Sunday, January 31, 2016

Pre Super Bowl NFL notes

Since there is no football games worth noting this week, it’s a “slow” news period—particularly when the “big” news for some local sports radio hosts is the opportunity to opine politically correct on the recent lawsuits concerning NFL cheerleader pay. Frankly, I always thought the idea of cheerleaders in the NFL was nothing more than a gimmick that means more to the participants than your typical football fan. I mean really; they don’t do anything on the field that you’d notice even if you were attending the game, and at best they are seen for a few seconds once or twice on a telecast. Six NFL teams have no cheerleaders at all, and it hasn’t been detrimental to ticket sales one bit: the Packers, Bears, Lions, Steelers, Giants and Browns—and four of these teams even won Super Bowls without them (15-5 W/L combined). 

But there is a more interesting story floating almost entirely undisturbed out there. Former Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher recently played the race card by opining that he is not a “fan” of Panthers’ quarterback Cam Newton’s on-field celebrations. We’ve heard this complaint before, but he just had to “expand” on this thought by adding stupidity and ignorance to provinciality, by suggesting that Newton should behave more mannerly like a real quarterback–like, say a perfect white guy like Peyton Manning, who carries himself with “class.” 

Oh yeah? Apparently some people mistake aloofness for “class.” Yes, he has made a few amusing commercials and had an appearance on SNL to humanize himself,  but that is clever PR. Last week I mentioned that Manning isn’t entirely a “class” act, and there is even more reason to think so. 

"It was the gluteus maximus, the rectum, the testicles and the area in between the testicles. And all that was on my face when I pushed him up. ... To get leverage, I took my head out to push him up and off."

Oops. No, this has nothing to do with the “garbage” HGH accusation. And sorry if I dropped that little bomb unawares, because I (and nearly everyone else I am certain) was completely unware of this story. I only happened upon it when I was googling news about the latest actress in the women-in-prison television series “Orange is the New Black”—a self-servingly mendacious idea if ever—to try out the fictional concepts of violence for real on someone off set.  I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time wrapping my mind around what is implied in the italicized statement, let alone actually visualizing it. 

Now, if anyone actually read the book Manning, co-written by Archie and Peyton Manning with an assist from ghost writer John Underwood back in the early 2000s, he or she would have encountered a curious passage in regard to an “incident” that occurred in 1996, when Peyton Manning was a junior at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville:

If nothing else in life, I want to be true to the things I believe in, and quite simply, to what I'm all about. I know I'd better, because it seems whenever I take a false step or two I feel the consequences. Like with the 'mooning' incident that made such a stir in Knoxville before my junior year.

What “mooning” incident? Can he be referring to our previous indulgence? 

I did it thinking the trainer wasn't where she would see. ... Even when she did, it seemed like something she'd have laughed at, considering the environment, or shrugged off as harmless. Crude maybe, but harmless.

Harmless? Humorous? Squishing one’s ass cheeks and testicles on someone’s face, whether a male or female? Manning goes on to say that the alleged non-victim of this episode had a “vulgar” mouth, as if this "explains" anything. For her part, she alleges that he “re-enacted” this demonstration twice more, and referred to her as a “bitch” while she administered a drug test, demonstrating his discontent by tossing away the pen for which he was to sign off on the contents from one of his offensive members. Anyone who thinks that this was an “isolated” incident should take a look again at the video of Manning hysterically berating Jeff Saturday. 

Manning was clearly lying about his version of events, or so says the alleged “real” target of his “mooning”—Malcolm Saxon, a track athlete at the time, who chastised Manning in a letter in 2002:

Bro, you have tons of class, but you have shown no mercy or grace to this lady who was on her knees seeing if you had a stress fracture. ...She was minding her own business when your book came out. Peyton, the way I see it, at this point, you are going to take a hit either way, if you settle out of court or if it goes to court. You might as well maintain some dignity and admit to what happened. ... Your celebrity doesn't mean you can treat folks that way. ... Do the right thing here.

As I've said before, I don’t think Manning has all that much in the way of class, but that is beside the point. In fact, I haven’t found any mention of witnesses to the episode who have stepped forward to support Manning’s version of the incident, and Manning has apparently never apologized or owned-up to the incident, in fact prefers the world to believe that he is the “victim.”

