NFL Week Five: Berman, La Russa, Hank Williams, and Lots and Lots of Hate

Apologies for the delay on posting, I had to work on Sunday and missed every one and four o’clock game. As you might imagine, Sunday was not a good day. I work at a leasing office that’s inexplicably open seven days a week, so I arranged to work Tuesday through Saturday throughout football season so that I can watch the games and be hungover write on Mondays. However, this Saturday was our annual company picnic, which was tacitly mandatory and meant that I’d have to work Sunday. I’d use a day off but I use vacation days like Andy Reid uses timeouts- early, spontaneously and inexplicably, so that wasn’t an option. Unless you work somewhere cool like a tech start-up or ad agency, all work parties are horribly awkward and pointless. Looking back, I’ve despised every single co-worker I’ve ever had, through no fault of their own. I’m sure many of them are great people who do interesting things in their spare time, but to me they’re just personifications of the soul-crushing, time-stealing black hole of a dead-end job.  Again, they’re undoubtedly fantastic people and I’d like most of them if I met them through some other medium, but I didn’t, so instead they’re living, breathing representations of everything that is wrong in the world. To require me to “party” with them is cruel, to consequently require me to work on Sunday instead of watching football is madness.

Chargers 29, Broncos 24: Break out the votive candles and uncircumcised children cause IT’S TEBOW TIME!  The Broncos fans calls for Jesus Tebow to replace Barabbas Kyle Orton have finally been answered. With the Broncos down big in the second half, Tebow replaced the struggling Orton, led the offense on two touchdown drives and nearly came away with a win before his last-second Hail Mary attempt fell incomplete (note: it was his 347th Hail Mary of the day, but his first that involved football).  The move makes sense for the Broncos, who have to figure out if Tebow is a capable starting quarterback and, equally important, need to sell tickets. Tebow finished the day with a higher QBR than Aaron Rodgers, which is perhaps the greatest miscarriage of justice in sports history, but his numbers are deceptive. He went 4-9 for 76 yards and a touchdown, but that touchdown was a 28-yard screen pass to Willis McGahee. Another completion required a ridiculous one-handed catch from Brandon Lloyd and a third came underneath the Chargers prevent defense with time running out, so really he had one good completion, just thirty-one behind Drew Brees!

Fortunately for Tebow, the Broncos have a bye this week before heading to Miami, where the Dolphins will honor Tebow and his 2009 national championship at Florida. Really Miami? You’re seriously doing this? In spite of the fact that you’re honoring a college team at a pro game in a shameless attempt to sell tickets, or that Gainesville is five and a half hours from Miami, or that there’s a fairly notable college team that’s won some championships and plays AT the Dolphins’ stadium, or that there are more Dolphins players who went to Utah (3) or Montana (3) or Kansas State (2) than there are who went to Florida (1),  or that you’re literally honoring the starting quarterback for the opposing team right before the game.  Really? Miami is the worst sports city on Earth.

49ers 48, Bucs 3: Good god this game was a blood bath.

Hank Williams used his newly found free time to write the disillusioned xenophobic simpleton’s national anthem. It’s predictably horrible and available for listening here, but just take my word for it- it’s awful.  In it, he outlines the things that someone (the government? ESPN?  Steve Doocy?) is trying to take from him, rhymes when it’s convenient, unironically tells Fox News not tread on him and tells listeners to “keep ESPN outta yer homes”.

In case you’re curious, here are the things that Hank is going to keep: Freedom, guns, money, religion, his heroes’ pictures on the wall (I LOVE YOU KID ROCK!), his truck, his friends, and his Christian name. First of all, I don’t recall a “Hank” anywhere in the New Testament, just sayin. Second, this entire song is based on a bumper sticker, which Williams blatantly plagiarized.  You might say, it’s not plagiarism, he’s just echoing the same sentiments, it’s not like he’s selling bumper stickers using that exact quote and attributing it to himself. What’s that? Oh that’s precisely what he’s doing? Fair enough.

