistently got covered by a linebacker (and consistently got open). Can a defensive scheme be so fixed that when an opponent's one viable WR threat lines up in the slot, he must be covered by a linebacker? Couldn't the Vikings shift a cornerback like Antoine Winfield or Fred Smoot to the slot to cover him?

No, lining up from the slot meant Driver got to torch linebackers and find openings in zones in the middle of the field. And Driver just destroyed the Vikings last season, netting 6 catches for 191 yards and a touchdown in the first matchup, and 9 catches for 99 yards in the second matchup.

According to the Star Tribune, Antoine Winfield has a better idea.

"Winfield said Monday that he plans to ask the Vikings coaching staff to match him up against Green Bay receiver Donald Driver on Sunday."


"'I know that's where the ball is going to go,' Winfield said, alluding to Driver. 'So, of course, the only way I'll be able to make a play is to guard him.'"


"His message was short but crystal-clear. 'If I'm not matched up on Donald Driver one-on-one something is wrong,' he said."

I'm just a schmuck sitting in my living room watching football. But Antoine Winfield knows about 10,000 times more about NFL passing coverage than I do. And I think he's right. Last season Mike Tomlin didn't alter the defense, and allowed Donald Driver to crush the Vikings in the middle of the field. Hopefully Leslie Frazier sees things the same way Winfield does, and decides to make the necessary alteration in the defensive scheme, covering Driver with a defensive back wherever he lines up on the field.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Epic Carnival

Our own What was that bang? is now a contributor over at Epic Carnival. After screwing up the posting and formatting repeatedly, his first post is now up: "Fantasy Flukism: the Two-Point Conversion." So check out wwtb? at Epic Carnival, and stick around to check out the other fine EC writers.

Time to Socialize

If you have been checking out, you will have noticed that a new vikings social network (website) has been launched. I haven't had time to investigate it, but I am guessing it is a sort of Myspace or Facebook type thing. I will be going there later tonight and deciding if I want to take the leap and publicly display my allegiance to the Vikings via a social network website. The web site can be found here.

Is this what being a football fan has come to?


Since TV shows I like usually get canceled, I may as well use what little platform I have to shill (unpaid, of course, though if any network wants me to pay me to shill, I'll do it) for these TV shows.

First, the sports hook that allows me to write about this here:

In Journeyman, Dan's first "trip" back through time takes him to 1999. He walks into a San Francisco bar to find everybody celebrating and cheering: on the TV 49er WR Terrell Owens is walking off the field. Dan asks what happened, and is told Owens just won the game with a great catch (presumably, this is the playoff game between the 49ers and Packers after the 1998 season, when Owens caught the game-winning TD from Steve Young). Incredulous, Dan says "That game was 8 years ago!"

There are a few other sports references: he meets his wife at a bar and talks about the horse race on TV (the first of two suggestions he once had a gambling problem), and his "trip" to 1987 features people on TV talking about the NFL strike.

There, I've justified this post. Now...

You should watch Journeyman. It's like Quantum Leap but with more unanswered questions and mystery, and more focus on the main character's life and history. And come on! It's starring Lucius Vorenus from Rome! It's on NBC, on Mondays at 9:00 central, and if you missed the pilot, evidently it's playing again on the Sci Fi Channel. It's a good show, engaging on several levels.

Packer fans living in Minnesota

There are a lot of Wisconsin transplants living in the Twin Cities, meaning there's a fair number of Packer fans living here. And here's what I've got to say to them:

Good for you.

If I lived in the cowshit smelling void that is Wisconsin, I'd move to the gorgeous cultural center that is Minneapolis-St. Paul too. And this weekend, as Wisconsin residents pile into the Twin Cities to get tickets to the Viking-Packer game, I don't blame you for coming and making a weekend of it; after all, I know that a visit to the Mall of America counts for you as a cultural excursion.

Sure, the Metrodome sucks. But we're too busy supporting the Walker, the Guthrie, the Ordway, the Minneapolis Institute of the Arts, and the Orpheum to build a stadium for football. So you can keep your Lambeau Field as an urban landmark (and you can keep your Dahmer and your McCarthy too); we'll keep our Spoonbridge and Cherry.

So I'm happy that Packer fans want to plan their vacations here, and even want to come live here. You're welcome to come here and continue rooting for your team in the piss yellow and vomit green jerseys.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Coming off the ledge: Chiefs 13, Vikings 10

This is PV's Viking game post; for comments on other NFL stories and games, see "On the Couch, week three."

These are dark days for the Minnesota faithful. The Vikings have lost consecutive road games by 3 points. The offense is struggling terribly, producing just 10 points of its own per game. There seems to be no threat whatsoever in the passing game, and evidently no answers to the passing problems currently on the roster. The Vikings are 1-2 and may be squandering a great defense. Around the league, the Packers are once again good, starting 3-0 behind quality play from Brett Favre. Favre has just tied the record for career touchdown passes; he could break the record in the Metrodome in front of Viking fans. And onetime Viking hero Randy moss is helping the dominant team of the decade look even more dominant.

