Tuesday, October 31, 2006

What was that bang?'s message for fans who root for teams that have won championships

If you root for a team that has one Super Bowls, then CLEARLY you are a better fan than me, who roots for a team with no championships. You deserve those championships, and can laud your superiority over me whenever you like.

In fact, I'll go further: by rooting for a team with Super Bowl championships, you're a better person than me. You're smarter, more ethical, and probably better groomed.

Perhaps when we die, you, as a fan rooting for teams with Super Bowl championships, will go to heaven and drink ambrosia for eternity, while I, who spent my life rooting for a team with no championships, will get warm and toasty with the arch-fiend.

Actually, if bastardized Calvinism is right, earthly success is a sign that you are part of the elect. So if you're rooting for a team with Super Bowl championships, that probably means God likes you. I, on the otherhand, have committed the ungodly sin of rooting for the Vikings, so God hates me. Wait, we're being bastardized Calvinists here: God hates me so much that he predestined me to root for the Vikings.

You are better than me in every imaginable way.

In other words: blow it out your ass.

Coming off the ledge: Patriots 31, Vikings 7

If you come to the belief that human existence is absurd and the universe is utterly meaningless, there are a few choices for how you should carry on your life. As it happens, these are the same choices you have to deal with the frustration of seeing your favorite team defeated badly.

Anger It is natural to lash out in anger, to seek blame, but beware: the hatred will turn your soul black.

Despondency Apathy is not an easy attitude to maintain; eventually something will make you care again.

Self-Pity Staring at your navel doesn't get you very far or count for much; ultimately, if you are pitying yourself, it means you are probably the only one pitying you.

Sadness Avoid the anger, avoid the apathy, avoid the pity--just embrace the overwhelming sadness. For example, if your favorite team, which has never won a Super Bowl, is losing by 24 points in the fourth quarter and then the announcers start talking about how eventually your team could be moved to Los Angeles, don't get mad. Embrace the sadness.

Grim Determination In The Matrix Revolutions, Agent Smith is kicking the hell out of Neo and asking why human beings keep bothering to try at all. Neo responds, "Because I choose." This also explains why I chose to watch Monday's football game to the bitter end.

Laughter To stare into the face of the abyss and smile--that is courage. It's hard to laugh as your team is getting mauled, though. It's easier to cry.

Hope Wait around in the belief that SOME meaning will come along, SOME savior, SOME purpose. Wait and hope and hope and wait--maybe eventually something will. In life, you can attempt to make something happen (be an ubermensch), but if you're a sports fan, what exactly are you supposed to do? All you can do is hope. Of course, just as you can wait excitedly to watch a football game in which your team rolls over in suckitude, so might you wait forever and ever for nothing. Our Beckett play is called Waiting for Tarvaris.

Self-obliteration Nobody would suggest suicide is the answer to watching your team lose, of course; the sports equivalent would be to simply give up following the team.

Addendum: alright, here's the real reason I'm coming off the ledge (or at least trying to). Last year at this time, the Vikes were 2-5 and had already suffered 4 blowouts like last night's. And if the 2006 Vikings are even worth the fretting, they will be 7-4 or 8-3 in a month. That's my best effort; I feel absolutely awful today.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Monday Night Blues

This is what my classroom should look like tonight. Alas, I care more about my career, my students' educations, and academia than watching every Viking game live. I'll work on my priorities. However, in the future when devising a a syllabus for fall semester, I'll look closer before scheduling an exam during a Viking game (not to mention avoiding Halloween).

Enjoy the Viking game everybody. Try not to take success or failure personal--it'll help you sleep better afterward.

(picture removed)

What was that bang?'s Viking-Patriot preview

The Vikings are priming for tonight’s game against the Patsies, when they will leap into the national consciousness and let everybody know the Purple People Eaters are back. If Pat Williams could have lined up next to Alan Page, the Vikings would never have lost a single Super Bowl.

Let’s take a look at the key points in this game. It is completely pointless, as the Vikes are going to romp in the Thunderdome, but it’s all for laughs at this point.

Minnesota defensive line stopping New England’s run
Laurence Maroney nothing. When’s the last time Corey Dillon did anything worth anything? They’re facing the #1 run defense in the NFL, friends, and Pat Williams and Kevin Williams are about to put a crushing on any semblance of a running game for the Patsies. KW and PW need a nickname from How to be a Player. I prefer “Thick and Thicker” to “The Double-Scoop Twins.” Every time a hapless RB runs into the middle, we should scream, “What happened to the sun!” Stopping the run will make Brady and the Patsies dependent on throwing, and the Viking blitz is going to come running in as Thunderdome vibrates with noise. Stop Tom Brady, then, and beat the Pats badly.

Minnesota offensive line plowing all over the New England defense
Matt Birk, Steve Hutchinson, and Bryant McKinnie will help Chester Taylor to be leading the league in rushing by the end of the night. Get ready for a mauling. As long as Brad Johnson keeps handing it off to Taylor, the Vikes can hang onto the ball and avoid turnovers. Then comes play-action and some big plays.

The Viking defense can force turnovers from every level: the defensive line, the linebackers, and the secondary. And they can score. Remember, you don’t score until you score. And the Vikings defense will score. Who on the Patriots is going to force Viking turnovers? Nobody. It’s not happening.

If this game were in Massachusetts, maybe I’d think differently. But this is in the Metrodome, which has a life of its own. I see Chester Taylor rushing for 150 yards, the Viking defense scoring a couple of TDs and stopping the Patriot offense cold, the special teams playing great at every spot, and Minnesota dominating from start to finish.

44-7 Vikes.

Week Eight Nuggets of Wonderment

Viking QBs
There's no question about the greatest quarterback in the Vikings' franchise history: that's Fran Tarkenton, and anybody who says differently has some odd issues. But who is the second-greatest QB in franchise history? Arguments could be made for Tommy Kramer, Warren Moon, Joe Kapp, Daunte Culpepper, and Brad Johnson. Other QBs, such as Jeff George, Randall Cunningham, and Wade Wilson, had great success for a brief period in the team's history. I don't even know who to pick.

Favre Tally
With one TD pass and no interceptions, Brett Favre moves to 14 TD passes away from Dan Marino's record, and remains 17 INTs away from George Blanda's record. Favre's achievement is more impressive when you consider that he has suffered from sensitive teeth and heartburn. Still, Dan Marino was better in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective than Favre was in There's Something About Mary.

Harrison is always on the right
Perhaps you've noticed that Marvin Harrison ALWAYS lines up on the right side of the Colts' formation. Most elite WRs get moved around the field to try and take advantage of matchups; the Colts keep Harrison in one spot so that the timing between he and Manning is pristine. It's hard to argue with the results (or do Harrison's mediocre playoff numbers suggest more creativity is needed?). However, if Harrison is on your fantasy team, you will scream in frustration every time Manning drops back and only looks left. I think at this point Manning just knows exactly what is going on with Harrison without looking.

Shanahanigans returns!
Everybody who had gotten comfortable starting Tatum Bell in your fantasy team, please stop punching your forehead.

Rhythm and Fandom
In eight weeks, there have been three Sundays in which the Vikings didn't play. Through nine weeks, the Vikings will have played four games Sunday at 12:00, two games Sunday at 3:15, one game Monday at 6:00, and another Monday at 7:30. They've still got a Thursday game in late December (against the Packers no less), and might just get one of their games moved to Sunday night. This has made it difficult for me to get into the rhythm of the Vikings' season. I don't know when to expect to see them play. I know other teams have been more uneven (Dallas and Denver have each played three night games already), but it's frustrating. As the Vikes suffered through mediocrity from 2001 through 2005, I got accustomed to watching them Sundays at noon. Now they're all over the place, and I never know when to expect to play them. Of course teaching class on Mondays doesn't help. Luckily, seven of their last eight games are schedules for Sundays at noon, so the spectating could get a bit more comfortable and predictable.

That's a lot of Football
When the Vikings don't play, I end up watching somewhere around 10 hours of football games for which the outcome is of mild concern to me. Watching my favorite team goes by fast; watching all these other games just for the pleasure of the spectating slows down quite a bit. By 6:00 I can't believe there's still another game to watch, and eventually I wonder just what the hell I'm doing with my life if I'm spending my entire Sunday (maybe the last mild Minnesota weekend until March, by the way) watching games for which the outcomes only interest me slightly.

Making sense of the NFC
Chicago has 7 wins and should be a playoff lock (but I believe they are beatable in the playoffs). Green Bay has 3 wins and could become a factor. After that, there are a whopping 9 NFC teams with 4 or 5 wins.That's 10 teams fighting for 5 playoff spots, and at this point, we have absolutely no idea how this will go. Any of the 4-5 win teams could make or miss the playoffs. Most could win their division. I suppose almost any of them could end up with the #2 seed. Any of the other teams could win out or lose out as far as I can tell.

