Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Angels Acquire Lefty for the Pen

Like he could do any worse.

The Angels did acquire a lefty for the bullpen, Jason Christiansen, who likely will not factor much as the club limps down the September stretch. At least the Angels have given a nod to their history by giving fans optimism in August, only to fall out of first place by September.

And it does not look to get any easier.

The blame has to go on General Manager Bill Stoneman. The Angels are loaded with minor league talent, but will not use any of it to acquire players that the club desperately needs. The Angels management has been arrogant to a fault in refusing to bring in a left-handed reliever until yesterday. The everyday lineup is absolutely pathetic. The Angels start a second baseman in center field, a bench jockey at third base, and platoon a bench player and untested rookie at designated hitter. That is fine if you are building for the future, but it will not win a division title. And even if the club does slither into the playoffs, it will suffer the same fate as it did last season.

It is funny. Baseball pundits always mention that the Angels could use a right-handed power hitter and third baseman; maybe even a right-handed power hitting third baseman. But where you could find one of those?

Oh yeah, the Angels let Troy Glaus move to Arizona in the offseason, easily the biggest error of the past couple of years (barely above K-Rod's inability to catch a ball thrown by the catcher). The Angels reasoned that they did not want to spend the money on an injury-prone third baseman. Dallas McPherson, Troy's replacement, had arthroscopic surgery to remove a bone spur and clean out the joint in his left hip. McPherson is expected to be on crutches for up to 10 weeks before beginning rehab.

Talk about your all-time backfires. The injury-prone Glaus has played in 123 games this season and has belted 30 home runs, including one last night. Think Vladimir Guerrero would like the protection in the lineup?

Oh well, at least Matt Leinart backs at least one winning team.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Martz's Inconsistency is Consistent

St. Louis returned to normal on Monday night. No, it was not the return of "The Greatest Show on Turf." Those days are long gone. Instead it was the return of the inconsistent St. Louis team that look like the reincarnate of the AAFC Cleveland Browns one week, and an incompetent Mike Martz-coached team the next. St. Louis tantalized its fans on Monday as it pasted the Lions, 37-13, as Martz showed those fans in Missouri what his team was capable of.

The victory came one week after the Chargers drubbed St. Louis in an exhibition game.

"Coach talked about making a statement on Monday night," running back Steven Jackson said.

That statement screamed that Martz is still just as in over his head today as he was when he and John Shaw pushed Dick Vermeil into retirement five years ago. Martz was so perturbed and panicked at St. Louis' drubbing in San Diego that he turned off the air conditioning in the team's indoor practice facility, ordered extra wind sprints before and after practice, along with tackling drills for the first-team defense.

It obviously provided a one-game stopgap for St. Louis's problems. Of course, most coaches would rather save such drastic measures for--you know--the regular season of the playoffs. But leave it to Martz to show what is really important.

"Coach kind of challenged us this week to come out against Detroit, and play well, and we did that on both sides of the ball," said Torry Holt.

It still does not address the bigger issue that Martz commonly uses these tactics that work for one week, but then fall upon deaf ears the next. Martz has badgered and bullied his teams in the past, yet it cannot seem to ever find any consistency. This victory on Monday only illustrates that point. Fans in Missouri should ask Martz to "Show me the consistency." Sadly he will not. Instead, St. Louis will only be reliable in fueling its fans hopes up, only to dash them into the FieldTurf in the wake of another mediocre season.

But Martz is the genius.

ROSTER UPDATE

St. Louis has released kicker Remy Hamilton, reliving itself of the only redeeming part of the franchise.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Boom! I'm Not a Hall of Fame Coach!

Most sports critics and football fans see the nomination of John Madden for the Pro Football Hall of Fame as an automatic selection, stemming from his broadcasting career and popular video game. Madden is worthy of enshrinement if there is a wing of the Hall dedicated to broadcasting or selling out his image. Even Krusty the Klown would be embarrassed by all of the products that the former Raiders coach has pitched over the years, from hardware to jock itch. But does Madden deserve to reach the Pro Football Hall of Fame based on his coaching credentials? The answer may surprise you.

Madden inherited a strong club that had won 25 games during the last two seasons of the John Rauch era in 1969. Madden averaged 11 wins during his 10 seasons as coach of the Raiders, astounding in an era when the NFL played a 14-game schedule. The Raiders were always in the thick of the playoffs, but always fell short. Critics chastise coaches such as Marty Schottenheimer for performing well in the regular season, but failing in the playoffs. Madden made a career out of it. Maybe there will be a Schotty Cruiser in the future.

The Raiders reached seven AFC Championship Games during the Madden decade of limitation, losing six of those games to coaches such as Hank Stram, Chuck Noll, and Don Shula--coaches who deserve to be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Should Madden be enshrined next to the coaches that he could not beat in the playoffs? Probably not.

