Wednesday, December 27, 2006

You Have Killed Me

After 15 years of relying on the tried an true tactic of consistent and embarrassing ineptitude, the Cincinnati Bengals football franchise has discovered a far more effective means of torturing the people of Southwestern Ohio. Their new plan (which has been in development since the hiring of head coach Marvin Lewis in 2003) was finally unveiled in its full glory on Christmas Eve in Denver's INVESCO Field at Mile High Stadium last Sunday. No longer satisfied with suffering humiliating blowouts in meaningless late season games, the Bengals have moved on to perfecting the art of the heartbreaking loss. Certainly, the precedent for this kind of a loss existed within the storied history of the franchise (see Montana, Joe or Knee Surgery, Reconstructive), but this recent defeat was special not necessarily because of external forces acting upon the Bengals, but the repeated internal combustion of said Bengals. This game featured a number of new twists. The Cincinnati defense and offensive line played very well, while the marquee position players made costly mistakes, turning the ball over four times. And then for the icing on the cake, the Bengals recovered from their sloppy play for the last three minutes of the game, driving all the way down the field in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter to eventually score on a 10 yard TD pass to Houshmandzadeh. Then, on the ensuing PAT attempt, Brad St. Louis' snap was fumbled by Kyle Larson. The Bengals then attempted an onside kick and recovered it, only to have the play nullified by an offsides penalty. As a result of this game (and it's effect on the people of the Greater Cincinnati area), military officials in Guantanamo Bay are now rumored to be contacting the Bengals franchise to gather more information about their ground-breaking mass torture techniques.

There's nothing quite like having your holiday weekend interrupted by a game like this one. You could have given me an autographed copy of The Queen is Dead for Christmas after the game, and I wouldn't have given a shit. My 12 year old cousin asked me during the game if I was going to cry if the Bengals lost (he could tell I was little invested), and I told him "No, but I'll probably want to". That pretty much sums it up. I went through the motions at the Christmas Eve dinner, then tried to distract myself by doing a puzzle with my Aunt (and believe me, I kicked that puzzle's ASS). It was not a very Merry Christmas.

By far the most horrifying repercussion of the loss though, was not my foul mood on Christmas Eve. It was the fact that I was subjected to watch (and care about) the Jets-Dolphins game on Monday night. The game also had fantasy implications for me, as I was down by 9 points in the championship game of my secondary league. My only remaining player was the Dolphins defense. Halftime score: 0-0. If the Dolphins can just kick a field goal...but no, the Jets score the game's first points. Wait, but then the Dolphins score a touchdown! Holy shit, an offensive explosion courtesy of some guy named Cleo Lemon who my playoff hopes now rest on. Dolphins are up 7-3, and there's no way Pennington can do any more than get the Jets in field goal range again. Wrong again, Chad throws his first pass of longer than 20 yards for a TD and the Jets lead 10-7. This happens after he ridiculously underthrows a pass directly at a Dolphins cornerback named Andre Goodman, who of course, dropped it. This cost me a fantasy football championship, and a playoff berth. But the Dolphins still have a chance. Lemon is driving them down the field. They're in the red zone and almost make a first down on the Jets six. It's fourth and inches, but lucky for me, the Dolphins have nothing to play for and they're at home, so they're definitely going for it. I can see the QB sneak in my head (the Dolphins line was manhandling the Jets' front all game long) until I look at the TV where I see the Dolphins field goal unit head onto the field. Nick Saban. You. Are. A Pussy. The Dolphins tie the game, then promptly give up 60 yards to the Jets on a screen pass. Mike Nugent hits the chip shot to win the game, and it sure looks like the Jets, and not the Bengals, are heading to the playoffs. Which is a travesty really. I have a better arm than Pennington. I do, I swear. The only good thing about having to watch this game is that it made me realize that the Jets could actually lose to the Raiders. I'm not saying it will happen, but it's possible. The Raiders defense will probably have to score, but Jets could lose to ANYBODY. Unfortunately, so could the Bengals. Except for Cleveland. We own them. Who Dey?

