In case you're afraid to follow the link above, or in case you followed it but are certain your eyes must be playing tricks on you, I'll summarize. I've ranted before about HOT! 99.5, Washington's #1 purveyor of pitiful pop music for mouth-breathing morons. Now, given this station's packaging and intended target audience, I don't expect them to devote their resources to ending world hunger or anything. But now, in what might well be the tackiest thing I have ever heard of that did not involve the Fox network, HOT! 99.5 has decided to reach out to one struggling, underprivileged young woman in the area and improve her life by giving her... a boob job!
I suppose I shouldn't expect anything else from a station that deems "My Humps" a song worthy of endless airplay. I tried very, very hard to come up with any possible upside this particular promotion might have, and all I could come up with is this: At least the winner of this contest will not be paying for her own breast enhancement, possibly spending money that should be applied toward, say, food or her children's education. Although if there is a woman out there who would seriously consider cosmetic surgery ahead of food or education, she should probably not be allowed to breed in the first place.
In conclusion, I ask: Does this promotion actually attract listeners to the station? And must I share a culture with the people who think this is a good idea? Stop this country, I want to get off. Again.
A cheap shot? Probably, but I'm a bit peeved at Texas A&M. They filed for a restraining order against the Seahawks today, attempting to bar the teams use of the "12th Man".
The Aggies have been using the term since 1922, and trademarked the term (seriously, they trademarked a term) in 1990. The Hawks retired the jersey number 12 in 1984. Now, therein lies the rub. The Seahawks don't sell anything that says "12th man". They sell stuff with the number 12 on it, including the jersey. Now, is the term "12th man" implied. Yeah, but it's never used.
The school claims they responsibility and legal obligation to protect the university's trademarks, which in this instance is the '12th Man.' . Which, I guess is understandable, but seems really silly in the real world. Does anybody think, "they're talking about the 12th Man at the Super Bowl, A&M must be playing."
Christ, I never quite realized how long the two-week break between the championship games and the Super Bowl was.
It’s two weeks. I bet you didn’t realize that.
Hey, did you know Jerome Bettis was from Detroit? Me neither…
Nobody knew that he was even from Detroit before two weeks ago, and nobody cared either. He’s apparently a nice enough guy; though I always end up despising those that the media describes as such swell people. Not because I hate nice people. No, I despise these guys because the media can’t go one damned day without telling me how swell he is. Like Jerome Bettis is supposed to be beloved by all because he manages not to be a complete asshole.
Also, I hate anybody who gets the blowjob treatment from Chris Berman. Look, Berman was never far from being a self-parody, but he crossed the line about 15 years ago. There is a certain subset of players and coaches whom Berman just… well, it’s obviously some disturbed man-crush he has. Bettis, Brett Favre, Troy Brown, Bill Cowher and a few others are in this creepy club. He openly roots for them and can’t ever quite blame them when they screw up. What makes Bettis the worst of these is the incessant grunting and crashing noises Berman makes when broadcasting a highlight of a Bettis run. A 2-yard gain off-tackle becomes Earl Campbell against the Dolphins.
BAM! BIFF! BOOF!
Shut up, you great slobbering nightmare.
With the Sports Guy sitting out Super Bowl XL, Page 2 has sent Chuck Klosterman to blog the weeklong experience. I like this move. Klosterman is by no means a sports journalist –even less than Simmons- but he’s a fan, and he should bring a very interesting take to the proceedings. Speaking of Simmons, I still love the guys work, but… Jesus Bill, we know the Pats are out and you don’t give a damn, but he posts two Cowbell bits, a column and a Curious Guy and doesn’t ever mention the Super Bowl? Seriously? Very disappointing.
We have struck a controversy, and like all Super Bowl controversies, it really isn’t much. Apparently the Seahawks and city of Seattle have already planned out a victory parade for the Tuesday after the game. Expect the Steelers to milk this “disrespect” for all it’s worth. I really should mention that this doesn’t mean any disrespect to the Steelers, nor does it jinx the Seahawks in any way. This is Seattle folks, to get anything done in the city requires more bureaucratic hoops than you can imagine. Even starting the parade planning three weeks prior doesn’t guarantee it will happen. Knowing Seattle someone will object that not enough gay, anti-war women of color are represented among the Seahawks management and the parade will be canceled anyway.
Speaking of jinxes, I can’t believe this one. You can pre-order Super Bowl Championship caps. If your team loses, your order is automatically canceled. Who is foolish enough to tempt fate like this?
On second thought, please buy bunches of them Steelers fans. They’re available here, only $29.99. Make sure you order yours right now, mustn’t let them run out.
The media does have a storyline that they will beat to death –other than Bettistown and Paradegate- and that is How Lame This Super Bowl Is. Leave it to Skip Bayless to get an early start. Look, I’m sorry that Michael Vick sucks and his team didn’t get here. I’m sorry that T.O and the Eagles self-destructed. I’m very sorry that the Cowboys didn’t get here so you can resell are your old Dallas “insights”. Just shut the hell up already, k?
Lastly, I get an email today from my best friend from school. It seems not only was he at the NFC Championship, he actually snuck in and got away with it. I love him like a brother, but I can’t believe he gets away with this shit.
Oh, it’s not permanent or anything.
The Missus is going home tomorrow, taking a short, post-holiday vacation . She’ll be home next Saturday, and until then, I’m on my own. This was part of the deal to move up here. I told her -and I actually meant it- that she could head home whenever she needed to. We’ve been up hear nearly six full months now, and I can’t blame her from wanting to escape an extraordinarily dreary Pacific Northwest winter.
You might ask why I’m not going with.
Yeah, why aren’t I going with? The reason is twofold. First, I have to stay home and take care of our pet menagerie. The cats are easy, as is the bird, but our dogs don’t always get along with my parents pets, and I would hate to board them. Secondly, I’m just too damned busy at work.
It sucks though, allowing your spouse a vacation without you. And while I joke about her not coming back, I am a bit nervous about that. I’m certain at least once or twice Ensie will wonder just how exactly I convinced her to leave Southern California. Her trip is well timed in one respect though. With the Beloved Seahawks in the Super Bowl next week I expect ESPN to be on a pretty continuous loop here in the Frinklin Estate.
This would drive Ensie just a little more than crazy.
