Saturday, January 13, 2007

Divison Playoffs Day 1 Wrap Up

Colts beat Ravens with a taste of their own medicine; Saints march right into the NFC Championship game

AFC: Indianapolis 15, Baltimore 6

NFC: New Orleans 27, Philly 24

The first day of the For Real Men Only round had a little bit of everything: field goals,defense, long touchdown passes, long touchdown runs, records set both good & bad, and did I mention a lot of field goals?

The Colts surprised everyone by kicking the Ravens out of the playoffs- literally- and the saints marched into the NFC Championship game by out-slugging the Eagles.

Even better I went 1-1, greatly improving my record for the New Year, which had been 0-for-'07.

-Colts defeat Ravens with defense and field goals.

Never in a million years would anybody have thought the Indianapolis Colts, the offensively awesome but defensively deficient Regular Season Wonders, would be able to oust the Ravens, possessors of the toughest defense in the league, from the playoffs, especially on the road.

But that's exactly what happened when Indy combined a stellar defensive effort with an NFL record-tying 5 field goals from Adam Vinateri to prevent the Ravens from repeating its Super Bowl run of 2001.

Payton Manning was mediocre again, throwing for only 170 yards on 15-30 passing with (obviously) no touchdowns and two interceptions, but all of a sudden Tony Dungy's team remembers how to play defense, shutting down an opponent and their running game for the second consecutive week. After allowing a league-bottom 170 yards per game on the ground in the regular season the Colts defense has only given up 127 yards rushing in the last two games combined after holding the Ravens to 83 today.

The contest was basically decided early in the second quarter. Baltimore had just gotten a 40-yard field goal to cut the deficit to 6-3 and on the ensuing possession Ed Reed got the first of his 2 interceptions of Manning. Baltimore was in business, driving all the way to the Colts' 4 yard line, but for some reason offensive mastermind Brian Billick decided to go with a pass play on 3rd & goal. The ball was picked off by Antoine Bethea and Indy would mount a 13-play, 65-yard drive that ended with a 51-yard field goal by Vinateri that doinked off the upright to make it 9-3.

In a game like this for all intents & purposes it was over.

Let's get this straight- this was not an artistic masterpiece. Baltimore committed 4 turnovers and could have had 3 more; Indy had the two Manning picks and it could have been worse- Reed & Chris McAlister both had potential interceptions knocked away by the diving hands of Ray Lewis. Add all those errant passes to 5 combined fumbles and what you had was a sloppy, grungy, low-scoring slug-fest. Like I said, who would EVER have thought the Colts could win a game like this?!

This is why the Colts brought in the Money Man, Vinateri, in the off season. The former Patriot playoff savior single-handedly catapulted the Colts to the AFC Championship game by hitting all 5 of his field goal attempts, and now the fans of Indianapolis get to experience a little bit of the joy us Pats fans had knowing that whenever you have the ball within 50 yards field goal range you can just put the points on the board. It's a nice feeling to have, and I absolutely HATE the fact that the Colts & their fans have it now.

(Side note: I heard Dan Dierdork calling AV the Money Man in this game and I was so pissed because I coined that name for Vinateri years ago after one of his many game-winning kicks for New England. In fact I went so far as to say they should just change his number 4 to a giant "$" and be done with it. Now Dierdork gets credit for it, just because he said it in front of an international TV audience. This shit disturbs me. Dierdork did have a decent line he didn't steal when he saw a promo for Prince playing the Super Bowl: " I bet Jonathan Ogden was the same size as Prince- when he was four.")

Although I didn't call this game right I did say that Vinateri was the only real man on the Colts team. Turns out that wasn't quite true. Those fellows clamping down on defense, like Dwight Freeney, Bob Sanders, Rob Morris & Nick Harper, and (gulp) Booger McFarland are pretty manly, too. They're also the reason the Colts are advancing and the Ravens are left wondering what the f**k happened.

-Saints turnaround continues with biggest win in team history

I told you the Saints were coming.

Now they have arrived.

New Orleans is one step away from completing one of the most uplifting, miraculous turnarounds in modern sports history. By winning the second playoff game in the team's 40 year existence the Saints became the first team to make it to the NFC Championship Game a year after finishing with 13 or more losses (NO went 3-13 last year.)

As I and many other predicted unlike the first game defense was nowhere to be found in this one. The two teams combined for 790 yards and 51 points and the Saints gashed the Eagles on the ground with a 208 yard output, most of that damage was done by battering-ram back Deuce McAllister. The Deuce was indeed on the loose, rushing for a New Orleans playoff record 144 yards and a touchdown and chipping in 4 catches for 20 yards and another score.

It was McAllister's 5-yard touchdown run in the third quarter that turned the tide for the Saints and set them on the winning path. Philly had been taking it to the New Orleans defense, getting wide-open looks and scoring on big plays, including a 75-yard touchdown pass from Jeff Garcia (15-30, 240 yards, TD) to Donte Stallworth in the second quarter and a 62-yard touchdown run by Brian Westbrook to open the third. The run by Westbrook made the score 21-13 Philly and it was looking like the Garcia Mojo was working its magic again.

Then Duece decided to put the team on his back- literally- when he carried a pile of players into the end zone to cap off a 7-play, 63-yard drive that got the Saints right back in the game at 21-20. After Philly next drive sputtered New Orleans got a little bit of luck that seems to be surrounding them throughout this whole storybook season. Reggie Bush () took a handoff and headed upfield when he fumbled the ball. Terrence Copper alertly fell on the ball and actually recovered it past the marker for a fortunate first down. Five plays later Deuce took a short pass and turned it into an 11-yard touchdown, the Saints had a 27-21 lead they wouldn't relinquish, and the partying began in earnest on Bourbon Street. Well, the partying fort the Saints advancing, that is.

Although the outcome of the game was still in doubt until the final minutes. That's when Andy clock mismanagement king Reid pulled a boneheaded call that could have cost his team a chance at the win. David Akers, the hero of last weeks win over the Giants, hit a field goal to cut the deficit to 27-24 and Philly had one last chance to either tie it or win it after Bush fumbled a pitchback at midfield with just over 3:00 to play (not a brilliant play call by the Coach of the Year either).

The Eagles quickly faced a 4th & 10 from the 44 and had to go for it with the clock winding down. Garcia found an open receiver for an apparent first down, but a HUGE false start penalty nullified the play and brought up 4th & 15. No biggie, right? It's only 5 more yards, you just made it by plenty on 4th & 10, and if you punt it away you may never get the ball back again.

Guess what? Reid punted, the Saints killed the clock when Deuce picked up a soul-crushing first down, and Andy Reid might want to delay his return to the City of Brotherly Hate.

Meanwhile the Saints are one step away from the Bowl and pending the outcome of the SEA/CHI game tomorrow could actually host the Championship game next week; the French Quarter better stock up on booze & beads early this year.

So the first day of the For Real Men Only is over and half the Final 4 is set. By this time tomorrow we will know who Indy & New Orleans' opponents are and where the conference championship games will be played.

