Tuesday, January 29, 2008

What you may have missed on Media Day...

This Tuesday marked a day like no other in the NFL season. It is a day where rational journalistic questions can be thrown to the wayside and replaced with whatever nonsensical query pops into your head. It is a day that remains the only consistent form of entertainment in the whirlwind of crap that is the weeks before the year’s biggest game. It is a day for the players to share themselves with the world.

For some strange reason though, we as fans aren’t given access to this day in its entirety. We are privy only to a small consortium of clips that the media allows us to see, but this year is different. I gained access to this prestigious event and took precise notes in order to share them as my gift to world of football fanatics. I’ve got all the juicy stuff you haven’t read yet, straight from the mouths of your favorite players and coaches. This is your VIP pass into the real Super Bowl Media Day. Enjoy.

What one word would you use to describe how it feels to reach the Super Bowl?

Tom Brady: “Familiar.”

Randy Moss: “Cash.”

Brandon Jacobs: “Incredible.”

Eli Manning: “Really awesome.”

What are your thoughts on facing Eli Manning in the Super Bowl?

Tedy Bruschi: “He’ll be a tough opponent. I mean he has clearly absorbed many blows to the head already so we’re really gonna have to go after him.”

Tom Brady: “If even the dumbest… I mean, ummm… the least promising… er, uhhh… the youngest Manning can become a success, then what does that say to you about Archie Manning? My hat goes off to that man, potent sperm Arch!”

Bill Belichick: “Snnnnnmmmkk!” *chokes on his water trying to hold back laughter*

What are your thoughts on facing Tom Brady in the Super Bowl?

Eli Manning: “Oh it’s a real honor. I mean, Tom Brady is like the coolest. He’s the reason I’m always the Pats when I play Madden ’08.”

Michael Strahan: “Getting paid to jump on top of guys like Tom Brady is every little boy’s dream.

Tom Coughlin: “Well we almost beat him once didn’t we? I see no reason why we can’t almost beat him again.”

What inspirational quote from your coach resonates with you most this year?

Lawrence Tynes: “There’s so many, Tom Coughlin is so inspirational. But I’d have to go with his old standby, ‘Miss this kick and I’ll f#@ki%g murder you!’”

Mike Vrabel: “I’d have to say after the games when he says ‘Well played, you want the game ball? Too bad, because it doesn’t mean $h%t !!! We’re just thinking about insert next opponent’s name here. Now go repeat that word for word to the media!’”

What are you most looking forward to about a possible post-game celebration?

Jared Lorenzen: “The keg and full buffet… wait, what the hell do you mean just champagne?!”

Plaxico Burress: “The relief of finally being able to remove the duct tape and popsicle sticks that are holding my ankle together.”

Tom Brady: “Gisele.”

Bill Belichick: “Ritual animal sacrifice.”

What will you do in the off-season?

Tom Brady: “Gisele.”

Bill Belichick: “Ritual animal sacrifice.”

Michael Strahan: “I’ll probably retire to focus on my television career. Well, that and relentlessly trash my former team.”

Jeff Feagles: “I look forward to mornings of watching The Price is Right, followed by invigorating rides to the community center on my Rascal for some lively games of backgammon.”

What movie will you watch this week for inspiration?

Rodney Harrison: “Rocky Balboa- it’s amazing that Sly can remain in such great physical shape so late in his career.”

Bill Belichick: “Triumph of the Will- it really shows what a group of people can accomplish when they unite for a common cause.”

Michael Strahan: “Anything with Patrick Swayze.”

Eli Manning: “VeggieTales: God Made You Special.”

When you look back on Super Bowl XLII, what will you remember most fondly?

Junior Seau: “Being the first grandfather to win a Super Bowl… WOOO!”

Wes Welker: “Randy Moss lifting me up onto his shoulders to see the trophy presentation.”

Jeremy Shockey: “Not getting the damn ball.”

Eli Manning: “The commercials.”

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Super Bowl XLII: Brady's encore or Eli's debut?

