Sunday, October 11, 2009

Five things I love about you

Living on the West Coast has distinct sports advantages that I wasn't fully aware of when I lived in Chicago. Aside from the one downfall, having to wake up two hours earlier at 5:30 a.m. to watch Arsenal games, sports on the West Coast, especially the NFL, are built to please me (as are most people, robots, and non-vegetable food products).

Sunday morning:
9 a.m.: Wake up
10 a.m.: Football starts
1 p.m.: First round of games end
1 p.m.: Lunch time!
1:15: Next round of games start
5 p.m.: Second round of games end
5 p.m.: Dinner time!
5:30 p.m.: Sunday Night Football starts
9 p.m.: Sunday Night Football ends

It's like that every week.

And so I'm in full NFL-mode right now (it was an international break for English football this week ... that's really the only reason I'm distracted enough to write about American football). I've been watching games like Rain Man watched Jeopardy lately and have organized the clutter in my brain (246 on the floor, 4 left in the box).

I present to you, in no particular order, The Top Five Players You Must Watch on NFL Sunday.

1) JaMarcus Russell

I laugh when strangers trip in public. I stare and point at people who put their kids on leashes. Simply put, I revel in chaos. I soak myself in the randomness of the universe, not pushing it away, but embracing it and finding peace and comfort in the complete and utter unknown. And so, it makes perfect sense, that I have become drunkenly obsessed with Oakland Raiders quarterback JaMarcus Russell.

After four games this season, Russell is on pace to have one of the worst seasons in the history of the National Football League. If you averaged out his stats for a full season, this is what the 2007 NUMBER ONE DRAFT PICK would look like ...

39.8 percent completion percentage
4 touchdowns
16 interceptions
2,024 passing yards

BEAUTIFUL. I want to draw those statistics. I want to smash them into a liquid and inject them into my body. He is on pace to finish with one of the top-five worst single-seasons statistically for a quarterback ever. Ever! And it's not just the fact that he's single-handedly redefining failure in the NFL (I actually said to my brother, while watching Vince Young come in for Kerry Collins this past Sunday and immediately throw his first pass directly into the floor, "The difference between Vince Young and JaMarcus Russell is that at least Young didn't show up this season 50 pounds overweight and incapable of moving without some motorized companion." Incredible.), it's that he's doing it with such bravado. It only expounds the chaos that he's doing it for the Raiders, an organization who obviously pushed the self-destruct button a few years ago but forgot to tell any of the people on the spaceship. The Raiders coach almost murdered his own assistant coach. That's a real story. That happened this year.

But the fact that JaMarcus Russell is even more intriguing than attempted homicide shows you how wonderful his season has been. I am in awe of his season. Running around with my fiance Sunday morning, I actually pulled out my cell phone to check the Raiders box score throughout the day. I wanted to see how many passes he had thrown incomplete. I wanted to see if he had completed any.

That's what I'm waiting for. 30 attempts, zero completions. Total chaos.

2) Vince Wilfork

When Subway ... loathsome, crappy-sandwich-making Subway ... made a new NFL-themed commercial this year, featuring former New York Giants defensive end Michael Strahan, current Giants defensive end Justin Tuck, and fat-Jared himself, I found myself infuriated by the fake laughter, superimposed camaraderie, and pseudo-celebrity these three men oozed through their pores. I didn't know how to stop Subway. I wanted fat-Jared out of my life. I felt lost ... hopeless ...

Then I watched a New England Patriots football game and saw who was going to fix it: Vince Wilfork.

I wasn't sure about the specifics ...

Was he going to go to a Subway, put every single topping on a single piece of bread, and put that store out of business, thus starting a domino effect of toppling Subways until the company folded in on itself?

Was he going to eat Jared whole like a vacuum cleaner sucking up a live spider?

Was he going to simply absorb all three men into his body and digest them slowly through osmosis?

