Archive for January, 2008

23
Jan
08

Warning: May Contain Football-Like Substance

For those of you who were concerned, yes, I am recovering. It’s taking time, but I’ll pull through.

I’m talking, of course, about the 23-20 loss my beloved team took this past weekend in the NFC Championship game. If you don’t care at all about football, then skip this post, and come back in mid-February, when I’ll have new things to think about. That being said, here’s my opinions concerning the game, which will likely end up being much longer than I’m intending at the moment:

1. If you have to find one person to blame the loss on (even though it usually isn’t one person’s fault) blame coach Mike McCarthy. It pains me to say that, because I respect the heck out of the guy, but he called a downright terrible game. I’ve never seen a worse-called game than this one. Ever. Ryan Grant runs for 201 yards in the snow one week, and to reward him, the next week you only give him 13 carries the whole game? That’s ridiculous, even if he only got 29 yards on those 13 carries.  If you listen to game analysis, you’ll likely hear a lot of people saying the Giants stopped the Packers running game, and that’s how they beat them. That’s not true. The Packers stopped their own running game because they didn’t run enough. You can’t expect to wear down a defense if you only run at it 13 times. In a cold weather game, you have to run the ball, plain and simple. Even if you average 2 yards a carry, like the Packers did, if you run on first and second down, you’re looking at third and six, which is much more manageable than the third and nine the Packers averaged. No one, not Brett Favre, not Tom Brady, and certainly not Eli Manning can win when their team averages nine yards to go on third down.

2. In my life, I’ve probably watched over 100 Packer games, and it didn’t take half that experience to tell that Brett Favre was damn cold. He’s 38 years old, for goodness sakes. Experience watching him is what tells me that when Favre is cold, he’s uncomfortable, and when he’s uncomfortable, he forces things, and when he forces things, he throws picks. Corey Webster now knows this better than anyone. Yet another reason to run the ball. Nothing against Brett, I would’ve just saved the heavy passing game for the warm Arizona desert, which sadly now isn’t possible.

3. Al Harris needs to shut up. He’s a big bunch of talk, but he can’t consistently back it up. Yes, he’s going to the Pro Bowl, and yes, he’s one of the best corners in the NFL, but this year, he faced only two big, physical receivers: Terrell Owens and Plaxico Burress. Their combined stats for the two games in which they faced Harris: 18 catches for 307 yards. Harris is considered one of the best because he plays bump and run, and plays it well, which means he’s shoving scrawny little receivers left and right, knocking them off their routes and throwing off their timing with the QB. But when the receiver is big enough to shove you back, you’ve got yourself into quite a pickle, and it becomes time to back off and simply cover your man, which Harris couldn’t do Sunday. So Al, until you fix that, keep your mouth shut and play the game, you’re only baiting big guys to push you around like Owens and Burress did.

4. As long as we’re on the topic of corners, the Giants did a good job taking Charles Woodson off his game as well. Woodson, like Harris, plays man-to-man bump and run, and the Giants used a whole lotta motion to freeze that. This was a very smart idea. Whereas the Giants knew real fast that Harris wasn’t going to be a problem, they used motion to neutralize Woodson, because when you use motion, you end up with a receiver who can’t just line up straight in front of his man, and you take away the option of bump-and-run, essentially forcing any corner to become a pure cover corner. The difference was that Woodson, who was on Amani Toomer most of the game, did a decent job of it, limiting Toomer to four catches.

5. For a defense that was on the field for 40 minutes in minus-23 degree temperatures, the Packers still looked fairly decent (outside of Harris) in the fourth quarter and overtime, keeping the Giants out of the end zone and tightening up towards the red zone. That being said, it’s very rare that a team that’s as much in control of the clock as the Giants were on Sunday will lose. Also, the Packers badly lost the field-position battle, which doesn’t help things any. So if you’re the Packers, how do you move towards winning the time of possession and field position battles? Well, you run the ball, of course (are we seeing a theme here?).

6. I am 99.8% sure that Brett will be back next season, and yet that .2% still makes me nervous.

7. I am not at all sure that the Packers will be any good next year, which makes the loss that much more heartbreaking. The Packers hadn’t been in an NFC Championship for 10 years, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it takes them another 10 or more to get back. I’m not discrediting my team here, I know there’s a heck of a lot of talent on that roster, a lot of salary cap room, and not a lot of guys slated to become free agents. All those signs point to a really successful season next year, right? Well, ask the Saints, Bears, Jets, and Ravens how they feel about maintaining success in the NFL from season to season, and they’ll tell you it isn’t always that simple.

8. …Only 11 days until the longest seven months of the year.

11
Jan
08

Get out your shovels!

Okay, I know I talk about sports a bit on here, which doesn’t really to many of you who read this regularly,  but I need to advertise this little tidbit of information:

http://www.packers.com/news/releases/2008/01/11/1/

Considering all that’s going on in sports right now, isn’t it nice to see a story that doesn’t involve steroids, or cheating, or Jessica Simpson?  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: one of the greatest aspects of professional sports is the community it creates for the people who love them, and this is the perfect example of that.  Good grief I love this team.

