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A Bostonian at the University of Michigan.

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Monday, February 07, 2005  
Baseball stuff at the end, Tigers and Sox, natch. But first:

Was it really just five years ago that Lloyd Carr was hugging Tom Brady after a close-shave, 35-34 win over Alabama in the Orange Bowl? In a way it seems like that was a million years ago and in another universe, and in a way it sort of was. Boston was still a luckless sports city with a struggling football team and a fatally flawed baseball team (and don't ask me about the basketball or hockey teams, I haven't a clue). Michigan, yet to reach the bittersweet John 'Feet of Clay' Navarre era, was still basking in the combined glow of Brian Griese and Drew Henson (yes, these guys were bigger deals at Michigan than Brady was-- college greatness does not an NFL player make [see: Ty Detmer]). I had yet to reach Michigan. I had not yet been exposed to the cruel fact that a large portion of our nation says 'pop' when they clearly mean 'soda' and 'sucker' when they mean 'lollipop'.

Last night, 5 years and 4 days after that Orange Bowl, Tom Brady is still hugging his coach after a close-shave win in a big, much-publicized game. The coach has changed, as has his uniform, hair, the opponent, the game, and the final score, but it's still Tom Brady in there. Heck, Lloyd Carr even looked a little bit like Bill Belichick back then, at least in these photos.

You know what they say: the more things change...


THE PATRIOTS WON THE FUCKING SUPERBOWL. 24-21. In case you hadn't noticed.

We didn't know it at the time, of course, but it turns out that the entire game was foreshadowed, summed up, what-have-you-ed in the very first series, when Tedy Bruschi sacked Donovan McNabb to force an Eagles punt. OK, the game wasn't a litany of sacks, but it was dominated by defense. I know that Deion Branch did something ridiculous like tie the highest number of pass receptions in a Superbowl ever or something, but during the game I was much more impressed with what our defense, particularly Bruschi and Rodney Harrison, was doing. Were doing? I'm always iffy on that one.

There were offensive spotlights, obviously. Deion Branch had a ridiculous number of catches, and I know Brady likes throwing to him, but when you're on a team where the QB regularly throws to every possible receiver you have to be on to get him to regularly throw to you in such a big game. Branch, as pretty much everyone could see, was indeed on. Despite his touchdown run, Corey Dillon was shut down for much of the game, especially the first half, by the Eagles. They couldn't get a spectacular running game going either, although Todd Pinkston shockingly stood up for some good receptions before leaving the game with cramps, and TO gave them a very respectable passing game.

Speaking of which. Yes, I was suitably awed by his performance in this game. I was expecting TO at 75%-85%, and we got TO at 98%, maybe even 100%. He pushed himself beyond all expectations to play for his team in the Superbowl. Props to him for that. I don't exactly enjoy the way he addressed it after the game, talking about how people were saying he was selfish, and if it was Brett Favre they would be calling him a hero. I know he must have been upset about losing the game, especially after doing so well himself, but even so I kind of wish he hadn't cheapened his effort by making it sound like he was whining about not getting enough praise. I suppose I just wish he could've let what he did on the field speak for itself, but this is TO, so I guess that's a bit much to ask.

As a side note, when Emmit Smith held his press conference earlier in the week to announce his retirement from football, one of the most emotional moments came when he reverentially laid his hand on a Cowboys helmet and said, tearfully, "You have no idea... how much... this star means to me..." Besides signalling the end of the career of a football icon, it kind of enforced the idea that the star is more than just something to paint at midfield for the Cowboys, and therefore how it made sense for Dallas fans to take extreme exception to TO's stomp on it. But I digress.

So, yes, there were offensive highlights, but the plays that made the game were on defense. Harrison's two interceptions, one early and one to seal the deal at the end, were like two exclamation points on the end of everything he had said in response to Freddie Mitchell the week before. I wondered at the time and I still wonder now-- who the hell calls out Rodney Harrison before a big game? I don't care who you are or even who you think you are, you just don't call out Rodney. I mean, why, why, why would you ever want to bait that wrath?