Making sense of the AFC
A little easier. New England and Indianapolis are virtual playoff locks; Denver and San Diego are highly probable playoff teams (but who is betting against a Plummer or Schottenheimer collapse?). I still don't know who will win the AFC North (though Pittsburgh has the same record as Oakland and Cleveland, it's hard to give up on a defending champ), but somebody will. That leaves one playoff spot for KC, Jacksonville, or the AFC North's second-place team.

Monday Night Preview to come...
...a little later today from a new contributor to this blog. The new contributor's energy about the Vikings should provide some nice balance for my anxiety. Look for his preview a little later today.

Friday, October 27, 2006

National Friday League, week eight

Vikings v. Patriots, Monday Night
From a fan's perspective, this game is huge. The most dominant team of the decade is in the AFC, so the Vikes only get to play them every four years, and they only come to Minnesota once every eight years. As fans, we have to enjoy these rare opportunities to see our team face a great AFC team during its dynasty. A win would be supremely memorable. Other than Packer games and playoff games, I can't think of a more exciting, bigger Viking game since they were contending for the Super Bowl. This isn't just a game to try win a division title or make the playoffs; it's a much rarer opportunity than that. I couldn't be more excited (well, I could be more excited--if I were just a little more excited, I would cancel class).

Denver and Indianapolis
I find it the AFC's most interesting dynamic: Indy has trouble beating New England, New England has trouble beating Denver, and Denver has trouble beating Indy. But Mile High is different from a Dome.

Actually, this game should be a lot of fun to watch, but I don't know that it will tell us a whole lot. Indy whipped Pittsburgh in the RCA Dome in 2005, then lost to them there in the playoffs. I figure it's a safe bet that Indy, Denver, and New England are getting to the playoffs. It barely matters who wins the regular season matchups between these teams, because they'll really have to do it again in January, and it's really hard to know whether homefield matters very greatly.

Solid matchups
This weekend features a whopping eight games between teams that are each .500 or better. A lot of early season playoff positions and statements to be made in week eight. NFC teams in particular could go up or down a great deal based on the weekend.

The Packers
If you live in the Twin Cities, you have to know that if the Packers at a time the Vikings don't, you're going to be watching the Packers. This sort of sucks.

Chronicle of Worn-out Metaphors
I will continue to chronicle worn-out metaphors on this blog, but not in a comprehensive, systematic way; I'll do it occasionally when I find it interesting. There's really no big thrill in documenting every single figure of speech Peter King uses, but it is sort of fun to examine an occasional column.

I wish I had enough time on earth to tell you all the reasons I find this interesting
Brady Quinn, Friend To The Gays, Or Just Idol?

Enjoy the weekend everybody (except Packer and Bear fans), and remember, as the Bard says,

Life is but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
Signifying nothing.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

PV's chronicle of worn-out metaphors: Peter King (3)

In "Politics and the English Language," George Orwell's first rule of good English usage is “Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.” We now seek out writers who overuse such uncreative language.

I'm giving serious consideration to starting a new blog just for chronicling metaphors. This is an extensive project that I'm willing to devote time to, but it sure is cluttering up this blog, that can be about other things. What do you think? Should I keep the chronicle here, or start a new blog to house the chronicle? This would be my fourth stinking blog, so I don't know if I want to do it, but we'll see how the project continues. Seriously, let me know if that's a good idea or if I should keep it up here.

Here are the figures of speech from Peter King's Weekend Pickoff. These aren't all metaphors or cliches, but they are common figures of speech. Using so many typical figures of speech is the sign of an uncreative writer (remember that using metaphoric languages and images can be good in writing, but borrowing worn-out phrases is usually bad). And take note: though I am only counting each once, some of these statements include two cliches/figures of speech or more in a single sentence.

"I am falling for"

"the nucleus of"

"Any second thoughts"

"our insurance policy"

"John Abraham didn't exactly turn into Cal Ripken when he migrated south, did he?"

"you can hear the Jets say "I told you so" all the way from Long Island."

"a miracle drug"

"McNair playing like he's 46"

"doesn't have quite the same ring"

"What a difference 20 years makes."

"I've got to give props"

"flavor of the month"

"Matt Leinart was still in the womb when Brett Favre started making fourth-quarter comebacks in the NFL, but they'll be peers up in the tundra, each throwing for 350-ish."

"Whoda thunk it?"

"playing with the fire of"

"the Jets lost 900 to nothing at Jacksonville three weeks ago, and the Dawg Pound will be revved up now that they've been emancipated from the offense of Maurice Carthon."


"will tap me on the shoulder"

"the most insufferable hype machine in the history of televised sports"

Since (and including) the 10/23 column in which Peter King referred to "Andre (I Never Met a Cliché I Didn't Like) Ware," King has used 49 cliches, metaphors, or figures of speech. FORTY-NINE.

The Vikings' biggest game

The Patriots have clearly been the team of the decade, and they look strong once again. And since NFC and AFC teams only play each other every four years, and at alternate sites, this will be the Vikes' only chance to play the Pats in the Dome for the next eight years (and with any luck getting a new stadium, this could be the Pats last trip to the Dome).

If you root for an NFC team but still follow the AFC, you've watched the Patriots' dominance of the AFC with some sense of distance. During the Patriots' current reign, the Vikes only faced the Patriots once, in 2002, when it was a down year for both teams (though a down year for the Vikes meant 6-10, and a down year for the Pats meant 9-7 and just missing the playoffs). For Viking fans, this might be our last and only chance to see the Vikes go head-to-head with the dominant team of this decade. If the Vikes win, it's something we can remember for a long, long time. It could be a sign of great things to come, this season and future seasons.

The Patriots are still the premiere team in the NFL, and NFC fans don't get many chances to see their favorite teams face them. So when you get the Patriots playing at your own place, and it's Monday Night, and you're 4-2 and they're 5-1, that's something to be really excited about.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

PV’s chronicle of metaphors: Dr. Z, and how metaphor can be good

In "Politics and the English Language," George Orwell's first rule of good English usage is “Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.” We now seek out writers who overuse such uncreative language.

Using metaphors, similes, images, and figures of speech is not inherently bad. Orwell doesn’t condemn the use of all metaphor; he just says that a scrupulous writer should only use an "image fresh enough to have an effect.” A good writer should use idioms and images, but a good writer will be creative, making up his/her own metaphors, using them in clever ways, and making comparisons in ways we haven’t seen many times in order to illustrate the idea.

So to contrast the mundane clichés used by Peter King, I now present a chronicle of metaphors, similes, figures of speech, idioms, and images from
Dr. Z’s most recent Power Rankings.

It should be noted that Z’s Power Rankings are very tongue in cheek (cliché! cliché!): he uses word play, makes fun of language, and jokes around. I’ll continue the chronicle throughout the week, but I’m guessing he uses a lot more of this type of language in the Power Rankings than in his “Inside the NFL” and “Mailbag” columns.

Yes, Dr. Z does use some dull figures of speech (as you can see below), but he also uses a lot of clever language and images to express his ideas. There’s originality in his uses. Whereas King is just trotting out (cliché! cliché!) time-worn clichés (the kind of writing that, as Orwell says, doesn’t really require thinking), Dr. Z is using the language in a fresh way.

“____ has taken the pipe”

“Ice up the Moet et Chandon, honey, we're gonna have a party”

“as Napoleon must have watched his Old Guard destroyed at Waterloo”

“clutching their throats”

“I've got to get my head straight”

“serene waters.”

“I can hoist ___ over the ___”

“spiked to the max”

“Now that the Dee is hot, their guys are dummying up, too”

“Terrorist alert! Our correspondent reports the following”

“It's like sitting at a Texas hold 'em table: If you don't get in the pots, you can't lose all your chips. Until, of course, the antes get you. Or the uncles.”

“a thrashing unruly mess”

“It's the armless and legless Hawks”

“a rough bunch of bruisers”

“Shall we reload and move on?”

“their point machine.”

“Quick, make the sign of the cross. Unclean! Unclean!”

“gave the team a thorough tongue-lashing”

“That, say the reports from Santa Land”

“these appeals to the red blood cells have a way of dying quickly”

“I thought I had in the bag”

“In boxing, sometimes you know that one guy just has the other one's number, no matter what their records are.”

“not really big-league”

“you know what that means ... ssshhh, the postseason.”

“What a sad sight”

“a tribute to the mock heroic,”

“OK, there's room for one. All applicants line up over there. Well, there are some familiar faces”

“something washes up”

“but fate just doesn't seem to smile on some people.”

“Only Shakespeare could have done this justice. …I'd set the drama in Verona, outfit 'em all with swords and pantaloons and let them go at it.”

“it makes you want to weep for the downtrodden”

“what is the price Kitna must now pay for his eulogy? Fining? Flogging? The stocks, the branding iron? You know he's not about to repent -- or convert.”