I can only hope that the Pats will be getting a rematch with the Colts so the Postseason Princes can show what the Regular Season Wonders are really made of.


Friday, January 12, 2007

NFL Playoffs Round 2 preview

If the onset of the playoffs signifies the beginning of the real NFL season then the weekend of the second round should be called the For Real Men Only.

After all the Wild Card round is just a bone to give sorry-ass teams like Dallas, the Chiefs and both New York teams a little glimmer of hope that they could end their mediocre seasons with a Super Bowl-sized bang. More often than not they either go out with a pathetic whimper, or soul-crushing collapse.

Speaking of collapses, in the FRMO round there's no room for guys like Tony Romo. He was so busy teasing the media with "is he or isn't he dating that C-list singer?" shenanigans that he forgot how to do what he had spent the first 3 years of his career doing- hold the freakin' football for the kicker! As for Romo's teammate T.O.-D, we all know that pill-popping, preening, prima- donna pussy is no real man.

There's also not any room in this round for a squad like the New York Giants, with players & coaches who would rather backbite and snipe at one another than go out and play & coach up to their potential. Has there ever been a sorrier waste of talent on a football field? I'm sure there has but this group of narcissistic, overrated bitches is right up there. Plus they're bringing Corporal Coughlin back for another year? No wonder Tiki's retiring.

For Real Men Only would definitely exclude the Chiefs and Jets as well, as both squads were exposed in the first round for what they actually were: an overrated underachiever (KC), and a "oh shit we're just amazed we got here" overachiever (NYJ.) A team in either one of those categories isn't making it past the first round, and definitely don't belong in the round where the real men reside.

With that into done let's take a look at what teams will advance past the FRMO round and which ones will be going home with their man-purses between their legs.

Indianapolis (13-4) @ Baltimore (13-3)
4:30 EST CBS
Line: BAL -3 1/2

Manning: 362-557, 4,397 yards, 31 TDs, 9 INTs, 14 sacks
McNair: 295-468, 3,050 yards, 16 TDs, 12 INTs, 14 sacks
Harrison: 95 recs, 1,366 yards, 12 TDs
Clayton: 67 recs, 939 yards, 5 TDs
Addai: 226 carries, 1,081 yards, 7 TDs, 2 fumbles
Lewis: 314 carries, 1132 yards, 9 TDs, 4 fumbles
Clark & Utecht: 67 recs, 744 yards, 4 TDs
Heep: 73 recs, 765 yards, 6 TDs

What to look for:
This game should test the age-old adage "what wins playoff games- a great offense or a potent defense?" Indy brings the 2nd highest-scoring offense (27PPG) into whatever the hell name of the Ravens stadium is this year, while B-More boasts the stingiest defense in the NFL by far; its 12.6 PPG allowed is a whole 2.2 pts better than the next best team, which happens to be the Pats.

It's going to be a battle of wills, as in will Payton Manning & his explosive playmakers (Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, Joseph Addai and the tight end law firm of Clark & Utecht) get the best of the the offensively-average Ravens (22PPG, t-12th in NFL) OR will the super-stingy Ravens D stomp on the Regular Season Wonders and send another Manning-led team home early for the year?

Don't forget the whole "the Colts abandoned the city of Baltimore in the middle of the night and relocated to Indy nearly a quarter century ago" hate factor here. A lot of people in the region would love to see the team that replaced their former team punch that former team squarely in the face. Literally & figuratively.

What could happen:
Manning rebounds from his sub-par performance against KC last week (30-38/268/ 1TD/3INTs) to throw for 300+ yards and 3 touchdowns as the Colts offense breaks down the Ravens defense plus Indy's defense plays as inspired & unified as it did in shutting down the Chiefs last week.

What should happen:
The Baltimore line, led by Terrell Suggs, Trevor Pryce (13 sacks) and Haloti Ngata, chokes the life out of Manning & forces him into making bad throws again while LBs Ray Lewis & Adalius Thomas (11 sacks) lie in wait. That way Baltimore's DBs like S Ed Reed (5 INTs) and CB Chris McAlister (6 picks) can do what Ty Law loves to do- pick off Manning repeatedly. This is an opportunistic D that compiled 60 sacks and 28 interceptions so Payton should be running for his life all day.

Also Indy can't count on Addai, who is banged up with a rib injury anyway, to run wild on the Ravens' rushing D- it was ranked 2nd in the league, allowing a measly 76 YPG.

And the FRMO winner will be...
Real men, we talkin' 'bout real men? Hmmm let's see, the Colts sport a whiny, endorsement-obsessed, stat-fanatic of a quarterback who's never won a big game in his career (including at Univ. of Tennessee), a soft-spoken wisp of a #1 receiver and a tight end (Clark) who complained that a commercial for a video game made him look bad.

On the other hand you've got a squad that boasts an (alleged) murderer (RayLew, product of Da U), a running back who served time in federal prison for drug trafficking (Jamal Lewis) and a bad-ass Pro-Bowl safety (Reed) who also went to Da U and loves to hit receivers like Harrison in the mouth all- day- long.

Now ask yourselves, who are the real men here?

Exactly. In fact the only real man I can think of on the Colts roster is Adam Vinateri, and he's a freakin' kicker, so what does that tell ya?

It tells me that although the Colts might cover if it is indeed a tight, low-scoring affair, but the Ravens are the pick to advance here, and the Regular Season Wonders will have another long off season to ponder why Dungy & Manning cannot win the Big One.

Philadelphia (11-6) @ New Orleans (10-6)
8:oo pm, EST FOX (UGH)
Line: N.O. -5

Garcia: 116-188, 1,309 yards, 10 TDs, 2 INTs, 6 sacks
Brees: 356-554, 4,418 yards, 26 TDs, 11 INTs, 18 sacks
Brown: 46 recs, 816 yards, 8 TDs
Colston: 70 recs, 1,038 yards, 8 TDs
Westbrook: 240 carries, 1,217 yards, 7 TDs, 1 fumble
McAllister: 244 carries, 1,057 yards, 10 TDs, 2 fumbles

What to look for:
The newly repaired roof of the Superdome was in danger of blowing off when the region's beloved Saints returned to New Orleans after 21 months in exile last September and beat up the Atlanta Falcons.

This time the roof might be in worse danger.

The Saints returned to the hurricane-ravaged bayou country and brought their long-suffering fans something to smile about: an impressive team that delivered the 7th playoff game in the team's 40 year history. Free agent signee & NFL MVP runner-up QB Drew Brees feeds the ball to a bevy of talented receivers and Deuce McAllister pounds the rock on the ground, thus the team has become a balanced offensive power, leading the league in yards per game (392) and finishing 5th in PPG(26.)

Philly is merely the hottest team in the league besides San Diego and the Eagles owe all the recent success to former castoff Jeff Garcia. Whether it's a TO curse being reversed or just a short, bald former Pro Bowler getting his mojo back, Garcia has led the formerly floundering Birds to 6 wins in the last 7 games since taking over for injured Donovan McNabb. Oh yeah, the team second to New Orleans in yards per game? Philly.

