Thursday, September 16, 2010

National Friday League, week two

I’m still on the Viking bandwagon. It’s just that now I’ve ambled my way to the back to sit with the older fans in the back drinking hard liquor and saying things like “Kids, I’ve seen some things. I know that hope is a mirage.” That’s how a lot of Viking fans are, I think: never able to bring themselves to actually jump off that bandwagon, but always expecting it to hit a pothole, so that all the people standing on the bandwagon get flung to the floor, and they bang into each other and there's a heap of bodies just lying on the wood as the wagon keeps on getting pulled by a horse that keeps stopping to poop or throw up. If we're going to use a cliche like bandwagon, shouldn't we flesh it out a bit?

Vikings-Dolphins Preview
There’s one big thing to like about this matchup: Chad Henne facing the Viking pass rush in Thunderdome. I think he’ll wilt. In the last two seasons, the Viking defensive line has been all over quarterbacks at home.

There’s one big thing to dislike about this matchup: Miami’s running game. The Vikings have the great run defense, sure, but they’ve frequently been vulnerable against runs off the edges. When the Dolphins get up to those misdirection shenanigoats, I worry our linebackers are going to be chasing around Dolphin running backs. When running backs get to the edges, teams can get this Viking defense.

Combine the big thing to like and the big thing to dislike, and an early lead becomes rather important. But when isn’t an early lead preferable? What, the team should try to play it close all game, or maybe try get down big in order to come back? No great insight and no great strategy there: of course the Vikings should try to score points and prevent the Dolphins from scoring points whenever possible, including the bloody first quarter. I guess I’m really just saying in this game, I don’t see the Dolphins coming back if they get down by a lot, but I could see the Dolphins picking up frustrating Wildcat first downs if they’re milking a close fourth quarter lead.

In the end, I always trust Thunderdome.

Other Intriguing Matchups
Week Two Schedule

Bills-Packers. Sure, the Bills probably suck. But they sort of have a good defense. A Buffalo win here would please me. I dislike Aaron Rodgers.

Bears-Cowboys. No freaking idea whether one of these teams can go to the playoffs or whether one of these teams really sucks.

Steelers-Titans. Last week, the Steelers scored a tight win against a quality opponent thanks to great defense; meanwhile, the Titans scored a blowout win thanks to seeing the Raiders on their schedule. These two teams can bring out the best in each other: competitive, hard-hitting, well-played football.

Giants-Colts. I don’t care about Peyton and Eli facing each other; I care about Peyton and Eli being entertaining quarterbacks who often make football games fun to watch. The game will be entertaining not because announcers keep talking about quarterbacking brothers, but because those quarterbacking brothers, and their teams, are fun to watch.

49ers-Saints. I'm still curious about both teams--I'm not sure what they showed week one.

Irrational Viking Fan
The conversations that occur at the PV household are probably a lot like you’d expect. I lament to my wife, how did the same fanbase that endured the end of ’98 have to endure the end of ’09? She says it doesn’t seem fair. And then I mumble something about ’87 and ’75.

It’s like Stephen King’s It: at consistent intervals, a horrible monster comes to terrify the town. Every 11-12 years, Viking fans can expect to get their hopes up and then have our hearts shit-stomped in a desperately confusing close playoff loss.

But with all the predictions for the Packers in the Super Bowl this year,* it is worth
repeating: if the Packers win their 13th championship before the Vikings win their first, I will have a sports nervous breakdown that makes my reaction to last year’s NFC championship game look like a hiccup. You won’t hear me talk about football again for a long, long time. I will know the universe has no balance, and that karma is a happy story for losers to tell ourselves to make us feel a little warmer at night. I won’t be able to take it, and before long I’ll change this blog to “Pacifist Timberwolf” or something. I’ve got issues.

Of course I know there is actual injustice in the world, that leads to actual suffering, and that in the lives of the cosmos and the lives of families, what I’m talking about on this blog doesn’t really matter. Which is why this has been Irrational Viking Fan.

*I get it, I do. But when virtually EVERYBODY predicts the Packers are going to the Super Bowl, it makes me ask just what they’ve done to make them the consensus preseason NFC champion? Is the whole NFC just down?

Percy Harvin
Clearly, Harvin has what it takes to be a playmaking #1 WR. He’s fast and quick. He can go deep or he can catch passes at the sticks on third down. He’s agile to get away from defenders to run after the catch, and he’s strong, difficult to bring down. He’s got great football smarts (my favorite move: when he catches the ball facing the QB, he and the defender are moving in one direction, and immediately when catching it, Harvin cuts the opposite way as quick as can be, as the defender’s momentum takes him the other direction and Harvin can get extra yards).

Last season, Harvin shined as the Vikings used him as needed. They had so many viable targets last season, that they didn’t need Harvin to be a #1 WR. Well, maybe this season they do need that. They need Harvin to be a do-it-all receiving option that they can rely on for every down. And Harvin has the talent and the toughness to do it.

Of course, he sucked against the Saints. And maybe he only works as a slot receiver.