The world is bleak. But is there a studious monk at an obscure German university, ready to emerge and rescue us from our corrupted faith? We can only hope and wait: right now, all appears lost.

So close
In a 3 point loss, the Vikings were oh so close to between 10 and 14 more points. It appeared Visanthe Shiancoe caught a TD pass, but hte refs saw the play differently: the Vikes settled for a field goal. The Vikings were a few inches from completing a TD pass to Robert Ferguson. They were at least in field goal range, but took a sack and got no points. And another time they were in field goal range but took a penalty and a running play loss to get out of field goal range. The Vikings could easily have had 13, 16, 20, 21, r 24 points. And it is these types of losses that I take personally as a fan, mulling over for hours how it all could have gone differently.

The problem with instant replay
The quality of the network broadcast should not impact the actual competition of the game. Unfortunately, it does.

In the first half, it appeared Visanthe Shiancoe caught a touchdown pass. An official near the play saw it differently. The Vikings challenged the play, and from the video, it appears extremely unlikely that the ball hit the ground. But the referee did not see evidence to overturn the play.

Do officials have camera angles that are not shown on TV? I am not aware that they do. And unfortunately, Vikings-Chiefs was a fairly unimportant game, meaning it got a low ranked broadcasting crew. There were few good replay angles throughout the game. If the game were the Sunday night game, or even covered by the Buck-Aikman crew, there likely would have been more and better camera angles, and it may have been conclusive that Shiancoe did catch the ball. Unfortunately, no such camera shot exists.

The play cost the Vikings 4 points in a 3 point loss. I support instant replay, but I wish there were a better system than dependence on the quality of the TV crew's coverage of the game. If the NFL is going to rely on network coverage for a system that impacts actual competition, it may have to dictate more cameras be used.

Brad Childress
Let's say it: if the Vikings fail to make the playoffs this season, and the offense looks no better as the season goes along than it does now (meaning, scoring one touchdown a game), then the Vikings should FIRE CHILDRESS THEN!!!!!! I feel if a coach doesn't make the playoffs in three seasons, it is fair to fire him. But if in two seasons the team shows no significant progress offensively, then those responsible for the offense must be held accountable. I still think the personnel in the passing game is the problem; however, it is up to Childress to get the most production possible out of the personnel he has. With the instant production of Adrian Peterson and a strong offensive line, the Vikings need to produce something in the passing game this season. If they don't, it's on Childress to answer why they haven't.

The Viking run defense completely shut down Larry Johnson (the Chiefs kept trying to run, but it consistently failed: don't tell me the run defense is overrated because teams give up on it knowing they can pass). Unfortunately, the defense had two flaws Sunday:
1. There was no pass rush on Damon Huard.
2. Dwayne Bowe dominated Cedric Griffin in the second half
This Viking defense has been very impressive for three consecutive games, especially against the run. It is encouraging, too, how many of the team's solid defensive players are in their 20s: Kevin Williams is an All-Pro, and I'm extremely excited to watch E.J. Henderson play middle linebacker with the Vikings for the rest of his career--he's outstanding out there. And there are other good young defensive players: while the Vikings look like a bad team right now, they are clearly building a team to compete.

I'm having a lot of trouble talking myself off this ledge though.

On the Couch, week three

I thought it was over. I thought we were done dealing with the Packers as a good team with Brett Favre at quarterback. It now appears that's not the case. Green Bay looks like a good team (despite no running game--that will hurt them at some point). Brett Favre looks like a good quarterback. It's one more season desperately rooting against the Packers every week. It's one more season of no relaxation until the Packers are eliminated from championship contention. Because if the Packers win yet another championship before the Vikings win one, I'll spend my life in hatred and anger and loathing that I don't want to imagine right now.

I know: I'm a hateful and petty sports fan. Like Dostoevsky's underground man, "I'm a blackguard, a scoundrel, an egotist, a sluggard. [...] I am the nastiest, most ridiculous, pettiest, stupidest, most envious of all the worms on this earth." And you would be too if you were a Minnesota Viking fan who lived and worked a significant portion of your life in Wisconsin. It's petty and small and hateful, and everything I try not to be in "real life," but I don't want Packer fans to get any more pleasure out of sports fan life than they already have.

Randy Moss
Randy Moss, elite wide receiver, is another thing that I thought was over. But it's not. It's all too real. He looks as good as he's ever been. And he's doing it for the team that has already won three Super Bowls this decade. I've said it before and I'll say it more and more throughout the NFL and NBA seasons: nuts to you, Boston fans.

Donovan McNabb
This is the fantasy football quarterback I dreamed of all summer. And I don't give a crap what any of you prosaic bourgeois numbskulls think: those Eagle throwback uniforms are SWEET!

Fantasy Football Depth
To build a successful fantasy football squad capable of competing for 17 weeks, you likely try to obtain some depth. This can be frustrating early in the season, as you're likely leaving some good scorers on the bench. But bye weeks start next week: now that depth helps you.

Dirty Work
I caught Dirty Work on TV this weekend; it was like reading bowdlerized Shakespeare. Every cut or altered line made me visibly wince.