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

PV's chronicle of worn-out metaphors: Peter King (2)

In "Politics and the English Language," George Orwell's first rule of good English usage is “Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.” We now seek out writers who overuse such uncreative language.

Peter King's MMQB Tuesday Edition is up. I don’t like Peter King’s responses to emailers at all. He creates inadvertent Straw Man arguments, in which he misunderstands or misrepresents a comment/question and then argues to that. He demeans his readers with subtlety (usually in the sub-headings) and doesn’t actually bring any insight when responding to viewpoints that differ from his own. He just basically says “no, you’re wrong.”

But that’s not why we’re here, is it? We’re looking for any “metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.” Some of these are obvious; others are not. I’m looking for any metaphor or figure of speech used at all. I do, however, avoid metaphoric language that has reached the point of meaning something else. For example, King did say of the Bills that “there’s a lot of building to do.” Now, obviously they aren’t actually going to “build” anything, but build is now an acceptable, concise term for what a franchise needs to do to improve its personnel.

Here are the cliches:

"Lions in winter"

"Father Time"

"__ used to own the ___"

"You never say never with him"

"hire the next mercenary"

"It's always a tightrope ___ walks"

"climb the ladder"


That's 8 cliches in one column. Since (and including) the column in which King made fun of Andre Ware's overuse of cliches, King has used 30. THIRTY.

Will the Seahawks ever stop whining?

First they lost the Super Bowl because of the refs. Then the Vikings were the problem for stealing Steve Hutchinson (even though, as the NFL found, the Vikings played WITHIN THE RULES in signing Hutchinson). Now Matt Hasselbeck is suggesting that E.J. Henderson intentionally rolled into his knee to knock him out when the replay clearly shows that Mack Strong pushed Henderson into Hasselbeck. Hasselbeck has several passive aggressive accusations, and Seneca Wallace adds that he doesn't think it was "unavoidable" (so a LB getting pushed by a blocker is supposed to be concerned with the area he's being blocked into). And as Tom Powers notes, "bad things are going to happen to a quarterback if he's under siege all afternoon."

Seahawks, quit your whining. Nobody is out to get you. Nobody is trying to screw you. Sometimes things are hazard, and sometimes things are your own damn fault.

By the way, if you're a Viking fan who doesn't like to filter through all the local news sources about the team, you have to check out Kansas Viking. All the articles are being found for you.

PV's chronicle of worn-out metaphors (and extended Peter King ripping)

In "Politics and the English Language," George Orwell condemns “worn-out metaphors.” His first rule of good English usage: “Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.”

In an effort to spread Orwell's message on good writing, I will begin chronicling worn-out metaphors used by writers. I will begin by focusing on Peter King--his joke about an announcer overusing cliches in the very column in which he uses 22 cliches is the inspiration for this new venture. However, I will chronicle other cliches I find in print (in print means on the internet, by the way) used by professional sportswriters. If there is a particular writer you would like me to look closely at, let me know. If you find some worn-out metaphors being used, feel free to alert me in comment form. This could end up being a long-term, massive project, and I'm willing to put work into it (I'm an English teacher because this is the sort of thing I find fun).

So pay attention for "PV's chronicle of worn-out metaphors," which begins in the post below.

And by request, here is the extended commentary I was working on Peter King's column before I found my raison d'etre of seeking out worn-out metaphors. Here is the original MMQB for this week. It's not all just picking apart odd remarks; he said some things that made me think and made me want to comment. But it's
mostly odd remarks.

"Ronde Barber outplaying his brother for the first time in a while...It's not often Ronde can joke about outshining his brother"

I actually think Ronde has had the better career (he's better at his position than Tiki is at his), so I don't know that I agree with this. Besides, his brother hasn't played yet (the Giants go Monday). I'm pretty sure that Ronde outplays Tiki everytime, you know, that Ronde plays and Tiki doesn't.

Shocking! An athlete who cares about the world a little bit.

Actually, this is a true point. Many people are shocked when an athlete retires in his prime because they only know the identity of the "athlete." But a running back is just a title; the person playing running back is still a person.

Though I would like to mention Ricky Williams. He is a human being who cared about aspects of life other than football, then decided one day he didn't want to do it anymore (and only came back because he was essentially forced to do so). But the other aspects of life that Williams wanted to live are considered an "alternative lifestyle," I guess, not a life in the media. There's a difference...but is it that great? If Tiki Barber is admirable for leaving football to pursue other aspects of life...what of Ricky Williams?

Not many people will buy this, but Barber's been the best back in football over the last few years.

The numbers suggest King is right on this. However, in my opinion, Barber is having his 5th HOF worthy season. In 2002 and 2003, he had good yards from scrimmage numbers; in 2004 and 2005, he was phenomenal (and 2006 is, so far, similar). The numbers before 2002 suggest a solid RB who is a very good receiver. So if Barber is a HOFer, why wouldn't Terrell Davis be one? He has three otherworldy seasons ('96, '97, and '98), and his great seasons include two Super Bowl wins, a Super Bowl MVP, a regular season MVP, a rushing title, and a 2,000 yard season. I hope that if King is a proponent of Barber for the HOF, he is also a proponent of Davis.

Same old Indy. Averaging 29 points a game. Allowed 4.8 per carry against the Skins, which means Booger McFarland is not the elixir to fix everything that ailed the run defense.

Well, that's an impressive yards per carry number, and it's something to be concerned about. Of course, the Colts did hold the Washington offense to just 7 meaningful points. And McFarland had been on the team all of a few days. We'll be able to judge his impact sometime in December

6. Minnesota (4-2). Talk about a leap up the rankings. Can't avoid respecting the Vikings any longer, not after they've helped six foes this season to 16, 13, 19, 17, 17 and 13 points and beaten the defending NFC champs at their impregnable home by 18.

No debate here, and since I generally skim through King looking for mention of the Vikes, I might as well note those comments.

How much weight do you give a loss on a 62-yard field goal from a guy who never kicked it farther than 50 in a game before? I refuse to kill the Eagles, who played gallantly in a tough place, gained 506 yards and lost on something fluky.

OK, I shouldn't give much weight to a loss on a 62-yard field goal. But when a 4-2 team goes against a 1-4 team, gets down 17-0, has a serious problem with turnovers and clock management, and needs to stage a wicked comeback just to make it close, then loses on something fluky--that I'll give weight to.

Offensive Player of the Week (tie) Steve Hutchinson, G, Minnesota. Made the key block/mauling on Chester Taylor's 95-yard touchdown run -- the longest in franchise history --that gave the Vikes a 24-10 lead in the third quarter and clinched the upset at once-powerful Seattle.


The Dallas Cowboys have issued 450 media credentials to ESPN for tonight's game against the Giants and related activities, including radio shows, pregame TV shows and the game telecast. "I'm giving them the keys to Texas Stadium and telling them, 'Just turn out the lights when you leave,'" said Seinfeldian Dallas director of media relations Rich Dalrymple.

Seinfeldian? Uhh...I can't begin to get into what bothers me about this line.

Minnesota's pluck. Congratulations, Brad Childress. You're really making a difference.


Don't whine about the officiating, Jon Kitna. That's beneath you.

Evidently Kitna is too good to complain about the refs. He's some sort of saint, I guess. And as a side note, Bill Cowher, for all the tough-guy reputation, is the greatest whiner about officiating in the league.

I still can't believe the Lions and the Raiders passed on Matt Leinart.

OK...but to believe the Lions made a stupid decision, you have to pretend that they didn't just sign Jon Kitna AND Josh McCown in the off-season. If the real NFL were like the Madden video game, and free agency came after the draft, the Lions could have taken Leinart and not signed McCown. But it would look pretty stupid for the team that was giving up on Joey Harrington and had just drafted three straight wide receivers to draft a quarterback after signing two of them in the off season.

BTW, I believe McCown is going to be a good, solid QB, and the Lions should let him play IMMEDIATELY.

How do you not love the Detroit Tigers?

I guess you might be a fan of the St. Louis Cardinals.

At this point I found the remark about cliches, which sparked the commentary you can find in the post below. By the way, I realize that some of these cliches listed may be a stretch. I went with everything at all metaphoric that I could find. Some of them, however, are quite obviously overused metaphors that you could find anywhere in print form.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Cliches Used By Peter King This Week

I wrote a lengthy post criticizing Peter King's MMQB for this week. I deleted it because I thought this was all that really needed to be said. I now start a new gimmick at PV: "Cliches used by Peter King this week."

King writes:

I even survived Andre (I Never Met a Cliché I Didn't Like) Ware and made it through the ESPN2 telecast.