He's listed at 325 pounds on ... I wasn't aware the league was weighing individual body parts now. Wilfork is a scientific marvel, the human equivalent of the bumblebee, and should be studied extensively before his kind disappear forever from our planet. That is all.

Man, JaMarcus Russell, Vince Wilfork ... I need a third NFL fat guy to make an action squad. I wonder how I'll ever find another fat guy in a league that actively promotes obesity.

3) Michael Crabtree

Finally, an NFL player who lets us know exactly what he's all about: Money.

Honesty is all I've ever asked for in my life. I wanted my parents to tell me that they were just too lazy to go get the mail. I wanted my tennis coach to tell me my backhand sucked. And, as always, I wanted my athletes to be honest.

Tell me you're faking injuries. Tell me you're out buying guns and plan to use them on your own legs. And tell me all you care about is money. It's a sort of sociological divider. If an athlete is honest with me, I have the instant ability to choose which side of the fence I'm on. With Michael Crabtree, drafted 10th overall by the San Francisco 49ers, a contract holdout five weeks into the REGULAR season, his football abstinance let me immediately pick my side. I hate Michael Crabtree, and that's what I love about him.

He's finally signed his contract now and will reportedly play Oct. 25 for the 49ers. I will be rooting for him to drop every pass and pull a hammy in the first quarter because his conditioning isn't up to NFL-standards. I want crippling failure to haunt his career. The league has so many villains already, but they materialize because of some manufactured on- or off-field alter-ego (aside from Pacman Jones, who's just stupid and crazy) perpetrated by the media. But there are very few actual villains in the league. Michael Crabtree, a contract holdout because he wanted to be paid based on MOCK DRAFT guesses from idiots like myself on where he'd be drafted, crippled his team and his career in the short-term before suddenly having a change of heart once the 49ers became the toast of the NFC West.

A guy who wouldn't play because he wasn't getting enough money based on guessed projections but quickly signed once his team started winning?

Yes please, I'll have some of that. October 25th can't come soon enough.

4) Richie Incognito

Yes! The action squad is complete! Richie Incognito, an offensive guard for the St. Louis Rams, is the only peron who could've matched wits with JaMarcus Russell and size with Vince Wilfork. Weighing in at 326 lbs. (another lowball number by a league that's stuck trying to get kids to be active but also doesn't have an offensive lineman under 300 lbs.), Incognito is a nasty, angry offensive lineman. Throughout history, some of the best offensive linemen were the nastiest (John Runyan of the Washington Redskins comes to mind), but Incognito seems to have blurred the lines between "nasty" and "mentally incapacitated."

This year alone, he has accounted for enough false starts, unsportsmanlike conducts, and holding penalties that his coach, Steve Spagnuolo, yanked him out of the starting line-up, only to have Incognito start a shouting match with him on the sideline on national television. Awesome. Oh and his prior coach, Jim Haslett, was also seen mouthing the words, "What is wrong with this motherf***er?" by television cameras after Incognito got in a fight during a game last season.

This from a player who was kicked off the Nebraska football team in college, transferred to Oregon and was kicked off that team before ever playing a single game. Richie Incognito!

I wonder if he knows the meaning of his own last name?

5) Kyle Orton

As a Seahawks fan first and a Bears fan second, it's hard for me to talk positively about Kyle Orton. It's hard for me to even describe what it feels like watching the Denver Freaking Broncos, one of the hated historical-rivals of the Seahawks, led by Kyle Orton, the sucker punch of every bad-quarterback joke for the last four years from his miserable stint with the Bears, sit at 5-0 this season.

So why can't I stop watching him play?

