Sunday, January 29, 2006

Peak Performance

Back in a previous life of mine (before the locusts ate my crops), one of the requirements of my newspaper job was to select an Athlete of the Week. Y’know … just so the local jocks could feel good about themselves and maybe score some free swag and street cred from their friends who worked at Subway and/or the Gap.
Although it’s long in my past, the selecting of weekly/monthly/yearly MVPs is something that’ll never grow old, it seems. Everybody does it … y’know, has that favourite athlete always penciled in as their Athlete of the Week/Month/Year.

On the scoreboard in my mind, you can imagine how lonely it gets when I’m looking for the Athlete of the Weekend – on a weekend in which Roethlisberger isn’t active.
Now that I think about it, if I had to pick an Athlete of the Week, it’s gotta be that guy on that Citi commercial on TV. You’ve seen him … that Asian dude who is holding that piece of paper folded into quarters and, while using a pair of garden shears, he snips-snips-snips the paper and makes frequent rotations of the paper as he snips-snips-snips some more while a lovely piano melody serves as the backdrop – and then when that guy unfolds the paper, presto!
He shows off two dragons flanking a heart with a peace sign inside.
That … rocks!
More so than Cobes hoisting a basketball 30-40 times.
Good frickin’ gravy … World B. Free can chuck the ball 35, 45, 55 times.
World B. Free cannot gimme two dragons, a heart and a peace sign.
I’m just hopin’ that someone doesn’t burst my bubble and tell me that it was trick photography, an optical illusion or magic scissors which produced those two dragons, the heart and the peace sign.

So, yeah … my first inkling was that it might be a long and uninteresting weekend, but then late Friday, I came to learn that the “official cause of death” for Terry Long is now in the books (24 hours after I’d blogged about the 11 Steelers which we’ve lost in strange or untimely fashion in the past 10 years).
Terry Long did not die from cerebral meningitis.
He died from drinking antifreeze … thus, succeeding in a suicide attempt after failing at an attempted suicide 14 years earlier by using rat poison to say “goodbye, cruel world” when the NFL suspended him for violating the steroid, errrrrr … drug policy.

The Official Terry Long Suicide Odyssey upsets me because now I have to re-open my own case files and see if his antifreeze cocktail was more weird or mixed-up than Justin Strzelczyk’s final 24 hours, Mike Webster’s final two years, Joe Gilliam’s rehab hijinks or David Woodley’s self-destruction.
If you put it to music, basically what you have is Jim Carroll singing “People Who Died” … back in the days when Jim Carroll was an underground legend, avant garde folklorist and heroin abuser (and before he was portrayed by Leo DiCaprio in “The Basketball Diaries”).
Teddy sniffin’ glue, he was 12 years old / Fell from the roof on East Two Nine / Cathy was 11 when she pulled the plug / On 26 reds and a bottle of wine … Sly in Vietnam / Took a bullet in the head / Bobby O.D.’ed on Drano / On the night that he was wed ..."
I guess there’s always a stanza that the amateur poet can throw in there for Terry Long, given the fact that there are lotsa words which rhyme with “Prestone” (but not too many, if any, which rhyme with “Zerex”).

It’s “tough luck” for Terry Long – yet, he’s a figure who is eligible for the “To Be Mocked” list because any time people make a conscious decision to let down other people, yup … they’re fair game to be mocked, all rightee.
It kinda reminds ya of Chaz when he tells John Beckwith, “What an IDD-DEE-ITTT! Ma, the meatloaf!”

Of course, I was pullin’ a Chaz at 3:30 a.m. on Sunday when I was up watchin’ Federer vs. Baghdatis in the Aussie Open final. Federer, to me, is very much like the antidote (a “serum,” if you will) any time that college basketball toxins threaten my bloodstream or vital organs.
Federer is “a shot-maker.” College b-ball is 97 percent of “shot-missers.”
I also think it’s kinda cool the way that Federer wears actual tennis gear (white socks, white sneakers) while college b-ballers wear black socks, black sneakers … which, if you tossed some Bermuda shorts into the mix, is what your dad was wearing when he was mowing the lawn in 1968.
That attire might’ve been allowed to slide back in ’68.
But it looks mega-lame when you’re b-ballin’ it in ‘05/’06 with the matching trifecta – y’know … your weight, your shooting percentage and your GPA are all the same number (“226”).

Back to Federer: I was not at all offended by his neon-green headware/white-boy-doo-rag-thing and his neon-green wristband (both furnished by Nike).
Surprisingly, EspyTime Theater’s SporkCenter provided me with a fascinating graphic which paralleled Federer and Eldrick Woods, at the same point in their careers, each had won seven Grand Slam championships (or “majors”), so, no … I guess El Tigre doesn’t walk on water after all.
If Eldrick starts wearing a neon-green doo-rag and a neon-green wristband then mayyyyy-beeee I’d buy into his act.
As it stands, any time you have a superstar whose last name begins with “Fed-“, everybody’s thoughts are going to gravitate immediately toward “Fedorov” or “Mr. Britney Federline.”

Well, as the pre-Super Bowl Week dead week flickers out, it’s time to get serious about the task which lays ahead for the Steelers. Seems like recently, everybody and his pet llama is makin’ a big deal outta callin’ ‘em “the No. 6-seeded Steelers.”
How the Steelers got mixed up in an RPI, bracket-buster controversy is beyond me.
“Number six seed ..." – as if they went 9-7 and backed into the playoffs to tangle with the No. 1-seeded Colts (no important games in the final five weeks), the No. 2-seeded Broncos (no playoff success post-Elway), the No. 3-seeded Bengals (frighteningly-bad losses in the final two regular-season games), the No. 4-seeded Jaguars (ever since CBS cancelled “JAG” … didn’t they beat William & Mary and The Citadel to get in?) and the No. 5-seeded Patriots (reputation rather than on-field talent was their only hope).
Oh, and Seattle in the NFC … what a luxury to play in a division with six “gimme” wins. When you’re guaranteed six wins in your schedule … that helps.

I couldn't believe it when Gunnar Esiason's dad told a national radio audience during the Steelers-Broncos pre-game, “I think the New England Patriots are still the best team in the NFL. They just had a bad game against the Broncos last weekend.”
Now, THERE’S a guy who sips his Prestone rather than chugging it.
Either that, or he pulled the plug on 26 reds and a bottle of wine.
Quote: “I think Boomer Esiason would’ve been elected to the Hall of Fame years ago if only he hadn’t put up all those mediocre stats for the Jets and the Cardinals and if his lineman hadn’t conspired against him by providing sub-standard pass protection and if his receivers formed an anti-Boomer alliance by dropping all of those passes which were right on the numbers.”

Then it’s settled: A Steeler victory on Super Sunday would provide justice and, quite possibly, get Jerome Bettis’ photo on the cover of a few national sports magazines (even if he finishes with 23 yards on eight carries).
Surviving the media frenzy … well, it’s tough on us civilians, too.
Especially when it’s Stooge N’ Salisbury.
That combo has me reachin’ for the Peak (y’know … the antifreeze which Danica Patrick promotes in those TV ads … y’know, where she’s wearing a silk teddy and she opens it up and she puts it right in her … RADIATOR, I guess, I mean where else would ya put antifreeze?)

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