After seeing this comment, I had to go back and list off the cliches King used IN THIS VERY COLUMN:

"sink like a stone"

"a tortured soul"

"There is officially a better ___ than"

"the best ___ on Earth"

"You know there's been a shift in the tectonic plates when"

"There's a news flash"

"it's Russian roulette"

"it's going to be tough sledding"

you'll pardon ___ if he didn't invite ___ over to the house for ___"

"Talk about your basic dead-horse beating"

"crazy-quilt patchwork"

"Don't quit your day job"

"not the elixir to fix everything"


"The jinx of ___"

"Memo to ___"

"I refuse to kill ___"

"the tough slate"

"If you've got a brain in your head"

"Not many people will buy this"

"___ getting off the schneid"

"I Never Met a ___ I Didn't Like" (that's right--in the very criticism of Ware's use of cliches, King uses a cliche.)

So there you have it; in the very column in which Peter King makes fun of another person for overusing cliches, Peter King uses 22 cliches. TWENTY-TWO.

Vikes Win (and other nuggets of wonderment)

Skol: Vikings 31, Seahawks 13
--The Vikings scored on their first possession for the sixth straight game, but they have never had 7 on the first drive: they had a TD and missed PAT, and five field goals.

--Things looked scary when Matt Hasselbeck masterfully read the Minnesota blitz, called an audible, and baited the Vikes for a short pass on 3rd and long that turned into an easy 72 yard TD catch. But the Vikes buckled down; Hasselbeck ended up leading the Seahawks to just three more points before getting hurt in the 3rd quarter. Throughout the game the Vikes were great on 1st and 2nd down, forcing the Seahawks into a lot of 3rd and longs, and they settled down and started stopping them on the 3rd downs.

--The Vikings are lucky that they faced the Seahawks without Alexander, and without Hasselbeck for the last 25 minutes (replays on WCCO's Sunday sports show clearly show Mack Strong pushed Henderson into Hasselbeck, by the way). However, they did just win a road game at difficult road stadium (12 straight wins, 14 with playoffs) against a 4-1 opponent, they were up 17-10 before Seneca Wallace stepped onto the field, and as far as I know the Seahawks weren't missing any important defenders.

--Agent Smith #83 was a complete non-factor. I'll have to watch the tape to see how the Vikes defended him (I'm guessing Fred Smoot was lights out). Agent Smith #81, who was a Viking before his cloning, did nothing. Agent Smith #82 repeatedly hurt the Vikings, but after that first mistake play, they handled him fairly well. The secondary came to play. They were aided, of course, by the monstrous defensive line and a group of linebackers that is tremendously improved from last season. E.J. Henderson (who I repeatedly refer to as Ed McDaniel without realizing it in conversation) is having his best season as a Viking. Add to the day another defensive touchdown thanks to an opportunistic Ben Leber, and the Viking defense is looking like a top-5 defense. I never though the Vikings would be spoken of as having the longest streak without giving up a 100 yard rusher; it's been 17 or 18 games.

--The Vikes have a really exciting return game now; Bethel Johnson shows some real spark returning kickoffs, and Mewelde Moore has proven to be a capable punt returner.
Johnson may find himself on the field for the offense.

--Obviously the Viking offense had its best game, and it should be noted that all three offensive touchdowns were unlikely plays. Brad Johnson hit Marcus Robinson for a 40 yard touchdown on 3rd and 18; not only is it tough to complete a long pass on that down and distance, but if it were not completed, the Vikes would be punting (I think; Childress is a wild man who went for it on 4th and 7 early, so who knows). On 3rd and goal from the 15, when a normal pass or run would fail the overwhelming majority of the time, Childress showed some creativity by calling a halfback pass, which worked wonderfully. And then Chester Taylor had the longest offensive play in FRANCHISE HISTORY, a 95 yard TD run. I doubt many Viking fans believed Taylor would be fast enough to outrun the entire Seattle defense (though at the end he had to use the Tecmo Bowl angle to hold off Boulware). We already knew Taylor would be a good bruiser, but when a player goes for a 95 yard run, he is basically showing that he is a threat to score on any play (also, I think I have now seen that play 95 times. I think I'll call it Chester Taylor's 95 Theses). Johnson's passes, usually accurate, showed some zip on Sunday. He was able to throw hard and throw far, and was hurt by some Travis Taylor (ugh) drops. There's no question that Marcus Robinson is currently the Vikings' best threat in the passing game.

--Clearly this is the sort of game that can give Viking fans hope. I doubt many prognosticators had the Vikes at 4-2 at this point, and they're an incredible (for them) 2-1 on the road (and all three games were outdoors!). And it's not like they eeked out another close win with mundane offense; they showed some real creativity, aggressiveness, precision, and skill in the offensive game. The Vikes played very strong defense, had a solid offensive day, had a solid special teams day, and had no turnovers. This was ON THE ROAD against a 4-1 team. At this point I have no idea what to expect from the Vikings week to week, but I certainly don't expect them to lay many duds.

Favre Tally
With 2 touchdown passes and 0 interceptions, Brett Favre is now 15 away from catching the greatest quarterback of all-time's TD record, and remains 17 interceptions away from catching a guy that once threw 42 interceptions in a season. I am, of course, seething the entire time. I feel like I've never seen "the good guys" win: the Vikes have never even made it to the Super Bowl in my lifetime, I've never voted for the eventual president, and now Favre is going to break Dan Marino's record.

Why the Vikings should never play at 3:15
In the anxiety of watching football but waiting for the Vikings, I orchestrated the first 10 player trade in our league's history that becomes official later this week. I will be trading Randy Moss, Troy Williamson, Deshaun Foster, DeAngelo Williams, Jake Delhomme, Owen Daniels, the Cowboy Defense and the Panther Kicker for Shaun Alexander and the Cincinnati Kicker (by the way, in our league we neither want to learn kickers' names nor worry about their injuries, so we draft team kickers and score as such).

Around the League
--I maintain that Peyton Manning is the best player in the NFL, and I hope this is the year he finally gets the Colts into the Super Bowl (where, of course, I hope they lose to the VIkings 73-0).

--The NFC got more cluttered over the weekend, as the Vikings and Falcons improved to 4-2, the Panthers and Eagles fell to 4-3, the Seahawks fell to 4-2 and after Monday the Giants and Cowboys will be 4-2 and 3-3 (or perhaps 3-2-1 each, which would of course be more fun). The Bears (6-0), Rams (4-2), and Saints (5-1) were all on bye. It now looks to me like there will be 9 NFC teams with between 8 and 10 wins.

--The Buccaneers are a scary team. They're not nearly good enough to manage their way into the playoffs, but they're not nearly bad enough to be an easy win for any of their opposition. They should knock off a few NFC playoff contenders on their way to 6 or 7 wins.

--I have no idea what to make of Jacksonville, and neither do you.

I'm finally ready to comment on UCLA football, and here is that comment:

It's almost basketball season.

Addendum #1: The Vikings are 4-2 without having much meaningful production from any rookies. Cedric Griffin has played the most, and Ray Edwards and Greg Blue have had some meaningful playing time. Chad Greenway is injured and Nate Cook and Tarvaris Jackson haven't played. I'm looking at this as a good thing; these are still players that will help the Vikings in the future (including later in this season), but right now they don't need them that much. Hopefully they made their picks for long-term impact.

Friday, October 20, 2006

National Friday League, week seven

Staring into the Abyss
Rob is right; barring some disaster, it is inevitable that Favre will break Marino's TD record. I can root against it, but I'm just a crazy obsessive trying to deny fate. I will now compensate by rooting like mad for Peyton Manning. Eventually he will break all the records, so I can just live in hope that Manning passes Favre quickly.

"But at my back I always hear/ Time's winged chariot hurrying near"
Once upon a time, the Priest Holmes Experience Featuring Randy Moss was a fantasy force to be reckoned with. The greatest fantasy football performer in history has flamed out, but at the 2006 draft, I ran around the house screaming like a buffoon when I was able to draft Randy Moss. Now he is the Experience's #4 WR, clearly behind Steve Smith and Marvin Harrison and surprisingly behind Reggie Williams. "And yonder all before us lie/ Deserts of vast eternity."

Is Jesus cool? 97% say yes, 3% say maybe.
At Hamline's 2006 performance of Jesus Christ Superstar, the answer to this poll question was shown in pie graph form. For some reason, I still think it is funny.

So when I want to ask, "What chance do the Vikings have to win in Seattle?," I want to give "No chance," "Very little chance," or "Some chance" as the choices. Frankly, I'm writing it off as a loss just so I can feel good if the Vikes happen to win. When Daunte and Randy were here, I always figured there was any game the Vikes could win, because you never really know when you might get one of those 150 yard, 3 TD games from Moss. Less than two years after Moss and Culpepper played their last game together, the Viking offense is now awful; I watch it with little hope. And while I have confidence in the defense, the secondary does still show a penchant for giving up pass completions. Agent Smith might just torch the Viking D for lots of first downs. Oh well, I have some hope.