But it has been the resurgence of the running game, anchored by Brian Westbrook, that has really been the difference between losing under McNabb and winning under Garcia. The Eagles finished 11th in the NFL in rushing (124 YPG), where New Orleans was only 19th (110 YPG.)

What could happen:
Garcia's magic act continues as he finds that balance between running the ball and making the right passes when he has to. Westbrook continues his string of solid play, which I think all started when he had that game-winning TD that wasn't at RayJay, and the high-flying Eagles soar to yet another unbelievable win.

What should happen:
The Saints come out with guns blazing, fired up by the fanatic home crowd and the first playoff game in the Superdome in 2000. Brees immediately sets the tempo by spreading the ball around to his stable of receivers- Reggie Bush, Colston, Henderson, Horn, and Terrence Copper- McAllister pounds the ball on the ground and Bush does his thing, which means catching 3-yard passes and turning them into 8-9 yard gains.

Neither team is very dominant on defense; despite the fact that most people think Philly is the superior defensive team the stats don't back that up. In fact the teams are nearly dead even in yards, points and rushing yards allowed per game, and New Orleans actually holds the advantage with the 3rd best pass defense in the league to Philly's 9th ranked unit.

In other words points should be plentiful in what is sure to be a raucous environment to say the least.

And the FRMO winner will be...
I've been behind the Saints ever since that Falcons game, when I realized that this could be a special year for a team, region, and community in need of something positive to grasp onto. Once the newness of them being good wore off everyone started to realize that they just weren't a feel-good story, the Saints were a bona-fide real good team. plus they are loaded with real men, like Brees, ROY runner-up Colston, tough-as-nails veteran Joe Horn and battering ram McAllister.

Not to take anything away from the Resurrection of Garcia but real men aren't accused by teammates of being gay (even if it was from TO, where there's smoke...) and it shouldn't take 5 years for someone who many call a prime running back to reach his first 1000+ yard season.

The Saints' story trumps all others this year and I can't jump off that train now. Although the confident Eagles should cover the number I like the Saints to win a high-scoring but close game. Then when it's all said & done the people of New Orleans will be cheering one thing...

"The Saints, are coming...the Saints, are coming...the Saints, are coming..."

...right into the NFC Championship Game.

I hope Bono & Billy Joe can make it.


What's going on? News & notes

I wanted to pass along an article I read on Radar Online about CNN Headline News personality Glenn Beck.

You may remember me saying that my brother-in-law-to-be, Paul, is a producer for The Glenn Beck Show, which airs weeknights at 7:00 pm on Headline News, so I may have a personal reason for turning you on to the stylings of Mr. Beck. Beck is a political commentator and satirist who doesn't take himself too seriously; he is best known for his stint in talk radio, which is where I first heard him here in the Tampa Bay market.

At first he comes across as a smug, pompous ass (sorry, Paul) but I've realized that Beck is an acquired taste, much like his radio contemporary, sports talk king Jim Rome. Rome dispenses this advice for new listeners to his program: you won't like it at first so give it a couple of weeks and let the style sink in and then judge whether you like it or not.

Same is true for Beck's show. He has scaled down his smarminess since the show debuted back in May, which may be a direct factor in his rise in popularity in a crowded cable news market, but he still has an air about him that rubs some people the wrong way. Bottom line is he is honest, candid about himself and his beliefs (read the article to find out what religion he belongs to), and is not afraid to ask tough questions of his guests.

From Janice Dickinson to Iraq and Keith Ellison to the devastation in New Orleans, Beck covers it all with his unique style. Check the show out and see what you think, but remember give it a couple of weeks to get used to it.

Oh, I thought I'd include a picture that my sis sent me from Glenn's Christmas party. I hope she (or he) won't get mad at me for posting this photo- I guess I'll find out at the wedding in June!

Let's not talk about that shirt, Glenn.

Dick Wolf takes "ripped from the headlines" a bit too far

The king of courtroom drama has never met a sensational headline he didn't want to shoehorn into one of his tidy little L&O McFranchises, but this time he may have crossed the line.

The murder of noted indie film actress/director Adrienne Shelly last November was a tragedy in many respects. Ms. Shelly was a 40-year old mother with a 3-year-old daughter, a happy marriage and a burgeoning directing career. But on November 3rd, 2006 she was found hanging in her bathroom, the victim of an apparent senseless suicide.

Days later new information led to the arrest of a suspect in the possible murder of Shelly, who rose to indie fame in films like "The Unbelievable Truth", "Trust", and "I'll Take You There". Police believe a 19-year-old illegal immigrant working construction in the building got into an argument with Shelley, hit her in the head, then staged her to look like she had hanged herself out of fear he would be arrested/deported. Well, yeah, genius, that's what happens in this country when you strike a petite 40-year-old woman when she politely asks you to keep the noise down so her toddler can rest (pure speculation on my part about how it went down.)

Now comes word that Wolf plans to use the case as a template for a future episode of Law & Order: Special Crime Scene Investigating Unit Courtrooms Division, or whatever the hell he's calling the latest bastardization of his franchise now.

Look, Dick, it was one thing to bring in washed-up loser Chevy Chase to play a certain booze-drenched Apocalyptan filmmaker who goes on an anti-Semitic rant after a traffic stop (yeah, we get it), or another lame plot about two celebrities who adopt an African baby, then the husband winds up dead (watch out, Brangelina!)

But now to dredge up the fresh tragedy of the Shelly murder for the sake of entertaining your masses is just uncalled for. The woman is barely 3 months deceased and you already want to rake her story through the muck? Couldn't you at least have waited until next season?

I know 17 seasons is a long time to be on the air, and with like 8 different incarnations of the series it MUST be a bitch to come up with new & interesting story lines every week. Just please do us all a favor an stick to unbelievable wackos and sadistic serial killers and leave the real headline-grabbing stories for Court TV. Or your excellent real-life crime series on MSNBC, Crime & Punishment.

Barry Bonds guilty of using....amphetamines

It wasn't the news that everyone has been waiting to hear but bad boy Barry Bonds failed a test for amphetamines last season. 2006 was the first year in which baseball has decided to test for the pick-me-uppers that have been used by players for decades to help speed up recovery time, both from injury and the fatigue caused by the long season.

First time offenders are given a slap on the wrist and normally no one would know about a failed test. But this being Barry Bonds, whose every move is followed closer than the President's, word got out that the Giant with the giant skull used 'greenies' to help him rebound from a brutal 2005 campaign.

To make matters worse the slimy slugger told reporters that he didn't know what they were, he just grabbed them from teammate/scapegoat Mark Sweeney's locker. Nice, Bar. Nothing like trying to take down a teammate when you get busted for doing something stupid & illegal; way to "man up."

Add this transgression to the growing list, along with the "flaxseed oil & arthritic balm", a.k.a. the "clear & the cream" fiasco; his trainer, Greg Anderson, going to prison numerous times in order to protect him, and two writers facing prison time for not revealing their sources in the BALCO leak and you've got a guy who despite being on the threshold of breaking the most hallowed records in sports is also destroying the credibility and fabric of the sport as well.