Fantasy Football Dud Running Backs
Through three games, Ladainian Tomlinson has been disappointing, Maurice Jones-Drew and Reggie Bush have been nonexistent, and Steven Jackson, Larry Johnson, and Laurence Maroney have yet to score a touchdown. Every year produces fantasy running back busts, but this season, a lot of highly touted fantasy running backs have done exactly squat. Now you have to decide: which ones do you buy low on, expecting improved production the rest of the season. I don't know, but...

The Reformation
We have too many revolutions at this site; now we're starting some reformations. In the Hazelweird League, a standard starting lineup features two RBs and two WRS, but you are allowed to substitude a third WR in place of a second RB, so you can start one RB and three WRs. I've been starting Reggie Wayne and Steve Smith at WR, Adrian Peterson and Laurence Maroney at RB, with Roy Williams sitting on my bench, scoring useless TDs every week. I can tell myself at least he's not scoring for anybody else's team, but that's little consolation. So Laurence Maroney can go to the bench until Bill Belichick considers him worthy to score touchdowns. It's time for a Reformation to spread throughout the land: the Three Wide Receiver Reformation. So Roy Williams, Reggie Wayne, and Steve Smith, get ready to team up together to carry a revitalized faith to my fantasy football team. This Three Wide Receiver Reformation brings a new devotion and energy to the pure of heart, those faithful souls who grow weary of an empty faith of running backs.

Thanks to Holy Hitter for providing good Sunday posts while my new modem sat at a warehouse all weekend waiting to be delivered today (or tomorrow).

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Al Michaels: You Just Don't Get It!

"I guarantee you one thing this week folks. Grossman will get 100 times the criticism as McNabb." -Al Michaels

Al, you just don't get it do you. McNabb was not complaining about the reaction to his horrible performance last week. That interview with HBO was done before that game even happened last week. McNabb was talking about a systemic problem (as perceived by him) of black QBs being forced to answer questions that he felt white quarterbacks didn't have to answer to.

Your flippant statement, Mr. Michaels, just further complicates the issue and essentially writes off the issues of race that McNabb was trying to address. Yes Grossman will face criticism, he always has and always will. He sucks. Your statement essentially means that you believe McNabb's criticism came from poor performance, but McNabb was talking about questions/criticism that even occur when he is succeeding. Grossman's criticism comes from the fact that he stinks.

I know you were just trying to make a smart comment tying in current issues in the week with the current game, but your statement (while probably not intentional) just writes off what McNabb was actually trying to say.

Doom and Despair?

Quick and initial thoughts on the game:

(1) We should have won that game. Period. Shiancoe caught that touchdown and the replay was clear on that.
(2) Holcomb showed signs of life, but I am not convinced after one game. I am not convinced the Vikings will ever have a passing game. They keep missing the long passes when they are open. Holcomb looked comfortable in the pocket. I reserve judgment until after the Packers game.
(3) The Vikings D looked good, but again struggled against the pass. Especially Cedric Griffin needs to improve, he was involved in 10 pts for KC. The first was the big 3rd and long play where he failed to wrap up Sammie Parker. You have to wrap up the WR when your team is blitzing because help is not right behind you. Dwayne Bowe had an amazing catch against him also for the TD, but I am starting to wonder if McCauley might be a better option.
(4) Adrian Peterson is the Vikings offense. Please Chester Taylor get healthy. If our offense is going to 100% depend on the run well then we need you to keep Peterson fresh because he is amazing.
(5) Sidney Rice is going to develop into a great WR, the offense needs to find a way to get him the ball because he has the best hands.
(6) Things don't look good. Any team that has a passing game might kill us.

Well those are just initial thoughts and not very well thought out.

This much I do know. Pacifist Viking is having a crappy weekend. First he had to watch the Vikings lose, and then he had to realize that Brett Favre is more than likely going to break Marino's TD Record (Marino was PV's favorite all-time QB) right before his eyes. If the Vikings don't win next weekend, I would not want to be around PV.

Watch tomorrow for PV's thoughts on today's action (due to his modem blowing out in a Thunderstorm on Wednesday/Thursday).

Friday, September 21, 2007

Narcissism and Me: how Super Bowl IV defined my worldview

The Vikings-Chiefs game on Sunday is a rematch of Super Bowl IV, something nobody could possibly care about. But I do. Because I blame that game for everything. That's where it all started.

If the Vikings won that game, I wouldn't be raised by a generation of Minnesota sports fans that saw the Vikes go 0-4 in the Super Bowl.

If they won that game, I would never have heard a Packer fan make a joke about how the Vikings have never won a Super Bowl.

Because if the Vikings won that game, everything would be different. I'd be rooting for a team that has won a Super Bowl. And right now, that is so different from rooting for a team that has not, I can't even imagine it.

Oh, I know the neuroses would still be there: it takes more than a sport to create a gentile version of Larry David. But as a sports fan, no matter what happened I could always think upon the 1969 Vikings. Sure, I'd want to see the Vikings win a championship myself (and for that, perhaps Gary Anderson makes all the difference--perhaps there would no longer be any tension at all but for that). But it wouldn't quite be so futile. It wouldn't all feel so useless. The desperate feeling of emptiness would be something else. The hopes might not come off as so desperate. There'd at least be something in history that I could look back on to make me smile.