In case you’re curious, other things for sale on his website include Creepy Hank Williams Coaster set for just $40 (plus shipping and handling of course), a “custom made” alligator tooth necklace in case those ever come back in into style, and for the Hank Williams fan who likes to be cozy, but also likes people to know that they live a life devoid of tolerance or good taste, the Hank Williams Confederate Flag Afghan.

Bills 31, Eagles 24: The poll on Philly.com today this week was “Should the Eagles fire Andy Reid before the end of the season?” When the biggest question five weeks into the season is not if you should fire your coach but when or how, you’ve got problems. (My vote, by the way, is just after the national anthem on Sunday and by having Brian Dawkins parachute in waving a giant flag that says “Times yours, bitch”).

Where to start with Sunday’s game- Offensive line? Turnovers? Tackling? Play-calling? I hate everything.  The Eagles’ defense has a proud tradition highlighted by people like Dawkins, Reggie White, Buddy Ryan and Jim Johnson and if nothing else, Philly could always rely on an intimidating, fearsome defense that made plays and gave the fans something to be excited about. Now? They’re not only bad, not only wildly overpaid and wildly overrated, they’re soft.  They play like a group of dispassionate, balkanized mercenaries, which is essentially what they are. In every aspect of the defense, they’re too unskilled, too misused, or too apathetic to get the job done.  They missed 13 tackles on Sunday, and that says nothing of the instances where guys made no effort to make a play. The Eagles have just 2 forced fumbles (2nd worst in the league) and 3 interceptions (5th worst) through 5 games and Football Outsiders ranks their defense dead last in the league.  The hiring of Juan Castillo went about as well as you’d expect when a team hires the offensive line coach to coordinate the defense. Now there are reports that the Eagles reached out to Eric Mangini for a “defensive consultant” job. With the Jets, Browns and Patriots, Mangini ran a 3-4 defense, a scheme that the Eagles lack the personnel to run, let alone change to on-the-fly mid-season.  It’s a move that reeks of desperation and seems to indicate that the wheels have fallen off and that Reid and his staff are totally lost, just like the season.

It’s not like things are much better on offense either. The Eagles lead the league in both interceptions and fumbles, can’t score in the red zone, can’t protect their already-frail quarterback and have apparently forgotten how to throw deep. The play-calling is consistently head-scratching each week as Reid sets out to prove that he’s smarter than everyone else in the league, failing his goals and his team miserably in the process. I know that they were playing behind really the entire game, but LeSean McCoy had only 11 carries, despite averaging over 7 yards per touch. First round pick Danny Watkins made his debut at right guard and played about as well as you’d expect a 26-year old firefighter with four years of playing experience to play in the NFL- brutally. Now, the Eagles find themselves in last place in the NFC East, with games against the Cowboys, Giants, Patriots, Bears and Jets remaining. In order to turn this season around and beat the Redskins this Sunday, the Eagles need a few things.  They need much more consistent play from the offensive line, a commitment to stretching the field with deep balls, a turnover-free game, a normal fucking defensive scheme, new linebackers and safeties, and tackling lessons. That seems easy enough to fix in six days right? Or they could just shit-can Reid and at least give the fans one thing to be happy about this year.

Chiefs 28, Colts 24: Baby-Thor and Matt Cassel combined for 36 completions, 534 yards, 6 TDs and no interceptions or sacks. I refuse to believe that this is anything other than a testament to how terrible both defenses are.  Do you think Todd Haley and Jim Caldwell said one word to each other after the game? Cause I think they could be locked in a maintenance closet for a year and wouldn’t be able to find a single thing in common.