Because of the tension. Kyle Orton makes every offensive possession excruciating. He'll overthrow a receiver by 20 yards. He'll misread the defense and toss a slant pass to a receiver who's running an out-route. He is constantly on the threshold of offensive collapse. This past Sunday, in overtime, Orton threw one of his classic ducks downfield, right to Patriots cornerback Shawn Springs. The ball hung in the air and Springs had it lined up perfectly, but at the last second, Broncos receiver Brandon Marshall mauls Springs (no flag) and the pass fell harmlessly incomplete. The Broncos kick the game-winning field goal after that and push their record to 5-0. Nobody remembers how close Orton came to blowing it! Nobody remembers that Orton threw a surefire interception at the end of the Broncos' first game of the season, only to have the pass tipped and caught by his own receiver for a game-winning, 79-yard touchdown with seconds to play. Nobody remembers that roughly 20 times a game, Orton makes the wrong decision or the wrong throw and comes out of it without a scratch! It's Kyle Orton! Why is the executioner staying his hand?! I'm starting to think maybe this whole "Jesus rose" thing wasn't so historically inaccurate ... the mullet and beard are already there.

I have seen nearly every Broncos game this year, seen Orton throw passes directly to opposing defenders who unfathomably drop the pass, consistently overthrow or underthrow his receivers by 10-15 yards. And yet no defenders are ever in the area. It's amazing! Just watch Kyle Orton play quarterback. Do it. He's playing Russian roulette with every single pass, and five games into the season, he's clicked through the gun so often the other guys he's playing with are wondering if the gun is even real.

And yet, he's 5-0. Kyle Orton is 5-0 ... no matter how many times I say that it just doesn't sound right. But he is, and I can't stop watching him throw. I can't stop. It's like a real-life game of Frogger. Kyle Orton is the frog, the opposing defenders are the vehicles, and he has been wandering through traffic for FIVE WEEKS untouched. When is he going to get smushed? When is the semi-truck going to box him in?!

Guess I'll just have to keep watching.


  1. Two things. One the terrible Subway commerical is with Justin Tuck not Osi.

    Two I love Michael Crabtree. I loved his holdout. And the only reason he finally signed is because Deion Sanders is an idiot and unintentionally outted the 2-3 backdoor deals that Crabtree's agent likely had in place. (I'm looking at you Rex Ryan)

    Here is Simmons absolutely perfect analysis of the situation:

    As you probably have heard, San Francisco rookie holdout Michael Crabtree still hasn't signed. Why? He believes he was the best receiver in the 2009 draft, so even though he was picked three spots after Darrius Heyward-Bey -- who signed with Oakland for $23.5 million over seven years -- according to the Crabtree Scouting Ratings, he still should be paid like the best rookie receiver because every mock draft had him higher than Heyward-Bey. And you know what? He's right.

    Let's flip this around. You're 29. You've been dating the same girl for nearly three years. She is the best catch of her college friends. One of her less fetching friends meets a guy who is wealthier and more successful than you. Inexplicably, he proposes within seven months. It makes no sense. She totally outkicked her coverage with this guy; he doesn't even know about her "Girls Gone Wild" appearance yet. Still, the whole thing plants those "if she's getting married, what's wrong with me?" doubts in your girlfriend. She wants a ring, and she wants it now. You can't believe it. You thought you had already worked this out -- you were going to wait to get married until you were financially stable. You take her out to dinner and make the following argument: Look, just because somebody proposed to your crazy friend doesn't mean that: (A) she's better than you; or (B) this should affect your situation in any way.

    Basically, this is Crabtree's argument. He is better than Heyward-Bey. Everyone agreed in April. The Raiders passed for the simple reason that they are the dumbest franchise in the league, as we keep remembering every few months. San Francisco was blessed to get a top-five talent at No. 10. It should pay for this blessing. So far, it has not done so. Crabtree is being called crazy, but really, he just believes in his own talent. He really WOULD throw away this season to prove a point. That's not crazy, that's conviction! Michael Crabtree might be ruining his career and setting hundreds of thousands of dollars on fire, but at least he earned my Miller Lite Great Call of the Week.

  2. Good call on Justin Tuck. I think that commercial melted a major portion of my brain. Here's hoping Vince Wilfork can save the day!