Also, I hate when the Vikes play at 3:15.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The PV curse

Last week, I used this image of Pablo Picasso's "The Dream" in a post about...well, it doesn't even matter.

Well, that painting has now been damaged. They owner accidentally elbowed a hole through it shortly after agreeing to sell it...for $139 million.

Just in case some mystical cosmic force that can curse things has settled itself down on my blog, I will now do what little I can to prevent Dan Marino's TD record from being broken.

(picture removed)

Addendum: I'm not actually superstitious--I'm just joking. But now I look at that picture and think, "If that shows a picture of Favre getting sacked and losing, does that mean I'm cursing such an occurance happening, and Favre will do well? Or if a Viking defender is in the picture, am I cursing the Viking defense, even though Chris Claiborne isn't on the team anymore?" Oh well. The die of fate has been cast.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

New NBA rookies....hmm, new NBA rookies.

The NBA season is coming right on up, and it's time to list of which new rookies we should root for and why. Reasoning is ridiculous and arbitrary, just like life.

Adam Morrison: Why do we root for him? Because he has a poster of Marx on his wall. Adam Morrison fans of the world, unite! From Adam Morrison, according to his abilities, and cheers to Adam Morrison, according to his deeds. There is a specter looming over the NBA, and it is Adam Morrison.

Randy Foye: Randy Foye is a new Timberwolf, the latest in Kevin McHale's attempt to surround Keven Garnett with talented guards while leaving him on his own to rebound, defend, and score near the basket. But we will root for Mr. Foye.

Thabo Sefolosha: I had not heard of this man in my life. Then I got a card of him yesterday. He's from Switzerland. Switzerland is neutral. That's sort of cool. So we should root for him.

Jordan Farmar: the UCLA hero who took the Bruins all the way to the title game last year, he should be just what the Lakers need. He's a point guard who can handle the ball and defend; add him to last year's Laker team and maybe they beat the Suns in the playoffs.

But I'm just a hoser; for real NBA knowledge, you should turn to FreeDarko.

In other news, I finally acquired Chester Taylor for the Experience. It's been a long and bitter journey filled with all sorts of lies and deceit coming from all directions, but he is finally on the squad.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Musings and Wonderings and Questionings

Does the fact that they sucked against the Cards mean they are a pretender? Or does the fact that they still found a way to win mean they are a contender? Who can beat them in the playoffs? Are they now a more detestable rival for the Vikings than the Packers? Should I give up my hopes of an improbable NFC North title for the Vikes this year?

Randy Moss to New England
Would that make Randy Moss an instant fantasy starter again? Would Brady to Moss become one of the legendary all-time combos, even if it ends up short-lived? Would all the people with Moss Raider jerseys still wear them? What would Moss's number be in New England? Would he switch back to #84 and become potent, like Michael Jordan switching back to #23? If Randy Moss gets traded to the Patriots, what will happen on Monday, October 30th when the Patriots play the Vikings in the Metrodome? Would I need to cancel class entirely to go home and mentally prepare for such an event? Would that be the most conflicting moment in my life?

Vikings against the Seahawks
Is #81, #82, #83, and #84 for the Seahawks a clone? If one of them sticks his hand into Antoine Winfield's chest, will Winfield turn into one of them? Will they continue to replicate themselves until the entire NFL is filled with them? Would they be willing to go to the Viking WRs and replicate themselves?

The World Series
Why do we have to be denied the pleasure of a Sunday night football game just because some people like baseball? This was fine when we still had a Monday night game on broadcast, but why does it have to happen now?

Monday, October 16, 2006

Nuggets of Wonderment, Week Six

Troy Aikman is a unique announcer
Why? Because he'll actually admit when he's wrong. Twice on Sunday, he saw a play and made a claim about it. Once he saw the replay, he was willing to admit that he was wrong. He didn't do what most announcers do, which is either to contradict themselves without acknowledgement or go on fighting for an argument which is clearly wrong.

John Madden
I'd like to thank Madden for mentioning the Gary Anderson game. It was a Viking bye week, but I still got to be tormented by my team.

Two comments from Madden stuck out to me as somewhat absurd.

--On a Denver playcall (during the play, and in context, seemingly directed at the Oakland defense): "Here's another bootleg. You can't let that happen." How, I am curious, is the Oakland defense supposed to prevent Denver from calling a bootleg?

--On Al Davis: "Not winning is killing him." This seems like a cold thing to say at the end of a conversation about how decrepid Davis is. I would say the way of all flesh is killing him, but maybe Madden is right.

What does an ACL injury mean anymore?

It used to be that a WR or RB could be damaged for his career after an ACL injury, then it was that he'd miss a year and come back slow for a year. But Javon Walker and Deuce McAllister both look pretty sharp.

Looking ahead: Vikings at Seahawks
The Vikes catch their third break of the season: they faced Washington with half of Portis, Carolina without Steve Smith (they're 4-0 with him), and now Seattle without Alexander. However, the Viking run defense has been stifling all season; I'm more worried about the Viking secondary's ability to stop Agent Smith at WR (I'm convinced that #81, #82, #83, and #84 at WR for the Seahawks are a computer virus clone). Seattle has a chance to really exploit the Viking secondary, and the Johnson-led mundane Purple offense is going to have trouble keeping up. The Vikes are going to need to force some turnovers to win this one.

Making sense of it all
(note: These are not predictions, even though it may appear they are. This is an attempt to make sense of the league based on what we know, and using the playoffs to try format the chaos.)

In the AFC, New England and Indianapolis look like strong division winners. Either Denver or San Diego will win the AFC West, and the other will make the playoffs as a Wild Card. I don't know whether Pittsburgh, Baltimore, or Cincinnati is the best team in the AFC North, but I believe that division will NOT have a Wild Card team. I believe the sixth Wild Card team will be Jacksonville.

In the NFC, the Bears will win a ton of games, and Philadelphia, Dallas, New York, Minnesota, Carolina, New Orleans, Atlanta, St. Louis, and Seattle will win between 8 and 10 games.

This is the way the league looks to me right now.

ADDENDUMS (as often happens on Monday, more ideas come to me as I sit in my office and read various things around the internet. Rather than write a new post--or save the ideas for later this week--I'll add addendums to the Nuggets of Wonderment).

Addendum #1: Here are two sports cliches I would like to see retired.
1. "thrown under the bus"
2. "drank the kool-aid"
Both were fairly clever at one time, and evoked clear images to make sense of a situation. Now they are just overused by non-clever writers.

Friday, October 13, 2006

National Friday League, Week Six

Free Randy!
PFT says the Steelers might be interested. Don Banks says a couple of teams are interested in him. We could have the biggest mid-season NFL trade since Herschel Walker ruined the Vikings for three years. Moss would certainly be excited to move. Would he be as excited, however, as all the fantasy football owners who failed to move him yet this season? Randy ending up on another team could double his fantasy production and value. Good times.

Shanahanigans and the Raiders
Several weeks ago, I was looking over my fantasy roster, considering various trades, and then Denver's primetime game against the Raiders caught my attention. I have spent the last several weeks looking forward to watching Tatum Bell destroy the Raiders. Should be fun. I failed, however, to acquire the Bronco defense for this game.

Viking bye week
You have to enjoy that one weekend a season when your favorite team doesn't play. no major anxiety, no crazy mental and physical reactions to events beyond ones control, no afternoon spent drilling the caffeine in a bizarre belief that will calm the nerves. OK, maybe that's just me. But the bye can be a fun time to relax and watch what other teams in the league the networks deign to offer you. According to this guy (via Deadspin), at noon in the great state of Minnesota we get to flip between Philly at New Orleans and Houston at Dallas, and then at three we get to watch KC at Pittsburgh.

That's all for now. Enjoy week six everybody. Except Bear fans. The Packers are on bye, so Packer fans, go ahead and enjoy yourselves too.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Adulthood and Responsibility

During a typically inane, meaningless fantasy football dispute, one member of our league referred to the violation of “the spirit of fantasy football.” I began referring to this spirit as an actual, conscious individual entity. Another person suggested that the spirit of fantasy football came from the shadow of the endzone, and now a mythology is born.

Needless to say, my fantasy team’s new nickname is “The Super All-Star Hero Man Experience Featuring the Spirit of Fantasy Football.”

Also, after writing this post, I started a google image search looking for a picture of a ghost or a spirit to supplement the text. I was about to post a picture of the freaky little girl from Ringu. I then considered that if I were to cut and paste a picture of the girl from Ringu (or The Ring, I don't suppose it would matter much either way) to my blog, she might actually come to torment and/or kill me. I decided I'd rather not take my chances.

The moral of these anecdotes is that I'm an adult, I teach college students, and I will soon have a child.

For your enjoyment...

Here's a fun article on tipped balls, an important part of the game that is overlooked.