Instead, the Chiefs beat the Vikings, and all my sports fan nerves got twisted and frayed, so that sports become not an escape from the hazards and confusions of life, but a concrete reminder of all that is hopeless.

National Friday League, week three

Last week the Lions ran an offense that can bust up the Viking defense: don't even threaten the run (thus removing Pat Williams from the field), spread the field with big talented WRs, and go after the Vikings' small, inexperienced CBs. But the Chiefs don't have a threatening passing game: their strength is running back Larry Johnson. Johnson hasn't been terribly effective yet this season, and I don't expect him to improve this week: he's going to be running directly into the Vikings' strength. The Vikings can crush an opponents' very will to attempt a rush between the tackles.

Now who's the quarterback? Access Vikings says Jackson didn't practice Thursday, and Don Seeholzer argues that for this week, Kelly Holcomb should start. I agree that the Vikings should start Holcomb this week. It's not that Holcomb is a steady, reliable guy (I know him more for his 400 yard games, so I'm guessing his big games are matched with some pretty lousy games to make him a career backup). But the Vikings have a chance to win this game by a score like 16-13. Last week, the inexperienced Jackson made several costly mistakes that helped swing a close matchup to the opponent's advantage (though it was the more experienced Brooks Bollinger that fumbled the snap in overtime, giving Detroit a short field in order to set up the game-winning field goal: if the Vikes had simply punted, I suspect Detroit would have screwed up before getting down into field goal position). I'd like to see if Holcomb could get comfortable in the pocket, perhaps show accuracy on some deep throws, and generally avoid turnovers. He is a 64.6% career passer, so if he can contribute some solid completions in the passing game and refrain from throwing interceptions, Adrian Peterson and the Viking running game can score enough points to win.

Road wins aren't going to come easy for the Vikings this season: an early season matchup in Kansas City against Damon Huard might be the best chance.

Throwback uniforms are awesome, and the wackier the better
I love when NFL teams where throwback uniforms. It's fun, it cool to watch, and it gives such a very different aesthetic to the game. Philadelphia's throwback uniforms look crazy? Great! I couldn't be happier. The zaniness of the jersey is great.

Week Three Matchups
I'm not thrilled with any of the matchups this Sunday, but there are some interesting storylines that can turn on Sunday. Can McNabb and the Eagles turn it around? Will Ladainian Tomlinson get started? Are the Patriots going to continue to dominate offensively every week? Would it be cool if it turns out the Bears suck?

"At the end of the day"
Last week I predicted that a sportswriter would use the expression "at the end of the day" to refer to a team's 2-0 or 0-2 record. Unfortunately, my prediction was too specific, and I was wrong. All sorts of players and coaches used the phrase: for example, according to the San Jose Mercury News, Trent Dilfer said of Alex Smith: "Statistically, Alex is at the top of the league in my eyes because he's 2-0, and at the end of the day that's the only stat that matters." But considering athletes are answering questions from members of the media, and are expected to come up with spontaneous answers quickly, I don't think it's worth judging the players (generally, spoken cliches don't bother me because we speak "on the fly" rather than writing sentences in our heads and reading them: it is in writing, with a chance to think and revise, that cliches should particularly be avoided). Camille Powell did write "At the end of the day, the Ravens were just glad to even their record at 1-1." But I predicted the cliche would be used to refer to a 2-0 or 0-2 record, not a 1-1 record (and anyway, Powell may have been speaking literally here, for it was after the game).

So I was wrong.

A few links
The Ghosts of Wayne Fontes talk about the fantasy production and value of Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison.

Jeffri Chadiha is glad that Donovan McNabb is expressing his opinions.

In a wonderful post in the spirit of our bad sportswriting analysis, I Dislike Your Favorite Team takes apart Gregg Doyle's response to McNabb, which follows another good post at IDYFF on the subject.

Sucks to you thunderstorm, modem, and internet provider. I'm not going to have internet access at home this weekend. While this is frustrating, I did go a year without home internet access not too long ago, and today I discovered that I missed literally nothing by not having internet last night (though one of the great benefits of home internet is being able to IMDB people you see in TV and movies you are watching, so I did miss that). It means I won't be able to check stats around the league during games, and it means I won't be able to blog about games Sunday night (expect posts on Sunday's action Monday morning, and Holy Hitter and WWTB can always chime in). It also means I might have more time to read, clean, and generally be productive. I'm like Agent Smith unplugged.

So enjoy your weekend everybody. Except Bear, Packer, Lion, and Chief fans.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

QB controversy on the way?

It appears Tarvaris Jackson will not start against the Chiefs this Sunday, and it's likely Kelly Holcomb will (Pioneer Press, Star Tribune, Viking Update).

It's on. There are now questions about the position, and an injury has forced the possibility of a different QB than Tarvaris Jackson leading the team. The position is in question, and it has the chance to bloom into a honest to goodness quarterback controversy. If the Vikings are good, that could be problematic; if the Vikings suck, that will at least be entertaining.