Why did he do it? Was he offended that a female invaded the sanctified halls of the football domain? Jamie Ann Naughright was indeed the first assistant trainer to have a position on the male side of the UTK athletic department; perhaps there were a few male athletes who thought it “inappropriate” and “presumptuous” for a female to have access to a locker room full of semi-naked males, and acted out their feelings on the matter in inappropriate ways. Although I think that “assistant trainer” was an odd position for someone who had just acquired a Ph.D in something called “health education,” it is no excuse to behave like a classless jerk—or worse.

Now you may ask what happened after the “mooning” incident? Naughright reported it to a local sexual assault crisis center. I confess that I am cynical about the politics and propaganda that drives such places; last fall’s edition of the UTK alumni magazine has an article written by  someone from the campus crisis center who makes the following claim: “Unless a female gives an enthusiastic ‘yes,’ it is rape.” Excuse me, but doesn’t that essentially encompass about 90 percent of heterosexual encounters? That certainly is the opinion of misandrist feminists like Catharine MacKinnon, of whom I had the intense displeasure of attending her guest lecture at the school (I was one of only two males in attendance, the other a reporter for the city newspaper, so she felt free to “expand” wildly on her theories). And isn’t it the plain truth that most females like to play “hard to get” or otherwise force males to play their game before they even give a tepid “yes”?

Of course, this plays right into the hands of activists who claim that one-third of all college women are raped, even though the actual reported numbers of sexual assault tend to be extremely small (for example, despite posters about the "epidemic" of sexual assault on campus, there were only six reported cases according to a Seattle Times story at the University of Washington in 2006, none leading to charges). If the female feels “disrespected” in the morning, won’t she tell a credulous rape “counselor” what she wants to hear, or be susceptible to a different “interpretation” of her responsibility? Isn’t that what happened in the recent case of those three expelled black University of Oregon basketball players (except that the accuser appeared “enthusiastic” to witnesses), who investigators and the local prosecutor (and even a friend who spoke to the media) all believed the accuser guilty of lying? Those athletes should have brought suit against the university for violating not just their due process rights, but their civil rights. 

But that's off point; the Manning “mooning” occurred in 1996 before the social media explosion of today. He was even then a sacred cow that no one dared touch. An alternative “narrative” was concocted for him, and it was bought whole hog by the fawning media and the locals. The university reached a settlement with Naughright the following year, after persuading her to leave. But Manning being Manning, his conceit and arrogance was so great that he couldn’t help himself but to paint himself as the real “victim” in the incident in his book, giving his “side” of the story and painting Naighright as an unpleasant individual to be around. Naughright then sued Manning for defamation and violating an order not to discuss the incident publically. Manning had been free and clear, but he just didn’t have the “class” to let sleeping dogs lie, let alone have the honesty to own up to his little “indiscretion.”

The judge hearing that case refused Manning’s plea that the case be dismissed, observing that he had made deliberately false and defamatory statements in regard to the incident and the alleged victim. Not surprisingly, this case was also settled quietly before it became a long-running soap opera. 

Very quietly, it appears. Yet it seems as if a whole roster of black athletes have been routinely demonized by the white-dominated media with pressure from white gender activists, without regard to due process (or civil) rights, and often even the facts of their cases. I’m not going to discuss the Ray Rice case again, except to point out (again) that it was a case of the most appalling level of media manipulation of truth yet outside George Zimmerman. But who honestly has heard even the slightest whispering about this Manning incident? Why has ESPN or CNN never shown even the slightest interest in investigating this? 

And it isn’t just Manning; remember that Ben Roethlisberger was suspended “just” four games after being accused of rape, and that incident doesn’t seemed to have harmed him one bit. Of course, social media bit Brett Favre in the fundament in the Jenn Sterger affair, although to be “fair,” Sterger (according to a friend) received numerous solicitations from male “admirers” that included images of the “goods,” which she apparently saved  on her computer; one wonders what “compelled” them to be so “personal.” But because Sterger couldn’t be taken seriously as a “victim,” Favre survived with his image intact, and will be inducted in the NFL Hall of Fame after just one vote.

But this Manning incident—in which he is alleged to have purposely dropped his pants and thrust his fleshy posterior and testicles in a woman’s face while she was examining a supposed injury he claimed to be suffering—just has this singularly repulsive aspect to it, so much so that no one really wants to come to grips with what it may say about Manning’s true personality.  You might assume that if he is a “normal” human being, he would succumb to embarrassment and shame whenever the memory of it resurfaced, but Manning is a “god” who is the very essence of “perfection,” at least to him and his countless admirers. I’ve said before that Manning is all about the statistics, and the “awe” that they inspire in the sports media has been particularly blinding.