It’s a mad, mad, mad, mad world
When you think about your life and how it changes over time, you might find yourself dumbstruck by how different your life is now than what it was then. Professional sports offers a clear reflection of the transitory nature of life. Think back to 2002 or 2003. Then tell yourself that one day, Mike Shanahan would be coaching in Washington, where he’d call a play and Donovan McNabb would hand off to Clinton Portis. Then tell yourself that the Ravens and Jets would play, and Anquan Boldin is on one team and Ladanian Tomlinson is on the other. It's like doing Franchise mode on Madden, where without really noticing a few years later a bunch of superstars are on different teams and you think "This is just weird." That’s how it goes: star players switching teams is commonplace, yet when I actually think about the changes, it’s jarring. So too with the changes of life.

Unsolicited Recommendation
I really enjoyed season one of The League, FX’s comedy about a fantasy football league. I laughed out loud a lot, and I found a lot of the show to ring true. Season two is starting up; I highly recommend it.

The Kansas City Chiefs
For a few minutes, my wife and I were watching the Chiefs and all the big, exciting plays they were making. At some point I immediately fell in love with Jamaal Charles, and asserted my wild desire to make a crazy fantasy trade offer involving giving up Frank Gore to get Charles. “Don’t go pissing away your whole team on magic beans,” she advised me. She should probably always stick around me, advising me before I do stupid things.

Low scoring? I don’t care.
On KFAN Tuesday morning, I heard Mike Florio complain to Paul Allen a bit about a low scoring week one. I don’t mind low-scoring games, actually. I like watching well-played games, and I like watching competitive games. A 13-10 game is usually more enjoyable to watch than a 35-0 game, and a 13-10 game that clearly features great defense simply outplaying competent offense is enjoyable.

Incompetent offense is, yes, terrible to watch, and there was some inept quarterbacking in week one. But a well-played, competitive low-scoring game is usually fine with me. And I like that there are some great defenses out there capable of shutting teams down and competing against some of the great offenses out there.

Greg Camarillo
Throw the ball to Camarillo: he’ll catch it! Get the man on the field!

A miniature sports book review
Over the summer I read Bill Simmons' The Basketball Book, and never got around to writing about it here.

The book might be the most entertaining sports book I've read: it's funny and insightful. If you're interested in basketball history, interested in arguments about the greatest players and the greatest teams, interested in looking at sports history for what matters most, and also interested in the fan experience of sports, the book is almost perfect.

If you don't know much about NBA history, you'll learn a lot (though perhaps in a chaotic, disorganized way), and if you do know a lot about NBA history, I think you'll find the perspectives fresh and still informative. Simmons' heavy focus on his favorite team, the Boston Celtics, is even justifiable because of the Celtics' prominent place in NBA history--it doesn't feel too heavy to me.

My one critique (it is a major or minor one depending on your perspective) is the sexism/misogyny that runs through it. When I read Simmons' columns, I wince at nearly every mention of women, because what he says is usually quite ugly (as some commenters here have pointed out). If you went through The Book of Basketball and highlighted every reference Simmons makes to women, I think you'd come up with a rather ugly picture of stereotypes and objectification.

Fantasy Box
I am a homer, and lord of the idiots.
If you use Yahoo! for your fantasy football, you may have noticed that 1% of all fantasy teams were starting Greg Camarillo week one (actually you probably didn't, because why would you be looking that up?). I was one of them. It didn’t go well.

The closer and then the deeper we get into the football season, the more ridiculous my fantasy homerism becomes. In the summer I usually convince myself “No no, not this time,” and draft a team by that standard. Then I start doing things like picking up Greg Camarillo. My fellow Hazelweirders know this and try exploit it, so I get the chance to turn down trade offers like Brett Favre for Peyton Manning straight up or Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin for Reggie Wayne.

The Indianapolis Colts lose
As my friend Kiah told me Sunday, the Colts losing is probably the best thing for fantasy owners of Peyton Manning, Reggie Wayne, etc. Let them lose some early season games (especially if Indy offensive players can put up big numbers in defeat), and then maybe they’ll actually be playing to win in Week 16 and Week 17. Suddenly, I smiled.

Enjoy your weekend, everybody. Except Packer, Bear, and Dolphin fans.


  1. Anonymous1:59 PM

    Percy Harvin has never, not dating back to college or his rookie season in the NFL, played on the outside before. He needs to be in the slot to be effective. The Vikings had better hope Camarillo can play on the outside, otherwise this passing game is in a world of trouble. And I agree, Camarillo should definitely play more. He probably won't make any big plays, but he can catch an 8 yard pass on 3rd and 7, something both Berrian and Harvin failed to do in week 1.

    The Packers being picked by EVERYBODY to play in the Super Bowl reminds me of a great quote; when everyone is thinking the same, nobody is actually thinking. Besides Aaron Rodgers, I don't think anybody could tell you why they're picking the Packers. They just are. And where the hell did these 12 championships come from? NFL championships? Hey, the Vikings won the NFC four times, does that count too? We're in the Super Bowl era now, let's give the Packers their 3 Super Bowls and nothing more.

    High-scoring games are generally garbage. The more TDs that are scored in a game, the more devalued they become. I appreciate strong defensive efforts where scoring a TD feels like a real accomplishment, not like something that should be done because the opposing defense sucks.

  2. Anonymous5:20 PM

    i agree with your assessment of the basketball book. i found it completely engrossing. i was lost in that book for a couple days. but it was also a very stupid book on many levels. reading his stuff is like watching the Hangover or Pineapple Express or any of these at times intelligent and funny movies about sexist man-children.