If Holcomb plays well in a Viking win, Childress can't really push Jackson back into the lineup when he's healthy. As JJ Cooper at Fanhouse writes, "So what happens if Holcomb comes in and looks like a competent NFL quarterback this week--the kind who can actually help a team win instead of trying to make sure he doesn't hurt it? If that happens it would be hard to argue that Jackson gives the team a better chance to win right now." The Vikings haven't invested as much in Jackson as a lot of people think (he was the fourth player they took in 2006): if he doesn't work out and there is another option, the team can go in another direction. That doesn't mean the team should abandon Jackson, but it also means the Vikings don't have to try make Jackson work through his struggles (as they might if he were an early first round pick).

If Holcomb steps in to start and does well, there are all sorts of long-term questions. Is Jackson simply not ready, and will he be a starter after another year of learning? Or should the team move in a different long-term direction? I'm not trying to raise these questions myself, but the situation is likely to raise them for us.

And check out, which puts Tarvaris Jackson (and his awful game against Detroit) in context.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

I'm sorry: did you say "race car"? Oh. Then that's different.

Donovan McNabb is a black quarterback--actually, he's probably the most prominent black quarterback in the NFL right now. Furthermore, racist stereotypes and the quarterback position have a long, ugly history; as Lloyd Vance writes, "African American Quarterbacks in their history have been shunned, converted to other positions, fought for inclusion, stereotyped (Drastic Misconceptions about the Leadership and Intelligence of African American Quarterbacks) and chased opportunities in other leagues."

So, given the history of racism and stereotypes involving black quarterbacks, don't you want to know what the most prominent black quarterback in the NFL thinks about race and the position? And if he answers honestly that he thinks race is still a factor in the treatment of quarterbacks, isn't that worth listening to?

Why would we want to stifle such a discussion? Why would we accuse him of "playing the race card," as if he's saying something irrelevant? What he's saying is quite important. I want to know what McNabb thinks. I want him to be honest. And I want his opinions to spark legitimate discourse (in which, of course, you're free to disagree with McNabb and argue against what he actually says). What I don't want is for McNabb's opinions to be dismissed, and accusing him of "playing the race card" is an attempt to dismiss his words.

I wish I would never have to hear or read the phrase "the race card" ever again. Of any other cliched figure of speech, it's by far my least favorite.

It's not simply that it's a mindless cliche (which it is). It's that the accusation of "playing the race card" is an attempt to invalidate a discussion. We should have honest discussions about race; discourse on the issue is a method of progress. But to accuse somebody who discusses race of "playing the race card" is to suggest that race isn't a factor, that race shouldn't be discussed in this case, and that the person is injecting race where it doesn't belong.

Accusing somebody of "playing the race card" is an attempt to avoid serious discussion and debate. It's usually used as an attempt (sometimes explicit, sometimes not) to say something like "Donovan McNabb shouldn't be discussing race here" or "McNabb is wrong to bring up the subject of race" or "McNabb should shut up."

Accusing somebody of "playing the race card" is usually an attempt to dismiss an idea rather than address it.

If a person brings up race and says something you disagree with, then explain why. Discuss it, argue it. Address the issue. But don't accuse the person of "playing the race card" as if he/she is trying to actually deflect serious discussion by using race; talking about race is serious discussion. Don't try to invalidate or diminish the person's argument with this cliche.

How can people discuss race, stereotypes, and racism reasonably and honestly? How can people be honest while discussing race? Shouldn't we have reasonable and honest discussions about race? Shouldn't people be honest when they perceive racism? And why should we dismiss or diminish such discussion?

The very figure of speech "the race card" suggests we as a society still have a lot of progress to make; unfortunately, this cliche often prevents that progress from occuring.

Addendum: Cobra Brigade also says that McNabb is right, and that players like McNabb should speak up about the issue.

Wednesday Blizzard

Tom Powers and Jim Souhan both argue that Kelly Holcomb should start for the Vikings this weekend (Powers does it with fewer jokes).

I'll be interested to follow CHFF's Big Play Index throughout the season, particularly to see if it correlates to wins.

Pro-football-reference puts Ladainian Tomlinson's early season struggles in context.

FreeDarko praises Vince Young.

I Dislike Your Favorite Team defends Gene Upshaw.

Gregg Rosenthal tells me I'm not supposed to ditch Laurence Maroney from my fantasy team.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Tuesday's Little Blizzard

Donovan McNabb has said that there is more pressure, criticism, and scrutiny on black quarterbacks than white quarterbacks (ESPN). Without fully addressing whether this is true or not, I want to make one thing clear: McNabb is not wrong to discuss the issue, or present his opinion on the issue. To say McNabb is out of line means either pretending that America's history of racism is all in the past (it's clearly not), or denying the history of racial stereotypes about the quarterback position in particular. I want Donovan McNabb to speak up on this issue, and to express his feelings and experiences clearly. Good for him. Addendum: Stephanie Stradley at Fanhouse has a thoughtful post on McNabb's comments.