Imagine if he gets to that magic home run #756 (he's only 22 homers away) and yet he is eventually found guilty of taking steroids. You think Mark McGwire was big Hall of Fame snub? Imagine baseball's embarrassment when its all-time hits leader (Pete Rose) and all-time home run leader are not enshrined in the museum devoted to baseball history.

Time to revise the Hall criteria, gentlemen, because pretty soon there aren't going to be any players left to induct.


Taking a moment to mourn two American legends

I have been remiss in my responsibilities regarding the goings on in the world of entertainment & pop culture by not covering the passings of two American icons.

Iwao Takamoto died Monday of heart failure in Los Angeles at the age of 81. Who the hell is Iwao Takamoto, you may ask? None other than the inventor of one of the best cartoon characters of all time, Scooby Doo.

Mr. Takamoto went to work for animation giant Hanna & Barbera in 1961 after learning how to draw while he was interred at a California prison camp during WWII. Years later Mr. Takamoto created the character known as Scooby Doo, and the series that began in 1969 remains one of the longest continually-running programs in television history.

I remember back in my days as a cereal-slurping little rug rat I lived for the Saturday Morning Cartoons, and the life blood of my fixation was Scooby Doo. The show came on super early, like 7:30, so it would still be kinda dark and quiet, and I remember that stupid show used to scare the crap out of me. I know, I know, how can a show with 2 hip chicks (Daphne & Velma), their debonair, "platonic" friend (Fred), a kooky, unkempt buddy (Shaggy) and their ravenous dog, Scooby, scare the shit out of a 7-year-old?

It was that freaking haunting music and the creepy way the zombie/ghost/sea creature/insert villain here would moan and ramble after the kids that got my hairs to stand on end. I also remember being relieved when the meddling kids would finally solve the mystery and Scoob & Shag would go share a ginormous hogie that I would feel relieved that everyone was safe for another week.

There is a great article here from Slate that sums up the impact that Scooby and the gang have had on our society for so many decades.

Bottom line is many Americans owe one of the simple pleasures of their childhoods to this man. Domo arigato, Mr. Takamoto, and may you be served Scooby Snacks for the rest of eternity.

The other death that hit many people hard was that of Momofuku Ando, better known as the genius who invented Ramen Noodles.

Yes Mr. Ando is the man behind the food that has fed millions of starving college students and those looking for a fast, filling little meal for decades. He is the sole creator of the dried brick concoction that when combined with boiling water forms a hearty bowl of twisty noodles. Beginning in the early 1950s, Ando came up with his cheap yet satisfying food product as a way to combat the poverty and starvation gripping his native Japan after the WWII. After coming up with the cellophane-wrapped ramen product for his company, he also invented the other coed favorite, Cup O' Noodles.

Was this guy a living God or what?!

As with my Scooby story the roots of my love for Ramen are deeply embedded in my childhood. When I was growing up every one had Ramen or Cup O' Noodles in their home- it was that staple you had to have in case no one wanted to cook or you just needed a quick fix snack. My problem was that the one Cup, or bag, was just not enough to satisfy my appetite.

That's when my stroke of genius was applied to the product that Ando perfected- I put twice as much water in the pot, used two packets of noodles, and then used double broth packs to achieve a super bowl of delicious Ramen delight; brilliant!

I still use this innovation to this very day- in fact I have been on a Ramen bender lately; my wife can't restock our shelves quick enough. Part of that is because I use the two pack method, but I wouldn't have it any other way.

The only drawback to my approach is you must have matching flavors or the plan is ruined. I mean I love the shit, but I would never cross-pollinate a beef flavor with say a teriyaki chicken or a shrimp. That would be freakin' crazy!

(BTW, my personal favorite is the beef)

I just wanted to say R.I.P., Mr. Takamoto and Mr. Ando, two Japanese men (Takamoto was born in America to Japanese immigrants) who have provided Americans with the perfect culture combo since the '60s.

Well I gotta go now; I need a (double) bowl of Ramen beef with a Scooby marathon on the side (original series only, not the bastardized Scrappy version or the hideous movie adaptations.)


Thursday, January 11, 2007

Beckham has $250 million reasons to love America

I thought I'd paraphrase that memorable line from T.O.-D.'s former personal mouthpiece/classless wench Kim Etheredge regarding the news that British soccer star David Beckham is bringing his metrosexual star power and alien wife, Posh Spice, to American soil.

Becks has reportedly reached an agreement with the LA Galaxy of the Major League Soccer for a deal worth an A-Rod-like $250 million dollars, American, for 5 years. Oh, so that's all it will cost to make soccer hip in the United States, a cool quarter bil and then cross your fingers that the man who can bend it with the best of 'em produces a walloping ROI?

With Posh's good buddies TomKat living nearby and Tom's kids immersed in the soccer world as it is, don't be surprised if you see a gaggle of little futbol fanatics wandering around LA wearing blue slacks with white shirts sporting a bald head and bugeye sunglasses.

Gotta go watch the Thursday Night Comedy Block on NBC-new shows all around. More later.


Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Hall of Shame: McGwire left off of more than 75% of ballots

The Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2006 has been selected and the biggest name on the list, both literally and figuratively, was left on the outside looking in.

Although sweet-swinging outfielder Tony Gwynn (97.6%) and rock steady infielder Cal Ripken, Jr. (98.5%) were named on nearly every ballot cast, dethroned home run king Mark McGwire's name was written only only 23.5% of the 545 votes cast this year.

Heading into the voting, conducted by the Baseball Writers Association of America there were three things considered locks this year: Gwynn & Ripken would breeze in and Big Mac would be iced out. The selections of Gwynn and Ripken were no-brainers; both exemplified what the Hall and the sport in general is supposed to be about: honor, integrity, work ethic, excellence in the sport, longevity, and contributions to the game on & off the field.

Nobody exuded these characteristics more than the Iron Horse, Cal Ripken, Jr. The son of a baseball lifer Ripken gave every ounce he could on the field, honing his abilities as a hitter and a fielder until he was unparalleled at his position in both areas. Ripken batted .267 for his 21-year career, was named to 19 All Star games, won the Rookie of the Year award in 1982, the MVP in 1983 & 1991 and won 2 Gold Gloves at shortstop. He finished his career with 3,184 hits and 431 home runs, a record 345 of them as a shortstop. His '91 campaign, in which he batted .323 with 34 home runs and 114 RBIs and won the league MVP, All Star Game MVP and the All Star Game Home Run Derby is considered to be one of the greatest seasons by a shortstop in the history of the game.

But Ripken was best known for his incredible streak of durability: in 1995 he broke Lou Gehrig's mark of 2,130 consecutive games played, a record that had stood for 56 years. He would go on to extend the streak to 2,632 games, ensuring that in this age of specialization, trades, free agency & "what have you done for me lately" attitudes it is a record that will never again be broken.

Gwynn was one of those players that when you looked at him, with his barrel-like body and stubby legs, you said "this guy can't be a productive major league player." Not only was the always-affable Gwynn a productive player, his poetic swing and all-out hustle made him one of the greatest hitters of all time. He played 20 years with the same team, the San Diego Padres, and during that time he led the league in batting a National League record-tying 8 times. Gwynn was a career .338 hitter and batted over .350 an astounding 7 times. He finished his career with 3,141 hits.

