Monday, November 15, 2004
Now, this is why we watch and love the Patriots, isn't it?
Curt Schilling coming out onto the field in a little cart, with crutches and a Patriots jersey on. Johnny Damon on the sidelines, grinning with bearish good nature and giving an interview to the ESPN reporter, during which he said something about, "...you know, the big guys, like Ortiz and Manny and Mark Bellhorn..."! Oh, I did dissolve into gleeful incoherence at that, I most assuredly did. Johnny Damon putting Bellhorn in his list of the 'big guys' will have me grinning at inappropriate times all day tomorrow.
Oh, and, you know, there's the football team.
You have a whole team of guys who are, on their own, small fish. Wee fish. Veritable minnows in the great freshwater lake of football. Guys who were picked up in the late rounds of their respective drafts (Tom Brady was picked up in the 6th round, recall). Guys who were undrafted free agents that no one else wanted. Guys who were signed off the practice squad mere days or weeks ago (and if anyone makes a snide comparison to David 'Circus' Kircus, I will go into a killing rage). A quarterback who, while undeniably solid, just does not put up the gaudy Peyton-Manning-esque numbers one would expect from the leader of a team that's won 23 of its last 24 games.
That's because the Patriots don't play as Peyton-Manning-and-Marvin-Harrison-and-Edgerrin-James. They don't play as Ben-Roethlisberger-and-Hines-Ward-and-Jerome-Bettis. They don't play as Donovan-McNabb-and-Terrell-Owens. I mean, can you imagine this team just being Tom Brady, David Patten, and Corey Dillon? They wouldn't win.
What about Troy Brown, an offensive player who the Pats have playing defense in recent games (he got an interception today, by the by... a ball thrown by Drew Bledsoe, who had passed plenty of times to Brown when they were both on the offensive side of the Pats)? What about Tedy Bruschi, the fireplug defenseman who always seems to get the interception (he had one tonight) or the tackle when we need it? What about Mike Vrabel, who can catch a touchdown pass as easily as he can break one up? What about Adam Vinatieri, Mr. Clutch himself? And so on down the line. Do we even have a number one receiver? It seems like Brady throws to everyone... Patten? Sure. Givens? Sure. Fauria? Sure. Bethel Johnson? Go for it. You can go through the entire Patriots roster and name player after player, and each one is as integral to the team as the last.
Ty Law and Tyrone Poole are both out with injuries. That's both Patriots cornerbacks. So what do they do? They just plug in the next guys on the depth chart, and it works out fine. Whoever needs to step up, steps up. It's the way of the Patriots and the way of Bill Belichik, starting from the time when Drew Bledsoe went down with a horrific injury and a fresh-faced kid from the University of Michigan stepped firmly onto the field, as prepared to run a team as any hardened veteran. You can spout 'Roethlisberger' at me as much as you like, but until he's proven himself season after season, with a team made up of backups and average players who have nothing in common except for their tenacity and love of football I simply will not be able to put him in the same category as Brady.
Plus, Roethlisberger went to a weeny school. Miami of Ohio, pfft. Does Michigan not crush them every time they play them? Fercrissakes. They can't even have a proper name, everyone thinks they're in Florida. And come on, the Redhawks? Way to be totally uncreative, guys. The only way you could make that lamer would be to call yourselves the Wildcats.
Speaking of which...
Michigan 42, Northwestern 20. Hail to the Victors Valiant, Hail to the conqu'ring heroes, Hail Hail to Michigan, the leaders and best! Hail to the Victors Valiant, Hail to the conqu'ring heroes, Hail Hail to Michigan, the Champions of the West! and so on.
Now, in all fairness to Northwestern, the lopsided score isn't quite representative of the game. The first half was awful for Michigan. No one who is not on the team will ever know what Lloyd Carr said to them at halftime, but whatever it was could probably be sold as a recording for huge money. The second half saw the Wolverines come storming out in a frenzy of MichaelHartBraylonEdwardsChadHenneMarlonJacksonSteveBreastonespeciallySteveBreaston.
Once the scoring frenzy of the second half was underway, I was able to sit back, relax, and enjoy the way our team ran the ball. Most of the running came from freshman phenom Michael Hart, and the slick junior Steve Breaston. Hart is short, solid, and runs like his center of gravity is somewhere down around his ankles. He plants his feet harder than anyone on the field, but always seems to be able to pick them up faster than anyone else. When defensive players try to bring him down, it looks like they're trying to rip up an outgrowth of the field, so tenaciously does he adhere to it. His head tucked down between his shoulder pads, his shoulder pads bent down to his waist, one is forcefully reminded of the tortoise who won the race (only without the whole 'slow' bit).