Post script: It has also been reported that Manning and his father tried to infuse a racial angle into the incident, claiming that the victim had sexual relations with black students, obviously still an "issue" in a Deep South state; however, this claim only remained a malicious rumor circulated by the Mannings. The university also attempted to deflect attention away from Manning by attempting to persuade the victim that it was a black athlete who "mooned" her, not Manning; she apparently refused to "cooperate" in this fashion.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Week 3 NFL playoff notes

I’m not a sports “journalist,” so I don’t have to pretend that I’m not a fan with intense likes and dislikes when it comes to football. I couldn’t care less about the NBA these days, and baseball is only of interest because of my fascination with statistics: I haven’t really been a “fan” of those sports since the early 90s—coinciding with the arrival of Brett Favre in a Packer uniform. Thus I can state without one iota of self-consciousness that I was “rooting” against Peyton Manning more than his team in the AFC championship game. I dislike Manning because he is a fraud that the media has elevated to such stature (like Hillary Clinton) that it is sacrilegious to say the truth. His carefully stage-managed public persona is nothing but a Potemkin myth. 

From my perspective, Manning is a player in love with his stats, as vain people like to preen in front of a mirror. Oh sure, since he’s been off his “game” he has feigned “humility,” but wasn’t it time and again in the past that the conceited Manning had a habit of throwing his teammates under the bus for his mistakes? Remember the incident when offensive lineman Jeff Saturday expressed dismay that instead of trying to run the ball in from the one-yard line, Manning chose to pass the ball on three straight downs (all incompletions), and wearing down the offensive line players unnecessarily? Manning was no doubt already frustrated by his failure to pad his personal stats when he went after Saturday, yelling and screaming at him like a pampered, obnoxious child being told to eat his spinach; it was a stomach-turning spectacle that revealed the real Manning. Afterwards the media aided Manning (and Saturday) in an unconvincing effort to “laugh off” the whole incident, but I wasn’t fooled by it one bit. 

Yes, Manning likes to win games and maybe even a Super Bowl or two, but it is less about the “team” than it is about his “legacy”—as the Manning-fawning media has reminded us time and again.

Anyways, the results of week three of the playoffs:

Broncos 20 Patriots 18. In hindsight, it is easy to say that Bill Belichik is the goat in this game, for making the questionable decision of not settling for a field goal with six minutes left in the game with the Patriots down by eight points. The Broncos were doing virtually nothing offensively in the second half, and there was a greater than likely chance that the Patriots would keep Manning pinned down like a scared rabbit and have at least one more chance to score a go-ahead touchdown. But Belichick decided to go for it on fourth down, and failed.  In fact, Tom Brady and the Patriot offense were moving the ball almost at will between the twenties in the fourth quarter, but on this drive and the subsequent one Belichick decided to forgo an easy field goal try, and lost the ball on downs. The Patriots in fact got the ball back one more time, this time scoring a touchdown with 12 seconds remaining, but failing to convert on a two-point play to tie the game; had they attempted and made a field goal on one of the two aborted drives, they would be heading to the Super Bowl for the seventh time in the Belichick/Brady era. 

But that is hindsight. Certainly it was a highly questionable move not to kick the field goal on that first drive, but on the next drive there was a little over two minutes to play and hardly any assurance that the Patriots would get the ball again (they did). The bottom line is that Belichick miscalculated the potential scenarios, gambled away opportunities for points and made things more difficult for his team to pull out a victory; the Patriots thus lost this game, the Broncos didn’t “win” it. 

Going into the game, we heard Bronco players telling us that “hate” isn’t a strong enough word for their regard for the Patriots—odd since there is hardly a history of “rivalry” between the two teams. Speaking as a fan rather than a fundament-kissing commentator, I will say that I "hate" the Broncos, and hope that whoever comes out of the NFC will lay a fundament-whipping on the Broncos, just as the Seahawks did two years ago—sending Manning off to a fitting “legacy.”