As I said the Hall-worthiness of these two phenomenal players was never in doubt; the only question was would they garner 100% of the vote. Both had to settle for slightly less than perfection, but still received the 3rd (Cal) and 7th (Tony) highest voting percentage of all time.

Unfortunately for Big Mac the stroy was the exact opposite. Not only did he not reach the 75% of ballots needed for enshrinement, he did not even get a third of that amount. It's clear that the same writers who delightfully covered his every move in that magical Summer of '98, when McGwire & Sammy Sosa dueled for the single-season home run record, decided to send a message regarding the so-called "steroid era" players by not electing a player who under normal circumstances would have been an immediate electee.

Some writers and analysts are now saying that they wouldn't have voted for McGwire anyway based on his paltry numbers, minus the 538 homers and 1,414 RBIs. Other than the fact that that argument is total bullshit because every other player who is eligible and hit over 500 home runs is in the Hall, it brings up a major question regarding the rest of the players from the so-called "steroid era." How will those players be viewed when its their time for enshrinement? Players like Roger Clemens, Jeff Bagwell, Randy Johnson, etc...guys who might or might not have used the 'roids, but much like McGwire, we may never really know for sure.

Will the high & mighty writers just not elect any players who played between the late 80's - early 2000's for fear that their numbers might be tainted? Or are they just making an example of Big Mac, a revenge snub because these same writers turned the other cheek when it came to exposing the users at the time, when everyone associated with the game knew what was going on?

Only time will tell. But one thing's for sure, in baseball, unlike the rest of society, you are not innocent until proven guilty, you are innocent until the people in charge of your legacy decide that you are guilty.


Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Shit, the Gators really are champions (aka. the Aftermath)

Refresh my memeory because things are a little hazy from last night: did never-nervous Jim Tressell really go for it on 4th & 1 from his own 29-yard line when he was only down by 10 points with 4:00 to play in the first half?

I know he did because I wrote it in my notes, but I just can't believe it. The Sweater Vest clearly panicked and sent a message to his team that yes, we are desperate right now and I'm going to try anything to light a spark under my somnambulant squad.

As you know by now the plan backfired; the Gators stuffed the play (like they did all night), took over at the 30 and promptly added a 40-yard field goal from the previously unreliable Chris Hetland to make the score 27-14 with just under 2:00 to go in the half.

Minutes later Tim Tebow would put the finishing touches on the orange crushing of the Buckeyes' championship dreams when he completed a 1-yard touchdown pass to Andre Caldwell to run the score to 34-14 at the half.

But in all reality the game was lost for OSU when they failed to convert that 4th down.It was a despperate act by a wounded animal, and once a gator smells a wounded creature it knows what to do with it- tear it limb from limb and drag it under the water until there is no life left in it.

But let's get real here for a moment. Did the Gators deserve to win the title? Absolutley. It met all the necessary criteria to get to the final game and then kicked the snot out of the team that was the consensus #1 all year long. No arguement here.

If the Gators & Buckeyes met again tonight, which team would win? No one can say for sure. My point being that a number of factors played into the Gators' victory, not the least of which was the 51-day layoff for the Bucks. To go nearly 2 months without playing a football game is a detriment to any team, college or pro, and that inactivity was certainly a factor in the Buckeyes lackluster performance.

Point #2- I would take at least three other teams to possibly defeat the Gators or the Buckeyes after having seen every team play in this elongated bowl season: Boise State, USC, and Louisville.

The bottom line is that in this wild 2006 NCAA season, to paraphrase a line stolen from the NFL, any team could have beaten any other team at any given time. Only one team went undefeated- Boise - which says that all the other one-loss powers could have beaten another under the right conditions (especially after a 50-day layoff.)

Let's face it, it's a new era in college football. No longer will schools like Oklahoma & Nebraska of the 70's, Miami & Penn St. of the 80's, FSU of the 90's, or USC & Ohio State of the early 2000's be able to dominate a season wire-to wire. There is too much parity, too much travel, too much pressure for any one or two teams to completely dominate the rest of the field.

Welcome to the age of mediocrity & parity, NCAA football. You always said you wanted to be like your NFL bretheren.

Start the chanting people: "play-off, play-off, play-off..."


It's the end of the world as we know it: Gators are Nat'l Champs- in 2 sports!

Gators dismantle Buckeyes, 41-14.
I wonder if that fancy stadium has a confetti machine built into the roof?

Who would have thought that all this time it was the Buckeyes that didn't belong in the BCS Championship Game presented by Tostitos from the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona?

Turns out the matchup shoulda been Florida vs. Boise State.

There's only one thing worse than being a Florida resident & Gator Hater in a year that the team wins the National Championship...

...and that's living here and hating the University of Florida when it becomes the first school in NCAA history to hold national championships in two sports simultaneously (Billy Donovan's hoop team won the title last April.)
The Gators have now won 2 national titles, after the 1996 and 2006 seasons. (Note to self: do not watch college football in 2016.)

It was a dark way to begin the sports world of 2007 -okay, the Pats did start the new year off right with that ass-kicking of the Jets Sunday, but it was a wild card game for crying out loud, that doesn't really count. As a guy with two good friends who are insufferable Gator fans/UF alums I will have to listen to them ride me mercilessly for a solid year. To Gator Janet and Gambling Gator Michael I just want to say congratulations and don't be surprised if you don't see too much of me in the '0-7.

Where to begin with this Debacle in the Desert? Things went swimmingly for the Buckeyes- for the first 16 seconds of the game. That was how long it took for Speedster Tedd Ginn Jr to receive the opening kickoff and return it 93 yards for a gasp-inducing score.

But minutes later the junior would leave with an ankle sprain and the Buckeyes offense went along with him.

From then on the game was as sound of an ass whupping you will ever see applied to a #1 team. The wishy-washy Gators dominated the once-dominant Buckeyes with a ferocity that resembled some of the great national champions of all time.

The numbers begin to tell the picture, because these were some lopsided stats.

If any children are reading this, please scroll past this next part.

UF- 370
OSU- 82
UF- 156
OSU- 47
1st DOWNS:
UF- 21
OSU- 8
UF- 10/19
OSU- 1/9
UF-Leak: 25-36, 213 yards, TD
OSU- Smith: 4-14, 35 yards, INT

It was all over but the crying for Smith & Pittman by late in the 2nd quarter

Yep, you read that the right. The Heisman recipient laid one of the biggest eggs in the history of bowls featuring the winner of the coveted award, and in the final game of his collegiate career no less.

Geez, for his sake I hope there weren't any scouts watching.

By the fourth quarter I don't think many non-Gator fans were watching as the game devolved into a circus freakshow- watching Troy Smith attempt to escape his reptilian predators only to get hammered to the turf like chop meat; seeing a forlorn Ginn on the sideline, propped up on crutches pondering what might have been; watching the 6th-highest scoring team in the country that was riding a 19-game winning streak fail to convert multiple scoring opportunities from inside the 50.