Byron Leftwich is now an Atlanta Falcon (ESPN). Leftwich hasn't found himself in a situation where it appears he can thrive and win soon. However, hopefully he's found himself in a place where he's wanted, and can build a successful career. I think he'll look good in the Falcon jersey, which is all that really matters to me.

The Star Tribune reports that Tarvaris Jackson may not be able to play Sunday because of his groin injury, which would be all the excuse the team needs to go to man myth legend Kelly Holcomb. However, the Pioneer Press reports that "Jackson still has the support of his coach and teammates after an abysmal performance in Detroit." The Ragnarok talks about the low point of the Tarvaris Revolution, but believes the Revolution will still be successful.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Kelly Holcomb

The time for Kelly Holcomb is now!

Holcomb has played average football for his career. He's completed 64% of his passes, and he's thrown as many INTs as TDs. And that's all the Vikes need right now. Average QB play.

If Kelly Holcomb starts against the Chiefs, the Vikings should easily win; if Tarvaris Jackson starts, it could go either way. And then Holcomb can give the Vikes a good shot against the Packers in the Dome. And then when the schedule toughens up, if Holcomb can just play mediocre football and not turn the ball over, he'll give the Viking defense a chance to pull out a couple of wins against good opponents.

Do it! The time is now! The Vikings can even use Tarvaris Jackson's groin injury as an excuse! They can cop out easily! And I can keep using exclamation points!

Tarvaris Jackson isn't ready, but the Viking defense is. So is Adrian Peterson. So is the offensive line.

Put in the average QB. It's better than the suck-ass QB. Viking fans have a long tradition of calling for the backup QB, and I'm happy to continue that tradition.

Kelly Holcomb should be the Vikings' starting quarterback right now. The teams goal should be to win as many games as possible now. And Kelly Holcomb gives the team the best chance to win.

Do it!

Viking Laments

Gosh, this is all so silly. After a Viking win I listen to sports talk radio on the drive in to work, and after a Viking loss I listen to MPR. On the whole that's healthier, but why should a kick moving a few inches left or right lead to changes in my behavior the following day? Is this any way to live?

JJ Cooper says that "Vikings Defense Should Sue For Divorce." It's hard to believe that it was 2004 when I was ranting about how the Vikings had great offense but would never do anything because the defense was just so atrocious, and the Vikes needed to do anything to upgrade the defense, even if it meant focusing less on the offense. And now it's all completely the opposite, and we're supposed to feel bad for the defense. If the 1998-2004 offense played with the 2006-2007 defense, the Vikings might go 19-0. And if the floor could talk it would probaby complain about getting stepped on.

Both Sean Jensen and Mark Craig talk about how the Vikings should have used Adrian Peterson on 3rd down more often yesterday.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

On the Couch, week two

My thoughts on the Viking game can be found at "Coming off the Ledge: Lions 20, Vikings 17 (OT)". "On the Couch" is a chance to explore the rest of a football season Sunday.

Dear Bill Belichick
Are you telling me that with about three minutes left and a 17 point lead, after Laurence Maroney has been dominant on the game sealing drive, you can't let Maroney get the touchdown? You have to send in Sammy Morris? If Sammy Morris were white, we'd accuse you of Bud Kilmer's shenanigans with Wendell Brown. Instead, we're not morally outraged, just regular outraged. In the future, could you let Laurence Maroney finish out some of these drives?

Millions of Fantasy Football Participants Pulling Out Hair Over Laurence Maroney.

Dear Randy Moss
I wish I knew how to quit you.

Millions of Viking fans

Dear Bill Simmons
In your Friday football column, you asked "everyone's talking about the other teams and implying they were the victims. What about Pats fans? How did we deserve this?" I have your answer. It's the same thing you did to deserve to root for the most dominant football team of this decade. It's the same thing fans of the Bills, Browns, Bengals, Jaguars, Texans, Titans, Chargers, Eagles, Vikings, Lions, Falcons, Saints, Panthers, Cardinals, and Seahawks did to root for a team that's never won a Super Bowl. Nothing. Nothing at all. And I'd say you've had it pretty good, wouldn't you? You wrote "All week, I almost felt like I did something wrong just because I rooted for these guys." How do you think Viking fans felt in 2005 when everybody in America treated our team like reprobates for their activities on a boat, and we Viking fans were forced to choose whether to remain loyal to our team or join in the moral outrage? And I know that until 2004, you already knew what it was like to root deeply in your soul for a team with a long, long championship drought. The Vikings were founded in 1961, have a tradition, a culture, a history, a devoted fanbase--and no championships. I wouldn't whine too much just because there's a scandal that's going to be a minor footnote on the Patriots' history.

non-Boston fans.

Dear Steve Smith, Chad Johnson, Joey Galloway, Joe Jurevicius, Andre Johnson, T.J. Houshmandzedah, Braylon Edwards, and Randy Moss
Wow, that's a lot of WRs scoring multiple TDs. Hope you had fun.

Dear Titans' secondary
It's not your fault. It's really not.