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Tiny Daggers

That didn't go so well. The Bengals lost to the Colts on Monday Night Football 34-16, in a game that was way less interesting than last year's matchup (or this year's Chargers game for that matter). The reason this game wasn't more competitive was pretty obvious to anyone who tuned in for a few minutes. Peyton Manning dominated the game. The Bengals defensive scheme was to give the Colts anything they wanted underneath....and the Colts took everything they wanted underneath. This was in stark contrast to the Bengals offensive performance, which was marred by dropped passes, terrible pass protection, and a horrid 3rd down conversion percentage. Also, I think a lot of people are disappointed that the Bengals didn't take more shots down the field to exploit the injuries in the Colts secondary. I, for one, am not, and this is probably because every time Carson dropped back to pass the ball, he was in danger of being maimed. He got blown up on a key 3rd and 5 on the Bengals first possession and fumbled, and that pretty much set the tone for the whole game. Andrew Whitworth, Levi Jones' replacement, could not block Dwight Freeney, and, after Willie Anderson left the game, Stacy Andrews (his replacement) couldn't block Robert Mathis to save his (or his quarterback's more importantly) life. It was kind of scary to watch. I'd much rather the Bengals lose this game than see Carson get injured (more on this later). Anyway, time for random thoughts:

1. The Bengals could have really used Chris Perry.
Kenny Watson filled in admirably, but Perry's explosiveness really hurt the Colts last year, and on at least one occasion, Watson was tackled from behind in the open field in a situation where Perry could have taken it to the house.

2. The Bengals could have really used Chris Henry.
Oh wait, he was there? Oh, that was him was alligator-arming all those deep balls and making endzone drops? Shocking.

3. The Bengals have a very hard time against teams when they let the quarterback sit in the pocket and pick them apart.
I could probably count the number of blitzes I saw in this game on one hand. Granted, Manning is a master at making quick reads, but as some point the defensive strategy needed to change, and it never did. For God's sake, Mike Vick carved up this pass defense when he had all day to throw.

4. The Bengals match up very poorly against the Colts.
To beat the Colts you need an explosive runner, a good edge rusher, and a DB who can cover either Wayne or Harrison in man coverage without melting into the field turf. The Bengals have none of the above. Next week's game against the Broncos will certainly not be easy, but facing a rookie QB with a mediocre offense is much preferable for the Bengals D, even if the Broncos D is much better than the Colts'.

5. I wonder if the Bengals wouldn't be better off without Rudi Johnson.
Don't get me wrong, I love Rudi's HHD (that's heart, hustle, and determination, not a venereal disease), but he seemed to be missing a lot of holes last night. Maybe I'm just spoiled by all the LaDainian highlights floating around, but I think the Bengals would be way more dangerous with a flex-type back as a starter. Think Steven Jackson, Maurice Jones-Drew, or even Kevin Jones; a guy who can catch the ball out of the backfield and break off big runs, but still pound it in when he needs to. Chris Perry looked like he might be that guy eventually, but then he came down with a mean case of Ki-Jana-itis (or Ki-Jaundice, if you prefer). A shame.
I do think though, that Rudi would be a better fit for a ball control team that wears you down with the run.

6. The Bengals need a healthy O-line if they are going to do anything this year/ever.
Levi Jones, Rich Braham, and Willie Anderson were all out last week, and it showed. Hopefully, at least two of three will be ready for Sunday. If they aren't, and Carson is getting pressured this much next week, I say let Anthony Wright run the show. I'm serious, if Palmer gets hurt because he's playing behind three rookies and trying to make the playoffs in a year where the Bengals don't have a legitimate chance to win it all, I will never forgive Marvin Lewis. This team has a great future, but if Carson goes down again, it may be back to the Lost Decade part II.