The stage is set for another classic duel of Brady vs. Manning... Eli Manning. If anyone asked me who I thought would come out on top of this match-up at mid-season it’s likely that I would’ve punched them in the head, and never spoken to them again for fear of associating myself with such a astonishing imbecile. However, it’s not mid-season anymore and going into the final game of the year these two teams aren’t nearly the same as they were then. Their leaders under center have transformed dramatically over the past few weeks, and it has changed the face of the Super Bowl dramatically as well. We might have a game on our hands after all.

Early on in the year Tom Brady looked completely unstoppable. He was throwing touchdown passes at a rate we’d never seen and it seemed like he would murder the single season touchdown record like he did Drew Bledsoe’s career. While he did beat the record (only by 1, rather than 15 as some suggested he might), Brady’s production slowed late in the year and now he is coming off the worst playoff performance of his life. To top it all off he was spotted in Manhattan yesterday wearing a walking cast that inspired the always classy New York Post to run the front page headline “Girly man limps home” (I can’t wait until my blog gets some attention so I can become a real journalist too!).

Now this begs the question, can an injured Tom Brady coming off a 3 pick performance give the Pats what they need to complete the perfect season? Of course it also begs the question, isn’t it a little odd for the opposing QB to show up in New York hobbling like Tiny Tim for all of the media to see? This has Belichick written all over it… I can see the Post cover page now: “Castgate ’08!”

Healthy or not though, one thing is clear; Brady and the New England offense haven’t had things so easy of late. In the last few weeks of the year it seemed opponents began to figure out how to slow their unfathomable pass attack. Someone clued in on their secret, stole Tom Brady’s Game Genie and forced him to play like the rest of us. Since then the Patriots margins of victory were cut back down to earthly levels and, including in the playoffs, they have actually been forced to grind out some victories. Of course, it hasn’t hurt them yet. When the worst criticism an entire national media has for your team is “their wins no longer look like George Foreman vs. Rosey Perez,” things could be worse. But with the Pats suddenly looking like much less of a juggernaut, you have to wonder if their opponent might now have a legitimate shot. Especially considering the upswing the other guys have enjoyed of late.

For once the biggest story of the playoffs is focused on a quarterback not named Brady or Favre or Manning… well at least not the Manning that anyone cared about. After an entire year of Eli-bashing writers and analysts everywhere are eating their words as they witness first hand the equivalent of Frank Stallone outdueling Sly at the box office. I too was an unrelenting cynic when it came to young Eli, but I am a man who can admit when he is wrong. So I have drafted a formal letter of apology and will mail it out immediately… care of Archie Manning. In hopes that will read it to his son for a final confidence booster as he tucks him into his race car bed the night before the big game.

But say what you will about him, closing his third consecutive turn as hero Eli has quieted his critics and self-assuredly led his team to the biggest stage in all of sports. Suddenly morphing into a confident and poised adversary for the Pats, Eli has thrown zero interceptions, shown zero panic, and thus far given them zero reason to believe he’ll do otherwise in 2 weeks.

The sudden maturation of Eli Manning has done wonders for the balance of the New York offense, and morphed them into a justifiable force. For the better part of the season the Giants were a run first team, mostly because Manning always seemed to be a pass to the other team first quarterback. However, in spite of all of the blown throws and media criticism his teammates and coaches remained faithful to their quarterback, and in the end it has paid off. Whether it was a case of the unwavering belief of others instilling him with self confidence, or getting kicked in the temple by a donkey he tried to milk, something triggered a shake up in Eli Manning’s head and he seems like a whole new man on the field. Now considering all of this began in the Giants’ week 17 battle with Brady and New England, the Pats have to be at least a little worried that a continually improving Eli Manning and Big Blue could be the ones to knock them off their high horse in the final leg of the race.

The bottom line here is this, it’s not mid-season anymore. The public pasting of whatever unfortunate bunch of slobs would face the almighty Patriots in February is no longer a foregone conclusion. We have the country’s two most dominant sports markets facing off in the biggest game of the year. We have a classic case of David vs. Goliath. And we have a rematch of one of the best games this year had to offer. Not to mention I think we all remember what happened the last time the New York Giants faced the league’s most prolific offense in a Super Bowl.

We might just have a game on our hands after all.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

NFL Conference Championship Week: Keys To Success

Upsets, comebacks, unlikely heroes, snowstorms, and a bevy of dreamy quarterbacks… this past weekend’s divisional games had it all. And after the best weekend of NFL playoff football in recent memory, we can only hope the upcoming conference championships offer up even half as much entertainment.

