Sunday, December 31, 2006

The NFL: Skanky But Sweet (Kiss Cowher Goodbye?)

Here's a dynamic which never ceases to amaze:
If college football just so happens to be your main squeeze, it's interesting how the NFL oftentimes slinks onto the scene and creates one of life's more-complex love triangles.

Actually, the NFL is more like the sex you had in college.
That is ... if you went to college approx. 20 years ago.
You remember: Encounters which were wreckless (and totally consensual) and with no strings attached, but with the possibility that you would get flagged for excessive celebration (once the occasional pangs of guilt subsided).
It's always a delight to reminisce about those who put the "sensual" in "consensual."

Nowadays, though, "SHE" is the only one ... until you start pickin' up the vibe from "HER."
"SHE" is college football.
SHE is mighty sweet and reel purdy ... but there's something seductive and naughty-as-hell about "HER" (the NFL).
While other guys simply use HER for a quickie Fantasy fix, you don't, 'cuz you're not into that. You're into HER for your own gratification.

Maybe SHE is nice and everything -- and you and SHE have a good time ... at least, during the times when SHE is not annoying you. You and SHE might spend an entire Saturday together ... but then Sunday rolls around and your original plan was to get some studying done, maybe do a quick load of laundry, probably grab a bite to eat and, uh oh ... look who's alone in HER room down the hall ... alone ... and HER roommate just so happened to go home for the weekend.
Suddenly, you remember the four Tuborg Golds in your mini-fridge and it's just a matter of time until you have HER horizontal.

There's nothing about HER (the NFL) that's all that special. While SHE (coll. FB) spoils you most of the time, it's not long before SHE's not by your side on that particular night and you end up at a party off-campus and you bump into HER there, so, it's no big surprise when you're heavily involved in a game of Quarters and you've found yourself a "target" because HER skills at Quarters are only marginal -- and you're relatively-clutch during crunch time and, oh boy, you have to walk HER home because she's wasted.

It's a crazy, wonderful merry-go-round. SHE tells ya that she tried phoning several times between 10 and 10:30 last night, but there was no answer and then you remember that, between 10 and 10:30, you had HER blouse unbuttoned and her bra unclasped.
Or you chuckle to yourself remembering last night's adventures with HER when suddenly SHE pops by on her way to the library to work on her term paper ... and, jeez ... she never made it to the library, but, somehow, she did make it to gettin' all naked.

SHE notices that you're emotionally available -- but, in your mind you're some sorta bad-ass, love-'em-and-leave-'em rebel, so you vow never to expose your frailty to HER.
To HER, though ... you're just a dick
Eventually, SHE will find out about HER ... and you might end up without either SHE or HER.
Until you find a new SHE.

It always works that way with coll. FB vs. the NFL. At least, that's how it worked 'round here, one day after we'd spent a Saturday with Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada (actual spelling), Lie Muss Swede (NOT the actual spelling -- except on Closed Captioning) and Math You Stafford (NOT the actual spelling -- except on Closed Captioning), we might've forgotten that the NFL still had final Sunday of regular-season nonsense, which included the TV broadcast of Ben Roethlisberger (actual spelling) and his Terrible Towel out-of-towners at the Cinshitnati Who Deys in what might very well be the final game for Cowher Power.

Damn TV listings in that damn newspaper to which we cancelled our damn subscription recently, damn them ...

Since we didn't click on 'til midway through the second quarter (when it was 7-0, Super Steelers), we kinda sorta missed the 15-play, 90-yard drive which consumed 8 1/2 minutes, capped by Fast Willie's record-tying 1-yard TD.
According to the Cliffs Notes, the scoring march -- which bridged the first and second quarters -- was highlighted by Fast Willie carrying for gains of 9, 11, 3 yards to end the first quarter (before he handed off on an end-around to Hines Ward for 9 yds. on the final play of the quarter) before he opened the second quarter with gains of 2, 4, 2 and 2 before his 10-yd burst to the Bengal 1 set up his own TD.

Fast Willie's TD, as we all know, was his 15th of the season, equaling the mark held by Louis Lipps Sinks Ships (a fave of the Haystack Household) when Looie scored 12 receiving, 2 on punt returns, 1 rushing in '85.
That was a crummy season, wasn't it? 1985 ... Noll's 7-9 record was his first sub-.500 season since '71 ... Malone got hurt after the five-TD opener against Indy -- and David Woodley might not've been on his meds.
2-4 to begin the season ... 1-4 to end the season ... but that 54-44 loss at San Diego was mighty fun, wasn't it?
And, Robin Cole got some major props for his first (and only Pro Bowl).
Robin Cole was nails, in case you've forgotten.

Oh, yeah ... Fast Willie had 9 carries for 44 yds. on that scoring drive ... a series in which B-Roth (everyone calls him "Big Ben") completed four of five passes.
The first play of the drive was an 18-yard completion to Cedrick Wilson and the fifth play of the drive was a 14-yard completion to Cedrick Wilson. B-Roth also had completions of 9 and 6 yds. to Smilin' Hines Ward.
We would have preferred seeing the Terrible Towelistas taking a 7-0 lead into the locker room at halftime, but Cinshitnati got the FG just before the halftime horn.
That Cinshitnati drive had achieved a first-and-goal at the Steeler 4, but leave it to Who Dey to self-destruct with a pair of false-start penalties.