Madden also cannot hold a whistle to two other Hall of Fame coaches that roamed the sidelines for ten years, Vince Lombardi and Bill Walsh. Lombardi won five titles, Walsh won three as each rebuilt morbid franchises from the ground up and made them into winners. The Raiders won the AFL title and reached the championship game in the two years before Madden became coach. The Packers were 1-10-1 in 1958 (a year before Lombardi) and the 49ers 2-14 in 1978 (a year before Walsh) and neither coach had the advantage of free agency to rebuild their respective programs. Lombardi and Walsh were architects and innovators. Madden was an automatic pilot.

Raiders fans (the half dozen of them that can think) will likely point to recent Hall of Fame inductee George Allen and his inability to win a Super Bowl, a point that cannot be disputed. However, Allen rejuvenated two separate franchises and coached longer. Yet, Allen probably did not deserve his enshrinement, either. You cannot put Madden into the Pro Football Hall of Fame because the voters made a mistake with Allen.

Madden was really an old-school version of George Seifert. Madden was a successful assistant coach that did a credible job of maintaining a franchise as a head coach. Madden never really elevated his team, save one Super Bowl year, and ended up getting out of coaching when the team built by Rauch and Al Davis started to crumble. Hopefully the voting committee will not be swayed by Madden's whoring out of his image as a commentator, celebrity figure, and product endorser to see that his teams underachieved under his leadership.

The final verdict, Madden does not belong in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Tim Brown Roasted

OAKLAND Tim Brown spent his entire career trying to burn opposing cornerbacks (often to mixed results). The tables were turned on Thursday as Brown was burnt repeatedly by former players and celebrities gathered to roast the retired Raiders receiver on the eve of his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Average at the Airpot Hilton in Oakland. Brown accepted his induction earlier this summer into the Pro Football Hall of Average after a mundane career.

"I do not want to say that Tim Brown is old, but he started his playing career back when Bea Arthur was just a little boy," mused comic Jeffery Ross. "Brown was losing games before Arthur went through puberty."

It only got worse and nobody was off limits.

"Brown had the lateral movement of Terry Shiavo," offered comic Nick DiPaolo. "But he had the same personality."

"I know that Andy Dick must be straight. I just saw him hit on Tom Brady's girlfriend," said Sara Silverman. "Andy Dick also buys his clothes at the same place Terrell Owens shops."

"They say Brown would not be anything if he was not on the Raiders. That is not true, he would have been Leslie Sheppard," quipped coach Norv Turner.

Former Raiders receiver and Hall of Average charter member, Cliff Branch, hosted the event along with the master of ceremonies Bob Saget. Other C-list entertainers that shared in the festivities included Stephen Baldwin, Danny Bonaduce, Adam Carolla, Charo, Gilbert Gottfried, Kathy Griffin, and Peter Scolari among others.

The performers were upstaged by the bizarre antics of Raiders receiver Randy Moss who looked offended at some of the presenters and resorted to repeatedly flashing his manhood to the crowd. The enigmatic receiver raved about being clean and sober for years but did mention that "Drugs were on the house," which immediately captured the interest of Dolphins running back Ricky Williams.

Williams, also a roaster, started to make note of Brown's inability to win a Super Bowl title but wandered off track. "Brown was never a champion on the field and this is true. But sometimes the most important thing in life is being a champion on the inside. I cannot tell if Brown was a champion on the inside without an X-ray. But you would have to figure that a guy from Notre Dame probably likes ice cream which makes him a good guy in my book."

Brown will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Average prior to the Raiders and Cardinals game at the (Whatever they are calling it now) Coliseum tonight at 6 p.m. Tickets are still available.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

There's a Bathroom on the Right

Randy Moss made a startling revelation when he admitted that he smokes pot, "Once in a blue moon." There must have been a blue moon rising as Dolphins running back Ricky Williams gave a rambling, incoherent interview that touched on a number of topics on Wednesday afternoon.

Some of the highlights:

* Williams said that he does not miss marijuana. "I can't do that anymore. I get tested twice a week."

Of course, Williams was holding a pipe when said this. Moss should feel secure if this interview did not violate Williams' after-care testing. The NFL's drug testing policy looks as feeble as MLB's steroid testing policy.

* Williams said President George W. Bush was a cool person after working out with the then-governor at the University of Texas in 1998. "I had a chance to talk to him a couple of times. I was lifting, he was just riding a bike. I think he's a nice person."

Yeah, but would he go to war for him?

* Williams said he does not think about the war in Iraq and will not join the military. That put Williams in good company with the Bush twins and other children of affluent Republicans that support the war, but do not think about it. "There's a war outside, but I think there's also a war inside of all of us."