On and on it went. The carnage was so severe that David Cronenberg had to turn his head away at one point.

If you are a Gator fan it was a splendid performance by an underrated team that took on the big bullies at a $500 million playground and punched them in the mouths. Not even many Gator faithful thought the team had a great chance to win the game, let alone destroy OSU and defrock Lord Tressel in the process.

But that's exactly what happened. And it happened quickly and mercilessly, like an avalanche plowing over helpless skiers leaving only destruction and pain in its wake.

After jumping out to the 7-0 lead on Ginn's return Florida answered right back with a 46-yard drive (UF had great field position all night) capped by a 4-yard TD from Leak to Dallas Baker. That touchdown was followed by a 4-yard scoring run by Percy Show No Mercy Harvin, who combined for 14 touches, 82 yards and the score. By the time DeShawn Wynn ran in a 2-yard touchdown 6 seconds into the second quarter the game had taken on that queasy feeling of an unforeseen blowout.

This helmetless sack by Earl Everett typified the gator defensive drive all night

Or maybe it was just my stomach from the Tostitos.

The Buckeyes staunched the bleeding momentarily after mounting their best drive of the game, culminating in an 18 yard TD run by Antonio Pittman. But the 7-point gap would quickly turn to 20 before the half after 2 field goals by the previously horrid Chris Hetland and a 1-yard TD pass by the Future, Tim Tebow (10 rushes for 39 yards and a TD, 1 pass for 1 yard & a TD) to Andre Reche's brother Caldwell. That score made it 34-14 at the break and the entire second half was just a Gator coronation party.

But the game was really about vindication for many on the Florida sidelines.

For Hetland, who had received death threats and hate mail, not to mention pleas for his ouster, from the always classy Gator faithful. His 42 & 40-yard field goals gave Urban Meyer a confidence that he could use him if he had to, and it lifted the spirits of his teammates who had been pulling for him all season despite his struggles.

"I love crystal; it goes great with my sparkling eyes."

For Leak, who also had been the subject of many a message board rant, claiming he was too soft, showed no passion for the game, and couldn't run Meyer's spread offense as well as the much-beloved local boy/anointed Chosen One, Tebow. To all those who claimed he couldn't win a big big game, meaning the national championship because he had already won almost every other big game in his career at UF, this was the cherry on top. The Gators will have their prodigal son barrelling his way through defenses next season; Chris Leak will have his championship ring and the satisfaction of knowing he truly earned it in the biggest game of his life.

And finally drone-like Urban Meyer was vindicated from all the critics who said his Bowling Green & Utah-bred Spread Offense would never succeed in the SEC and that he couldn't get out of these players what Ron Zook couldn't either. That it would take 3, 4, 5 years before the Urban Renewal Plan would begin to take effect.

Just 2 years later the Gators are the National Champs.

And I've got to spend the next year trying to avoid that fact.


Monday, January 08, 2007

It's 34-14 Gators at halftime...

...and I am currently gorging myself on Tostitos Restaurant Style and chunky salsa in hopes of spending the majority of the third quarter on the hopper.

THE Ohio State University is getting THE shit kicked out of it!


Hours away from another potential BCS classic

The clock is ticking down the final hours of what has seemed like an interminable wait for the top two teams in college football to get on the field and decide which is the best.

Shoot, it's only been 50 days since the Buckeyes last took the field. I'm sure they're not the least bit rusty.

The extended layoff for Ohio State and Florida was made agonizingly longer by dragging the BCS Championship Game in Glendale, Az. out one week after the New years confetti has fallen. What on Earth is the point of that? By now everyone is trying to recover from the holidays, stick to their resolutions, and get into the NFL playoffs.

And you mean to tell me that the NCAA needs to put bowl games on TV nearly every day between Jan. 1 and now just to keep the interest in the sport fresh? Bullshit.

The same stuffed suits who won't agree to a playoff system have no problem with extending practices, worrying about the game, and the inability to make any holiday plans for players & coaches involved. Thus we have the first game played this late in the newest month of the newest year. Crazy.

But as long as they are playing the game tonight I'm going to make the most of it and I'm sure by game time I will be truly fired up. Right now I am just so stuffed that I feel like flushing my Poinsettia down my Emerald Bowl.

2Florida Gators (12-1) vs. 1Ohio St. Buckeyes (12-0)
8:15 PM EST, FOX
Glendale Arizona, University of Phoenix Stadium
Line: OSU - 7 1/2

Let me just say that I am no Gator fan- hate them in fact- and my wife's family is from Ohio. So there is a bias there. But I will resist the urge to trash Florida by saying they played a mediocre schedule against a bunch of overrated teams in the parity-filled SEC and lucked their way into the championship game when USC lost to UCLA on the final Saturday of the regular season. Which I think was about a month and a half ago.

Meanwhile the Buckeyes became only the third team in history to beat two #2 teams in one season. By defeating the Gators it would become the first team to beat three #2 teams in one season. Overrated they are not.

In the mane of fairness I will break the game down in a partisan way to determine who should come out on top (note: this is not a "pick", merely a guideline)

The Buckeyes will trot out Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith, a superb passer and threat as a runner who masterfully guided the Buckeyes offense to 36 PPG, 6th best in the country. Smith has been a staple of highlight reels since his coming-of-age against Texas last year, a game the Buckeyes lost to Vince Young and the Longhorns but in which Smith established himself as the unquestioned leader of the team; the Buckeyes have only lost one game since that defeat a year ago September.

His numbers are fantastic (2,507 yards, 30 TDs, 5 INTs) but it is his uncanny ability to avoid trouble, read defenses, and throw the ball with velocity and accuracy that makes him so dangerous. Although he didn't run as much this year as he did his junior year (233 yards- 611 yards) he still has the ability to break out of the pocket any time and run for a big gain.

Florida has been using a two-headed attack at QB all year to accommodate Urban Meyer's intricate spread offense. Senior Chris Leak is the unquestioned starter, having broken all kinds of records in his 4 years in Gainesville and leading the team to numerous big wins. But Urban LOVES freshman Tim Tebow, a battering ram of a quarterback who would just as soon as run over a linebacker for a first down as throw for one.

The two are exact opposites in many ways yet have come together to form a potent two-pronged threat. The combination of Leak's passing (2,729 yards, 22 TDs, 13 INTs) and Tebow's running (430 yards rushing, 7 TDs along with 357 yards passing and 4 TDs) have given teams fits all year and helped the Gators average a respectable 28 PPG, good for 4th in the rugged SEC.
ADVANTAGE: Gotta go with the Heisman winner- Buckeyes.

The Buckeyes' Tedd Ginn Jr. was a preseason Heisman favorite and despite not getting the recognition his childhood friend Smith did the speedster still had a solid junior campaign: 59 catches for 781 yards and 9 touchdowns. Not to mention he is a deadly kick returner as well.
But the Bucks also got a terrific season from hard-nosed Anthony Gonzalez (49 catches, 723 yards, 8 TDs) and unheralded-but-productive Brian son of Terry Robiskie (29 recs, 383 yards, 5 TDs) can get yardage downfield as well.