7. Bengals fans will never forget the Lost Decade.
It haunts the recesses of our minds, and on nights like Monday, it haunts the opposite of the recesses (class time?) too. I was surrounded by Bengals fans twitching and moaning (myself included) all night on Monday. Even when the Bengals weren't actually fucking up, people were getting upset. That's because the game followed a pattern we were all too familiar with. Bengals tease us with glimmer of hope (1st half fumble recovery and ensuing TD), then proceed to put tiny daggers in our hearts (10 yard completion after 10 yard completion...). At the end of it, the scene was kind of like being around a bunch of recovering heroine addicts trying not to fall back into their old habits after taking some methodone. Let's hope that the Broncos game doesn't make us chase the dragon.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Barbarism Begins at Home

The Knicks and Nuggets went AT IT Saturday night at the garden and were just a few fans short of Palace at Auburn Hills caliber melee. The suspensions were handed down by David Stern today, resulting in Carmelo Anthony getting suspended for 15 games, JR Smith and Nate Robinson each picked up a 10 game suspension, while Mardy Collins got hit up for 6. This looks really bad for the Knicks, but I think there is a silver lining for them in all of this. They finally found their intimidating presence in the paint. And his name is Nate Robinson.

Nate's blocked Yao Ming and now pretty much challenged every Nugget player he could find to a fight, and scared the shit out of Carmelo Anthony in the process. Did you see Melo running away from him at the end of the fight? This guy is the new Shaq. And I totally know why he's such a badass. Nate's from Seattle, and if you don't think Seattle is a town full of badasses...well, you clearly weren't at the rehearsal dinner for my friend Dave's wedding dinner in University Heights this summer when I got punched in the chest by a random guy off the street (right before he did it, he said my favorite quote of the year: "You guys think you're super-cool huh?") My friend Dave, who has lived in Seattle long enough to know how to keep his head on a swivel in a vicious cockfight, responded in kind, landing two hits on the guy and pinning him to the wall with the help of his father, a 60 year old man. The message, don't fuck with Seattle. Now that the rest of the NBA has learned that, Knicks can go ahead and trade Eddy Curry for Allen Iverson and field a squad that looks like this:

PG: Stephon Marbury
SG: Allen Iverson
SF: Jamal Crawford
PF: Quentin Richardson
C: Nate Robinson

I don't know about you, but I'd go to see that team play.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Sorrow Will Come In The End

"And as sure as my words are pure.....I praise the day that brings you pain"

I'm generally not a very angry person. I get frustrated easily, but it really takes a lot to piss me off. A man named Burke Magnus, however has gone above and beyond the call of duty this week, with his recent comments to the Cincinnati Enquirer regarding ESPN's decision to carry the Crosstown Shootout on ESPNU. Have a look:

Burke Magnus, ESPNU's vice president and general manager, said sports tiers offer far fewer subscribers than digital basic cable subscribers. This means less exposure - and ultimately revenue - for his channel that offers quality content like the Crosstown Shootout.

And ESPN is working hard to protect that content. Local station WXIX (Channel 19) approached ESPN about showing a split feed of Wednesday's game locally, but ESPN ended the discussion after two conversations.

Regarding this year's Crosstown Shootout, Magnus said the game isn't good enough to be on ESPN or ESPN2, carried by Time Warner.

"ESPNU is here to give the game a home," Magnus said. "Mick (Cronin) is a new UC coach, and UC isn't projected to have one of their better years. Believe me, when it's back to two Top 25 teams playing, it will probably be on ESPN or ESPN2."

But the Shootout is more than a game in Cincinnati - it's an event. Ratings on either ESPN or ESPN2 have been above 13.2 four of the past five years, none of which featured both teams in the Top 25.