Tedy Bruschi, as I said, had a huge game. Our secondary, hanging on by spindly little threads all season and reduced to mere shreds when Eugene Wilson went out with an arm injury, did what we asked of them. Yes, Dexter Reid got lit up for some big plays, but Asante Samuel and Randall Gay held much firmer than we had any reasonable right to expect. So the scariest moments of the game, for me, were when defensive people went down. Wilson sitting on the ground cradling his arm, Harrison clutching at his hip after his interception, Bruschi being gingerly walked off the field (both Harrison and Bruschi came back into the game, Wilson did not)-- these were the sights that made me clutch at my Patriots pillow and knock the enormous pile of tissues off the bed in fright.

And, of course, the fact that they won the game by only 3 points helped to keep me riding the ragged edge of mental distress for the entire game. It wasn't as absolutely nerve-wracking as last years offering, mostly because the Eagles seemed so lackadaisical about it all, there at the end. I understand not wanting to panic your offense, I guess, but at one point the center ran up to the line of scrimmage and started trying to wave the rest of the team up, only Donovan was calling them all back into the huddle. Weird. How can you not have a sense of urgency about that? I mean, blimey, after their late touchdown they just had to get into field goal range*, I'm not sure why they were so free with the clock when going about it.

The perfectly fielded onside kick by Christian Fauria let me lean back in bed and release my deathgrip on the tissues. When I saw that solid wedge of players force up and leave him by himself, having complete faith in his ability to get the ball if they concerned themselves only with blocking... well, hell, if that wasn't a little slice of Patriots football all by itself I don't know what was. Everyone does their job, and everyone has complete faith that all the other guys are going to do their jobs, and the job, by golly, gets done. *blows smoke from fingers as though they were recently engaged firearms*

And is anyone else getting the feeling that a Mike Vrabel touchdown catch is starting to become a Superbowl tradition? 'And so it was written, when the tyme of year turns towards the snowes, so shall footballe draw to a close, and men shall put onne their tights one last tyme (unless they be bounde for the warmth of ye olde Pro Bowle), and fans shall grow in drunkennesse, and the sportswriters shall printe utter crappe for unto a week, having nothing worthwhile about which to stir their pennes, and fans shall reach a zenith of drunkennesse, and in the end a linebacker shall catche him a ball in the endzone, and he shall have the profile of a patriotic Elvis, and also shall a kicker come forthe and do something goode.'

Afterwards Chris Berman was talking to Adam Vinatieri, and said, "So you had the game-winning kick again, only it came with 10 minutes left." Vinatieri laughed and said, "Yeah, we'll take it."

Yes. Yes, we will.

I was taking notes on the game because, well, I was miserably sick and not capable of doing much else. So I have things written down like "Oh no tiny child with coin FUCKING CHILDREN", which obviously refers to the small child they had do the coin flip at the beginning of the game (it went to the Eagles). I also have written down "DOLPHIN WITH A FOOTBALL!" although, today, I have no memory of this. Does anyone else remember something that would have prompted me to write 'dolphin with a football', or was that just a medicinally-induced hallucination?

As for the ads, I thought this was a very mediocre offering. The only one I really loved was the NFL Network's 'Tomorrow, tomorrow' ad, all with The Burger looking melancholy and football players singing and John Gruden sitting at home singing with his little kids swordfighting in the background. I cackled like a maniac. Then I had a coughing fit so violent I nearly sent my computer toppling from the bed, but it was worth it. Whoever is doing the NFL Network ads deserves a lot of credit, I don't think they've had a bad one yet. The Newlyweds spoof? Hilarity. The Space Raiders one? Hilarity. The one with that song going 'He's got all kinds of time [and so on]' with the clips of all the quarterbacks? A. MAZE. ING. I love that commercial like woah. Good on you, NFL Network advertising department. If the dorms got your channel, I would totally watch it.

Honorable mentions go out to both the Ameriquest ads (the 'Don't judge too quickly' ones). The one with the guy on the earbud phone was worthwhile mostly because that happens to me all the time... I see someone jabbering away, seemingly to themselves, and I steel myself for a confrontation with a crazy person, and then I see that they're just on one of those phones. The other one gets credit for gratuitous cat usage. Another honorable mention goes out to the Bud Light ad with the cockatoo on the bar, because I found it mildly amusing.

