Week Two Sportswriting Prediction
Our week one pick was relatively successful; let's go on to week two.
I predict that at least one sportswriter will use the expression "at the end of the day" to refer to the record of either a 2-0 team or an 0-2 team.
Very likely, this figure of speech will be used to refer to an expected good team that has lost its first two games, or an expected bad team that won its first two games. An article about an 0-2 team will likely feature quotes about the losses, the struggles, the strength of the opponent, etc., but then the writer will say something to the effect of "But at the end of the day, team A is 0-2." On the reverse side, if, say, the Vikings beat the Lions, there might be a comment about how the Vikings have only managed to beat the Falcons and the Lions, but that "at the end of the day, the team is still 2-0."
This prediction is only correct if the expression "at the end of the day" is in reference to a team's 2-0 or 0-2 record; I am almost certain somebody will use "at the end of the day for something, and I'm just guessing what it will be. I also won't take credit for a figure of speech meaning the same thing, such as "the bottom line."
If the Patriots cheated
You can read about this anywhere: how about I link to MJD's DeBriefing.
From the moment the NFL installed microphones in the QB's helmets, I've watched NFL coaches cover their mouths with their play sheets when sending in the play call. They do this, I've been told, out of paranoia that they could reveal something, that it could show up on camera, that an opponent (of this game or a future game) might be able to read lips and discern something out of the team's play calls (according to Hashmarks, paranoia among NFL coaches has a long tradition).
So the idea of "stealing signals" is out there. The idea that coaches would do anything to gain a competitive advantage is out there, and the idea that coaches are paranoid and secretive lest an opposing coach gain a competitive advantage is out there. What's different here?
Of course at some level, stealing plays can become cheating (some Viking fans still believe the Giants were able to intercept the Viking play calls in that 41-0 debacle). And apparently, using technology to try steal signals is against the rules (though like Sports Law Blog says, it's difficult to access the official NFL rules; if you ever get ahold of a rule book, hang on to it). So while NFL teams are resourceful in attempting to gain any advantage possible, there still are clear limits to how far they are allowed to go. My feeling is that the punishment needs to match the extent of the espionage. If it was extensive (however the league might define that), then the punishment likely would be severe; if it was a somewhat superfluous addition to the gamesmanship that most certainly already goes on, then the punishment should not be so severe.
Kevin Seifert writes about the composure of our hero, Tarvaris Jackson.
Sean Jensen writes about E.J. Henderson playing middle linebacker, lining up behind Kevin Williams and Pat Williams.
The Vikes play the Lions this week, and let me ask you this; at what stage of your life were you at the last time the Lions beat the Vikings? That was in 2001: the Vikes swept the Lions in '02, '03, '04, '05, and '06 (or, precisely for the entire Matt Millen era). Now, I'm concerned this week. The game is in Detroit. It would appear a 10 game winning streak among opponents is already statistically unlikely; pushing it to 11 may be a challenge. A lot of the games played during this 10 game winning streak were actually close games, some featuring fluky shenanigans (like a 2004 game, when a botched extra point after Detroit's seeming "tying" drive gave the Vikings a one-point win). And this Detroit team seems suited to play this Viking team (they're willing to throw the ball 40 times, spreading it out to talented WRs like Roy Williams and Calvin Johnson). I think the Vikings will be able to move the ball on the Lion defense, both on the ground and in the air. I also think the Viking defense will smother Detroit's running game, and force Jon Kitna into silly sacks and turnovers. Well, let's stop here: more on this game later in the week.
Very good news for Kevin Everett: he can voluntarily move his limbs, which his doctor says means he'll likely walk again (AP article in SI).
Football Outsiders has a couple of interesting bits: Aaron Schatz shows scoring trends at different parts of the season, and Michael David Smith examines every play to evaluate Colts' rookie left tackle Tony Ugoh's performance.
The Serious Tip explains why Randy Moss really isn't controversial (via Moderately Cerebral Bias). I'm a long-time Randy Moss fan and apologist, but I really don't want to root for him catching passes from Tom Brady. As I wrote earlier, "Think about how you feel whenever you see a news story about oil companies making record profits: that's how I feel seeing Randy Moss boost Tom Brady's stat line." Certainly the former is more significant, but they both fit into a general worldview: a few parties get everything, and the rest of us are screwed. By the way, would it even shock you if some sportswriter or commentator tried to blame Randy Moss in some way for the Patriots' video tape scandal? You know there are people covering the sport that are just looking and waiting for a chance to rip Moss; I wouldn't be shocked if any of them use this story to rip Moss. They might not blame Moss, but they might try to connect Moss with it. I could see the story going something like this: "The Patriots have a reputation for winning the right way; however, all the Patriots really care about is winning in any way. When they signed Randy Moss, they showed to the world they don't care about character or respect for the game: they showed they just want to win. Taping the Jets' to steal their defensive signals is a lot like signing Randy Moss: it shows a cold-hearted, amoral desire to win at any cost. Even at the cost of their own character and dignity." Hey, if you see that story out there in the next few days, just think of me.
ADDENDUM: The NY Post's Steve Derby has already connected the two, suggesting that the signing of Moss and the espionage tactics point to Belichick's desperation to win another championship.
ADDENDUM 2: The Providence Journal's Jim Donaldson writes about the Patriots going "deeper into wayward path," their "squeaky-clean image" being "tarnished," how they "veered off the high road, on to the low." He gives examples. The first two involve the love lives of Belichick and Brady. the last two involve Rodney Harrison's HGH use and the current spying scandal. The middle example: "the acquisition of talented but troublesome wide receiver Randy Moss." So according to Donaldson, the Patriots have been tainted by what he sees as questionable romantic endeavors, by two incidents of cheating, and the mere presence of Randy Moss.
ADDENDUM 3: Check out this paragraph from The Boston Globe's John Vennochi:
"The Patriots still run out on the field as a team. But they are now like other franchises that pin their Super Bowl hopes on stars like Randy Moss. Winning is everything, and the team will pay any price to do so. They will also videotape another team's signals, to gain an edge in a football game."
Gosh, I didn't realize it would be this predictable.