Florida has a bevy of playmakers at receiver who make the offense click. Dallas Baker is the big play maker, hauling in 56 catches for 897 yards (16 YPC) and 9 TDs, but Tampa's Andre brother of Reche Caldwell (55/571/5), and the duo of Jemalle Cornelius Ingram (55/795/4) have also provided plenty of firepower.

The secret weapon is freshman sensation Percy Harvin. The two-way threat has given the Gators a big spark by receiving (25/367/2), and rushing (36/406/2) and is a guy who can change the game in the blink of an eye; it was his 67-yard touchdown run to start the 4th quarter in the SEC Championship game against Arkansas that blew the game open for the Gators.


Running Backs:
No contest here as the Buckeyes have one of the best- and most underrated- backs in the country. Antonio Pittman would have been a Heisman candidate and featured weapon on about 98% of other teams but at OSU he is just an important cog in a well-oiled offensive machine. The hard-running junior had 1,171 yards on the ground with 13 touchdowns and rushed for over 100 yards in 7 of their 12 games.

Freshman Chris Wells also contributed 567 yards and 7 TDs; helping the Buckeyes rank 18 nationally in rushing with 180 YPG.

The Gators pulled in at #36 in the country with 160 YPG, most of them from senior tailback Deshawn Wynn. Wynn led the team with 630 yards on 124 carries and 5 touchdowns. The drop-off after that is steep- Tebow is the second-leading rusher on the team.


Florida will try to combat the ground attack of Ohio State with the 6th toughest rush defense in the NCAA. The Gators have allowed less than 75 yards/game on the ground and will try and force the Buckeyes to go one-dimensional with a pass-oriented offense. LB Brandon Siler is a monster in the middle, wreaking havoc wherever he ends up, and safety Reggie Nelson is one of the most talented, athletic players in the country. The Gators allowed a stifiling 13 points per game this year.

All season long everyone said that OSU's defense would be its downfall after losing 9 starters, 6 to the NFL, but the newly gelled unit has outperformed all both believers and doubters alike. Led by "animal"-like linebacker James Laurinaitis, NFL-bound DT Quinn Pitcock and sophomore cornerback Malcolm Jenkins the unit allowed a mere 9.6 PPG, mind-boggling for a defense that had to replace so many stars.

All in all it's pretty even on defense, but the public consensus is that the Gators have the better, and speedier, D. But the numbers prove otherwise.


Kicking/Special teams:
The Gators kicker, Chris Hetland, has been getting death threats. That's what happens when you miss 9 of 13 field goals in SEC country.

Ohio State's Aaron Petry was 8-11 and 53 of 54 on extra points.

The Gators block a lot of kicks. Eight of them this year. In fact it was a blocked field goal against South Carolina on the final play of the game that kept the Gators undefeated and allowed them to play in this game tonight.

ADVANTAGE: Gators (slight)

Both coaches have as much personality as a box of detergent. The Sweater-Vested One, Jim Tressel, has won more big games in Columbus than all of his predecessors dating back to Earl Bruce combined. National Championship? Got one. Big 10 Championships? Got that too. Bowl wins? Last years Fiesta pounding of Notre Dame was the latest in his 4-1 mark. Beat archrival Michigan? How bout 5-1?

In other words, Tressel and the Buckeyes have a "been here, done this" attitude that has been cultivated by numerous trips to the desert (3 games in the last 4 years), plenty of big game wins and a never-nervous demeanor.

Urban Meyer led the Utah Utes to a BCS appearance after the 2004 season. And he won the Outback Bowl last year. This year the Gators won some big games (archrival FSU, SEC Championship game, LSU, Tennessee) but they haven't faced anything like two #1 vs. #2 matchups in one year.

Experience matters in games like this, and you can almost guarantee that Leak will get nervous, make a mistake, and the vulture-like Buckeyes will be ready to pounce when he does.

Harvin will be good for a couple of big gains to move the chains and put up some points, and Ginn will have to match him in order to neutralize his effectiveness. If Pittman can't get untracked (which he will, remember he shredded the vaunted Michigan run defense for 139 yards and a score) then Troy will have to get the job done.

Which he will do.

I'm not a predicting man (anymore) but if I were I would like the Buckeyes to win this game by something like 34-24.

But that's just an opinion.

Enjoy the last college football game of the year (finally)

Let's hope it's half as exciting as the Boise State Fiesta Bowl.


Monday Morning Kick Returns

So what if the regular season is over; I can continue my one steady weekly column if I want to.

Plus I've got a few items of note to go over before I dig into my BCS championship preview.

-USC kicker Danelo found dead at the bottom of a cliff
Another day, another tragic story to come out of the football world, this time with no night club incident involved.

USC Trojans kicker Mario Danelo, a junior who had just kicked 2 field goals in USC's Rose Bowl victory over Michigan on New Years Day, was found dead on Sunday morning after an apparent fall of 120 feet from a cliff in his native San Pedro, Ca.

Danelo, 21, was the son of fomer NFL kickler Joe Danelo, and had no apparent enemies or any reason to want to kill himself.

Authorities believe the former walk-on who would go on to become a record-setting kicker for the Trojans, either slipped and fell from the steep drop, but have not ruled out suicide or foul play as of yet.

"You keep asking yourself the same question," USC assistant coach Sam Anno said, according to the Los Angeles Times. "Why?"

And that's what footbal fans are asking themselves after yet another senseless tragedy befalls one of its players.

- Petrino bolts Louisville for Falcons head job
Technically he's not a lying cad like former Dolphin/current 'Bama head coach Nick Saban.

No, Bobby Petrino only said he wouldn't take another college coaching job, like West Virginia, Alabama or Auburn. Sure he rebuffed Oakland after the 2004 season, but we all know the Raiders are only a mediocre college team at best.

But after the Falcons canned headcase Jim Moron Jr immediately following a disappointing 7-9 season owner Arthur Blank backed up a Home Depot delivery truck with a 5-year, $24 million contract in it and dumped it on Petrino's doorstep.

So the innovator behind the Cardinals high-scoring offense leaves the 'Ville after a 12-1, Orange Bowl-winning season and takes his talents to the Georgia Dome, where his main priority will be to wring production out of talented-but-erratic quarterback Mike Vick; if anyone can get the most out of Vick it could be Petrino.

It's ironic because I just read an excellent article on Slate the other day about how the pros need to loosen things up and be more like the college game. Maybe this is the first step in that direction.

I just feel bad for guys like Jeff Brohm and Michael Bush, who were debating on whether or not to stay in school and then got blindsided by yet another coach in search of the "ultimate challenge" that is the NFL.

- College stars JaMarcus Russel, Calvin Johnson decide to go pro
Hey if the coaches are doing it why shouldn't the superstar kids who make them look good?

Georgia Tech junior wide receiver Calvin Johnson declared his intention to enter the NFL draft today, following suit of LSU's QB & Sugar Bowl MVP JaMarcus Russell. Both players figure to be picked high in the first round.