I’ll miss her though. This house seems pretty empty without her.
My favorite Geriatric Punk Busker was back at Westlake Center this afternoon. I could hear him powering through "I Wanna Be Your Dog" over both my iPod and the screaming religous types who have taken over Century Square this week.
In a related note, apparently I'm going to hell.
How odd that two major league sports franchises would announce possible name changes on the same day. Okay, so “major” is a bit of a stretch when dealing with Anaheim’s hockey team (more a slap at hockey than the OC) and Tampa Bay’s baseball team (slap at everybody involved), but it’s oddly coincidental.
The Mighty Ducks won’t be Mighty anymore. After purchasing the team from Disney, new owner Henry Samueli decided to cut ties with all lousy movies starring Emilio Estevez. Though I doubt they spent nearly enough time considering “Freejack”. Man, if you wondered if Emilio Estevez dropped off the planet, he sure seems to. His IMDB page dies around 1999. Anyway, I like this move. “Mighty Ducks of Anaheim” was always exceptionally goofy, and with “Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim” still around, the city has gone through enough.
I don’t like the idea of Tampa Bay dropping the “Devil” from their name. While “Devil Rays” isn’t perfect, it’s a hell of a lot better than Tampa Bay Rays. Tampa Bay Ray sounds like a bad pool hustler. Just make the D-Rays a better team and the name will be fine. If you must, change the name completely. How does “Las Vegas Devils” sound to you?
Hey, a second shot at Tampa/St. Pete? Was that really called for?
I love this stuff. Rich Eisen, who writes a rather enjoyably goofy column for NFL.com, accidentally called Seahawk WR Darrell Jackson “Dexter Jackson” last week. His punishment was scads of ticked off emails from Seahawk fans upset at the apparent snub. The best part? About half of them were very upset that Eisen not know who “Darryl Jackson” is.
Please, don’t fire off indignant emails that misspell what you’re indignant about.
Nothing Seahawk fans do though can be as creepy as the Steeler Baby. I found this via Deadspin, and I dare you –seriously, I triple-dog dare you- not to click on the “OBEY” function and not be freaked out enough to run out of the room.
For what it's worth.
On Saturday, my travels happened to place me in Gainesville, Virginia around mid-day. I'd been driving for a while, and fatigue and hunger convinced me to pull off the road at a shopping center called "Virginia Gateway," near the intersection of I-66 and Route 29. I came in search of a decent lunch, but I came away with new insight on the state of our culture today. All for less than 15 bucks.
A bit of background for non-Fedroplexers: Gainesville is located in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, near the western edge of our ever-expanding megalopolis. Until recently, Gainesville was a sleepy little southern town which served as a significant railroad shipping point. When the rail business finally died out in the '60s, the town hung on, no doubt helped by its location at the intersection of 66 and 29 and the resulting typical strip of roadside gas stations and fast-food joints catering to weary travelers. But there wasn't much to do or see there; it was just another drive-by town like the thousands of others that litter the landscape near highways all over America.
In the last few years, though, the combination of DC's red-hot housing market, the outflow of jobs to the area around Dot-Com Canyon, and the apparently-universal desire to have a lawn big enough to make a country squire jealous have turned Gainesville into "the new boom town," as one town Web site puts it. The combination of large houses on rolling lawns, decent-for-DC prices and reasonable commuting distances is like heroin for young Fedroplex families, and they've swarmed on Gainesville in droves. Nowadays, you can't swing a dead cat by the tail without hitting an SUV with a "My Child Is An Honor Student At..." bumper sticker, whereas ten years ago, you could have swung a dead cat by the tail a hundred times without hitting anything, other than maybe an Exxon or, on a good day, a Wendy's.
But, of course, you can't lure two-income professional families out to the sticks with cheap housing alone. You also need to provide them with the basic necessities of life, such as convenient shopping. Which brings us to Virginia Gateway. From the outside, it appears unremarkable, another one of those just-add-water retail centers that appear virtually overnight and grow like kudzu in the suburbs. It has the same mix of stores that all the others do, designed to appeal to yuppies-on-the-go: hip fast-casual restaurants, kiddie gym, hair salon, eyeglass shop, bank, cell-phone store, mildly bohemian home-furnishings boutique, tanning salon, dentists and doctors, and (of course!) a Starbucks, all done up in the same bricky neo-retro look you've seen a hundred times. Nothing in particular caught my eye as I navigated the center, looking for a decent place to spend my lunch dollars.
I spied a Mexican place called Qdoba, which I'd never been to before, so I drove toward it to find a parking space... and suddenly I found myself someplace different. For this, I soon discovered, was Atlas Walk.
Growing up in the Fedroplex as I did, I am intimately familiar with the standard suburban strip-mall. Architecturally and aesthetically, they have little if anything to recommend them. The identical-looking shops, the breezeway connecting them that protects you from rain so long as the wind isn't blowing, the canned music piped through tinny overhead speakers spaced too far apart to be useful, the focus around the vast expanse of parking lot in the middle, with at most a few spindly saplings to break up the monotony... the strip mall is purely, brutally utilitarian. Few people willingly spend one minute more there than they must. And why would they? The only thing the strip mall does well is to allow people to drive in, visit a lot of stores relatively quickly, and leave.
The town I grew up in was actually better than most in this regard, since its shopping centers were designed as communal gathering spaces. My town has an extensive network of walking trails, and the shopping centers were all pedestrian-friendly. They had pavilions and plazas and mature trees and were actually pleasant places to spend time. Of course, the utopian ideal of the "village center" eventually gave way to the reality of suburban life; the centers were generally not auto-friendly, and the car-centered residents began deserting the village centers. In the end, most of the old centers were extensively remodeled and now look very much like traditional strip malls. Every time I see one of them, I want to cry. But such is progress.
Progress has its discontents, though, and the old strip-mall model has worn thin. The utilitarian ugliness and the atomizing effect the centers have on communities are all too apparent. People yearn for the charms of small-town life, even as small-town retail is driven out of business by the big-box stores we can't seem to live without. We want the best of both worlds.
