Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Super Bowl Preview - Statistics, Legacies, and Gambling

Loyal readers, take a breath. We are almost there. The forty-fourth Super Bowl lies but four laborious days ahead. Come Sunday evening in Miami, arguably the longest fortnight on the sporting calendar will finally come to a much anticipated end. But unfortunately, that end marks the onset of one of the other most arduous stints on the sporting calendar: football offseason. For seven character-building months, our weekends and Mondays will be bereft of the pigskin. And worse, NFL related story lines -- merely a tease -- will irrevocably still dominate the headlines, only exacerbating our football depravity. Sure, there are many other offerings worth garnering our interest besides the glory of the gridiron (as detailed in my 2010 prospectus: Part 1 & Part 2), but without football, the world of sports is a less lively locale. That, no one can deny. Sigh. Now I'm getting all verklempt. Moving on.

Just as marathon runners must battle the beast of exhaustion, so too must all football fans battle the beast of the dreadful Super Bowl bye-week. Though not as soul-crushing as the offseason, it is still an insufferable stretch in which every story, yarn, and anecdote that bears the slightest hint of relevance to the big game gets beaten to death worse than a piƱata at fat camp (that, my friends, is the very definition of a Rick Reilly joke -- my apologies, I couldn't help myself). Although your eyes and ears are undoubtedly nearing their respective saturation points with the interminable bye-week media coverage (in case you haven't heard, the Colts and Saints are playing this year), I urge you to fight through the pain and peruse my appraisal of Super Bowl XLIV as well. For those of you who simply cannot subject themselves to another ounce of pre-Super Bowl tedium, I'm sure you will find this to be a welcome change of pace. For the rest of you, kindly press on.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Searching for Rhyme and Reason in the NFL Playoffs

(AP Photo/Denis Poroy)

Loyal readers, I admit defeat. I devote countless hours to being an informed, savvy sports fan. It is an unyielding endeavor to which there is no escape. And yet, I am still continually blindsided by incongruous outcomes and head scratching performances (see: Jets 17 Chargers 14 ). Today, I find myself wholly and utterly befuddled after yet another puzzling playoff result. This isn't how the playoffs were supposed to unfold. Not only were we robbed of two clashes for the ages (Pats/Colts II and Pack/Vikes III), but the one postseason team that wasn't even supposed to be in the playoffs -- the New York Jets -- is one game away from the Super Bowl. Ouch, my brain.

That's right, ladies and gentlemen, the New York Effing Jets are playing in the AFC Championship Game. The Jets! The same team that midway through the season stood at 4-6, a far cry from any realistic playoff contention. The same team that squeaked into the postseason by claiming victories against the second and third stringers of the Colts and Bengals (essentially JV opposition) in the crucial final two weeks of the regular season.  Led by the brash bravado of head coach Rex Ryan, the Jets continue to defy the odds and prove the experts wrong. Furthermore, for the second time in as many seasons, we have seen a rookie quarterback "lead" -- I use that term very, very loosely -- his team to two road victories against division champions en route to an AFC Championship game appearance (Joe Flacco last year, Mark Sanchez this year). Things like that just aren't supposed to happen in the NFL. But regardless of the circuitous, unconventional path that New York has taken to (and through) the playoffs, they still stand but one more head-scratching victory from the Super Bowl. Incomprehensible. I guess Don Cheadle wasn't kidding, after all.

Ultimately, there appears to be little to no rhyme or reason to the NFL postseason. Therefore, I have taken it upon myself to instill some "rhyme" (hopefully the reason will follow shortly thereafter).

Friday, January 15, 2010

Looking Ahead to 2010 - Part Two

Loyal readers, welcome back for part two of my 2010 sports prospectus. Take a deep breath, pour yourself a strong cup of coffee, a stiff cocktail, or whatever you need in order to muscle your way through another longwinded appraisal of what in the world of sports deserves your precious attention in the New Year.

Monday, January 11, 2010

R.I.P. Patriots' Mystique

Being a sports fan is like being in a marriage -- a highly dysfunctional, angst-ridden roller coaster of a marriage that pushes your sanity to a state of constant jeopardy. At times you wish you had signed a prenup, and other times you simply wish you had never loved at all (it's my blog and I'll be melodramatic if I want to, damnit). But despite all that, you are just (for reasons still unclear) too damn proud and loyal to ever walk away. Yes, there are good times to be had -- amazing times, even -- but man oh man, do the bad times ever suck. I'm talking epic levels of suck here. Based on my finely tuned, encyclopedic sports acumen, I'm going to qualify the Patriots game this past Sunday as a "bad time" (well, from the New England perspective, that is). And since I am currently too despondent to properly put a bow on this head-scratching Patriots' season (perhaps, in time...), I'm going express my feelings through the succinct, streaming majesty of an embedded video. Yay, internet! The following video nicely summarizes how it felt to watch Baltimore's tragic and merciless dismantling of my beloved New England Patriots, which effectively marked an emphatic end to the dominance of the Brady/Belichick era (and was essentially a giant, three-hour middle finger to all Pats fans). Consider it an epitaph of the championship standard that temporarily graced this once moribund franchise.

Metaphor Alert! In this video, "Stupid Sexy Flanders" represents the Belichick/Brady playoff cachet which used to be the M.O. of this team (along with defense -- remember when this team played defense?). During the Patriots' heyday over the past decade, we could always count on that dynamic duo to rescue the team from any situation, no matter how dire the straights may have been. Poor, unfortunate Homer represents a Pats fan hoping desperately that the Belichick/Brady mystique of the glory days would rescue New England from Sunday's debacle. But alas, his prayers go hopelessly unanswered. I'll let you untangle the remainder of this intricate web of metaphors and symbolism on your own.

As always, stay tuned and stay classy.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Looking Ahead to 2010 - Part One

Loyal readers, my utmost and deepest apologies for my second extended blogging hiatus of the 2009 calendar year. Over the past month, your sports literature has surely been lacking of a certain sass, and for that I am sorry. But now, in light of some much needed free time, as well as a flood of complaints from A-Rondo the Horn regulars who sadly have been deprived of reading material at work of late, I hereby announce my triumphant return. From now on -- as dictated by my New Year's resolution -- you can expect a steady, unwavering dosage of analysis, opinions, and of course, sass. I have but one stipulation: no Tiger Woods. None. I don't want to talk about him. And you can't make me. The level to which this story has been beaten to death by the obsessive media is nothing short of staggering, albeit not surprising. Therefore, I will be taking the high road, no matter how many times Tiger graces the cover of "Vanity Fair" doing his best inmate impersonation. If you were expecting otherwise, too bad. It's my blog and I'll do what I want. If you are seeking a humorous yet informative take on the Tiger situation, check out Bill Simmons' column, "The Tiger Zoo." As for me, until Woods is golfing in a major tournament again, he no longer falls within the purview of this humble blogger, Moving on.