I hereby declare death to all Ford commercials. I don't know if this was just me, because of the whole 'located by Detroit, which is a city almost wholly owned by Ford' thing, but we got that ad for the Ford Mustang (with the guy frozen in it) at least 5 or 6 times. Jesus, Ford, why don't you show us the midwestern cop tapping on that guy's face ONE MORE TIME, HUH? I'm not sure if WE'VE GOT THE PICTURE YET. You don't want to release your new car in the winter because IT'S A CONVERTIBLE AND IT'S COLD IN THE WINTER, OH WOW, I GET THE JOKE, HAR HAR HAR. Also, Cadillac. They're trying, but they're trying too hard and going with stilted advertising instead of inspired. Oh well. The same thing happened to them last year-- they tried too hard to make a cool ad, and it showed.

Lastly, I think there should be a rule that any major sporting event broadcast on FOX can have only one commercial spot for each of FOX's shows for the duration of the sporting event. No, FOX, I do not watch 24. I will now never watch it, much like I will now jab myself in the eye with a Micron pen rather than watch ESPN's Tilt. I don't like being badgered endlessly to watch a show, and I like it less when the ads aren't even any good.

I can't say much about the halftime show, because I was busy coughing up blood** and trying to draw a rhinoceros skull. Yes, I thought my enormous drawing project was due today. Yes, today I found out that it's due on Wednesday. The good bit is that I finished it ahead of time. The bad bit is that I probably shaved three years off my life with the stress involved and missed what was, by all accounts, a show that occurred at halftime. Yeah, I couldn't get much more consensus than that, some people I talked to said it was dull and dreary, some said hearing the entire crowd sing 'Hey Jude' was majestic and chilling. I can only tell you that rhinoceros skulls are freakish-looking and are a bitch to draw, with or without former Beatles in the background.

The Superbowl, in closing, was awesome, even if I was too sick to enjoy it properly. DE-troit next year. If the Lions are in the Superbowl (which they might be-- shut up! All of you! THEY MIGHT BE!) I know I'll be there, because my dad has promised that when the Lions go my family will go, regardless of when or where it is. So we turn our eyes from a season of Patriot greatness, which I enjoyed to the fullest, don't get me wrong, and look forward to a future where the Honolulu Blue and Silver reign supreme. The Pats are gonna have a time of it without Weis and Crennel anyways, the time for Mooch to step up and take his rightful place on the podium is now.

And so. Baseball!

According to an article in the New York Daily Times, Jose Canseco's new book, Juiced, will contain an expose (and I know that has an accent mark, but Blogger doesn't like them) of steroids in baseball. He apparently claims that he personally introduced 'roids to several major leaguers, including Pudge Rodriguez.

I understand that, if the steroids really are as prevalent as the amorphous 'they' has been saying, it's entirely possible that Pudge is or was on them. I understand that, in these times, almost any power player is suspect. I understand all this logically. Viscerally, my brainstem is screaming at me, "NOOOO PUDGE WOULDN'T HE DIDN'T HE COULDN'T NOT PUDGE NOOOOOOOOO IT DIDN'T HAPPEN MAKE THE BAD ALLEGATIONS GO AWAY NOT TRUE NOT TRUE."

Honestly, I don't know. I went photo-digging today and got some shots of Pudge from when he was with Texas, because that's what I do when faced with this sort of thing. The oldest shot of him I could find was this one from 1992***, and it's maybe not the best shot ever for seeing his head and body type, but it was the earliest one I could get. Then there's this shot of him in 1995. You can compare both of those with what he looks like now. If you can't open up multiple windows in your browser to look at those side-by-side, here's a more direct comparison of a photo of Pudge from 1996 and one from 2004.

I don't see much appreciable change in his muscle mass or head size/shape over that time period. That might not mean much, but for whatever it's worth you can take into account the fact that there were appreciable visible changes in those body parts in Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi, and Jose Canseco. According to that article Canseco is alleging that he introduced Pudge to steroids in 1992, so presumably they wouldn't have had an immediate effect on him that year... again, I dug up the photo, you can judge for yourself. Obviously he's a lot younger than he is now, so he looks a little different, and if I had photos of him from before 1992 it would be more useful but, alas, my resources are rather limited.