Community planners and developers have been trying to strike compromises. My town has constructed a town center that is walkable and suitable as a communal gathering place, yet has ample parking garages and lots. (Perhaps, ironically, the town center's success helped drive the old village centers out of business.) Other shopping centers have designed to include plazas, fountains, tree-lined walkways and other homey touches. Critics say the centers feel a bit like amusement parks, but they're certainly more pleasant places to visit than your typical strip mall.
Atlas Walk is a little different. It's designed like a small-town main street, with tree-lined sidewalks, a bit of architectural variation, and on-street parking. Many of the shops have awnings over the doors, a nice touch. I found a spot next to a shop with the delightful name of Corks and Forks. As I got out of my car, I was greeted by music, a medley of nostalgia-oriented middle-of-the-road hits emitting from quality speakers, speakers placed by someone with a decent knowledge of acoustics. As I walked up the street toward Qdoba, I noted with pleasure that the music didn't fade in and out as I walked up the street, but remained at a constant volume, loud enough to be heard and understood but quiet enough to be tuned out if you didn't happen to like the song being played. It was a warm January day, and I was gliding down the street humming along with a Chicago tune and feeling fine. Atlas Walk looked so nice and clean! It reminded me a bit of Sea Haven, the town from the movie The Truman Show.
I noticed a Coldstone Creamery next door to Qdoba, and thought to myself, At last I can see what all the fuss is about! For, until Saturday, I had never in my life been to Coldstone Creamery. I'd driven by a couple, and of course I'd heard the rave reviews from my reviews. I was assured that Coldstone's signature cake-batter ice cream was worth sacrificing, at minimum, an arm for. So I made plans to cap off my pleasant rest stop with a cup of primo ice cream.
After a pleasant quesadilla lunch, I made my way over to Coldstone and ordered the cake-batter ice cream, with an Oreo mix-in, in the "Like It" size (a designation so pretentiously cute I nearly gagged, but whatever). It was delivered to me in a portion so generous as to overflow the edges of the cup. I sat down and began working furiously on the sides, so as to prevent it from melting onto my hands. Delicious! Every bit as good as advertised. I sensed a new addiction taking shape before my eyes.
But after a couple bites, I looked back out at the cheery scene on Atlas Walk, and thought, On such a nice day, in January no less, I'm going to sit and eat ice cream inside? I changed my plans on the fly, and after getting the overflow situation under control, I slipped out the door of Coldstone and back into the ever-pleasant streetscape.
I took a few steps, took a few bites. A Stevie Wonder song began to play. I almost felt like dancing as I strolled along. Viva Atlas Walk! Sure, maybe it lacked a little of the character of a true small-town main street, but what does "character" mean here, really? Urban decay? Abandoned storefronts? The threat of criminal activity? Nostalgia can be overrated, though. Atlas Walk provided the possibility of all the advantages of small-town charm without the drawbacks. What could be wrong?
I walked along another half-block, kept eating. You know, I thought, this ice cream is pretty rich. Really, really good, and they give you an awful lot of it. An awful lot. It wouldn't have hurt if they'd given me a little less, maybe... Also, Atlas Walk was beginning to remind me of The Truman Show for another reason. Maybe it was the way the light was shining, but it all felt a little like a movie set. It was just so... clean. And so... nice. My eyes darted around a bit, searching for some initials scrawled in the concrete somewhere, or a weed sprouting through a joint in the sidewalk, or a little crack in one of the brick facades. No imperfections to be found. Of course.
Still, I'm complaining because they gave me too much ice cream? I'm finding fault with a shopping center for being too perfect? It seems absurd. Still, I couldn't help looking around for cameras...
And my sense of the place as movie set gained considerable force when, after two blocks, Atlas Walk just... vanished. The streetscape disintegrated into a grassy median. Ten feet ahead, I saw a chain-link fence designed to keep kids off the railroad tracks. And it was jarring. I felt a bit like I'd walked off the edge of the earth. I looked behind me and saw the beautiful, well-scrubbed streetscape. I looked ahead and saw weeds, fencing, the railroad tracks, a run-down service station. I felt a little queasy, a little dislocated. Where was I?
Also, around this time, the ice cream was starting to really get to me. The cake-batter taste was nice, sure, but it was so... sweet. And so... cloying. It was like eating a bowl full of real cake better, only denser. How on earth did they expect me to finish the whole thing? It was just a little too... too.
Having run out of Atlas Walk, and not really feeling like retracing my steps, I wandered around behind it. This didn't take long, as in addition to being only two blocks long, Atlas Walk consists of only the one "street." I half-expected to see rigging and catwalks and key grips running around on the backside. What I actually saw wasn't much more welcoming: blank brick walls and traditional strip-mall surface parking. Only a few signs announcing the names of the shops on the other side broke up the monotony. The contrast between the inviting warmth and faux-charm inside and the featureless and shadowy outside couldn't be more stark.
I took a couple more bites of ice cream, but it was getting hard. I felt like I'd been gorging in a candy store too long. I'd had rich ice creams before -- I love Ben and Jerry's and I've enjoyed Haagen-Dazs in my time -- but this stuff took "rich" to another dimension. Who could eat all this? And this was the small size! If I was having this much trouble with the "Like It" size, who eats the "Love It," or even the "Must Have It"? Football players? Paul Bunyan? The Jolly Green Giant? My appetite takes a back seat to few men, but I was already sensing that I was overmatched by this ice cream.
My gaze turned away from Atlas Walk, and as I cast my eyes across the parking lot, I saw the Loch Ness Monster. Actually, it was a row of big-box stores which are also part of Virginia Gateway. They seemed a bit hazily distant, and I sensed that they were supposed to feel that way: the big-box row was separated from Atlas Walk by a road, not to mention several acres of parking lot. "Pay no attention to that Target in the distance," Atlas Walk seemed to be whispering to me. "Nothing to see over there. Come back in here... we've got ice cream!" I ignored it... I couldn't take my eyes off of the gallumphing, ungraceful row of stores on the other side of the asphalt ocean. There's really no way to make a store like Target or Bed Bath and Beyond look attractive or welcoming. The mega-stores are too big, too function-first. They can't be integrated into a Main Street. They just... exist, squat and elephantine, gobbling up acreage, surrounded by their moats of parking. The row I was looking at, which couldn't have been more than three stores, was longer than all of Atlas Walk. Even though it was off in the distance, it seemed to dwarf the faux-streetscape behind me. Atlas Walk seemed even smaller, flimsier, and emptily pretentious than before. Plopping a fake small-town street next to the behemoth across the street is like wearing a tuxedo to work at a factory and calling yourself an orchestra conductor.