Panthers 49 Cardinals 15. That will be the Panthers, who laid an old-fashioned whipping on the Cardinals; instead of allowing the Cardinals some “dignity” like they did for their “brothers” the Seahawks last week, the Panthers did everything they could to embarrass the Cardinals—even going for the needless, unsportsmanlike two-point conversion with the game long since over (not that they could have embarrassed Carson Palmer any more with his six turnovers). That is the kind of arrogance that turned a lot of fans off about the Panthers, and if the Patriots had won their game, I would be favoring them easily to win the Super Bowl. But they did not, and my antipathy toward Manning is greater than it is for the Panther team. I feel more comfortable that the Panthers are the team to lay Manning and company low than the Cardinals could.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Week 2 NFL playoff notes

Last week, all four road teams won their playoff games, arguably because the winners’ quarterback was the more experienced hand. This weekend, all of the home teams won, although in two cases just barely, and in one case, “unexpectedly” from the view of the “experts.”

Patriots 27 Chiefs 20. The term “game manager” has various interpretations. Sometimes a game-managing quarterback who is fortunate enough to have great playmakers around him (Troy Aikman) can have pedestrian numbers yet be voted to the Hall of Fame (or not, as in the case of Phil Simms). But more usually the term is applied to a quarterback with limited skills and is not asked to do much more than hand the ball off or occasionally throw short, “high percentage” passes. Such is the Chiefs’ Alex Smith. Coming into this game, he was just good enough to lead the Chiefs to 11 consecutive victories, including last week’s 30-0 shellacking of the Texans. In this game, the Chiefs ran 83 plays from scrimmage compared to 56 for the Patriots, yet they barely gained more yardage. 

Listening to the national radio broadcast, the game commentators did everything but yell out through a bullhorn for Smith to throw the ball downfield instead of wasting precious minutes and seconds dinking and dunking when the Chiefs were down by two touchdowns late in the game. By the time the Chiefs’ leisurely stroll down the field on their last possession ended to make it a one-score game, there was no “excitement” about it, just the realization that it was just a wasted effort. 

Cardinals 26 Packers 20. Nobody was expecting the Packers to make this a “competitive” game, but Aaron Rodgers’ reputation is such that anything is possible. Things went from bad to worse when Randall Cobb was knocked out of the game early, and his replacement was a footnote of a footnote in the footnote section. The Packers’ defense frustrated Carson Palmer throughout most of the game, but like in last year’s NFC title game, the Packers’ offense could not take advantage of this to close the deal. While the Packers were able to run the ball effectively for the most part, Rodgers was somewhere between awful and just plain bad again; until the Packers’ final possession, he had thrown for just 160 yards on 39 pass attempts—including misfiring on three consecutive passes and losing the ball on downs on their own 25-yard line, which allowed the Cardinals to extend their lead to 20-13 with a minute to play. That field goal would prove to be critical for the Cardinals, for when Packers went into do-or-die mode, Rodgers threw a 60-yard pass to the footnote (Jeff Janis) on fourth-and-20, and then a 41-yard Hail Mary to the same as time expired (note that because of negative yard plays, Rodgers threw a yard more than the field is long), and sending the game into overtime. 

Unfortunately, the Packers never got the chance to complete a miracle win, because on the first possession of OT, the Packer defense took the opportunity to look completely incompetent, as Palmer threw a dangerous across the body pass that if any defender was in the area would likely have been intercepted (just ask Brett Favre about those kind of passes), but instead was caught by Larry Fitzpatrick who looked like he had a twenty-yard force field around him, and raced 75-yards downfield to set-up a five-yard shovel pass into the end zone. 

Broncos 23 Steelers 16. Once more, the team that was supposed to lose lost because of a power failure just before they crossed the finish line. The Broncos’ running game was kept in check most of the game, and Peyton Manning proved to be a just barely competent “game manager,” as the Broncos were held to just four field goals until late in the fourth quarter when the Steelers appeared ready to extend a 13-12 lead--when a fumble in Broncos’ territory turned the game, as it allowed Manning an opportunity to make his only productive play of the game, a 31-yard pass on third down that kept the Broncos’ eventual game-winning drive alive. But only 13 points on 400 yards of total offense by the Steelers was pathetic. Next week’s AFC championship game now features two teams and quarterbacks I dislike (but Manning more than Brady), and somehow I see the match-up as a migraine-inducing affair.

Panthers 31 Seahawks 24. Now for the game of the weekend, or so it was styled by the “experts,” most of whom thought that the Seahawks were the better team and most likely the only road team good enough to win. All week long I heard the local radio sports personalities arrogantly claim (some more brazenly confident than others, like Dave “Softy” Mahler) that there was no doubt that the Seahawks would win, whether because they had the “heart” of a “champion” and that the Panthers just didn’t have the players to match-up with the super-studs the Seahawks would put on the field, or the coaching on the sideline. 