Here are the keys, on both sides of the ball, for each team’s road to the Super Bowl.

New York Giants
The Giants looked poised and focused last week in a win that scarred the Cowboys so badly it turned Terrell Owens into Chris Crocker. Now, after sending their hated rivals home for the year, it’s time to see if these Giants have what it takes to keep things rolling.

Offense: Eli Manning, who has made the sudden and unexpected transformation from perennial butt of all crappy quarterback jokes, to savvy, composed team leader, needs to remain confident. The Giants can ill afford to have their blossoming quarterback revert to his old ways. So my advice, keep him away from his family. One reminder that he is still the Fredo to Peyton’s Michael Corleone could shatter his fragile psyche, along with Big Blue’s Super Bowl hopes.

Defense: As it has been up to this point, the Giants defensive line remains their biggest advantage. Considering they made the Cowboys offensive line, which boasts 3 pro-bowlers, look like they were shooting the real life version of their Pepsi-Max commercial on Sunday, you have to wonder if the Pack’s O-line can stop them from pummeling Brett Favre into the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field.

Green Bay Packers
The Green Bay Packers braved a snowstorm and a 14 point deficit to handily defeat the Seahawks last Saturday. The boys from Wisconsin are this season’s Cinderella story, but do they have what it takes to make a run at the trophy?

Offense: We all know that the ageless, Wrangler donning Brett Favre has been the catalyst in the Packers magical season. And last week, heads up plays like his stumbling shovel pass to Donald Lee helped keep the cheese-heads cheering, but it helps to have a running back that churns out a 200 yard game(even though he did fumble twice in the 1st quarter). The key to a Packers victory could rest on the back of running back Ryan Grant, who was traded by the Giants earlier this year. So keep up the good work Ryan, and if you can, try not to open this one with two TD’s… for the other team.

Defense: If I were to say there’s an NFL defensive back with a weird name, who seems to be in all places at once, flying around the field with his wild hair bouncing behind him and crushing everything in his path, you’d likely assume I was talking about the Steelers’ Troy Palomalou… but there’s a new crazy-named sheriff in town. Sheriff Atari Bigby. And if he treats the Giants’ receivers anything like he did the Seahawks’, there’s a good chance the Packers will be heading west for the final shootout.

San Diego Chargers
The Chargers were given little-to-no chance heading into their showdown with the defending-champion Colts, but somehow they managed to pull out a victory. Now Norv Turner, who was previously lamented as a head coaching pariah, finds himself in a Waterboy-esque Coach Klein vs. Coach Red Beaulieu scenario with a chance to face-off against the game’s most feared Head Coach.

Offense: Untimely injuries were the only story bigger than the Chargers upset of the Colts. Superstar running back Ladainian Tomlinson went down in the 2nd quarter with a knee injury, and young quarterback Philip Rivers had to leave the game in the 3rd. While Tomlinson is likely to start, fueled largely by his seething hatred for all things New England, Rivers may not be able to play at all. So the question is, can the Bolts really put up a fight with Billy Volek at the helm and Rivers reduced to spending the entire game trash talking with Pats fans?

Defense: The Chargers offer one of the league’s best pass defenses to combat the Pats’ aerial attack. After picking apart Peyton Manning and the Colts’ receivers for the second time this year there is only one question left to ask; Will any Patriots’ receivers be willing to go over the middle after safety Marlon McCree gave Reggie Wayne the wrecking ball treatment?

New England Patriots
The Patriots currently stand as only the second team ever to make it to 17-0. They have been the favorites to win the Super Bowl since long before the season started. They look unstoppable. So are they?

Offense: Tom Brady posted a 93.3% completion rate last week… that is 10 points higher than Philip Rivers quarterback rating this year. When you cover his men deep, he picks you apart with short passes. Play the coverage tight, and he will smoke you downfield. So unless he is assassinated, Tom Brady will not be stopped… and even if he is I’m not so sure he won’t pull an Obi Wan Kenobi and return, more powerful than we can possibly imagine.