I'd had about enough of Atlas Walk and Virginia Gateway, and I'd had about enough of my ice cream. But I decided to walk down to the other end of the streetscape, just in case I'd missed some redeeming quality, like an extra block or two. But as I rounded the corner again, I discovered that Qdoba was, indeed, at the end of the street. The only part of the plaza I'd missed was a restaurant and a small brick plaza with a bench covered by an archway. At the time I visited, the bench overlooked a highly scenic pile of dirt. I presume that something else, perhaps a fountain, will be there eventually, but on Saturday the dirt pile only enhanced the feeling of dislocation. I stood on the plaza and looked around, to see the limits of the illusion. Ahead of me stood cheery Atlas Walk... and, not out of sight, the chain-link fence and the railroad tracks. To my right, parking and the the looming bulk of Target. To my left, the cars whizzing by along Route 29. Behind me, the plaza and the dirt pile. Effectively, Atlas Walk is an island, marooned in the middle of standard suburban sprawl.
As I spun around and took everything in, I was struck full-force with the essence of the sham. Sure, you can have your nostalgic Main Street fantasyland... but it needs to be surrounded by the big-box stores that have driven real-life Main Streets out of business, or it won't be economically viable. Sure, Atlas Walk is a nice walkable shopping area... but you have to drive to get there. You can't walk to Atlas Walk from anywhere. All the houses are somewhere else. Sure, Atlas Walk evokes the small towns where everyone knew their neighbors and gathered together downtown... but apart from shopping, it has none of the civic or communal features that made people want to congregate on the Main Streets of old. There's no reason for local kids, for instance, to get together to play or hang out there. (And given the attitude of most upscale shopping centers toward kids who aren't buying things, they'd probably be chased off if they tried.) There really isn't much more reason to spend a day, or even a whole afternoon, at Atlas Walk than at a typical strip mall. It's prettier, sure, but it's all for show. It's attractive and well-designed, but it's an empty shell. A gleaming, polished, empty shell.
I started to walk back up the street, but I couldn't take any more. My arteries felt clogged with lead. The combination of the smotheringly-sweet ice cream and the neo-Mayberry streetscape were giving me saccharine overload. My body threatened to revolt if I shoveled another spoonful of Cake Batter down my gullet, and my sensibilities threatened to revolt if I stayed any longer at Atlas Walk. So I chucked the ice cream cup (still half-full) in the trash and walked to my car and got out as quickly as I could. As I merged back onto 29, I took one last look at Atlas Walk. From the road, I noticed, the streetscape was obscured from view. Instead, I found myself staring, largely, at a blank brick wall much like the one facing Target. There were signs identifying the stores, and a few windows and even an awning or two to break up the monotony, but the overall effect was depressingly monolithic, as I couldn't tell where one store ended and another began. It looked like a fortress, a bulwark defending Virginia Gateway from the visigoths on the highway. It was as forbidding and cold from the outside as it was cheery and welcoming on the inside. I took the hint and drove away, headed home.
Will Atlas Walk succeed? I don't know. Perhaps the retro charm will win people over. Or perhaps they'll ignore it in favor of the big-box stores on the other side of the center. It certainly does have its plusses: it's attractive, it's clean, and it has a reasonably good mix of stores, as far as I could tell. But I couldn't stand to go there often for the same reason I couldn't stand to live in Gainesville: I can't keep up the fantasy in my mind. I can't narrow my eyes and pretend it's a real Main Street. And I can't narrow my eyes and pretend Gainesville is a real town. The center doesn't hold, because there is no center. It's a town of convenience, only it's not a town at all; it's a conglomeration of subdivisions and shopping centers plopped down with no rhyme or reason, all because it's close to the highway.
Is this as good as it gets, though? After all, people vote with their feet, and they've demanded the big-box stores, their convenience and low prices. And our insistence on big houses and big lawns, on convenient shopping, on separating housing and commercial developments, and on being married to our cars forces certain constraints on planning and design. Given everything we demand, real small-town Main Streets aren't necessarily practical, at least not in the Fedroplex. Maybe a fragment of faux-small-town charm surrounded by asphalt and concrete is the best we can hope for. I continue to hope, though, that we can do better.
Oh, and as for Coldstone? I'm willing to believe I just picked wrong, and that there are other flavors that are just as addictive and divine as everyone claims. If anyone has a suggestion to make my next visit less cloying, feel free to leave a comment.
You may wish, especially if you’re a Seahawk fan, to say this out loud several times. It takes some time to sink in.
The Seattle Seahawks are in the Super Bowl.
I don’t know how much can be said about the game today. A red-hot Carolina team came into Qwest Field and got splattered. Jake Delhomme looked like he should be starting for the Juanita High School JV team instead of a conference championship. Steve Smith finished with exactly five more receiving yards (33-28) than the Seahawks’ backup quarterback Seneca Wallace. A heralded Carolina secondary was shredded by Matt Hasselbeck. The MVP ran for 132 very tough yards. And for the second week in a row, Seattle took on a team that was though to be tougher, more “roughneck” in Dr. Z’s words.
Seattle was faster and tougher, and most importantly they were just plain better than the Panthers. This is, without any question, the best team in the NFC. Now, all they have to do is prove to be the best team in the NFL.
Seahawks and Steelers in the Motor City.
The Seattle Seahawks are in the Super Bowl. Do you believe it yet?
Carolina Panthers at Seattle Seahawks
Holy Molley, this one is hard.
This might be the first time in my lifetime that Seattle fans really think a Seattle team has a chance to win the big one. The Sonics won the NBA title in 1979, but that’s a long time ago, and existed in the netherworld of pre-Magic and Larry basketball. The Seahawks were walloped in the AFC championship game of 1983. The Mariners made it to the ALCS in 1995, 2000 and 2001, but I don’t think any of those times the M’s were considered a favorite. The Sonics took on MJ’s best Bull team in 1996, and lost in six. Beyond that…. Nothing.
This year is different. The Seahawks are at home, possessing of the second-best record in the NFL, and a 3.5 point favorite over the Carolina. This is a game they should win. The question is: Will they?