Often when you talk about a WR making a spectacular catch, you're talking about a WR adjusting to a poor throw by the quarterback. But Reggie Wayne, Marvin Harrison, and Anthony Gonzalez were making what I'd call great catches, but they were still perfect throws from Peyton Manning. For the most part, you guys were covering those Colt WRs very well, but Manning put the ball right where it needed to be caught, and those WRs still caught the ball even with you defenders really tight on them.

Don't blame yourselves.


Dear Football Announcers,
When you talk about giving a particular player "a blow," or giving an entire defense "a blow," thousands of adolescent boys everywhere snicker. Just thought you ought to know.


Dear Pro Football Talk
Today you again complained about Emmitt Smith and his "struggle with verb conjugations and other basic aspects of the English language." And yet you make fun of Tiki Barber's vocabulary because you say he's trying to sound smart. Do you want every TV commentator to be middle-brow, appealing to a middle-brow audience, smart enough for you but not too smart for you? If Smith went too far in trying to sound smart, wouldn't you criticize him for that? And if Barber dumbed it down too much, wouldn't you criticize him for that?

I'm not going to accuse you of injecting racial stereotypes into your assessment (I know you've criticized people like Lou Holtz for poor commentary and praised people like Tom Jackson for good commentary). However, it might be worth examining race here. Barber may deliberately choose his diction because he knows black commentators face greater scrutiny over their use of language (I think you've made this suggestion yourself). And I've heard TV commentators and announcers like Bob Costas and Al Michaels use a rich vocabulary without really getting much scrutiny or criticism for it (Michaels referred to a Pyrrhic victory tonight, though I'm pretty sure he misused it--I'm guessing if Barber used the expression, you'd point out how uppity he's trying to sound).

Hey, it's worth considering anyway.

I appreciate your work. Cheers.

Dear Steve Smith
You are a fantasy football delight.

Thanks for all the enjoyment you've given me.

Dear Journeyman
I've already talked about how excited I am for you: it looks like you could be a 2007 quality Quantum Leap. So please, please, please, don't suck. Be good. I really need this. The Vikings don't look too good right now. Give me something.

Good luck,
Sometimes Sci Fi Rube.

Dear Fyodor Dostoevsky
In Notes from the Underground, you wrote specifically about the impossibility of calculating and categorizing man's "own best interests," suggesting that the desire for free will blows the whole project up (I know you were big on free will. Me too). The further theme is that human behavior is not governed by reason alone, or even reason primarily, but that we have other irrational desires that drive us. That's all big stuff, and your explorations of the spiritual needs of humankind are definitely an inspiration. But I hope when you write something like "can man's interests be correctly calculated? Are there not some which not only have not been classified, but are incapable of classification? After all, gentlemen, as far as I know you deduce the whole range of human satisfactions as averages from statistical figures and scientifico-economic formulas," and you criticize a system in which "All human actions, of course, will then have to be worked out by those laws, mathematically, like a table of logarithms" (well, you didn't write this precisely: this is Jessie Coulson's translation), I hope you don't mind if I appropriate the idea for something less significant.

For me, as I've said many times, your work serves as a reminder for how to approach statistics in sports. Statistics illuminate truth in sports, reveal truth in sports, explain truth in sports, even help us make reasonable predictions about sports. But the statistics themselves are not the sports, and certainly not the whole truth of sports. There's something else that goes on in sports, something that gets at the psychological, irrational, or better, human, in reality. Oh, I trust statistics. I really do believe we can make better sense out of sports with good, rigid statistical analysis, and that rigid analysis is reliable in understanding what has happened and making some predictions about what will happen. But we have to remember that the numbers that show up are not truth itself: the numbers merely tell us about truth.

Anyway, Fyodor, you've had a pretty big influence on me. It makes sense the impact would extend to how I view sports. I hope I'm not cheapening your ideas too terribly.


Some other entities wish to include some letters.

Dear Bengals and Browns
I'm tired. Just so tired. I don't want to do this anymore. Just...let me be. I'll just...tired.

The Scoreboard

Dear Dan Marino
You're still better than Favre.


Dear Fantasy Football Participants
Bwhooo-ha-ha-ha-ha! Bwhoooo-ha-ha-ha! OOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!

The Spirit of Fantasy Football

Dear Vikings and Lions
We had fun with you this weekend. Maybe we can hang out again sometime.

Turnovers and Penalties

Dear Viking fans
I hate you.

The Universe.

Coming off the ledge: Lions 20, Vikings 17 (OT)

Lions-Vikings Box Score (

It's over. The 10 game winning streak against Detroit is over. The Lions beat the Vikings for the first time since 2001. No longer can we just assume these 2 NFC North wins a year; now the Lions can beat the Vikings.

It's a reminder of why I hate football season. It's not particularly fun pacing about at the end of a tight game. It's certainly not fun going through a week after a loss, just waiting for the team to get another chance at a W. Typically after a close loss I'm torn to bits, reflecting on all the particular plays that could have swung the game the other way. That's pointless today, as there were clearly just as many plays that could have swung the game to Detroit earlier than overtime. Sure Ryan Longwell could have made his 52 yard field goal, but Jason Hanson could have made his 48 yard field goal. There's no use picking the game apart as a fan. But it's an empty, dead, frustrated feeling. For me, anyway, these losses challenge my very being and centeredness.