The options here are that a) Pudge has never used steroids, b) Pudge used steroids in the past but is no longer using them, or c) Pudge used and continues to use steroids. Just from these photos and the fact that his numbers haven't shown big spikes or big dropoffs (other than what you'd expect from age and injuries, and only so far as I can tell, which isn't very far) I'm tending to rule out option (b)... I'm leaning towards never using them or continuous use.

It may also be worthwhile to take into account the fact that Jose Canseco is batshit insane. He's also trying to sell a book, and what better way to do that than to name-drop? There could be all kinds of things going on here.

We all know that Pudge is a character. The Official Unofficial Word on the Street is that he owns a bronze statue of himself squatting down in full catcher gear. He's not afraid to kiss his closer on the cheek after a good game. He almost singlehandedly revitalized the Detroit Tigers team and fanbase. I know that it's possible he's on steroids.

I really hope he isn't.

And since I think, what with the Superbowl victory and all, this ridiculously oversized entry should end on a happy note, have a couple of completely inexplicable baseball cartoons. They're in, um, Korean, I think.

Here we've got the Tigers one. I think Pudge knocked out Inge and Inge knocked out Munson for the catcher spot... I have no idea what's going on in the Maroth panel... Guillen sprays hits all over the park, maybe?... Bonderman is struggling to emerge from his chrysalis, that one's easy... Dmitri Young and Fernando Vina are doing, um, something... Urbina's going somewhere?.... and I don't even want to speculate on the Higginson panel.

Here's the Red Sox one. I love that first panel, Manny with the filthy helmet doing double-points with everyone... Schilling and Santana, it's gotta be something to do with the Cy Young, I love how Schill looks evil... Ortiz as Shrek and Millar as Donkey (how did we not think of that one?)... I don't know what's going on in the Pedro panel... nor do I know what's going on in the Foulke one, or why Wake is in there... the Johnny Damon one is pretty, um, self-explanatory... is someone stealing on Derek Lowe? Is that what's happening there?

edit: And here's another Sox one. I still have no idea what's going on, but unless I am much mistaken that's the A-Rod slap pictured in there. Fantastic. Also, making fun of Manny and a kind of worrying picture of someone about to kill a bird. This site is like comedy gold, I tell you. Comedy gold.

Oh, and the Yankee one? It appears to have Gary Sheffield shaking a baby (may be way off on that one), Kevin Brown punching a wall, Bernie Williams playing the guitar, a panel with A-Rod involving the team watching porn (!!), Jeter wandering off with a starlet, and Giambi shooting up. That's it. I'm going to bed happy.

In any event, if anyone reads Korean, please let me know what the hell is going on in these. If you don't, enjoy them on the pleasingly ignorant level that I did. And that should be that. G'night, kids.

edit the last: Just because this was too fantastic. The Korean comics things? I picked them up from a post to the Tigers one over at a Tigers message board, who had picked it up from some Reds message board (they didn't provide a link). While surfing the baseball blogosphere today I noticed that it had been picked up yesterday by an Angels/Dodgers blog, who had gotten it from an Angels blog and picked up a translation of sorts from Giants blog, the latter two having both picked it up from a Cincinnati Reds blog, who appears to have found it on his own.

Got all that?

The baseball blogosphere-- first the sports opinion columns, then the internet, then THE WORLD!

*OK, maybe that was the issue right there. Maybe they didn't want to get a field goal with too much time left and give the Pats enough time to get the ball again and put it on Vinatieri's uberclutch cleat? I'm reaching here, people.

**Kidding, mom! It only looked like blood. It was really an aggregate of phlegm, inhaled charcoal and heavy metals from the fabric dyes we use in class. I'm keeping healthy at college!

***No, I have no idea what the fuck is going on either. I assume his teammate is injured, because that guy in the front has the general appearance of a trainer, but it's still a weird photo no matter how you look at it. That's Pudge for ya.

10:05 PM

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