Packers 25, Falcons 14:  In case this weekend wasn’t horrible enough, the Phillies lost on Friday night and were eliminated from the playoffs, which means there’s no point to watch baseball for another six months. I know that just sounds like I’m being an insufferable Philly fan (fair point), but it’s still true. Look at the teams left and tell me there’s someone worth rooting for left:

Texas Rangers- Rooting for the Rangers means rooting for Dallas, and that just can’t happen under any circumstances. Their team is also completely unlikeable. Their most popular hitter is a former junkie who apparently has bones made out of candy canes as a result. Hamilton broke his arm on a fairly routine and benign head-first slide into home this season, then openly blamed his third base coach for it. (I’d show you the video but Bud Selig is horrible and doesn’t want any of you meddling kids to watch his sport on your newfangled Youtuber or whatever it’s called; also, stay off his lawn).  Their best pitcher, CJ Wilson, is an insufferable douche who counters his teammate’s struggles with substance abuse by bragging about being a straight edge, as if that’s something to impress people. His Twitter handle is @Str8EdgeRacer. That’s not a joke. And this was his picture for earlier this year . UGH, it looks like a bad every)Coldplay video. Ugh, have a drink, listen to something other than Coheed & Cambria and stop being such an insufferable, sanctimonious douche.

St. Louis Cardinals- St. Louis stopped being a relevant city in America somewhere around the time that cholera stopped being a relevant disease in America.   St. Louis isn’t even in the top 50 most populace cities in the country, coming in at #58 behind roaring metropolises like Aurora, Colorado and Wichita, Kansas.  But it does have one thing on other cities- crime! Yes, St. Louis beat out notoriously crime-ridden cities like Detroit, Baltimore, Camden and Compton to take home the title of The Most Dangerous City in America.  How this happened I have no idea, but I’m simultaneously shocked, impressed and disgusted.

Tony LaRussa is like the Bill Belichick of baseball, only if Belichick made every game longer and only won two championships in 31 years as head coach.  His insistence on over-managing relief pitchers is maddening.  He used his camera time during an interview in Game 1 of the NLDS to openly criticize the umpire. He comes off as a petulant narcissist who takes himself so seriously that he became the first ”celebrity”  to sue Twitter over a fake @TonyLaRussa account.

I also hate the portrayal of St. Louis as the greatest fans in baseball- a knowledgeable, magnanimous, well-behaved  and passionate crowd that has been seemingly accepted universally as the prototypical fans. But why? Because Joe Buck thinks it so? Because they don’t boo? Wrong. Cardinals fans have perpetuated this notion of greatness that is has somehow become an accepted truth, when it’s really just subject to an opinion on traditionalism in baseball, how fans should act, and how arbitrary self-appointed titles are.  The same narcissism, traditionalism and idealistic romanticism of “old fashioned baseball” that led to LaRussa’s anointing as the “best in baseball” have likewise bestowed the same crown upon Cardinals fans.

Detroit Tigers- A win for Detroit means a week of cringe-worthy pontifications from Joe Buck, Mike Wilbon and Buster Olney about how the Tigers transformed the city from a desolate wasteland of humanity’s castoffs into a joyous wonderland filled with people from all walks of life who realized that life really was worth living because Justin Verlander throws 100mph. I know this, because it’s exactly what happened two years ago when Michigan State made it to the NCAA championship game and we were subjected to shit like this:

“(Michigan State’s) biggest edge may come from a reservoir of emotional depth. The Spartans are playing for a home crowd, a struggling city and a shaken state. During down times in Michigan, which has been rocked by the struggles of the automotive industry in addition to the general economic downturn, Michigan State has been a pick-me-up.

“It’s a storm in the city,” Michigan State point guard Kalin Lucas said. “So we’re trying to bring some sunlight to it.”

From the floods of crowds wearing Spartan green and white in the streets to the middle fingers they have seen on their bus rides through the city, North Carolina’s players and coaches realize they are facing a city and community bonded by a cause. …Can a team fueled by emotion beat one that is clearly more talented? An entire city hopes so.”

NO, they can’t. They lost by 17 and everyone went back to not caring about the idealistic, fictional connection between a sporting event and a billion-dollar economic crisis. It’s such a tired and ludicrous narrative and I can’t suffer through it again. And if my satisfaction means millions of downtrodden people will continue to suffer, SO BE IT.  All a win for Detroit would mean is that Miguel Cabrera drunken ass would now have a $100,000 piece of jewelry on top of his $152 million dollar contract I’m sure he’ll spend a quiet moment of introspection focusing on the Tigers’ uplifting emotional impact on such a decimated landscape that was once the crowned jewel of the Rust Belt. Then he’ll fly first class back to Venezuela and not think about the city of Detroit or anyone in it for four months.