"Cracking the TB Code," by David Fleming

I have one quibble with this otherwise insightful article. We need to kill the cliche that a geek of any sort is living in his/her "parents' basement." It's overused, inaccurate, demeaning, and stupid. For more on lousy metaphors, see George Orwell's "Politics and the English Language."

A little break for bas-ket-ball.

The greatest indictment against Kevin McHale’s career running the T-Wolves is his failure to give Kevin Garnett any rebounding support. Garnett has led the NBA in rebounds per game the last three years. However, look at the people who led in rebounds per game in previous years: From 92-98, Dennis Rodman. 00 and 01, Mutumbo. 02 and 03, Wallace. For 11 of 12 seasons the league’s best rebounder was a player not expected to score a ton of points for his team. Garnett is by far the T-Wolves best player and scorer, but he’s been on his own for rebounding. McHale has actually done a solid job bringing in guards and swingmen to support KG, but KG has never had another good rebounder to play with, and he’s rarely even had competent rebounders. Once again, McHale has given KG some solid guards, but all close-to-the basket production is going to be expected to come from KG. You can see how this is wearing Garnett down, mentally and physically.

You know, “swingman” seems a natural way to describe a basketball player, but “swingmen” just sounds odd.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

What do we know now?

We can't make too many assumptions about the NFL in the first half of the season. I've watched the Vikings start the season 6-0 and 5-1 and fail to win the division; I've watched the Vikings start out 2-5 and end up 9-7. There's a lot of craziness still to come.

However, at this point every team has played 4 or 5 games. Here are the semi-outlandish claims I would like to make after seeing things go down these weeks.

More than half of the NFC's teams will finish .500 or better.
There's going to be a glut of teams right around 9-7 fighting for playoff positions. Philadelphia and Chicago should win more. But I see Dallas, New York, Minnesota, New Orleans, Carolina, Atlanta, Seattle, and St. Louis finishing with between 8 and 10 wins.

The AFC playoffs will be all about matchups.
If Denver doesn't have to play at Indianapolis, the Broncos will go to the Super Bowl. If Indianapolis doesn't have to play at Denver or New England at home or away, the Colts will go to the Super Bowl. If the Patriots don't have to play the Broncos, they will go to the Super Bowl.

Tatum Bell is on his way to a rushing title.
Check out the rushing leaders; despite splitting carries for the first two games, Bell is seventh in the league in rushing, but he's only played in four games, and five of the six players in front have played in five (and none of them have ever rushed for as many as 1,300 yards). Now that Shanahanigans has settled his confidence on Tatum, and considering the quality of backups behind him, Bell should lead the league in rushing. He's always had great yards per attempt, and the Bronco system is, of course, legendary. The Broncos still play Oakland twice, Cleveland, Indianapolis (in Denver), Arizona, and San Francisco. They've also got some tougher defenses on the schedule, but the Broncos have proven over the years the ability to run against anybody.

That's all I've got for now, and they're only there because I'm in the middle of a six day respite from grading papers but still have five straight hours in my office today.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Skol Vikings (and other nuggets of wonderment)

Viking WRs
The Vikings have a pretty strong history of great wide receivers. When I started watching them, Anthony Carter was teamed up with a rising Cris Carter. Cris Carter became an elite WR and was joined by Jake Reed. Later Carter was still elite and was joined by Randy Moss. From 1993-2004, the Vikes always had a 1,000 yard receiver and from 1994-2000, they had two each season. 2005 was the first time I watched the Vikings play without an elite WR. Before I started watching them, such players as Gene Washington , John Gilliam, Sammy White, and Ahmad Rashad played wideout for the purple.

It’s pretty clear the current Viking receiving group is pretty lousy right now. But is it the worst WR group the Vikings have had since the mid 80s? Early 60s? Ever?

Fan/Fantasy Dilemma
The Viking defense had, by my count, 5 sacks, 3 interceptions, 1 fumble recover, and 2 touchdowns. Their two fourth quarter TDs were intrical to beating the Lions. I was very excited to see these plays. Add to this that defensive TDs are my favorite plays in football. However, part of me was upset: I have the Viking defense on my fantasy team, and this week I finally decided to bench them, giving up 21 fantasy points.

This is a dilemma a lot of diehard fans of teams who participate in fantasy football experience. What happens when your fantasy team’s exploits taint what should be pure joy at your favorite team’s exploits?

When this happens, you have to be willing to try desperate measures to try right your football priorities. For the next few weeks, I will still follow the Experience, tally its scores, turn in lineups, make roster changes, and double-check to make sure the commissioner isn't making mistakes. But I won’t follow the league rankings. This is my punishment for allowing a fictional league to get in the way of what should be pure joy at the Vikings’ efforts at a W. My fantasy football team should never be allowed to cause me the same sort of anxiety the Vikings cause me, nor should it ever seem as important.

This did lead to a minor existential crisis that left me melancholy much of Sunday evening. After telling myself, "Don't take fantasy football so seriously; you have to enjoy watching the games, not stress about your fantasy decisions," which led to "but why put so much focus on watching the games? Is it really an authentic life to make football the center around which everything else evolved?" which led to "what should be the center of my existence?" and feeling empty much of the day.

Skol: Vikings 26, Lions 17
Robert Novak says that the only thing Republicans exist for is to lower taxes; they don’t do anything else well, and if they don’t do that, they may as well not exist. Let me borrow his language: the Vikings exist to beat the Lions. The Vikes have beat the Lions nine straight times and haven’t lost to them in the Metrodome since 1997. Even when the Vikes were down 17-3, it sort of felt like we had seen this before: the Lions start out winning, but somehow (often more because of Detroit ineptitude than Minnesota clutch) the Vikings win. Beating the Lions is one of the things the Vikes are good at, and if they would have lost, at home, to the Lions to fall to 2-3, they could have written this season off.

The Viking defense is doing a spectacular job. Nobody has been able to run on them, and while the pass defense has been inconsistent, it is tremendously improved over two years ago, and looks better every week.

The offense is a problem. It is unreasonable to call for Brad Johnson to be benched; however, this is because of the low quality of Johnson’s backups, not because of any merit on Johnson’s part. I don’t know that Brooks Bollinger would be better, and the future king of the Purple, rookie Tarvaris Jackson, probably shouldn’t get thrown in with this team as it stands. I think yards per attempt is a completely meaningless statistic, but I always look at the yards per completion for a quarterback. In the third quarter, Johnson was averaging less than 5 yards per completion; Chester Taylor (who had his best game as a Viking) was averaging more per rushing attempt than Johnson was per completion. That’s lousy (though he did improve in the late 3rd quarter and the 4th quarter). No, the Viking receiving group isn’t great, but Johnson has looked positively lousy for four weeks.

At least with many Viking fans booing Brad Johnson and calling for him to be benched, Patrick Reusse can withdraw his accusations that many Viking fans are racists. What, he's a columnist? Columnists never admit their inflammatory claims are wrong, they just willfully contradict them later? Oh, OK.

Last year after 5 games, the Vikings were 1-4, had been blown out of 3 road games, showed no pass defense, no running game, no pass protection, and the Minnetonka boat thing had just happened. I guess you could say I'm happier this year.

Viking defenders
While Antoine Winfield is my favorite Viking, I believe Pat Williams is the team’s best player. His mere presence makes the run defense dominant, and he’s a very good pass rusher from the inside too (he was incredible when he destroyed the play when Leber scored the TD). Without Pat Williams on the field, I think a great defense would become just above average. Other Viking defenders that are standing out: rookie DE Ray Edwards, who doesn’t play much but is frequently making big plays, and Napoleon Harris, who is making the Randy Moss trade seem palatable.

Randy Moss
Randy Moss caught his 100th regular season TD pass. He also has a regular season punt return for a TD and 9 postseason TD receptions. He is one of the all-time great WRs. This doesn’t stop everybody at CBS and FOX from scoring points on him, even at a moment where he should deserve some credit. In particular, I used to be indifferent to Joe Buck. Then he became very annoying when Randy Moss scored his second TD at Lambeau in the playoff game, faked a moon (to a crowd that is known to moon the opposing team’s bus) and acted with outrage. But Buck is becoming absolutely insufferable.

Whither updates?
FOX used to run occasional updates across the bottom of the screen with info on who scored for who. Now they have scores in the corner, but unless they show a game break, you have to wait until halftime or the end of the game to find out how the team scored. My theory: networks hate fantasy football.

Commercial Repor
I really like the Caveman at the airport commercial; something about it shows authentic intellectual outrage.

The FOX commercial with all the college teams climbing the ladders is pretty cool. It makes me wish that we had a sport in which people climbed 1,000 feet ladders and fought on the way up. Ladder matches work so well in professional wrestling, so it could probably work as it’s own sport.

You know the main lawyer in that FOX show Justice that is always being promoted during games? He played Jesus in Godspell. Whenever I see him, I think, “There’s Jesus.”

From seeing the commercial of The Grudge 2, it looks like they took all the scenes from Ju-on that they didn’t use in The Grudge and made a second movie out of it.