Defense: With their high flying offense squarely in the spotlight throughout the year, the Pats’ D has quietly remained one of the league’s most daunting units. Asante Samuel, Tedi Bruschi, Mike Vrabel, Junior Seau, Roosevelt Colvin, Adalius Thomas, Richard Seymour… the list goes on. The Patriots offer up a veritable Murderer’s Row of defensive stoppers. In fact, I predict one of them will join the actual Murderer’s Row when Rodney Harrison pops Billy Volek’s head with his HGH-filled bicep.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008


Ever since the day the Mitchell Report was released the baseball world has dealt with constant drama. Admissions and apologies have been offered and denied. Fingers have been pointed and judgments have been passed. Reputations have been thrown into question and fans have been thrown into unrest. But one quality of the report has reigned supreme over all others; it’s entertainment value.
It’s no secret that America loves a good Soap Opera. Not a drama, but a Soap Opera. As in a drama where all rationality and reason disappear and the story becomes a delightfully hilarious mess of childish idiocy… and for whatever reason, it’s enthralling!
While superstar athletes are being labeled as cheaters or victims left and right, the biggest name in the report remains on the fence; The Rocket. Thanks to heaping helpings of lawyers, lawsuits, accusations, allegations, refutations and recordings, the battle between the superstar pitcher and his former trainer/current accuser has churned out the greatest “did he or didn’t he?” in years!
Each day the most current goings on of Clemens vs. McNamee are found all over the airwaves, newspapers and internet (I’m with Stephen A., God damn bloggers!). Now this is a tale we have all heard before; the accused vs. the accuser. So why is this particular case more amusing than others? Because it’s falling apart! Each successive revelation and tactic seem to be making things inordinately worse for every party involved, and there is nothing more entertaining then a nationally televised embarrassing mess.
For starters, McNamee, a known lawbreaker, is accusing a potential law breaker of breaking the law in order to avoid facing the consequences of his own lawbreaking. Yeah, it’s okay. Feel free to read that again…. Done? Alright, then here is the best part… his word is being taken for Gospel! A man being asked to rat on people to save himself is serving as the primary witness of an investigation. Now we all know it’s been done before (we haven’t forgotten you Henry Hill), but under normal, sane circumstances the plaintiffs accusations would be based on, um… I don’t know, evidence? Not in the Mitchell Report baby, this is all nice and informal. But what if it's all just a big lie? What if McNamee is the kid who really ate all the cake but blamed his fat cousin that everyone already suspected? He says Roger did it, so he must have done it… right?
“Not so!” says the Rocket, in a devastatingly useless interview on 60 minutes. In what most assumed would be the opportunity Clemens takes to indisputably convince his innocence, he served up a slightly more believable denial than Michael Jackson. Clemens did admit allowing McNamee to inject substances into his body, but claimed the injections were that of Happiness and Sunshine (or something to that effect). Although to be fair, we should credit him for the “pulling a tractor with my teeth” comment which was both hilarious, and an informative look into the everyday activities of real steroid users. Plus he did say he might be willing to take a lie detector test despite believing it would do nothing, so he clearly has his conviction.
On the flip side of this journalistic masterpiece was the man with all the tough questions, Mike Wallace. Given the chance to really grill Roger into explaining himself truthfully and thoroughly, mastermind interrogator Wallace instead chose to read excerpts from the Mitchell report, which resulted in roughly ten straight minutes that went something like this:

Wallace: On page blah blah of the report it says “McNamee………………steroids…… Clemens…. rear end.”
Clemens: Didn’t happen.
Wallace: But it then goes on to say “Roger…… Cy Young………..needles……Andy Pettitte best friends forever.”
Clemens: Nope… nuh uh. Untrue.

And it continued this way until I was actually 27 IQ points dumber, and ended with a resounding……. well, nothing.
And now, the whole thing has spun out of control into a whirling tornado of moronic bliss. Angry press conferences, unconvincing lawyers, vague explanations and brutally uncomfortable (while also stunningly inconclusive) telephone recordings have been the trend in the days since the interview. Suit and countersuit have also become imminent, all but assuring us of continuing entertainment for at least a few more months. And I’m sorry… but I love it. The baseball off season is almost always notoriously boring, but not this year. Because we have a good old fashioned Soap Opera to keep things interesting.
It’s the story of the year folks, pumpkin eater vs. pants on fire and they’re both lying until they’re both crying! … Check your local listings

Thursday, January 3, 2008


After a brief hiatus to celebrate the holiday season/cause irreparable damage to my liver Errant Balls is back! And what better time to return than for the NFL post season? So in sticking to my trend of writing the same cliche articles every other self absorbed sports writer tackles each year, here are MY predictions for the first round of the playoffs.

