Sunday, February 03, 2008

18-1 ... THE MOST MEMORABLE RECORD OF ALL

Your champions of the 2007 NFL football season and the 2008 Super Bowl are the New York Football Giants.

Who would've thought?

The New England Patriots came into the game 18-0, hoping to cap a historic unblemished season with a Super Bowl victory. Tom Coughlin, New York Giants head coach, fired up his team with the mantra "No one remembers who loses the Super Bowl. " Though his team, through a heroic performace from quarterback Eli Manning and a tight end who made a catch that will live in Giants lore can claim the victory, the rest of us are left wondering how the perfect '07 Patriots could screw up their legacy.

From this unbiased fan and journalist, congrats to Coughlin and his bunch on their first Super Bowl win. Who would've thought that the mighty Patriots would stumble in the most important game of their season? That 18-1 would suddenly seem so ... bad? For the record, what the Giants accomplished, winning on the road at Dallas, Green Bay and in the Super Bowl, is magnificent. In recent memory, only the dreaded Pittsburgh Steelers in 2005 have accomplisted such a feat. But Bill Belichick's Patriots showed their mortality tonight. Tom Brady showed that he is not Superman and that he, on occasion, will make bad passes when pressured. Despite a great drive to take a 14-10 lead, the Patriots could not turn back a destined Eli Manning.

The Manning brothers have now won two Super Bowls, and Brady, Bill Belichick and Co. is stuck on three. Boo hoo. Forgive me for hoping that Eli's champion Giants face Peyton's Colts next year. The brother vs. brother story is about the only thing that can top what we witnessed tonight.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

FLUTIE'S FLAGS (NOTICE THE 'L' IN 'FLAGS')

This headline doesn't seem appropriate now, but by the end of the post, it should.

I went to Surprise (a part of Phoenix's northwestern sprawl) today to play in a tennis tournament and to watch the 2008 Celebrity Flag Football Game, which was played at the spring training stadium of the Texas Rangers and the Kansas City Royals. I was ready to see some dazzling plays, as well as the prerequisite hijinks associated with such an event. Doug Flutie, former NFL quarterback and college star, hosted the game, which featured Tae Bo inventor, Billy Blanks, and
rapper DMC from Run-DMC. (Watch DMC perform "Walk This Way" with the Flutie Brothers Band in the video below.) Several NFL players played, the biggest stars being Cincinnati Bengals receiver Chad Johnson and Baltimore Ravens running back Willis McGahee. Both of these guys showed up 20 minutes after the game had started with Johnson sporting a leather suit and McGahee wearing shorts that were five sizes too big and a white, oversized hoodie. Both entered Surprise Stadium from a public gate near where I was standing, and two security guards accompanied them.

A group of teenage boys were ready for the Bengals star, as they launched a barrage of homophobic pejoratives at him as he entered. "Ocho Cinco" had the line of the day: "Yeah, well, I don't see any women wit ya'll." Johnson soon trekked down to the turf to lobby the crowd for a pair of shorts, as he allegedly forgot them. Flutie ended up scrounging up a pair for him, and then the millionaire wideout played two series of downs in his socks while everyone else was wearing spikes. To spare Cincinnati's general manager any disquietude, Flutie graciously gave Johnson his spikes, and the retired Flutie played barefoot the rest of the day. Quite a guy, that Doug Flutie, and quite a character, that Chad Johnson.

These just-for-fun exhibitions are as close to the Super Bowl as I will get this weekend. Though the stadium looms large in the horizon of my apartment complex, I--like the rest of you--will be watching on TV.


video

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Friday, February 01, 2008

CAVALIERS ROLLER COASTER



For the Cleveland Cavaliers, two things are certain this season.
1.) LeBron is, at the very least, the MVP of the Eastern Conference. And now he's got that Jordan-esque ability to dominate fourth quarters at will.
2.) Without him, they suck. Bad.

After those two assertions, nothing else is certain. Nothing.

I have to say that, overall, I'm pleased with the Cavaliers. They went a respectable 2-1 on their quick west-coast swing and have won 11 of 14. That run has catapulted them back into the Eastern Conference playoff picture, which after Boston and Detroit is quite up-for-grabs. They lead the league in fourth quarter comebacks (18) and recently stole two games on the home courts of Kobe Bryant's Lakers and the upstart Portland Trailblazers (LeBron second-greatest individual performance in the NBA, in my opinion.) They spent the first chunk of the year without Anderson Varejao, who hurts his foot just as he returns to last year's form. Sasha Pavlovic's holdout and lack of conditioning has led to him being either ineffective or injured all season. In short, the Cavaliers have been ravaged by injuries, and James' banged up ankle can be added to the list. But all of those injuries, combined with tremendous inconsistency from impact players like Drew Gooden and Larry Hughes, leave most of us Cavalier fans laughing and saying, "Either they're going back to the Finals, or they're getting swept in the first round--if they get in at all."

To illustrate my point, look at the last five games:

The Cavs were throttling Phoenix at home a week ago. After scoring an astounding 69 points in the first half, they had an 18-point lead, which they blew. They regained a marginal lead and blew it, as well, before losing to the Suns on a well-executed play for Shawn Marion. Their offense looked as good as I'd ever seen it, but they were outscored by one of the best teams--if not the best team--in the West. (Trust me, I hear all about how good the Suns are out here in the desert.)

They hop a jet plane to La-la land and invade the Staples Center by using their patented smart, boring half-court offense--when it's executed properly--as well as stadout play from James and stingy defense to defeat the Lakers. They go up to Portland, where the young Blazers completely out-play them, except for LeBron, who carries the team to victory.

Then last night, in a game epitomized by Donyell Marshall forgetting to put his jersey on, the Cavs lose to the NBA's bottom-feeder, the Seattle Supersonics. Even with Kevin Durant, even on the second night of a road back-to-back, there is no way you can justify a loss to the Sonices.

Unless, of course, the team is without LeBron. See points 1 and 2 to begin the post.

The Cavaliers really are the worst team in the league without LeBron. With him, with committed defense and a with a few open shots made by Hughes, Gooden, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Boobie Gibson ... well, the Cavaliers are capable of beating anyone. In either conference. With this team on all cylinders, they really can and do beat anyone. But can that happen in April?

I'm not certain. Not even a little. Let's hope that Mike Brown and the fellows who don the wine and gold are a little more certain than we are.


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