When the Panthers rolled out to a 31-0 halftime lead before taking a second half nap, I could already hear the apologists blame everything on everyone except the sainted Russell Wilson. Just ask Tom Brady how to operate an offense with a banged-up offensive line--by making quick reads and getting the ball off just as quickly; Wilson will not or cannot do that. Sure, the Seahawks scored 24 unanswered points in the second half to make it at least look like a game, but the damage had long been done. In the first half, it was as if the Seahawks were so puffed-up by all the fawning press that they couldn’t adjust to seeing their own blood. It wasn’t the offensive line or Darrell Bevell that made that bad decision or threw that bad pass that was intercepted and run in for a touchdown, it was Wilson, and it was that kind of critical turnover that ultimately is the difference in a “close” game. After the game, I wondered where all those arrogant fans parading about proudly in their Seahawk gear were hiding themselves.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Week 1 NFL playoff notes

The first round of the 2015 NFL playoffs saw all four road teams win, only one of which I wanted to. As such:

Chiefs 30 Titans 0. During their current lengthy winning streak, the Chiefs have had the good fortune of playing a soft schedule, and why should anything be different in the first round of the playoffs? The odd thing is that the Titans had a higher ranked offense and defense than the Chiefs, so a little “exposure” might occur? Fat chance of that. The Titans started four different quarterbacks this season and to say that Brian Hoyer was deemed the best of that sorry lot to start this game is only to say that quantity trumps quality on bad teams. At any rate, you have to give the Chiefs credit for taking advantage of their opportunities—mainly from Hoyer’s four interceptions and fumble.

Steelers 18 Bengals 16. This wasn’t the only game this weekend where the wrong team won. The Steelers played the hare to the Bengals’ tortoise, and managed to nose out in the end mainly because of coaching blunders on the Bengals’ side and questionable judgment calls by Mr. McGoo officials that benefited the Steelers. I mean, what the hell was Steelers linebacker coach Joey Porter doing in the middle of field during an injury time out on the Steelers last possession? He was yelling and screaming at Bengals’ players, and the officials just let him carry on until Pacman Jones shoved him in response, penalizing him 15-yards (on top of a 15-yard “unnecessary roughness” penalty) to put the Steelers into game-winning field goal range. Without the aid of a pass interference penalty, the Steelers advanced from 47-yard line on an incomplete pass to the Bengals’ 17 just like that. Before that, the Bengals’ AJ McCarron was suddenly playing like a clutch pro in the fourth quarter after Marvin Lewis and his offensive coordinator realized it was getting late in the day to play it “safe.”  But with Bengals up 16-15 and with the ball with less than two minutes from victory despite all the sideline incompetence, the McGoos in stripes and in the replay booth had to scramble to justify upholding a bogus fumble that gave the Steelers their last shot.

Seahawks 10 Vikings 9. This one really irritated me because I dislike the Seahawks and their annoying partisans more than the Vikings. I listened all week to local sports commentators laugh at and demean the Vikings chances of winning this game, played in minus-3 degree weather. The Seahawks should have put up one fat goose egg when all was said done, trailing 9-0 heading into the fourth quarter, and particularly when a snap went over Russell Wilson’s head, which was about the size of the Seahawks’ play during the game up to that point. But once more Wilson pulled a miracle out of his fundament, and suddenly the score was 9-7. Adrian Peterson then fumbled in his own end, and the Seahawks were up 10-9. But all was not lost; Teddy Bridgewater actually completed a couple of balls downfield, Petersen held onto the ball, and suddenly the Vikings were a 27-yard field goal away from shutting up all those annoying people. Unfortunately, Vikings’ kicker Blair Walsh, who had kicked three field goals, took a rather longer stride than necessary, almost sliding into his kick which incomprehensibly sailed wide left when he was aiming far right. I hate that guy.

Packers 35 Redskins 18. The Redskins were up at one point 11-0 and Aaron Rodgers was 1 for 8 passing. A tiresome refrain this season, but somehow Rodgers and the offense were touched as if by some supernatural power and played like a good team for once, out-scoring the Redskins 35-7 the remainder of the game. But this was, after all, against a team that was in the playoffs only because they were playing in the worst division outside the AFC South. Rodgers ended the game throwing for only 210 net yards on 36 pass attempts—less than six yards per attempt—and I saw nothing that convinces me that the Packers returned to “form” to give the Cardinals a run for their money next week.