The Steelers drive which overlapped the third and fourth quarters ... that was aggravating, not to mention serving as a microcosm for the '06 Steeler season.
Beginning at their own 1, B-Roth hit Jerame Tuman for 13 yards and then Fast Willie ripped off runs of 17 and 9 yds.
Bang! Fast Willie for 3 ... B-Roth to Dutch Country Dan Kreider for 4 yds. ... Najeh The Hamper Growler hammers away for 7 and 20 yds. to the Who Dey 26-yd. line before Hines grabs that wide lateral, pump-faked a Bengal defender by cocking his arm before tucking the ball and picking his way for a 21-yd. gain to the 5.

That's where rookie Willie Colon, playing for Max Starks, got hisself all flagged for "taunting" -- another of the NFL's litany of arbitrary and capriciously-applied "offenses."
If a Willie Colon gets in someone's face and yells a profanity, that's taunting. But, when a receiver (pick one, any one) makes a 12-yard reception, falls to the ground and then rises up and spikes the ball with TD-spiking force and yells, "That's what I'M talkin' 'bout, m*therf*ckers!!!" that's acceptable behavior.
Oh ... and sack dances apparently do not fall under the umbrella of taunting.
Again ... it's arbitrary and capricious.
And, who suffers most?
The children ...

Such nonsense seems as though it might've been as water under the bridge when B-Roth, on 3rd-and-10, scrambled for 11 yds. to the 9, but on the very next play, Fast Willie crushed us -- simply blew our minds -- when he was two steps from crossing the goal line when the wet football was barely tapped from his grasp at the 2, causing him to fumble at the 1 and then bellyflopping and missing his own recovery in the end zone (whereupon ex-Super Bowl MVP Dexter Jackson fell on the loose, wet football for a touchback).

That possession was both depressing and annoying not so much for the manner in which a potential 14-3 or 10-3 lead completely vaporized into a 10-7 deficit on the TD bomb to Rap Sheet Henry one minute later. No ... what rankled some of us Jerame Tuman fans was that his 13--yard reception went for naught.

Know this: In his eight seasons, Jerame Tuman has caught only 42 passes, albeit 22 have gone for first downs. Although many of us are opposed to the funky spelling of his first name, we approve of: A) His excellent middle name ("Dean") B) His rugged good looks and C) The fact that he was a "movement science" major at Michigan.
Oh ... and when he was a junior on the Wolverines' '97 nat'l championship team, his naked body showered next to the naked bodies of Brian Griese and Tom Brady.

What many of us would like to forget about Jerame Tuman (aside from the funky spelling of his first name) is the memory we have of the '05 AFC Title Game when B-Roth made that horrifically-late pass to Tuman, whereupon Tuman bellyflopped onto the Heinz Field turf as Rodney Harrison made the INT and 87-yard runback for a severly-damaging TD.
It was then that we knew that the 16-1 Steelers' Super Bowl hopes were in danger.
Lt. Kaffee: "Grave danger?"
Col. Jessep: "Is there another kind?"

B-Roth, though, he didn't allow Fast Fumblin' Willie's bobble to bother him. On the ensuing possession, he sacked up and connected for 17 yards to Santonio Holmes, 15 yards to Dutch Country Dan and 17 yards to Smilin' Hines for a big 3rd-down conversion.

Willie got the go-ahead TD (his 16th of the season, which broke Looie's record), but then those Bastard Bengals came back to re-take the lead, aided by a roughing-the-passer flag against James Farrior (another "iffy" call, although the attempt to rationalize it was that Farrior "picked up" the QB ... whatever ... )

So, with 2:47 to play and the ball on their own 17 -- trailing, 17-14 -- B-Roth did it again, the first play being a crucial 21-yard completion to Nate The Not-So-Great (From Tiffin!) to the Steeler 38 and, following an incompletion, a 34-yard hookup with Not-So-Super Santonio to the Who Dey 28-yard line at the Two-Minute Warning.

When B-Roth completed that pass for 11 yds. to Dutch Country Dan on the first play after the 2MinWarn, it seemed as though there was a good chance to punch one in for a TD and a 21-17 lead, but, alas, the drive stalled and Jeff Reed was summoned to perform his duty out of Greg Warren's snap and Chris Gardocki's hold.

A chance at a season-ending spoiler win appeared to be in danger ("grave danger?" ---- "is there another kind?") when RapSheet hauled in that pass past a beaten Bryant McFadden, but then Marvin Lewis decided to do give his Jungle fans his traditional Marvin Cluelesss look, ordering American Idol Carson Palmer to foolishly fall down to "center" the ball for Shayne Graham.

When Shayne's kick took that mini-right turn to travel to the right of the right upright (right?), the prudent move woulda been to keep the ball on the left hashmark so that Shayne's slice (or "fade," as you golfers call it) coulda been compensated for.