Favre Tally
With one TD pass and zero INTs, Favre moves to 17 TD passes away from a clearly seething Dan Marino, and remains 17 INTs away from George Blanda's INT record. But Favre has already thrown more INTs than Marino.

Throwback Jerseys
It's always fun when teams play a game or two a season in throwback jerseys. The Chargers were a joy to see last night. However, it sucks when teams decide to change their current jerseys to some variation of the throwback jerseys. I hope SD doesn't change their uniforms entirely to the throwbacks, just like I wish the Giants and Jets would switch to what they had in 1995. Actually, I wish every team would switch to the jerseys they wore in 1995.

(photo removed)

Friday, October 06, 2006

National Friday League

The Vikings are going for their ninth straight victory against the Lions. As you can see at pro-football-reference, the Vikes are 58-29-2 all-time against the Lions, with more victories against Detroit than any other franchise. How dominant are the Vikings against the Lions? Put it this way--Mike Tice never lost to them.

But Denny Green occasionally did, including his last game. In 2001, the 5-11 Vikings lost to the 1-15 Panthers and 2-14 Lions. This doesn't torment me as much as 2003, when the 9-7 Vikes lost to each of the teams with the worst records in the league: 4-12 Giants, Cardinals, Chargers, and Raiders. Yep, the Vikes missed winning the division by one game that season, and were 0-4 against the four worst teams in the league.

Anyway, the Vikings have yet to score 20 points in a game, and they've yet to give up 20 points in a game. The Lions have improved on offense the last two weeks but have also been awful on defense. Let us rely on the Metrodome to ensure a Viking victory over the Lions on Sunday or Monday. How nerve-wracking, to not know on Saturday whether or not you play on Sunday. Bleh.

Here are some interesting things from around the web today.

Deadspin points out that Clinton Portis is back to his thespian ways.

Fran Tarkenton really is the greatest quarterback ever.

Sid Hartman is deserving of mockery.

The Vikings have a wide geographical fanbase. Moving the game from Sunday to Monday would be a serious pain for a lot of far-traveling fans. Nobody will likely have it worse than this guy, though. Then again, if he's a season ticket holder flying from London to Minneapolis eight times a year, he's probably rich.

Whatever your opinion on Bill Simmons, his Friday NFL picks column remains a good read.

You also might want to check out Dr. Z's mailbag for this week.

On a different note, my existential experiment has been hard to maintain without home cable or internet (you're not going to see much Pac-10 football from MN without cable). Still, I'm excited for UCLA basketball this season.

Enjoy week five, everybody. Except Packer and Bear fans.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Week Five Approaches

During football season I forget how life functions during the other seven months of the year. Each week is a matter of making it from Sunday to Sunday. What do I do spring semester? What do I do in the summer? I barely remember, and then each January or February when the first footballless Sunday comes around, I suddenly remember how to lead an authentic life.

Here are some thoughts on the upcoming weekend.

I find the most compelling aspect of the Eagles-Cowboys game to be that they are two good NFC teams who will be battling for division supremacy and who have a lot of talented players on their teams. TO going back to Philly interests me only slightly; 2-1 Dallas playing at 3-1 Philadelphia interests me greatly.

I refuse to give up hope that the Bears might suck. Buffalo has a team better built to play Chicago than a lot of the NFC contenders: strong running game, tough defense, disciplined special teams (despite all the fair catch interference last week). Why not? I’ll pick the Bills in an upset.

We still don’t know whether the Vikings will be playing the Lions on Sunday or Monday. The Vikes haven’t lost to the Lions since 2001—that’s eight straight wins, folks. Unfortunately, I am not confident. If the offense continues to struggle, the Vikes could end up allowing the Lions to stay in the game and steal one. Then again, Detroit has given up 34, 31, and 41 points the last three weeks. That’s 106 points in three weeks after giving up 9 in week one. If the Vikings can’t break 20 against the Lions and win, this season is lost, and they need to find receivers in the off-season for Tarvaris Jackson to throw to.

For the first time this season, I’m really going to miss watching Monday Night Football. I’d really like to watch the Broncos, particularly as Tatum Bell has found his way into the Experience’s starting lineup (for those not in the know, the Experience is my fantasy team). Yes, I'm still suffering from Shanahanigans, and if for some reason Mike Bell gets 20 caries and a couple of TDs, my face will light up to match the color of Shanahan's face.

And finally, another reason Dr. Z is a must-read football columnist: he writes about the HOF selection process.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

"Titles are hard." --Marge Simpson

Even I now think there are too many people online overly critical of Brett Favre (though it's still a fair contrast against the TV apologism). But here's some analysis from From Dr. Z:

“If they don't get Brett Favre out of there pretty soon, he's going to get his receivers killed. His passes are putting them in terribly awkward, compromising positions. Monday night it was Donald Driver's turn. I didn't think he was going to make it through. It was what they used to say about tail-gunners in WWII. Sooner or later their number's gonna be up.”

For more on tail-gunners, read Randall Jarrell’s “The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner.”

I still don't get baseball.

The Twins clinched a playoff berth a while ago. On Sunday afternoon, when they won the division, they celebrated as if they had just won a championship. Less than 48 hours later they had lost a playoff game. Is there a correlation here?

I understand that 162 games is pretty monotonous and there needs to be a chance to unload and celebrate. But the Twins already knew they were going to the playoffs; what was that incredible celebration on Sunday about? There are teams that win a championship that don't celebrate that much; it's like they didn't care that in two days they would have to play another game.

I haven't heard any comment or complaint about this. Would the Vikings get a free pass if they celebrated this much a few days before a playoff game, then lost the playoff game?

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Whither Randy?

Randy Moss, the most talented wide receiver in the league and most exciting player I've ever watched, is currently in exile on a team with no quarterback, no offensive line, and no offensive philosophy. Randy is rich and probably doesn't care, but this upsets me because he is being thwarted from his destiny of breaking all of Jerry Rice's records. In my fantasy league, I went through the indignity of offering Randy Moss straight up for the Chicago Defense...and getting rejected. He's got to get out of Oakland.

So, let us consider where Randy could play in 2007.

Oakland: there's a fair chance they could move him--at his insistence. I hope so, I really do, but odds are he ends up staying.
Kansas City: Rumors are Herm Edwards wanted Moss when he was with the Jets. Who knows what he might do?
Denver: I doubt it, but Shanahanigans is crazy. A crazy, bright red man.
San Diego: Not if Marty Schottenheimer is still there.
Indianapolis: No chance. Manning wouldn't have him, the Colts don't need him.
Jacksonville: Reggie Williams, Matt Jones, and a hardnosed philosophy--not bloody likely.
Houston: I have no idea, but I doubt it.
Tennessee: I have no idea, but I doubt it.
Pittsburgh: No chance. Even if Cowher leaves, the Rooneys wouldn't want him.
Cincinnati: Chad Johnson, Chris Henry, TJ Houshmandzspellityourself--doesn't seem necessary.
Baltimore: We'll see how the Ravens' season turns out. That's where Moss wanted to go, they tried to get Moss, they always seem to want to add offensive players, and they have utterly no concern for character at all. It's a distinct possibility.
Cleveland: WTF? Doubtful.
New England: How bad do the Pats need a WR? Is Moss the kind of player, mentally and physically, to play this system? Would they even try?
Miami: Hmm...Culpepper-Moss, part 2? Possible.
Buffalo: No chance--Dick Jauron isn't having it.
New York Jets: I don't see it.
Seattle: Agent Smith plays WR for them; I don't see what they'd want with Moss.
Arizona: Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin--I think it would take quite a bit for Denny Green to try replace one of those guys with Moss.
St. Louis: Linehan coached Moss before...Isaac Bruce approaches retirement...Hmm. Quite the possibilities.
San Francisco: Barely better than Oakland.
Carolina: Not bloody likely.
Tampa Bay: I can't see why.
Atlanta: Moss would like it, but they don't want him.
New Orleans: I can't see why.
Philadelphia: Randy is not the munch T0 is, but the Eagles wouldn't want to risk it.
New York (Giants): Extremely doubtful. If the Gigants clean house because Burress and Shockey mouth off about coaches, I doubt they'll want Moss.
Dallas: Not if TO is there
Washington: I guess it's possible, but it doesn't seem to be a need
Minnesota: Welcome back, Randy! We'd love to have you. All of us except Wilf and Childress, unfortunately.
Detroit: Extremely doubtful.
Green Bay: I'd throw my head through the TV first.
Chicago: I'd throw my head through the TV first.

So, what teams are possibilities, for real? He'll probably still be in Oakland, not terribly pleased but still rich and still happy. Kansas City, Miami, and Baltimore could make a move for him. The only NFC teams I see making a move for him are Arizona (not likely because of Fitzgerald and Boldin) or St. Louis (possible--I don't know what Linehan thinks of Moss, but he knows how to use him. It might piss Torry Holt right the hell off, though).