Okay let me get this straight fuckface; ESPNU is "giving the game a home" even though no one in the Greater Cincinnati area can watch it without a satellite? Wow you guys are great people! Why don't you give a Taco Bell Gordita a home in your stomach and die of E.Coli while you're at it. Oh and wait, I love how he comes out so strong in the last quote "Believe me, when it's back to two Top 25 teams playing, it will probably be on ESPN or ESPN2." Oh, then it will probably make it on ESPN 2! You are so kind and generous, oh beneficent Lord of television programming! What a wonderful television network you're creating by using loyal fans as pawns and preventing them from watching one of the biggest local sporting events of the year! Go fuck yourself ESPN, ESPNU, and Burke Magnus. You could've at least let a local station PAY YOU to air the game in the area. You guys are just a bunch of degenerates. I can't even write any more I'm so angry. I'll just leave the rest to Morrissey:

So dont close your eyes (ESPN)
Dont ever close your eyes
You think you've won
Oh no

By the way, If you haven't listened to the track referenced in this post yet, download it immediately. Your reward will be great and plentiful.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Sweet and Tender Hooligan(s)

The Bengals took care of business this Sunday, defeating the hapless Oakland Raiders 27-10. The offense moved the ball more or less at will against a very good Raiders D, not punting once the entire game. Turnovers were the only thing holding the Bengals back, with Palmer throwing three picks and Rudi fumbling (for the first time since 2004) in Raider territory. TJ, CJ, and Rudi all went for over 100 yards while the defense consistently got pressure on Aaron Brooks, sacking him four times. The win gives the Bengals an 8-5 record and the lead in the AFC wild card race thanks to losses from Denver, KC, and the Jets. The Bengals are right where they want to be.

A few thoughts....

1. Everyone keeps saying that the Raiders are the new Bungles (90's Bengals), but I think Oakland's still got a ways to go. Right now they appear to be in their Bengals circa 94 phase, experiencing only their fourth year of dismalness. Aaron Brooks looks a little like Jeff Blake, only worse (which is ironic since he took Blake's job in New Orleans), but other than having consistently dreadful teams and scrambling QB's with accuracy problems, there's not a whole lot in common between the present Raiders and the old Bengals. The 90's Bengals were known for their high powered offenses with WRs Carl Pickens and Darnay Scott and terrible defenses (one of their starting CB's, Rod Jones, was nicknamed "toast"), while the present Raiders have the worst offense in the NFL and a very good defense.

Regardless, the inverse of this argument seems to work a lot better. The Bengals look a lot like a talented Raiders team from the 80's that just might have a few character issues (read: a ridiculous amount of players with arrest records). The latest members of the Bengals Brotherhood of the Breathalyzer are Reggie McNeal and Deltha O'Neal, a couple of good Irish kids. They join Eric Steinbach, Odell Thurman, A.J. Nicholson, Matthias Askew, Frostee Rucker, and of course, the founding member, Chris Henry. A couple of these guys actually were charged with crimes before they ever played for the Bengals, but I think that's really just a testament to the organization's nose for finding criminally-minded football players. The police should actually use the Bengals' scouting department in a kind of Minority Report capacity to prevent crimes before they happen. Just throw everyone the Bengals are thinking of drafting next year in jail RIGHT NOW. This could really help the war on crime. Wait, there's no war on crime? Let's see, terror....drugs...nope, no war on crime. Well fuck it then, let em' play.

2. McNeal just received an additional drug charge on top of his resisting arrest rap. He apparently laced a cigarette with some kind of an antihistamine that can be used as a sedative. Maybe he should've smoked it before he started smacking up that undercover cop.

3. I kind of wish that other cities could experience the level of coverage that the major New York teams (Mets, Yankees, Giants) receive. The Bengals would be a gold mine for cheesy back page headlines from the Post or the News. Yesterday would've been "DELTHA GROUNDED!". Or after Thurman's arrest for a DUI: "WALK THE LINE...BACKER". Okay, I'll stop now.