Yeah, I think they will. Now, I’m not as confident as I want to be. I still would have preferred to see Chicago, but since the Bears imploded last week, it’s pretty obvious why. The Seahawks have to do two things. They have to slow down Steve Smith -they won’t stop him-, and they need to get Shaun Alexander going early in the game. There are three match-ups that I think decide this game.
1. Steve Smith against Marcus Trufant
Trufant is the best cover man the Seahawks possess, and after seeing Smith destroy Chicago’s Cover 2 scheme, it’s likely he’ll see a lot man coverage. Look for Trufant on Smith, plus safety help from either Michael Boulware or Marquand Manuel. The problem here is neither Boulware of Manuel are great cover safeties. Both are fine against the run, but the injured Ken Hamlin is the ‘Hawks’ best cover safety. You might also see a nickleback, either Jordan Babineaux or Kelly Herndon on Smith. It also wouldn’t be out of the question to see both Trufant and the other starting corner, Andre Dyson, covering Smith while leaving Keary Colbert and Drew Carter against safeties or nicklebacks.
2. Chris Gamble, Ken Lucas and Ricky Manning against Darrell Jackson, Bobby Engram and Joe Jurevicius.
Carolina’s corners matchup well against Seattle’s receivers, especially on the outside with Jackson and Engram. The opportunity for Seattle may well with Jurevicius in the slot, where he has 7 inches and 50 pounds on Manning. Expect the Panthers to move around Gamble and Lucas. Also, as a Seahawk Lucas had a reputation of being soft. The Seahawks will test him with Jurevicius and Jackson, both physical receivers.
3. Mike Rucker and Julius Peppers against Walter Jones and Sean Locklear
The Panthers would really prefer to get pressure on Matt Hasselbeck without blitzing much. Hasselbeck is the best quarterback in the NFC against the blitz, and Washington did better against him dropping 6 men into coverage. The Panthers will attempt to do the same. Jones has been dominant after a bad game against New York Giant Osi Umenyiora. Locklear must prove his head is in the game after a scandal-plagued week. Peppers will play despite an injured shoulder.
Beyond those three are the obvious. Can Alexander run hard and dispel the doubts about his toughness. Can Seattle’s special teams have at least an adequate performance? Can Nick Goings take pressure off Jake Delhomme and the passing game? Can a defense that gave up 21 to the offensively inept Bears stop the best offense in the NFC? Will the conventional wisdom (media types are overwhelmingly going for the Panthers) be wrong yet again?
The Pick: Seattle 31, Carolina 28
Skip Bayless, America's Least Favorite Sportswriter Ever, says the Seahawks are "frauds".
My personal favorite moment:
I still say coach Mike Holmgren's Super Bowl legacy was mostly a product of Brett Favre's offense and Reggie White's defense.
Umm...dipshit? Who built "Favre's offense"? Who took Favre from being the clueless and cocky Falcon backup and made him into a Hall of Fame QB? And who has watched from Seattle as Favre's career slowly disintegrated without him?
Oh yeah, that Holmgren guy.
I was considering parsing this line-by-line, but this is Skip Bayless. Picking on him for lousy writing is kinda like swatting a fly with a Buick: overkill.
Ummm… excuse me? What are these guys doing here? Wasn’t this all set up for New England-Indianapolis Part 32? That legendary game where the Colts attempted to prove themselves the successor to New England’s dynasty, with Brady and Bellichek doing everything they could to stave that off?
Instead we get Jake Plummer and Bill Cowher?
Nothing against the Broncos or the Steelers, but nobody, including you, me or anyone you know, saw this coming. These two teams are markedly similar. Both feature impressive running games, stifling defenses and quarterbacks who are tasked with not losing more than winning each game. The Steelers come in hot after two impressive road playoff wins and after the ending of the Indy game, it would be hard for Pittsburgh not to think itself a team of destiny. Denver got lucky in some ways against the Patriots, watching them self-destruct and taking advantage of the resulting opportunities.
The Broncos’ main objective is to maximize Plummer’s success. Jake is fine when the running game is working, he isn’t counted on to do too much, and they can get him out of the pocket. The Broncos multi-tiered running game featuring Tatum Bell (Lighting), Mike Anderson (Thunder) and Ron Dayne (More Thunder) is the key. Plummer feeds off play-action and planned rollouts.
The Steelers will counter with Dick LeBeau’s aggressive, blitzing defense led by safety Troy Palumalu. The Steelers play a pure 3-4 featuring blitzes from all angles. It starts up front: If Pittsburgh can stuff the Denver running game with nose tackle Casey Hampton and various defensive ends, freeing up Palumalu and outside backers Joey Porter and Clark Haggans to freelance and blitz, Plummer can look forward to a very long afternoon. On offense, Pittsburgh will look to run with Jerome Bettis and Willie Parker, with third-down back Verron Haynes as a change-up. The Steelers were very aggressive and very successful throwing on first down against Indianapolis. That will be more difficult against Denver, as Champ Bailey and rookies Darrant Williams and Dominque Foxworth outclass the Colts corners.
The Steelers are trying to do something not seen in 20 years: win three straight road games in route to the Super Bowl. They’re peaking at the right time and were very impressive over Indy. Denver is at home, though Invesco Fields isn’t the advantage the old Mile High Stadium was. It comes down to quarterback play. Both teams strive to minimize QB mistakes. The team that succeeds wins.
The Pick: Pittsburgh 24, Denver 21
Former US News political correspondent Roger Simon has been re-posting some of his old columns on his Web site, and I greatly enjoyed this one dealing with Bill Clinton's loss of his Arkansas law license:
Bill Clinton, as you may remember, lied when he said under oath in a deposition that he never had sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky.
I don't have an actual transcript handy but I think the deposition went like this:
STARR: Did you have sex with Monica Lewinsky?
CLINTON: Which one was she?
STARR: Intern. Chubby. Brought pizza to the Oval Office. Flashed her thong.
CLINTON: What was on the pizza?
STARR: What difference does that make?
CLINTON: I am trying to remember if she was the chubby intern who flashed her thong and brought a pepperoni pizza or if she was the chubby intern who flashed her thong and brought the half-sausage, half-green pepper pizza.