My guess is Baltimore.

More Nuggets of Wonderment

Three Philosophical Points on Albert Haynesworth
1. It is an interesting fact of human existence that one action, taking place in a matter of seconds, can change the perception of a man’s identity. One action in a matter of seconds and a person can be forever associated with that one bad decision in one bad moment.

2. There is a lot of outrage among football fans over Haynesworth’s action. I find it interesting that people who watch a very violent sport for fun express such incredible outrage over a particular violent act. Obviously stomping a guy’s face with one’s cleats is different than tackling a guy hard, but the lady doth protest too much, methinks.

3. The term “political correctness” is overused and misused, but there is almost a form of political correctness going on here: if you don’t express the necessary outrage over Haynesworth’s action, some will say there is something wrong with you.

Favre Tally
With 0 TDs and 2 INTs, Favre remains 18 TDs away from Marino’s career TD pass record and 17 INTs away from Blanda’s career INT record.

Win Twins
According to Pro Football Talk, if the Twins need 5 games in their series with the As, then the Viking’s game against the Lions next week will be moved to Monday night. I will rip my hair out and scream “a pox on both your houses” if this happens. If the Twins do win the World Series (which I do hope they do, since many of my fellow Viking fans would be pleased), I will also have to learn what sort of behavior is necessary when a hometown team that you really don’t care about wins a championship.

Chance and Football
In the fiction of John Fowles, hazard plays a major role. In The Magus and The French Lieutenant’s Woman, Fowles teaches that chance is the primary factor determining our existences.

There's something we don't usually talk about in relation to football. We like to believe there is order and meaning to what occurs on and around the field. But sometimes, that isn't the case.

The fact is, often what determines who wins a particular football game, or even who wins a particular championship, is based on chance. Hazard. Randomness. ON FACTORS WELL BEYOND THE CONTROL OF A SPECIFIC TEAM.

If an opponent fumbles, an odd-shaped ball is going to bounce in any number of directions. Which way that ball bounces may determine who wins that game. And in the NFL, where every game counts, who wins that game could determine who gets home field advantage in the playoffs, which could determine the champion. And what direction that odd-shaped ball bounces is a matter of physics outside of the realm of control of the team.

When do you play a particular opponent? Do you play them early in the season, when they're still alive? Late, when they've written everything off? Right after a tough Monday night game? A week after their best player gets injured? These are the types of things that could determine whether you win a game, a division, a championship. And you have no control over the NFL scheduling.

Luck. Luck is a ridiculous factor in the NFL. Sometimes how you acquire a particular player is a matter of chance. Sometimes injuries of which there is no control occur. Sometimes the ball bounces oddly, or the referee finally clears a fumble pile at the wrong time, or an opponent makes a mistake somewhere along the way, or any number of other factors that you have nothing to do with can determine your team success. What if you're 12-4 but play in the same division with a 14-2 team? What if one particular year you have your best team ever, but you're the second best team in the league, but the year before or a year later you would have been the best team in the league?

It's hazard.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Week Five Nuggest of Wonderment

Coming off the Ledge: Vikings 12, Bills 17
--Minnesota's loss at Buffalo was a great illustration of my theory on what it takes to have a successful NFL defense. If you're running a pro defense, you have to know that you will give up completions. Accept that. But if you tackle the receiver at the spot he catches it, you will have a successful defense. If a receiver catches a ball short of a first down, stop him there. Don't let him run past the marker; make the team earn the first down. If a receiver gets a nice 15 yard completion, don't let him turn it into 20. Easier said than done, I know, but I firmly believe that if you limit or eliminate yards after the catch, you should have a successful defense. And for the love of the Runestone, when Peerless Price catches the ball in the backfield, hits the ground, and is absolutely cornered, don't let him run around backwards and run past everybody for a touchdown.

--Brooks Bollinger. Think about it. If necessary, I'll say more in the future.

--Mewelde Moore. Think about it.

--There's a possibility that my child will be born on Super Bowl Sunday. Joke #1: At least I don't have to worry about missing a Viking game.

--I thought the Mike Tice era was over; what's with all the penalties? Childress is supposed to bring discipline, on and off the field (I consider on the field much more important). Penalties have been destroying the Vikings.

--Just like stopping the receiver where he catches it is a requirement for good defense, receivers catching the ball when it hits their hands is a requirement for good offense.

--The Vikings have scored 19, 16, 16, and 12 points in their first four games. Somebody is going to have to convince me now why exactly Brad Johnson needs a raise.

Homoerotic Commentary of the Weekend
During the Florida-Alabama game, an announcer said "he had his hand on his back while his right hand reached around."

The Bears
If I have no other virtue, let it be that I admit my mistakes. I was wrong about the Bears. They are the best team in the NFC. They've added a real downfield passing game to support a very good defense.

The NFC teams that can beat them in the playoffs in Soldier Field are the ones with a single dynamic offensive player capable of breaking apart their defensive scheme. Last year Steve Smith had 12 receptions for 218 yards and 2 TDs and 3 rushes for 26 yards in beating the Bears. In 2001, Donovan McNabb threw for 261 yards and 2 TDs and rushed 8 times for 37 yards and a TD in beating the Bears. Looking around the NFC, those still look to me like the two players on the two teams capable of going into Soldier Field in January and coming out winners.

Also, thanks to the good people at pro-football-reference.com for accessible stats.

Quick Weekend Thoughts
--For me, the three most detestable, "love to hate" sports movie villains are Coach Bud Kilmer of Varsity Blues, Bob Sugar of Jerry McGuire, and the brother-in-law who wants Ray to sell his farm in Field of Dreams.

--Philip Rivers is a vampire. Think about it.

--Marty Schottenheimer is capable of single-handedly destroying a talented offensive team's chance to win playoff games.

--The Vikings are 2-2, but Daunte Culpepper's and Randy Moss's teams are a combined 1-6.

--I still say Peyton Manning is the best player in the NFL. I would like to see him finally play like it to a Super Bowl run. Granted, if the Colts were in the NFC, we might be talking about a team that had just lost three straight Super Bowls.

--Clinton Portis may be the best RB in the league (compare his numbers for the last four years to anybody else's. It's a legitimate argument). Right now, the only RB in the league I'd take over Portis is Ladanian Tomlinson--and even that is pretty close.

As my sister is learning, if you want to watch football with my group of friends, you have to learn the lame nicknames we have for every player. These nicknames lack creativity or any merit whatsoever, but they are how we watch football. Here are some of my favorites. There are more, but to get an idea how lame they are, just look at these are realize they are the ones I decided to type.

Deion Branch= Old Muffed Punt
Joey Harringon = Joey Ha Ha
Peyton Manning = Dilfer
Trent Dilfer = Super Dilfer
Eli Manning = Dilfer Jr., Ellie
Matt Hasselbeck = Hasselsuck
Jake Delhomme = Jake Dulhomme
Mike Vanderjagt = Vanderjoke, Vanderjerk, Vanderchoke
Brett Favre = Shitdick
Tarvaris Jackson = Turdballs, Tito
Tank Williams = Tank the Tank
Tom Brady = Tom Terrific
Mewelde Moore = First Down and Moore
Chad Pennington = Chad Sexington, Chad Dorkington
Brad Johnson = BJ
Brian Calhoun = Heisman Calhoun
Peter King = Titan Meltdown

(addendum #1: I might add addendums throughout the day rather than start a new post.

First, there are many things I don't get about baseball traditions, so I won't start exploring them now. But while my beloved Vikings are excoriated every time an off-field incident occurs, local networks show extended coverage of the Twins getting drunk, grab-assing, and pouring booze all over each other. What a country.

Second, here's my reason to come off the ledge at the moment. The Vikes haven't been favored in any of their games thus far (as far as I know), and they've come out 2-2. Looking at their schedule, I would guess there will be 5-7 games this season in which they will be favored. If they can win, say, three of every four they are favored in, and half the games they're not favored in, they end up with 9-10 wins. So, is this valid reason to come off the ledge or not?)

(Addendum #2: The Viking defense is good enough to keep teams under 20, but not dominant enough to win games on its own. The Vikes need to find an offense that can put points on the board to make the playoffs. Well, three straight teams have scored 30+ on the Lions, so if Brad Johnson can't punch it into the endzone next week, I'll be screaming "Brooks Bollinger" from my rooftop.)

(Addendum #3: Mewelde Moore needs more plays. The Vikes need to put the ball into the endzone, and Moore is a more dynamic runner than Taylor. He can break tackles, has more potential for long runs, and is a good receiver. Taylor and Moore have very different skills, and both will be useful to the Vikings, but Moore needs more opportunities to help the team win. He can.)

(Addendum #4: Here is a philosophical exploration of the despair of being a sports fan)