03
Jan
08

This is gonna look so sweet on YouTube…

It’s a new year, and you know what that means.  It means that it’s time for our great nation to gather together to think long and hard about the “Top 10 Crazy Reality TV Moments of 2007.”  Or maybe “2007’s Most Super-Bitchin’ Action Sequences.”  It really doesn’t matter what they’re about, it just seems that around the start of a new year, everybody gets all excited about making lists, even lists about the 100 Sluttiest Celebrity Moments of 2007.  …Especially lists about the 100 Sluttiest Celebrity Moments of 2007.

And therein lies the point I’m trying to make.  I recently was listening to NPR’s Fresh Air, the most interesting, intriguing, and well-researched interview show on the planet, and they had on a critic named John Powers, who listed his “Top 10 Cultural Trends of 2007.”  They included such hot topics as steroids in sports, the writers’ strike, political campaigning– these sort of things you’d expect.  But one item on his list really got me thinking.  Powers said that Americans are voluntarily giving up their privacy, something he called the “TMZing of America,” after the celebrity news website TMZ.com, which writes a news report every time Lindsay Lohan wipes her ass.  The subjects of this website, people like Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, and whoever they’re having sex with at the moment, have cameras that follow them everywhere, essentially ripping their privacy from them whether they like it or not (and frankly, if I had to guess, I’d say they probably do like it, in some sad, sad way).  So what Powers is saying is that celebrities, no matter how ridiculous they act, are still role models in this country, and because of TMZ (and the internet in general) the “nothing-is-private-not-even-whether-or-not-I’m-wearing-underwear-today” lifestyle is becoming sort of, well, glamorous.

It’s a shame, really, but when you think about it, it’s true.  People today are longing for exposure, no matter the embarrassing forum, broadcasting every little thought they have on YouTube (or blogging about it, I guess…) for the whole world to see, or presenting every little character flaw they have on some mindless VH1 reality TV show, and our culture is eating it up.  We used to live in a culture where privacy was encouraged and valued.  Now we want to be public so much so that in the past year, 47% of Americans Googled themselves, searching for some shred of themselves out there in the public eye.  YouTube, in what is a shockingly accurate understanding of our culture, attracts more and more people each day using the slogan “Broadcast Yourself,” encouraging the masses to put themselves out there, no matter whether they have something to say or not.  A current search of the word “webcam” on YouTube comes up with over 81,000 results, further proof that we are voluntarily surrendering our private lives, eager for someone else to see what we’re doing all the time and validate us.

In what serves as even more evidence of this shift in our world, Yale (yes, that Yale, with the bricks, ivy and the tweed sportjackets) just released its book of quotations for 2007.  Can you guess what its most popular quotation was?

“Don’t taze me, bro.”

That’s right.  And the fact that I don’t have to tell you where that comes from is further proof that the internet is making our world less and less private by the minute.

And what kind of effect does this have?  Well, when you blur the lines between what is private and what is public, it turns out that a lot of people and things that for their own good should stay private end up being thrust into the limelight.  Take, for example, Yale’s #2 quotation:

“I personally believe that U.S. Americans are unable to do so because some people out there in our nation don’t have maps and I believe that our education like such as in South Africa and the Iraq and everywhere like such as and I believe that they should our education over here in the U.S. should help the U.S. or should help South Africa and should help the Iraq and the Asian countries so we will be able to build up our future for us.”

This shining beacon of wisdom came from Miss Teen South Carolina, asked during the Q&A portion of the pageant why one fifth of Americans couldn’t identify the United States on a world map (a shocking enough premise as it is).  Miss South Carolina decided not to answer the question, but chose rather to sympathize with the little dullards the question speaks of by displaying herself as the intellectual equal of that very one-fifth of our nation.  For those of you who may be unaware, there are fifty states in our country, meaning there are fifty young ladies in the Miss Teen USA pageant.  Miss South Carolina placed fourth.

It goes without saying that the video clip of this event enjoyed mass viewings all over the internet, just like the “don’t taze me, bro” video did.  If we didn’t already have enough evidence from reality TV as it is, it now seems that you can get famous just by being good ol’ fashioned stupid.  Miss Teen South Carolina even appeared on a few talk shows after the pageant so she could laugh off her embarrassing moment before going back to trying on bathing suits and bleaching her teeth.

So here’s the part where after looking back over the past year, you look forward to the next.  The New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman argues in one of his bestselling books that the world we live in is now flat, thanks, in part, to the internet because efficient communication makes the world seem like a smaller place.  And while Friedman’s book is about globalization, if he’s right and we are living in a flat world, then it could be argued that in a smaller, flat world, everyone can see everyone else all of the time, as long as you’ve got the right tools.

Heaven help us all.