STARR: (exasperated) Did you have sex with either of them?
CLINTON: Define sex.
STARR: Define sex?
CLINTON: Define pizza.
STARR: Did you have sexual relations or not?
CLINTON: With the intern or the pizza?
STARR: The intern!
CLINTON: Nope, never, uh-uh, no way, negative, not.
STARR: Are you lying?
CLINTON: Define lying. Define are. Define you.
In any case, Clinton says he was not lying when he said he did not have sexual relations with Lewinsky because in his mind sexual relations is a home run and he got only to third base.
The American people apparently found this a very convincing argument, because opinion polls show that Clinton is the most popular president in history ever to get to third base with an intern in the Oval Office. While on the phone.
Remember when this was the most important political issue facing our nation? Remember when the entire nation was engaged in a raging debate over whether the president should be removed from office for porking an intern? Wasn't life a lot more fun in 1998? I miss it.
The Crushed Optimists are letting the national media get to them.
Despite the fact that Seattle has the best record in the NFC, despite the fact that Seattle went 9-0 at home this year, despite the fact that Matt Hasselbeck is without question the best quarterback left in the playoffs, despite all this and more, everybody seems to love the Panthers.
Let blabbering idiots like Salisbury and Golic yammer about how great Carolina is.
Let Don Banks at SI.com claim that Nick Goings (Nick Goings!) will out-gain Shaun Alexander by 40 yards.
Let Jeffri Chadiha, also of SI, state that Carolina’s attitude will beat the Seahawks all by itself. Which begs the question: Who the fuck is Jeffri Chadiha?
Let Peter King continue to claim that two eliminated teams are still better than the Seahawks.
Let Dr. Z ramble on about how “roughneck” the Panthers are, just like he did Washington. Please, every time Zimmerman uses the word “roughneck” I for some reason read it as “rough trade” which makes me think of Paul Zimmerman in ways that no one should ever have to.
Let Clark Judge continue to remind us that Carolina is very “tough-minded” and can deal with crowd noise since they pipe it in during their practices.
Please media-types, keep it coming. Keep reminding us how good the Panthers are.
Please continue to claim that John Fox is a GOD AMONGST MEN, towering over mere coaches like the Sphinx does Giza. Remind us that Steve Smith is so fast he can turn back time, and his tears are not water, but pure diamonds.
It will only be sweeter when the Seahawks send their asses home to Charlotte.
The always-classy Patriots QB Tom Brady on who he'll be rooting for now that his team has been bounced from the playoffs:
"It's going to be hard to watch those games," he said. "Can both teams lose?"
This is the same Tom Brady who was whining not long ago about the "disrespect" the Pats were allegedly receiving, this despite the fact that the team has received more love, bordering on worship, from the sporting press than any team since the Jordan-era Bulls.
So sorry you lost, Tommy. Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy. Enjoy the couch.
In the NFL playoffs, the margin of victory is razor-thin, and it often comes down to character and confidence. For years Seahawk fans have heard –correctly- that this team lacked both.
We’ve heard that the Seahawks, due to the intricate West Coast Offense they run, are a finesse team that fears physical games. Sports Illustrated’s Paul Zimmerman has been beating this to death all week, predicting a Seahawk win but harping on how “Roughneck teams like the Redskins make Seattle nervous.”
The defining moment of this brutal, sloppy mess of a game came in the third quarter. Darrell Jackson catches a long pass on the sideline and catches a vicious shot from headhunting Redskin safety Sean Taylor. Both players lay prone on the sideline, but Jackson, despite playing with an injured back, pops up quickly. Taylor lies crumpled in a heap, and has to be helped to his feet.
The Seahawks, against a tough but less-talented team, took the shot and withstood it. In fact, had you asked any Redskin fan that if Shaun Alexander goes out with an injury and never returns and mentioned three Seahawk turnovers to Washington’s none, who would win the game, the answer would be obvious.
But it wasn’t.
Matt Hasselbeck had the proverbial coming-out party today. He wasn’t –and isn’t- always pretty. He occasionally forgets he isn’t Brett Favre and throws the ball into impossible situations. But he’s matured, he’s accurate and he’s smart. The backbreaking moment in the game, Mack Strong’s 32-yard ramble in the fourth quarter, was an audible. With New England bowing out, only the Colts have a better quarterback.
Was this the best game they could have played? Of course not. Jimmy Williams and Josh Scobey committed unforgivable turnovers on special teams. Without Alexander to carry the load, Mo Morris and Strong were valiant but fairly ineffective. The defense played well, but still has questions. My biggest question is this: Why do I feel more confindent in this team when the opposition has a 3rd and 4 instead of a 3rd and 14? Washington converted a 3rd-and 20 and a 3rd-and 12 in the second half. Big plays in such situation will come back and kill the ‘Hawks eventually.
I also wonder if Redskin fans realize how badly Joe Gibbs was outcoached in this game. In the first quarter, right after Alexander’s fumble, every Seahawk fan went into shock. Every player did as well. At this point everyone in blue in Qwest Field is remembering the blown Wild Card games the past two seasons, the three heartbreaking losses to St. Louis last season, the litany of blown games and horrid luck this team has had the past 20 years. Four minutes into the game, Washington had a chance to break this team.
And they blew it.
Instead of playing to win, instead of trusting his experienced quarterback and star receiver, Gibbs and offensive coordinator Don Breaux played conservative, running Clinton Portis into a stacked line and threw short passes to an enduringly crummy Taylor Jacobs en route to five consecutive three-and-outs. Had Gibbs chucked his gameplan at that point, the obvious strategy of playing it close to the vest and waiting for the defense to win it for him, Gibbs would have realized that this was his moment. A long pass to Santana Moss, a trick play or two, anything ending in a quick Washington score and this game is over in the first quarter.
But it didn’t happen. Both teams stumbled through an unbelievably ugly stretch of offense, until Washington got a field goal. Hasselbeck took over the game at that point. At 7-3 the Seahawks got their footing back. At 14-3 the game was all but over.
It’s easy to read too much into this game. The Seahawks were an overwhelming favorite, the Skins an exhausted team on their seventh straight week of being “one-and-done”. But this was necessary; this ugly win was needed. The butterflies are gone. This is a battle-tested team now. The road to Detroit is open.
I love this story. Brian and Jackie Lawson only wanted a copy of a 1040EZ form for the year 2003. It seems that made an error in their taxes, wanted to refile and correct it. So they ordered the 2003 form via the automated IRS telephone number.
A slight error occurred though. The Lawsons received 2005 1040EZ forms.
24,000 of them, delivered via UPS. Yes, somehow the IRS phone system went from 1 2003 form to 12 boxes of 2005 forms.
It gets worse: according to UPS, there are an additional 12 boxes waiting to be delivered.
48,000 forms in all. Priceless
I like Tony Kornheiser. Yeah, I know he's been loafing for years now, but I enjoyed his ESPN Radio show and PTI is watchable only when he and Wilbon are there.
So, I kinda expected a shot or two. What I wasn't expecting was a half-asssed (Really, that's an insult to half-assedness. this is maybe a fifth of an ass) schlock.
Ripping on the rain and Starbucks? How very 1992 of you Tony. Hell, he even throws in a Pearl Jam joke. Usually TK's 20 years behind the times in music. Now he's up to 10. There is a lot to make fun of in this city, but Tony... Tony never even comes close.
Washington Redskins at Seattle Seahawks
I was 11 –just turned actually- the last time the Seattle Seahawks won a playoff game. Chuck Knox was the coach, they played in the Kingdome and their uniforms were the proper blue, silver and green. Since then the NFL has added four teams, four teams have moved and the Seahawks have switched leagues. They’ve also wandered in the desert of 8-8 for 20 years.
That’s over on Saturday.
The Redskins are tough. Gregg Williams’ defense –despite no pro bowl selections- is really, really good. Santana Moss in the open field scares me against an injury-plagued Seahawk secondary. Joe Gibbs is a Hall of Fame coach, and the last six games have proved it. The Seahawks have choked more times in the last few years than I care to count. The defense is young and maybe a bit on the small side. Marcus Trufant, Kelly Herndon and Andre Dyson might not have enough healthy body parts to make up one corner, let alone three.
None of it matters.
Seattle is the better team –markedly so- in this matchup. They’re at home, in the most difficult place to play in the NFL. Matt Hasselbeck is the best QB in the NFC. Shaun Alexander the best running back and the NFL MVP. Jones, Hutchison, Tobeck, Gray and Locklear are the best offensive line. The defense is better than it has been in years. Lofa Tatupu and Leroy Hill are the best set of rookie linebackers in the league. The smallish D-line of Bryce Fisher, Marcus Tubbs, Chuck Darby and Grant Wistrom is quick and unrelenting on the pass rush.
21 years of mediocrity end on Saturday. The Seahawks will win this game, and find themselves one step away from Detroit. It might not be close.
The Pick: Seattle 24, Washington 10
New England Patriots at Denver Broncos
The Pats were really, really rooting for Cincinnati last week; since they match up with the Colts far better than they do Denver. The Broncos will try to use brute force against the Patriots front seven, throwing Tatum Bell, Ron Dayne and Mike Anderson at them, then hope they Pats mediocre safeties creep up. If Jake Plummer can take advantage of New England’s young corners, Denver will score with the same ease it did during their regular season win in Invesco.
There are a lot of reasons to like Denver in this game. The Broncos have the home field. Their running game is clicking and Plummer is having his best season ever. The Bronco defense, led by stud linebackers Al Wilson and Ian Gold and a pair of youngsters in the secondary, is aggressive and fast. And despite their easy win over Jacksonville, the Patriots didn’t look all that great. Tom Brady was awful the first half. Corey Dillon ran with the authority of a church mouse and Tedy Bruschi may still be hurt. Despite the improvement on defense (getting Richard Seymour will do that), the back seven is still rickety and I can’t even name their nickel or dime backs. Aside from Troy Brown, and that’s only because he plays both ways.
So why do keep thinking that the Patriots win this?
The Pick: New England 27, Denver 24
Bitchin' Camaro indeed...
Considering the response to this and Ford's reborn Mustang, I think we'll see this concept available at the dealership pretty quick.
The newest version of Joe Linardi's Bracketology (seriously, what did this guy do before this?) lists your Washington State Cougars as making the Big Dance.
It's really early, so I'm not to crazy at this point.
The Cougs haven't made the field of 64 since I was actually a student there. This was 3 (4?) coaches ago.
I would like to thank the NFL and ABC Sports for presenting two of the least-entertaining football games I can remember.
Carolina Panthers (11-5) at New York Giants (11-5)
The erratic Giants host the really erratic Panthers. I’ve never understood the preseason lovefest with Carolina, and I still don’t. You really have two Panther teams. We have the Good Panthers: slugging running game, deep passes to Steve Smith, smothering defense. We also have the Bad Panthers: Jake Delhomme throwing the ball all over the place, Smith getting thrown out of games, DeShaun Foster and Stephen Davis running up the middle for 1.8 yards. That being said, Carolina does have Smith, the single most fearsome weapon in the NFC, an established –if slightly erratic (that word again) quarterback in Delhomme and an excellent secondary led by Ken Lucas. Lucas, you might recall, was run out of Seattle.
Not that I’m still ticked off about that.
The Giants, coached by the very scary human simulacrum called “Tom Coughlin” must hope that Eli Manning spreads the ball around to Tiki Barber, Plaxico Burress, and Amani Toomer. I must admit it’s difficult to root against a team so well named. What the hell is a Plaxico anyway?
There is a lot to like about New York, even without considering name quality. Barber had a jaw-dropping season, and could have won the MVP with not much dissension from even the most hardened Seahawk fan. Tight end Jeremy Shockey, despite being a total dick, is a playmaker, and certainly the best TE in the playoffs.
The Giants have two problems. First, Eli completes less than 53% of his passes. So “spreading the ball around” could mean spreading it to various Panthers or empty spots on the field and perhaps the occasional cheerleader. Second, the Giant defense has holes. They don’t have anybody to cover Smith, and if New York doesn’t get pressure on Delhomme, Smith could go crazy in a non-ejected manner. The Giants are also down to open tryouts at linebacker, which could mean that Foster has a solid day.
All this moot though, if Bad Panthers show up. I don’t think they will, even if this on the road.
The Pick: Carolina 28, New York 13
Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5) at Cincinnati Bengals (11-5)
One of the big stories last week was the Patriots and Bengals scrambling to stay away from the third seed in the AFC, due to the big, bad Steelers qualifying sixth. Neither team wanted to face Bill Cowher and Ben Roethisberger and Jerome Bettis (whom I will happy to see retire, if just to stop Chris Berman from slobbering all over him) and the terrible towels. Wait, the Steelers won’t have a home game, forget the towels. Oh, who am I kidding, the towels will terrorize their opponents wherever the game may be.
Why are the Steelers so damned scary? Is it because San Diego yakked all over themselves against the Dolphins, letting Pittsburgh back in the playoff race? Is it because Roethlisberger played like a retarded kid in last year’s playoffs, and now he’s hurt to boot? The conventional wisdom is rushing toward the Steelers so quickly my ears just popped.
Yeah, they beat Cincy at home. The Bengals returned the favor, then lost a fluky game against the Bills and then took the afternoon off against Kansas City. Maybe it’s because I think the world just needs more Chad Johnson. Maybe I’m overlooking Cincinnati’s defensive shortcomings. I just don’t see this Pittsburgh team winning on the road.
The Pick: Cincinnati 31, Pittsburgh 24
What a weird slate of games these are. If anybody accurately predicted the Bucs, Giants and Redskins in the playoffs at all, with the Patriots having to play this weekend, I’d like to see it.
Washington Redskins (10-6) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-5)
The Redskins were dead in the water six weeks ago, sitting at 5-6 and fighting the Eagles to stay out of last in the NFC East. Since then, they’ve ripped off five in a row. The Bucs held of the bizarrely erratic Panthers to win the South despite losing QB Brian Greise early in the year.
Both teams run a ball-control offense, and both use a two tight-end look more than most teams. Washington’s star back, the Incomparable Clinton Portis, is a bit beat up right now, while Tampa rookie Cadillac Williams (does he even have a real first name anymore?) is in prime form. Both teams also feature one star wideout: Redskin Santana Moss and Buc Joey Galloway. I can’t for the life of me understand why both guys wouldn’t be double-or-triple teamed all game. Can you name any other wideouts from this game? I think one of the Michael Claytons plays for Tampa, but I can’t be certain.
So why do I like Washington on the road? Chris Simms, that’s why. Simms wasn’t known for his toughness in college and now faces a Redskin defense that will attack him in about 120 different ways. Look for Simms to make costly mistakes and Washington wins in a close, low-scoring game.
The Pick: Washington 16, Tampa Bay 10
Jacksonville Jaguars (12-4) at New England Patriots (10-6)
The Jags must be getting pretty sick of all this. Despite 12 wins overall, with victories over Seattle, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, it seems everybody would rather play them instead of Pittsburgh. The Patriots ran out Doug Flutie and Matt Cassel instead of Tom Brady just to cinch this matchup.
It wasn’t really necessary. I’m not sold on Pittsburgh (more on that later), and I don’t think either the Steelers or the Jags have enough to win in Foxboro. That isn’t to slight the Jags: they’re a big, physical team that will give the Pats a game. I just don’t think it’s enough. Jacksonville has questions at QB (Leftwich or Garrard) and Matt Jones has faltered the last few weeks of the regular season. Plus, I’m just not sold on Jack Del Rio in a big game.
And really, are YOU gonna bet against Brady and Belichick at home in January? I will continue to root against them though; especially after Brady’s ridiculous “We don’t get no respect” bit this week. Yo, Tom… you’ve won three Super Bowls in four years. Your opposition is the team that you purposefully lost in order to play. New England is the disrespector here, not the disrespectee.
Now shut up and go away you creepy plastic boy.
The Pick: New England 24, Jacksonville 14
No... it isn't Shaun Alexander or Ricky Watters, Chris Warren or Curt Warner. No, it isn't a Seahawk at all.
Not even Dan Doornink.
I don't like the Redskins. I loathe Daniel Snyder and I've never been particularly fond of Joe Gibbs. But I will root for the Redskins against anyone other than the Seahawks. This has to continue.
28 bowl games later the college football season is over. In our household, this is reason to celebrate for the Missus anyway. I went 16-12, which ain’t bad. I screwed up and never posted my call for the Peach Bowl, which was Miami in an ugly game. Well, it was ugly for the Hurricanes anyway. I was half right.
Last night’s game was epic, and I don’t want to take anything away from Vince Young or the Longhorns, but ‘SC was really sloppy. Patriot-Era Pete Carroll showed up in Pasadena. Two 4th-and-shorts without your Heisman winner on the field? Blowing a timeout on a two-point try? Reggie Bush’s inexplicable lateral?
I mean, do they think this a mid-September game against Rice or something?
In the end it didn’t matter, because nothing or nobody that USC had could stop Young. Just an awesome performance. I really hope he sticks around for another year, but other than the Heisman I can’t imagine why he would. Well, that and the chances of being drafted by New Orleans.
1. Texas – only if Young stays
2. Ohio State
3. West Virginia
9. Notre Dame
I feel for the guy, I really do. Bob Weiss has taken some of the most misbegotten NBA jobs available. Hell, any one man who coaches both the Clippers and the Hawks deserves some kind of lifetime achievement award. It was nice too that an original Sonic got the job too.
But I got no problems with seeing Weiss get fired today. He might have thought it as close to a dream job as he would ever come, but in reality it wasn’t anything close. Bob Weiss was a nice guy in a job that needs an asshole. Nate McMillan, for all his qualities, had a great deal of asshole in him. Not every team needs a hardass coach, but this Sonic team sure seems to. Without McMillan’s constant prodding, Vladimir Radmanovic disappeared completely, Luke Ridnour seems lost, Ray Allen has forgotten how to play defense, and Danny Fortson is even crazier than he was before.
I give the Sonics this much credit: The recognized the mistake and corrected it. They could have given Weiss a year and then fired him, but this is a team that needs fan support and needs to drum up some sort of excitement for an arena replacement. All is not lost. Nobody in the Northwest division has run away. Hell, the Nuggets and T-Wolves are stumbling along with the Supes. Is Bob Hill the guy? Probably not, and neither is Lenny Wilkens, who shouldn’t even be considered at this point. Hill will almost certainly finish the season, and the Sonics will take it from there.