Steve Breaston, however, is all long legs and long arms. He barely seems to be on the field when he runs. Even when both feet are down he looks like he's seconds away from becoming airborne. Hart plows through linemen, while Breaston skips and skims around them. Plodding secondaries look like they're on a different speed than he is. He catches the ball and just goes with it. On punt returns he is deadly, and the only way opposing teams can stop him is if they concentrate all their attention on him (Michigan State did this well, unfortunately).
Steve Breaston (15) on the left, Michael Hart (20) on the right.
Michigan State beat the previously undefeated Wisconsin Badgers later in the day, which means that there is no longer an undefeated team in the Big 10 conference. Michigan, however, is undefeated in Big 10 play (the only game we lost was Notre Dame, who are independent), while Wisconsin now has one loss in the Big 10... how this affects things I cannot pretend to know. I don't think that updated BCS standings are out yet, but this should move Michigan up a little. It was mighty strange to be rooting for the Spartans, let me assure you, but they certainly did us a big favor. Michigan does not play Wisconsin at any point during the regular season.
Yes, I did watch the Lions today. They sucked. They completely sucked. Our defense was actually pretty good, making some hardline stops on the Jags and holding them off at some key moments. We had great field position multiple times because Jacksonville was forced to turn the ball over on downs. It mattered not. Our offense was abysmal. Harrington looked more like a backup than actual backup David Garrard (who started for the Jags, usual quarterback Byron Leftwich is hurt) did. When poor Joey did make a good pass, his receivers dropped it.
The only, and I do mean only spot of light came in the attractively mustachioed form of Eddie Drummond. He ran a punt back for a touchdown, and mere minutes later did the exact same thing to send the game into overtime. An ultimately fruitless overtime, but the game would have been extremely pathetic if it wasn't for the blue-and-silver-clad legs of Drummond.
The whole game was summed up when, some 20 minutes after it had ended, George poked his head into my room. He looked about as gloomy as a person can look when they're wearing a goofy striped soccer shirt. "Did you see that?" he inquired in truly sepulchral tones. I affirmed that I had done so, and that I had not seen anything good. "I know. I know. I..."-- here he gestured sort of helplessly-- "I live and die by this team, you know? And they just..." Then he looked at the ground and, honest to gosh, scuffed the carpet with his shoe.
If you saw this and didn't just have your heart break in sympathy for the kid, you're either dead or a heartless person (*cough*Yankee fan*cough*).
I agreed that it was absolutely horrible, and assured him that I understood exactly how he felt. Take any true, die-hard Red Sox fan you know, and imagine them following the Lions the same way they follow the Sox. What can you say? Next year will be our year? Keep the Faith? Believe? Restore the Roar?
A lot of bad teams won today... the Arizona Cardinals, the Carolina Panthers, the New Orleans Saints (who among us did not gape in horrified fascination when Aaron Brooks, their quarterback, threw the ball 20 yards backwards to absolutely no one last week?), the Chicago Bears. Heck, maybe Miami would've won, if they hadn't had a bye week. Pity the Lions couldn't step up and share the wealth.
Just as a side note, the Packers today played beautifully against the Randy-Moss-less Vikings. Favre looked like his old self, causing the announcers to heap praise upon him and completely forget that his team has stunk lately. I'm not sure why Favre makes people do this... even when he's bad, he's good in the eyes of reporters. A mystery. It was a pretty game to watch, in any event.
Oh, and you can all put those rumors of Omar Vizquel on the Sox to rest. He's signed with the Giants.
Has anyone else seen that commercial where they merge Roger Clemens and Randy Johnson into one person called the 'Rocket Unit'. For one thing, am I the only one who finds this name extremely dirty? And am I also the only one completely creeped out by the resulting mutant pitcher? It's scary!
And as a final note, Hummer continues their streak of having awesome commercials. I still would never want the car, but damn if those aren't some amazing ads. Those, and the NFL channel ads, where they have the players in fake TV shows and all that. After watching an entire game on FOX and being subjected to 'House' and 'The Simple Life' spots, clever sports ads and slick car ads are a very welcome change.
On that commercially-oriented note, I bid you goodnight.