Mrs. PF7 was chucklin' mighty hard with her hubby (just as we danced a mini-jig together when Vander-jagt-ass was wayyyyyyy right from 46 yards last Jan.) -- but the Mrs.' amusement turned to scorn when she saw that loser in the Bengal-tiger mascot suit standing just outside the midfield congregation for the overtime coin flip.

That was the final visual contact that we had with the game from "The Jungle." The local CBS affiliates cut to the beginning of the Billickmore vs. Buffalo game, so ... we had to wait for the highlights later in the evening. At first, when most of us civilians hear the words "67-yard TD pass," our brains are programmed to think of the artistic beauty of a football traveling 40 yards on a tight spiral and the receiver never breaking stride, etc ...

Instead, what we learned was that it was the third play of OT -- after Fast Willie had gained 5 yds. and B-Roth had scrambled for 6 yds. up the middle -- when Speedy Santonio gobbled up that quick-hitch pass, faked out a few guys and then it was off to the races.

It seemed so non-traditional. And, if it was Cowher's last game, what statement does that TD make?

(Question: In Chuck Noll's final game -- the 17-10 win over Cleveland in Dec. '91 -- wasn't it no-name CB Richard Shelton who picked off a pass and ran it back to inside the 5 and, with no one around him, stopped at the 1-yard line, faced the 50-yard line and then performed a backwards fall -- "The Nestea Plunge" -- into the end zone? That keeps sticking in our minds around here, but Steve Sabol at NFL Films has refused to take our calls ... )

Speedy Santonio shoulda taken The Nestea Plunge, alas ... he was trying to outrun those amazing athletes on the Cinshitnati Who Dey's defense. We could talk about how Cinshitnati (and "all that talent") imploded AGAIN at the end of the season with ANOTHER three-game losing streak and a Steeler victory in The Jungle which ended their season again, but ... Carson Palmer's New Year's Eve plans of gettin' jiggy with a Carson Daly NBC New Year's Eve celebration are of no interest here.

With Cinshitnati's loss, the K.C. CHEFS get the final AFC Wild Card bid -- a team which Steel Town waxed, 45-7, in a game punctuated by Rian Wallace's dandy INT TD of a misguided aerial by Brodie Croyle.

What a messy season. While it was gratifying to beat Cinshitnati as redemption for the first meeting (when B-Roth threw those two ridiculous goal-line interceptions and Ricardo Colclough and Verron Haynes carelessly coughed up the ball deep in their own end), the Curtain played some baffling football.

The 2-6 start was riddled with mistakes and turnovers ... leads of 10-0 in San Diego and 17-7 in Atlanta which did not lead to victories ... the 9-0 loss at Jacksonville (the first of Fast Willie's seven awful road performances until today's 37-carry, 134-yard Bengalbasher) ... the inexplicable embarrassment in Oakland ... the three fumbles (two inside the Broncos' 5, one inside their own 10) and three interceptions against Denver ...

Even the 6-2 record in the second half of the season was marred by two wimpy efforts against an opponent which was clearly inside their head -- 27-0 and 31-7 to VERY beatable Billickmore Ravens.

Nobody's sayin' that the Steelers played scared in those games, but, jeez Louise ... Cleveland gave Billickmore two tougher efforts than that. And Tennessee had a 23-7, second-quarter lead until the Titans forgot that they aren't smart enough or strong enough to win a ballgame they're not 'sposed to.

What we were witness to was just about the most-erratic 8-8 team in history -- or at least, one of the most topsy-turvy seasons by a defending Super Bowl champion. Some of the sh*t that wnet down was almost impossible to explain.

Roethlisberger was the poster child for this dysfunction -- but for the success as well. He made all the throws today against Cincy ... he looked superb in the 38-31 win over New Orleans ... and he simply ripped up the Brownies during that fourth-quarter comeback (224 of his 272 yards passing during the final 15 minutes).

B-Roth was an enigma. While everyone was saying that "there's something wrong with Big Ben," he'd come out and make money throws.

Then, he'd toss an INT, just to make sure we were all paying attention. He wrapped up his third season with a career-high 18 TD passes (after seasons of 17 and 17), but the 23 INTs is what draws the attention of a lot of people. In his regular-season career, B-Roth has 52 TDs and 43 INTs -- and in his postseason career, he has 10 TDs and 8 INTs.

That might not seem like much of a ratio (62-51), but would the two QBs who were taken ahead of Big Ben with the 13th overall pick (Eli Manning and Philip Rivers) have fared any better in the Ken Whisenhunt system? At least when B-Roth messes up, he can blame it on the motorcycle crash or the appendectomy.

Elisha and Phil? They are afflicted by their own mediocrity.

For now, Terrible Towel Town has nuthin' to do 'cept wait for Cowher to announce his intention for the '07 season. And, if he leaves, will Whisenhunt go elsewhere? And, if he does, what coaches will go with him? And, if he stays, will the lineup of assistants remain the same?

Sure ... 8-8 kinda sucks -- but, three more 8-8's are easier to stomach, given the 16-2 season of '04 and the Super Bowl magic of '05.

The Cinshitnati Who Dey's and their Arena League jerseys don't scare anyone with Ocho Stinko and Houshmanzilli ...

No comments: