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January 2013 Archive


Don’t ever try to talk to me about improving the Pro Bowl. I’m Serious.


Rapper 2 Chainz posted this picture to his instagram when he arrived in Hawaii for a concert. Couldn’t you just see him participating in Pro Bowl in some way? Maybe I’m just nostalgic for the Rock N Jock days of old.

The Pro Bowl takes place this weekend and just like every year everyone will discuss how the Pro Bowl sucks and needs to be improved or done away with. Even the commissioner has fallen into this line of thinking saying that if “play doesn’t improve” he will consider scrapping it. 

I used to be a Pro Bowl complainer but I’m not anymore. Now I take issue with the very thought of having players go to work as some time of end-of-season reward for a job well done. Playing football is not the privilege that football players and fans have been brainwashed to believe it is. It’s a job and a very dangerous one. The end of season reward shouldn’t involve a 17th or 18th game for them to get hurt playing.

Also, talking about improving the Pro Bowl is kinda like talking about how you can improve the television show Scandal or Love and Hip Hop Atl. The best thing you could do quality-wise is take it off of television completely. But from a purely entertainment standpoint people are tuning into both trash television staples. I don’t watch Love and Hip Hop for quality television it’s more like “omgggg look at this!”  Sometimes I complain but mostly I enjoy it. 

I don’t think people tune in to the Pro Bowl for the game. In the past, I’ve watched it because it’s the loosest we get to see football players behave. They’re having fun with their colleagues and friends and showing off their amazing speed and acrobatics. The NFL takes itself so seriously sometimes, Pro Bowl weekend is a relief.

In a way, it makes us feel more a part of the game than any other game during the season because there’s such a degree of camaraderie that really shines through since the pressure is low. Threatening them to play harder during the game is just going to make even more guys skip it even though they’d love to have the check, the trip, and a Pro Bowl on their resume.

Improving the Pro Bowl wouldn’t be that difficult. An hour flag football game or maybe even a baseball or basketball game with celebrities a la MTV’s old Rock and Jock, and some great interview/feature segments would be appealing to me and I’m sure many other fans. NFL could even partner with MTV to pull the whole thing off. They could even move it back to Miami where fans could participate even more. 

But great ideas for improvement can only come to fruition if the NFL rids itself of the notion that an extra assignment at the end of a job well done is a reward for an employee.  Then they can focus on creating an experience “with” the players that  satisfies both the guys and the fans. 





Stories to focus on besides Harbowl and Ray Lewis (and why those 2 stories aren’t that interesting)

Last year, after the Eagles and Falcons seasons went approximately nowhere, I was one of the ones rooting for a Harbowl. The thought of two teams with physical defenses playing each other was too tempting for me to resist. This year, I get my wish, although I’m less happy about it because this was supposed to be my Falcons’ year. But this year the matchup is also more exciting because both the Ravens and 49ers are strong on both sides of the ball. This Superbowl doesn’t just promise a defensive war of attrition, it has the potential to be a football cirque du soleil.

But as with any Superbowl, it’s never about the game itself. This is the time of year when football fans reluctantly share their favorite thing with people who don’t know shit about it. And this year, with Beyonce performing at half time, you’re sure to endure more conversation about her outfit than the accuracy of Flacco’s deep ball.

If that’s not enough non-football stuff for you, we have two weeks of non-football media playing the SEO game and feverishly working to post stories for a general audience that the football audience has already read. And that’s great because it opens the door to more fans joining the NFL cult full time. I just hope that people can find more stories to explore than Jim and John Harbaugh being brothers and Ray Lewis retiring. Because, for me, those two stories might be the least interesting.

Disclaimer: I love the Harbaugh story. I think it’s great and fantastic that one family produced two people with elite positions in the same industry. Howwwwwwweverrrrrrr, there is a A LOT of nepotism in the National Football League. So much that I’m surprised that two familial head coaches haven’t coached against each other yet. Surely a father-son Superbowl will follow. A lot has been made the past few weeks about how minorities are still being largely excluded from the coaching ranks. And watching all the brother-brother-father-son duos in the NFL is just another reminder of how exclusive a club this football shit is. For that reason, two brothers coaching against each other feels anticlimactic. Two BROTHAS coaching against each other would be more exciting at this point.

I am absolutely a fan of Ray Lewis and he deserves the acclaim he has received. Howwwwwwweverrrrr Lewis has done an EXCELLENT job of marketing himself as many things — motivational speaker, elite pep talker, best middle linebacker ever, emotional and spiritual leader… He’s also cornered the market on being both intimidating and wildly attractive at the same time and based on how many children he has various women have rewarded him for that as well.  Due to those facts,  Lewis is celebrated on a daily basis. And even though he was suspected and cleared of witnessing a murder and trying to cover it up, that case has also added to his mythos and notoriety so that even when that trial is the subject of conversation, the story always comes back around to what he’s accomplished since then.  SB doesn’t present some singular chance to celebrate Ray Lewis because it’s all been done already.

I have some ideas on other things to write about. 

  • Bernard Pierce, RB, Ravens. Pierce is a fellow Temple Owl (which is mentioned every single damn time he plays and I don’t know why but I still like it). Drafted in the 3rd round he was thought to be the back up back up to Ray Rice. Meaning, yeah he might play, but mostly Ray Rice is gonna play until he gets hurt. Pierce has shown himself to be a dominant force and finished the season at # 5 in Pro Football Focuses’ rankings for “elusiveness.”
  • Ed Reed goes home to New Orleans for his first Superbowl. If there was ever a football player I want to meet it’s Ed Reed. When Bill Belichick talks about Reed he is talking FOR ME as well so just read this and picture me nodding my head. In all the years I’ve followed Reed’s career, despite being one of the most thoughtful and amiable interviews in the league, I have never eva eva eva eva seen a long form profile on that man except ONE in Sports Illustrated from 1995 or something. I’d like to see the media rectify this. All week leading up to the AFC Chip game Reed refused to talk to anyone. There are no videos or transcripts on record for him. So he may not be willing to sit down for anything, but if he is, that’s a great get for some crafty person.
  • Colin Kaepernick’s eyebrow-raising personality. I think that with the success of Kappanick (not a typo) and Russell Wilson, and RG3 and Cam Newton you have to talk about the emergence of zone read QBs and teams. Or, as the media likes to simplify, teams that run the QB. That’s important. So is the not-quite-appropriate racial dissection of a guy who is half black and adopted by a white family with a birth mother who doesn’t understand the word “no.” But I think the media can go deeper here and find out what kind of “guy” Kappanick is. There is a distinct way this guy communicates with teammates at the line, after plays and in practice that is special. He is also  in touch with his black side despite not growing up in that environment in some rather distinct ways that I’d like to be nosy about. I don’t know what I think of Kappanick yet, but there’s a story here and I want someone to get it.
  • David Akers. Akers spent the bulk of his career getting cheated out of money by the Philadelphia Eagles. Then he actually literally was cheated out of money in some sort of pyramid scheme in which he may have lost the bulk of his savings. The rub on Akers is that he misses kicks in big games, although I’m not sure that the read on that is quite accurate. Akers is no Billy Cundiff. What is accurate, however,  is that he’s missed a lot of kicks this season probably in part due to a surgery he hid until recently. That led to a kicking competition and a risk of getting replaced by Cundiff. Akers reaction is needed. Most of the time kickers are ignored, but Akers is an interesting study and he’s heavy into martial arts and good on camera.

Right this minute I realized this post is too long and probably should have been two posts. So I’ll stop here and return with ideas in another post…I think. LOL



On Belichick “snubbing” reporters after championship game

The topic of media access is one that keeps coming up for me. I’ve tweeted about it a lot but haven’t really blogged about it. I figured today was a good day for a quick post on it with the understanding that I plan to talk about it more going forward.

Yesterday after the Ravens’ AFC Chip win over the Patriots, Coach Bill Belichick refused to give an interview to the big boys at CBS. He was subsequently dressed down by TE-turned-analyst Shannon Sharpe for being a perennial poor sport. Throughout the season, the league and media have these little dust ups where some player or coach decides against performing his football wifely duties and decides to ignore the media or, in Bart Scott’s case, stage a revolt. And the man-of-the-house media points out that this is his 3rd headache this week and demands to know why he can’t at least “lay there” while they go through the motions.

When I look at each situation separately I understand why such a big deal is made. The media (in particular those who show sporting events like ESPN, FOX, CBS) need to get soundbites from players and coaches in order to enhance story lines and the general audio and visual experience. There is also the fact that the media  is an extension of the public and, besides twitter, is the most direct insight into what players and coaches think that fans are privy to. Disrespect them, you disrespect the fans who buy the tickets and the general public which funds expansive stadiums and whatnot that allow for league staff and officials to bring home a check.

And even the fan blogs, many of which I consider to be on troll duty 24 hours a day, are helping to heighten interest in the teams that they “support.” They play a role, however small or questionable, in the growth of professional sports. There just has to be some give and take, and I get that.

But media doesn’t occur in a vacuum. And players and coaches don’t see separate incidents so much as they  feel cumulative agitation at the way the media goes about business. First of all, I think an argument can be made -and maybe one day I’ll attempt to make it-that the media demands on players and coaches is too much. The media is around for almost every practice plus pre and post game. Then there’s obligatory radio interviews and exclusives with prominent columnists.

For the most part, those demands aren’t spread around. They fall almost all on the shoulders of the team’s head coach and star players. And when they say the wrong thing thousands of articles and posts pop up. In this digital landscape even the simple truth is controversial. Everyone is looking for a story. And when there isn’t one they force it. Even Belichick’s NON reaction was fodder for the media spurring thousands of posts like this one.

By the time a big game like a championship happens you can almost see a coach, like Belichick, saying in his mind that he’s talked to these people all week (season?) long and what more could they possibly get from him. Belichick, and any player or coach, knows that the media is hoping for a juicy reaction they can loop over and over again. There have absolutely  been some priceless moments from players and coaches after wins and losses that I’m glad that the media caught on film. Sports, after all, IS entertainment and reactions whether classless, tasteless, heartwarming, unexpected, or predictable all entertain in their own ways. But I understand a want to avoid. 

Perhaps Belichick, oh master of the unnecessary trick play and score run up, is the wrong example to use in this post or any one that mounts a defense of anything he does ever. But I’m not really defending him so much as reminding myself not to always succumb to knee jerk reactions. I love to interview players and coaches and I believe that when I do I bring something different to the table. However, as someone working to stand out in this business I recognize that it’s a difficult environment to get guys to talk in when many of them are already talked out by the time I (and other bloggers and reporters) have a chance.

Belichick may have been talked out or he might just not be a very nice guy or he may just have no interest in emotional displays in front of millions. I don’t know.  I just believe there is a conversation to be had about how all of us (media and teams) can conduct business more humanely and maintain some flexibility as we fulfill our obligations to each other.





Something to think about re: Cowboys firing Rob Ryan

To most people’s surprise the Cowboys parted ways with Rob Ryan, their loud mouthed legacy hire Defensive Coordinator. At the end of yet another failed-to-make-the-playoffs season, Cowboys owner/general manager/team terrorist Jerry Jones promised that uncomfortable changes would lie ahead.

If I can presume to know the mind of most Cowboys fans, the most welcome uncomfortable changes that come to mind are the end of Jason Garrett’s short and shoddy tenure and an exit strategy to get QB Tony Romo out of there. Romo has become toxic and indicative of the team’s middling mindset. That’s not to say that I think Jerry Jones is content to swim in mediocrity’s room temperature waters but much like his irresolute division rival Jeffrey Lurie keeping Andy Reid past the 2007 season his decisions indicate otherwise. If Lurie is the helpless Mayor from the Powerpuff Girls than Jones is the ever plotting and failing Mojo JoJo. 

Speaking of the Eagles, firing Rob Ryan strikes me as very similar to firing Juan Castillo. Sure, it probably needed to be done at some point but not before this, that, that, and that other thing over there. Yes Ryan has some odd ways of communicating and conducting a defense, and no he was not consistently effective or disciplined, but were the Cowboys a more functional organization with strong leadership, I could see Ryan being managed better and outliving this current crop and being fired as the last part of methodical overhaul if necessary.

But the Cowboys are not particularly methodical when it comes to these things. Or, at least, it doesn’t seem that way.  One thing to remember is that, although the emerging storyline is that Rob Ryan never got the defenses of any of the dysfunctional teams he coached for into the postseason, only Head Coaches  (and front offices) are truly judged on wins and losses. And that may have factored into Ryan’s firing.

Jones’ golden choice Jason Garrett was given a pass last season as Jones informed us all in October that Garrett really hadn’t been given a chance as he hadn’t coached 2 full seasons yet.  Jason Garrett was hired January 6th 2011. Rob Ryan was hired January 11, 2011. Maybe Garrett was all for hiring Rob Ryan but 5 days in between the “official” hiring of a big name doesn’t seem like a lot of time for a nobody head coach, albeit one very well liked by his boss, to choose “his guy.”  Rob Ryan’s hair and last name scream “Jerry Jones hired me.” 

If I’m Jason Garrett, and Rob Ryan is not my guy, I’m going to go to Jerry and make a case about why I need to put together my own lineup in order to be judged. I’d also make the case that if we’re “stuck with” solid but catastrophic-accident-prone Romo we simply cannot have a defense led by the most maniacal Ryan twin despite the bang up job he did with a defense full of players nobody had heard of before mid-season. 

Garrett has to be judged on his own merits which will be hard enough with Toxic Tony and MoJo JoJo surrounding him like an island. But if Ryan’s firing is an attempt to get control where allowed, it totally makes sense to me looking from the outside. Nobody wants to be a failed experiment. 



Atlanta-Seattle matchup will be a battle of the big boys

Falcons need a confident Matt Ryan to come out against the Seahawks who arguably have the best secondary in the league. A slow start to this game simply will not do.

Now that the wildcard round has been decided, we know that the Ravens, Packers, Texans and Seahawks are moving on to the next round. More on the first 3′s matchups later. For right now let’s talk about the Seahawk’s matchup with my beloved Falcons. 

This game excites me not just cause I’m a Falcons fan and because I’ve grown to really like the Seahawks players through the web series “Real Rob Report” but because this contest promises to be a battle of the big boys. By big boys, I mean physical players with the size to match their aggressiveness. 

I said at the beginning of the season, and I still say now, that the Falcons have the most talented receiving core in professional football. Roddy White and Julio Jones are both tall and ripped. Both take pride in their blocking abilities and perform in double coverage as well as anyone else in the league to use a Grudenesque phrase. I also count Jaquizz Rodgers who works miracles in space as part of that talented “receiving” core in addition to TE  Tony Gonzalez who, in his last year, hasn’t slowed down and is still a tough matchup for any defensive back. Michael Turner, the weakest link, is still a powerful player when he wants to be and has used his boulder body to get in the end zone 11 times this season in short yardage situations.

On the other side of the ball, Seattle boasts 3 defensive backs that stand above 6’2.  Where the Falcon’s secondary calls itself “Pick Squad” Seattle’s starting corners Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner) and safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor refer to themselves as the “Legion of Boom” due to their physical style of play. They love to make contact. And they love to brag about it. Sherman ended the season with a top ranking from Pro Football Focus and as a leader in passes defended (Asante Samuel ended the year in 5th place for PDs, just so you know!). 

What I notice most about the Seahawks over the season is how physical the entire team is on both sides of the ball. Marshawn Lynch, of course, has been stomping on opposing fans’ feelings for years now. But, as you saw if you watched the game against the Redskins, their tiny QB Russell Wilson both runs and run blocks with reckless abandon. And slightly built WRs Doug Baldwin and Golden Tate (who was fined earlier in the year for an illegal hit block ) also like to hit defenses in the mouth and this will be a good time for the Falcons new look/new attitude secondary to show a national audience that they ain’t never scared. But more importantly, the Falcons cannot allow Sidney Rice too deliver a big game.

Game Keys

The Seahawks will need Bruce Irvin to step up since Chris Clemons will be out (he tore his ACL on Fed Ex’s terrible field). They will also need to get Lynch going early and so that the Falcons D cannot remain singularly focused on Wilson and the receiving core. Both teams must resist succumbing to the slow starts that can plague both squads. Seahawks will have to cut down on mistakes as the Falcons have the least amount of accepted penalties and yards of any team through 16 games. The Falcons offensive line must hold up vs. the run and the defense must remain focused on turnovers. 

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