The Redskins have been the league's hottest team of late reeling off four straight wins. En route to their playoff berth the 'Skins have been led by a backup quarterback who should have retired 10 years ago, run by a coach who should have retired 10 years ago, and sporting a logo and nickname that should have been changed to something less unbelievably racist 10 years ago. Nevertheless, the Redskins have banded together in the wake of the tragic loss of teammate Sean Taylor and put together quite a season.
They do however, have to head west to face the Seahawks in what has been called one of the toughest road venues in the league. The Seahawks home is known for its raucous crowd noise, which it turns out is just a bunch of people pitifully over-selling the idea that they actually care about the Seahawks. The one real plus for the 'Hawks being at home, Mike Holmgren will make his famous "Walrus on a Hog" entrance.
prediction: My money is on the Redskins. Playing for their fallen friend has them inspired... plus I'm hoping to see more post game interviews where Clinton Portis dresses like Carmen San Diego 'a 'la week 17.

The Jaguars are the epitome of a team adopting their coaches attitude, although if they chose not to it is likely Jack Del Rio would beat them all mercilessly. They rode their tough D and relentless run attack of Maurice Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor to a week 15 win over the Steelers. Although, even after the win, the oft injured Taylor expressed some distaste at the idea of having to play yet another game on the only field turf that has been torn up more than his fragile knees.
Despite their loss to the Jags two weeks ago, the Steelers may prove to be a worthy opponent. Known just as well for their staunch defensive play and solid running game, the boys from Steel Town match up perfectly to offer a game of smashmouth football. They will be hindered by the absence of tailback "Fast-Willy" Parker, but pending the safe game-time arrival of quarterback "Crashed-Ben" Roethlisberger the Steelers should have a fighting chance.
prediction: As long as Fred Taylor isn't waist deep in earth, the Steelers fans will be using their Terrible Towels to soak up their end of the season tears.

After a surprisingly well fought battle with the Patriots in week 17, the Giants look poised to take their momentum right on into the playoffs. Its not every day you hear of a loss giving a team momentum, but with Eli Manning (karaoke extraordinaire) leading your squad to anything less than an embarrassing beat down against the league's best, you have to believe in miracles. And, as though that weren't enough to pump them up, Ronde "Bizarro Tiki" Barber decides to talk smack about the G-Men in a radio interview (although we can't be sure it wasn't just Tiki continuing his public besmirching of his former team).
The Buccaneers however, will certainly not be a roll over and die opponent. The Bucs sport a squad of wily veterans that include notorious Giant-killer Jeff Garcia, as well as the only 64 year old who still has 4.6 speed, ancient receiver Joey Galloway.
prediction: As long as Eli Manning doesn't go all Eli Manning, the Giants should come out on top of this one.

The Titans are excited to already have their first playoff berth of the Vince Young era, although they seem to be less than enthused to be a part of the Vince Young era. The monster defensive play of guys like Albert Haynesworth (who has missed a few games this year due to injury, but has managed to keep himself out of inevitable altercations like head stomping) and the always solid ground attack have carried the Titans who have won in spite of their ultra-hyped, ultra-horrendous-throwing quarterback.
But if anyone knows a thing or two about winning in spite of someone, it has to be the Chargers. After firing Marty "I can't win in the playoffs" Schottenheimer in the off-season the San Diego brain trust decided to give Norv "What the hell are the playoffs?" Turner a shot. After a miserable start in which offensive genius Turner tried the use the best running back in the league as a decoy offense, the Bolts managed to get their offense on track and mount a strong second half push.
prediction: This one could go either way. With any luck Vince Young will be injured when he is tossed out of bounds and plows through Norv Turner, giving us the chance to see a decent game.