Russell shot up the short list to be the top quarterback selected after his mind-blowing performance in LSU's 41-14 Sugar Bowl pasting of the Fighting Overrateds. The enormous (6'6", 265) junior threw for 332 yards and 2 scores and ran for another and impressed NFL scouts with his ability to throw the long bomb with ease; Russell had 2 throws of 58 yards, one a gorgeous touchdown to Brandon Lafell to end the third.

With Al Davis and the Raiders in possession of the first pick the strong-armed beast might jump over Brady Quinn as the top player selected.

Johnson is a speedy, sure-handed receiver with jaw-dropping skills. His large frame (6'5", 235 lbs) combined with his quickness (4.40- 40) have scouts salivating over his talents. The junior won the Biletnikoff Award as the nation's top receiver this year, amassing 1,202 yards on 76 receptions to go with 15 touchdowns. His play-making ability and one-handed catches helped earn him the nickname "Spiderman."

Interestingly the Raiders are also in line for his services thanks to the disaster that was the Randy Moss Experiment and the meltdown of Jerry Porter last year.

Either way it looks like Al & whoever is coaching in the Black Hole will be getting a decent building block and the chance to restore the motto "just win baby" to relevance.

Okay, enough minutiae. On to The Game.


Sunday, January 07, 2007

Pats will face Chargers in Battle of the Year: Eagles win too

AFC Wild Card Game

New England 37, New York Jets 16
When the dust settled and the sun was starting to go down over the Giant Razor Blade the two coaches, mentor & student, came together at midfield for a brief, awkward, menbrace.
Then Belichick turned away and muttered from under his grey hood "how'd that taste you pudgy little Benedict Arnold cocksucker?!"

Or maybe it didn't happen exactly that way. But if I were writing the screenplay for the Patriots 37-16 drubbing of Eric Mangini's New York Jets this afternoon in Foxborough, that's how I would end it.

The Hooded Genius had groomed Mangini to be in the position he is in, the youngest head coach in the league, ever since Bill was the head man in Cleveland and Mangini was one of his assistants. But the fact that Eric bolted so soon, after the departures of Charlie Weiss & Romeo Crennell, left a bitter taste in Belichick's mouth.

Things got testy when Bill wouldn't even mention Mangini by name in the week leading up to their last game in Week 10; New England losing that game at home, 17-14, led to the infamous cold shoulder at midfield between the two former friends and fueled the stories of animosity, jealousy and pettiness, mostly on Belichick's part.
Ah but there's nothing like a sound playoff ass-kicking to stoke the flames of friendship and cause a crusty genius coach to slap helmets, run up & down the sideline looking for someone to hug, and grin ear to ear more in one day than he had in the last 45 years combined.

What did the Patriots do to make a sourpuss like Belichick grin like a Chesire cat? They befuddled the same Jets defense that had manhandled the Patriots in that November loss, harassing Tom Terrific with a variety of blitzes and hits.

Coming out on the first drive running a no-huddle offense New England marched 65 yards in 10 plays capped by an 11-yard touchdown by Corey Dillon. (side note: a couple of weeks ago I was watching the Pats/Titans game at the local sports bar when I got into a "discussion" about Dillon & Travis Henry, Tennessee's back. The Titans fan sitting next to me started to get bitchy-wonder why- when I said the Titans needed another back to help Henry or they'd never make it in the playoffs, someone like Dillon. This yahoo went on to tell me that Dillon sucks, he's washed up, that Henry is a 1,000+ yard back and he is good enough to get them to the Super Bowl, they have LenDale Fatburger White, yadda yadda yadda... I said Dillon is the best short yardage back in the game right now. This touchdown reaffirmed that. Just thought I'd bring it up.)

After a Jets field goal New York took a 10-7 lead thanks to a 77-yard touchdown pass from Chad Pennington to Jerricho Pats Killer Cotchery; in 3 games this year against the Pats the former NC State standout had 16 catches for 291 yards and 3 touchdowns.

But the Pats got back on track thanks to Brady (22-34, 212 yards, 2 TDs) and his superior mastery of the New England offense. Tommy Boy led the Pats on two long scoring drives, the first culminating in a Stephen Adam Who? Gostokowski field goal and the second with a 1-yard TD from Brady to Daniel Graham to make it 17-10 New England at the half.
It's playoff time, where Tommy Boy is a terrific 11-1 in his career

New York would mount an impressive drive to open the third quarter- 10 plays, 73 yards in nearly 7:00- but after that it was all New England. Gostokowski added two more field goals in the quarter, the second one coming as the direct result of a wacky mistake by the Jets. Pennington lateraled the ball back to his running back, but Rosie Colvin put his arms up and nearly picked it off. Although the ball would drop harmlessly to the ground, Vince Wilfork jumped on the ball and started to run. With the Patriots' coaches urging him to run the mountainous tackle rumbled 35 yards to the New York 15. No one else, Pennington included, seemed to realize that a backwards pass that is dropped IS A FUMBLE, except the alert Wilfork, who had a monster game after missing 3 straight.

Now leading 23-13 the only thing left to do in the final quarter was put the icing on the cake. Which they did when Brady directed a 13-play, 63 yard drive that ended with an example of why Brady is the perfect conductor for Belichick's genius schemes. On 3rd & goal from the 7 Brady lined up in an empty backfield, read the defense, and called Kevin Faulk back to him as if to block or run the ball. But after the snap Faulk broke into the flat untouched and Brady hit him with a perfect tender pass for the score, putting a beautiful capper on a beautiful fall-like New England day.

Assante Samuel would add the cherry on top when he returned a Pennington interception 36 yards for a touchdown, his 11th of the season ("under-rated") with 5:00 left for the final margin, and then it was manshake time between the Hooded Genius and the Man-genius.

These two former friends will warm up to each other eventually and perhaps even go out to dinner with each other and Romeo & Weiss, like Tony Dungy, Herm Edwards and Lovie Smith did last Friday night before the Colts/Chiefs game.

As long as the mentor keeps beating the pupil in the playoffs, that is.

Up next: The Pats will travel to San Diego to take on the 14-2 Chargers in a revenge match of sorts. San Diego handed the Pats their worst loss in many years last season, 41-17 in Foxborough. The game will be at 4:30 on Sunday. Full preview coming soon. I'm too spent to write any more.

Oh yeah, I forgot about the other game...

Giants gag again as Eagles keep soaring (ugh- that's all I can come up with)
Philly 23-20
Tiki Barber went out with a whimper as the joyless Giants dropped their 7th game in their last 9 and in the process most likely got coach Tom Coughlin fired.

The Eagles will next play at New Orleans next Saturday at 8:00 as Jeff Garcia and his magic beans will try to pull off another miraculous win. Since entering the starting lineup Garcia is 6-1, but much of that success has to do with the reemergence of Brian Westbrook. Westbrook had 141 yards rushing and has helped Garcia lead an efficient and effective offense on this streak.

That's all I got. More tomorrow, plus a preview of the BCS Championship Game (yes-it's finally here!)