Milwaukee Brewers – The Brewers are likeable enough, they’ve got good fans, they drink a lot. Nyjer Morgan is a psycho, but in a good way. But Prince Fielder is just such an asshole- he openly said he was leaving his team after the season, expects to get Pujols money and hit the bad tattoo triumpvirate– it’s in Korean, it’s his own name and it’s on his neck!  If Ronnie from the Jersey Shore fell asleep in a tanning bed for three months with an IV of bacon grease in his arm, he’d be Prince Fielder.

Hey take a look at this list of famous people from Milwaukee, actually I’ll sum it up for you- NO ONE. There’s no one famous from Milwuakee. Milwaukee is incredibly boring in by every qualitative or quantitative standard and for that they deserve to lose.

Vikings 34, Cardinals 10: Hey the Vikings finally won! I guess they finally got a good performance from Donovan McNa…nope. 10 for 21 for 169 yards and no TDs. Here’s a fun stat from this game, the Vikings had an average of 10.0 Yards After Catch this game, which means the average McNabb completion in this game went 1.6 yards, yet his completion percentage was still under 50%, that’s just amazing. Not to be outdone, Kevin Kolb threw 21 incompletions (50% completion rate) and turned the ball over three times. It took the Cardinals six drives to get a first down, and by that point they were already down 28-0.

For the record, Kolb, McNabb and Vick, the three current and former Eagles “franchise quarterbacks” are 3-12 this season with a 59% completion percentage, 17 touchdowns and 22 turnovers. I blame Andy Reid for all of it.

Seahawks 36, Giants 25: For the second week in a row, the Giants’ run defense was gashed by a poor rushing team while failing to run effectively themselves. Last week, Beanie Wells ran all over the Giants, who were fortunate to escape the desert with a win. This week, they weren’t so lucky as Marshawn Lynch and the Seahawks ran for 145 yards and five yards per carry. Seattle also fumbled twice in the red zone, so things could have been even worse for the G-Men.  The Giants were also doomed by field position all day long. They started at their own 20 or worse on 13 of their 17 drives and never got the ball past their own 40. Victor Cruz also had 8 catches for 161 yards and a TD, but lost a fourth-quarter fumble and dropped tipped a pass that turned into a game-sealing pick-6 in the final minute of the game. Even the promising young players on the Giants fall into the Eli Manning cycle of never letting fans be completely satisfied.  The Seahawks have to be one of the three or four most boring franchises in all of sports right? Whether they win or lose, their fans are all going straight to Starbucks to discuss global warming and the latest Chuck Klosterman novel. I hate all of them.

Steelers 38, Titans 17: So uh, so much for the Titans defense being really good. Despite being without Rashard Mendenhall, and despite Roethlisberger’s sprained left foot, the Steelers racked up 431 yards of offense. Pittsburgh had nine possessions in this game; seven went for either a touchdown or at least 50 yards.  The Titans meanwhile could only manage two drives over 40 yards, despite James Harrison’s absence. Pittsburgh’s resurgence seemed inevitable though, didn’t it? It really is amazing how remarkably consistent that franchise is despite the fact that they rarely bring in expensive free agents. I hate them, and I resent them so much more because they represent everything that that their in-state rivals are not- balanced, well-coached, consistent and tough. Alright that’s enough Pittsburgh praise, I’m going to be sick if I don’t work an insult in here somewhere. Uhhh, Andy Warhol was an overrated hipster and your whole city smells like condiments and acid rain! That’s more like it.

Saints 30, Panthers 27: D’Angelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart averaged NINE yards per carry, but only got 15 touches despite Carolina’s fourth quarter lead. As referenced last week, that duo has yet get 20 carries in a game this season- mind-boggling.  At the end of the first half, the Saints rushed their field goal team on to try to get a last-second field goal off but ran out of time. Fortunately for them, Ron Rivera called a timeout because he thought he had too many men on the field.  The Saints lined up and kicked the field goal…and won by three.  Ron Rivera is horrible.

In the mean time, Drew Brees put on another ridiculous display while playing from behind in the fourth quarter, going 10-13 for 100 yards, 1 TD and no picks or sacks. When trailing in the fourth quarter this season, Brees has thrown 413 yards, 4 TDs, 0 interceptions, 0 sacks and a 69.4% completion percentage.  For some comparison, Donovan McNabb’s career numbers when trailing in the fourth quarter are 7 dry-heaves, 4 panic attacks, 2 sharts and at least one panicked 911 call from the sideline.

Bengals 30, Jaguars 20: Is there anything more fun than making fantasy football trades? I always feel like a cross between Michael Corleone and Drew Rosenhaus while negotiating trades with other people in the league, even though 98% of negotiations never get past the initial round of insane proposals. “Oh you want Adrian Peterson? No problem, just give me Tom Brady, Greg Jennings and Matt Forte and you’ve got a deal, I’ll even through in the Cardinals Defense as a token of my appreciation. No? Then FUCK YOU! YOUR TEAM SUCKS ANYWAY, ENJOY YOUR 4 WINS ASSHOLE.”  I “negotiate” fantasy trades the way Bill O’Reilly “negotiates” his script with producers.

Last season, I swung two trades simultaneously, unbeknownst to the other teams involved, setting myself up with a championship-caliber roster in the process. I felt like Keyser Soze. I was a fantasy magician! Unfortunately, the two main pieces that I traded away were Michael Vick and Arian Foster, who went on to lead the league in their respective positions and I lost in the first round of the playoffs. I also traded away Curtis Granderson  in my fantasy baseball league this season. Tune in next week, when the fantasy magician makes Adrian Peterson…DISAPPEAR!

Raiders 25, Texans 20: Jacoby Jones is the hero Houston deserves, but not the one they want. With Andre Johnson down for a few weeks, the Texans needed someone to step up and Jones looked like that man. Matt Schaub trusted him enough to throw to him 11 times. The problem was that Jones only caught the first of those passes, for nine yards.  His next 10 targets fell incomplete or were picked off.  Schaub is not without fault either- his fantasy stats look great, as they always do- 416 yards and two TDs; however, he threw a mind-boggling 26 incompletions, plus two picks and a fumble. The worst play, however, was his game-ending interception in the end-zone.  As you can see below, he has both Owen Daniels and Jones open during the route, plus an insane amount of time and running room. He also had a clean pocket and little pressure, yet inexplicably decided to scramble, then realized he’s slow and white and his opponents are not, so he decided to loft a wildly off-target change-up across his body and directly at Raiders safety Michael Huff.  Schaub is a poor man’s Eli Manning, who is a poor man’s Peyton Manning;  ipso facto, Schaub is the broke, dehydrated, double-amputee version of Peyton Manning…or something.

Patriots 30, Jets 21: Entering Sunday, the Pats’ struggling defense had yet to give up less than 450 yards in a game. Jason Campbell went for 373 yards last week against their much-maligned secondary. Surely the Jets offense would be able to get something going right? Wrong. They managed just 255 yards, and only 166 from Sanchez. The Pats, meanwhile, have scored 30 or more in 13 straight regular season games, one shy of the NFL record held by the Greatest Show on Turf Rams.  They’ll head to Dallas next week, where Tom Brady will throw for 500 yards, get the win, and break the record and yet the only thing ESPN will talk about is whether Tony Romo is a Super Bowl caliber quarterback.  Let me answer that for you, NO. He’s white Donovan McNabb.  Enjoy the next six years of heart-wrenching futility, Dallas.

Bears at Lions : I started to do a running diary of this MNF game, but realized soon after that running diaries are boring as shit. So instead I just did one for the first quarter:

8:32p.m.- ESPN just showed a montage of hits on Jay Cutler. It was like watching Faces of Death.  There should be a bizarro Red Zone channel that only shows montages of Tony Romo, Ben Roethlisberger, Brett Favre, Jay Cutler and every other insufferable douche quarterback getting destroyed by gigantic black men. It should be hosted by Lexington Steele, Mr. T and Ving Rhames.

8:36- PROP-BASED HUMOR. Carrot Top John Gruden, talking about Calvin Johnson’s touchdown streak, breaks out a bottle clearly containing Pedialyte and says it’s “Megatron juice” then shares it with Ron Jaworski. I guess they switched up their beverage of choice after spending last Monday night slurping Romo juice for 4 hours.

8:39- Fuck you Hank Williams, Barry Sanders replaced you and no one noticed. I like having an NFL legend give an impassioned soliloquy each week, but part of me wishes ESPN would just bring in a different illegal immigrant to open up Monday Night Football every week, just to spite Hank.

8:57- Cutler walks slowly onto the field for the Bears’ second drive shaking his head and looking at the ground.  He’s played three snaps and he already looks like he’d rather be walking into an octagon with Brock Lesnar than onto the field right now.

5:40-3rd and one for the Bears, Cutler calls timeout as the play-clock winds down.  Nice.

5:35- Aaaan Cutler gets crushed as he drops back to pass, but a facemask gives Chicago a first down.  3rd and one? Why wouldn’t Mike Martz have Cutler take a seven-step drop.

4:42- False start, again. That’s four …in six plays.

4:08- Oh hey a bullshit roughing-the-passer penalty, I hate you Roger Goodell.

4:06- For the record, the Bears have had the ball for about a dozen plays now, have gotten 4 first downs, and have exactly one play that went for positive yardage.

2:20- Cutler has a wide-open Matt Forte in the flat, but opts to “take-off”. “Take-off” in Jay Cutler’s world is scramble then trip and fall for a one-yard gain.

:15- Chicago calls its second timeout, apparently Andy Reid sent his playbook to Lovie Smith this week.

:06- Chicago lined up on fourth-and-one to draw the defense offsides, burns its timeout, then opts to go for it instead of taking the points. Then they predictably run the ball up the middle against the best front four in football with Marion Barber and their horrible o-line. It does not go well.  Unwavered, Lovie Smith challenged the spot, which didn’t appear close. The Bears lose possession, their final timeout and their  ability to challenge for the entire second quarter.  Andy Reid just had an orgasm.

And here’s my stream-of-consciousness thoughts on ESPN’s halftime show as they happened:

Berman- “Happy Canadian Thanksgiving to our neighbors up north, more on that later”.  WHY, WHY IS THERE MORE?…Matt “Stump the” Schaub might be the most Berman Bermanism ever…oh cool one highlight from the Packers game, didn’t care about that game anyway… Why the fuck are you always frantically yelling into the microphone, Chris?…One highlight from the 49ers game, one from the Chiefs, Broncos and Steelers games, two highlights from an old Lance Allworth AFL game, 1 highlight from a Canadian Football League game …Obligatory “No one circles the wagons like the Buffalo Bills” line. And no one circles around a coherent, palatable halftime show like Chris Berman…Berman spent more time honoring Anthony Calvillo, a CFL quarterback, than honoring Al Davis, one of the pioneers of pro football. WHO DIED….Berman now speaking in French for no reason at all, I think he might have had a stroke….Berman has made four separate Columbus Day references in the first five minutes of halftime as well as three references to Canada. What the fuck is going on…Adam Schefter reports that the NBA has cancelled the first two weeks of the season.  Wait what? Next, Buster Olney reports that Jim Cramer reports that gold futures are up…Baseball highlights during Monday Night Football. I hate everything….Check that, five Columbus Day references and four Canadian references. And just three references to the game that’s being played right now. And one reference to Al Davis, who , once again, just died. I hate you ESPN.

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