Why the Viking passing game stinks
The Detroit Lions were successful at penetrating the Viking offensive line today, on passing and running plays. On passing plays, however, Detroit's rush was particularly devestating: they were constantly able to get pressure to the quarterback. And this in particular destroyed the Vikings because:

a. Tarvaris Jackson was incapable of dealing with this pressure (hence four interceptions, and numerous hopeless or inaccurate throws).
b. The Vikings don't have a single WR capable of making a defense pay for a blitz, capable of making a big play to break a current blitz or prevent a future blitz.

To me, this was not primarily a playcalling issue (though a few more screens and swings could have been effective). The Vikings don't have the personnel to deal with a constant pass rush right now.

Early in the game the Vikes couldn't get much pass rush, and the Lions were able to exploit the Vikes in the air. The pass rush slowly developed, though. And of course the team forced a lot of turnovers (or Detroit handed the defense a lot of turnovers--it was a little of both). While the run defense is still basically impenetrable up the middle (even a run of no-gain seems like a disappointment--runs up the middle often end in loss of yards), in both the Atlanta and Detroit game the defense has shown vulnerability on the edges. Teams are able to hurt the Vikes off-tackle. That will need to improve.

Kevin Williams' burst through the line to force a fumble (returned for a TD by Ray Edwards) pretty much matches my memory of Pat Williams' burst through the line to force a fumble (returned for a TD by Ben Leber) against the Lions last season.

I thought Marcus McCauley played a pretty poor game. The Lions deliberately and successfully exploited the rookie. McCauley should have a good career, but against the Lion WRs, in his second career game, he was overmatched. He gave up completions and yards after catches. I noticed #31 getting beat more than any other number in the secondary.

There are some vulnerable spots on the defense, but mostly, it is performing very well.

Adrian Peterson is some sort of monster: he makes plays where he just bounces off defenders or pushes them back. He's a delight and I'm thrilled he's a Viking.

Everything else was horrible. No receivers could really make a play. Tarvaris Jackson never got comfortable and made many bad mistakes (I suppose a young QB is bound to have a 4 INT game in at least one of his early starts: let's hope there aren't too many)--he was very, very bad. The offensive line performed pretty poorly, as the Detroit defensive line (and blitzers) frequently outperformed the offensive line, penetrating the play and wrecking Viking plays. I was amazed as the Lions were able to constantly push back against the Viking offense. It was a very, very bad performance by the offense today.

The offense is going to need to improve if the team is going to compete against good teams this season. As it seems unlikely they can upgrade the personnel right now (Byron Leftwich?), they have to improve the offensive execution two ways:

a. improvement of current players--there are a lot of young offensive players that can improve and make more plays (and fewer mistakes).
b. creative and effective playcalling to make the most they can of the talent and experience they have.

As I've said, I see the problems as personnel issues more than playcalling issues. Still, the personnel now is what it is, and it's now on Brad Childress to improve the offense--by coaching up the young players, and by scheming and gameplanning effectively. I've preached patience with Brad Childress, and I still do. However, that doesn't mean waiting for Childress to show his offensive acumen in some unknown future: he needs to show what he can do for this offense now. It's his second season, and yes, the team lacks playmaking WRs or an experienced QB. But Childress needs to show he can make something happen.

Special Teams
Troy Williamson and Aundrae Allison each had a good return. That sort of field position is going to be necessary for the Vikes to compete this season.

Waiting on Week 3
When the Vikes win, I just want to savor it, and the week is fun. When the Vikes lose, I'm just looking forward to the next game. How will the Vikings play against Kansas City, apparently a bad football team? I'm not terribly worried about the Minnesota defense against Kansas City's offense, but can the offense move the ball, and limit errors, against the Chiefs' defense? What is the injury status of Chester Taylor? Tarvaris Jackson?

The Vikings lost a miserable, poorly played overtime game in Detroit. We've got to purge this ugliness from our souls.

Pat Reusse's hobbyhorse: the Lions made Bud Grant

Today Pat Reusse writes a column on a subject he's addressed before: without Bud Grant's 26-6-1 record against the Lions, Grant might not be a revered Hall of Fame football coach. Says Reusse:

"That's why the list of speakers for Grant's dinner on Tuesday should have Bill Ford as a late addition. He's been the owner of the Lions since 1964, and thus was very important in getting our guy Bud a plaque in Canton."

Reusse seems intent on demythologizing Grant, suggesting the lousy Lions helped make Grant a great coach (and this is not the first column in which he's suggested this theory).

Here's the problem with this logic. There's a reason why Grant dominated the Lions. Grant built and coached a superior football team, and the Lions were an inferior football team. That's why Grant's Vikings dominated the Lions. And that's why the Vikings won 11 division titles under Grant.

I suspect every Hall of Fame coach has one or two teams that his team dominated. That's reasonable: coaches become Hall of Famers for coaching superior teams, and superior teams are going to beat inferior teams much of the time. So it's not that the awful Lions pushed Bud Grant into the Hall of Fame: it's that Bud Grant was a great coach that built a very good team capable of dominating inferior opponents.