4. O'Neal got arrested at a checkpoint on State Route 125 at Bach Buxton Road, which is about a mile away from where I grew up in Clermont County (or for those of you unfamiliar with the area, between the 3rd and 4th Dairy Marts after the interstate). I was a little surprised that Deltha was driving around out there, because, as far as I know, the only strip club in Clermont County is on State Route 32, right around where Chris Henry was pulled over for his DUI (now that made sense). Maybe Deltha thought that the mile markers on 125 heading toward the town of Bethel said "Brothel 12 miles" instead of "Bethel 12 miles". Pure speculation.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Sweetest Perfection

There are few things in life more circuitous and less fulfilling than conversations about fantasy sports. Everyone's just waiting for their turn to talk about their team. Most of these conversations go something like this:

"Hey, I've got this guy on my team, he's awesome!"
"Yeah I picked him up in my other league, he won the game for me last week."
"How about that guy? He's totally killing me."
"Yeah I drafted him last year, he totally sucks."
"Who should I start between these other two guys? Who's better?"
"Depends on the matchup."
(In this scenario, this guy is Marques Colston and that guy is Daunte Culpepper, these other two guys are Ahman Green and Thomas Jones)

Now I've actually resorted to writing about one of my own fantasy teams before, but that was on my birthday and hey fuck you I can do whatever I want. Anyway, I'm actually taking this opportunity to do something that almost never happens in the world of fantasy sports. I'm gonna try to talk about someone else's fantasy team. That would be my brother's.

Turd Sandwich has completely and utterly dominated the Pain Bowl 06. In order to accurately describe the complete and utter domination, I will enlist the help of the Yahoo Fantasy Sports Plus Record Book from our league:

Most Wins: TS, 13
Most Consecutive Wins: TS, 13
Largest Average Margin of Victory: TS, 30.54
Total Points: TS, 1258.51 (next closest, Ballz Deep 1078.87)
Most TD's: TS, 88

I'll spare you the Offensive Points and Points From a Kicker results because I think you get the idea. The only category I've got a stranglehold on (there I go again, talking about my team) is Smallest Margin of Defeat (10.84). And it's because Turd hasn't lost. He won one game by 5 points (88-83), one by 18 (91-73) and the rest by 20 or more. It's not like the rest of the league stopped paying attention either, all of the victories were well-earned. It's completely ridiculous. I looked at his team at the beginning of the year and didn't think they had a chance in hell to stay healthy and/or active the whole season. I was wrong.

So now we come to the playoffs. The only chance anyone has against The Juggernaut That Is Turd Sandwich is another late season tail-off from LaDainian Tomlinson (last season he only scored 1 TD after December) coupled with an injury to either Brian Westbrook or Terrell Owens or Darrell Jackson or Jamal Lewis or Jeremy Shockey. Yes he has all of those guys. But you know who's on my team? Marques Colston, and he's totally helped me out this year. I just need to get him healthy for the playoffs. Right now I'm thinking of starting Terrance Copper instead. Do you think the Saints are gonna throw the ball a lot on the Cowboys? Oh wait, I just picked up the Miami D.......

Monday, December 04, 2006

Everything In Its Right Place

Xavier enters the battle between man and computer

Xavier entered the AP poll at #24 for the first time since the end of the 2002-2003 (when they lost to Duke in the Elite 8) after improving to 6-1 this week with wins over Miami (OH) and Western Carolina. I was a little excited when I found out.

I told my girlfriend about it, and she asked a very good question: "what does that mean?". Well, it used to mean that I might get to catch a fleeting glimpse the Musketeers on ESPN's Sportscenter if I watched the whole thing. And that they'd have a better shot to make it into the NCAA tournament and get a better seed, yadda yadda yadda. Not anymore. ESPN's got their own poll now (just to confuse everyone) and the RPI (or HAL-9000, as I like to call it) now decides everything of import in college basketball. So while I'm excited that X is getting some national recognition after starting the season off well (their only loss is to the now #4 ranked Alabama team in the Paradise Jam finals), I'll be way more excited when Villanova wins a bunch of games against other Big East teams (or VCU takes down Drexel) since all that matters now is who you beat, and who they beat, and who they beat....

So the #24 (humanly) ranked Musketeers take on Detroit tomorrow night at the Cintas Center in Cincinnati. Go Muskies! Then after they beat Detroit, go Detroit! And then after Detoit beats Evansville....oh jesus, just open the stupid pod bay doors when I ask you to HAL.