Does that sound like an Alannis Morissette song to anybody else?

* Williams said that he is not having fun since returning to football, but does not mind. "You look across from fun and you see work."

See, saying that your job sucks makes you more likeable than admitting that you search for porn.

* Teammates tease him about his scruffy beard, saying he looks homeless, but he sees no reason to shave. "Some people have a job, some people's wives don't like it, some people are uncomfortable with it."

At some point you figure that the principle from Billy Madison would take the microphone and say:

"Mr. Williams, what you've just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul."

BAD NEWS FOR FANS OF HOT PLAYER WIVES

It seemed like the Little League World Series had finally reached the big-time with fans like this (woman on the far left). Did one of these 12-year olds actually bag a wife that hot? Nope, it turns out that it is the mother of Maitland's Dante Bichette, Jr.. The son of the former major league slugger became a hero when every one of his baseball feats were matched with a nearly thirty seconds screen time for his mother, Marianna Bichette. However, Rancho Buena Vista (CA) knocked of Maitland, 6-2, on Wednesday to end this version of ESPN's Desperate Housewives.

MADDEN HEAD TO HALL?

John Madden, a legendary coach and one of the NFL's best-known television personalities, was named a finalist on Wednesday for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Madden had a record of 112-39-7 with the Raiders between 1969 and 1978. His winning percentage of .739 is second among coaches with 100 or more wins behind Vince Lombardi at .750. Madden's team won the Super Bowl following the 1976 season.

But he has gained even more fame as an analyst on NFL telecasts and more recently for the football video game that bears his name. Madden should have some stoner, video game player give his induction speech instead one of his former players of colleagues.

Hey, maybe Ricky Williams could do it. At least something about Hall of Fame weekend would be interesting.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

What's Up for 2005?

The kickoff of each new NFL season brings its own set of riddles and mysteries as endless as the NFL preseason. You have got some questions? I have got answers. Here are a dozen things to ponder while you are waiting for Terrell Owens to do something foolish again.

1. Is three the magic number of the Patriots?

The football world might be asking too much of the Patriots, the first dynasty in the post salary cap era. It is hard enough to battle the revolving door at the bottom of the roster. The Patriots, this offseason, have dealt with the retirement of heart of the defense Tedy Bruschi and the loss of top coordinators Romeo Crennel and Charlie Weis. It now seems chic to pick against the Patriots this year. But the experts have bet against the team before. That seems to be the way coach Bill Belichick likes it.

2. Will Peyton Manning shake the big game jinx?

The Patriots have become Manning's NFL version of the Florida Gators and it has fans in Indianapolis concerned. John Elway had Terrell Davis to push him over the top. Steve Young had Deion Sanders. Who will be the guy who can push Manning over the top, or is he destined to join other great quarterbacks who just missed such as Danny White, Jim Kelly, and Dan Marino? The key will be Edgerrin James who is poised for a big season while looking for a potential multi-year contract in 2006. This could be the last go-round for the Colts big three of Manning, James, and Marvin Harrison.

3. Is the NFL really playing a regular season game out of the country?

Yes. Most fans wondered why the NFL would schedule a regular season game in Mexico on October 2. Then they found out it was Arizona and San Francisco, so it made sense.

4. Are the Cowboys reinventing the Over the Hill Gang?

The Cowboys roster reads like a Pro Bowl program--from the 1990s. Larry Allen, Drew Bledsoe, Terry Glenn, La' Roi Glover, and Keyshawn Johnson went to camp with the team. It might be a lark if you are playing Madden football, but it probably will not take the team very far in the competitive NFC East. But with two young quarterbacks in New York and Washington, Bledsoe does not seem like a bad option. This is third (and if history is any indicator--final) year for Bill Parcells in Dallas so look for him to squeeze as much out of the veterans as possible.

5. Seriously, who is the quarterback in Washington?

Redskins coach Joe Gibbs won three Super Bowls with three different quarterbacks. But this is taking it a little bit too far. Washington has not had this much rudderless leadership since Election Day, 2000. Maybe the Redskins are hopping that the drafting of Jason Campbell will spur a Drew Brees-like rebirth of quarterback Patrick Ramsey.

6. Can Randy Moss take the Raiders to the next level?

Moss already has taken the Raiders to another level--in jersey sales. Moss' number 18 Raiders jersey topped the charts before he even played he failed his first drug test with his new club. The enigmatic receiver will stretch defenses and make it harder for Kerry Collins to overthrow him. Moss also gives coach Norv Turner his best chance to prove that he is not another in a long line of great offensive coordinators that make disappointing head coaches. The only thing Moss cannot do for the Raiders is play defensive back which will be the club's Achilles heel.

7. Is this the make-or-break it year for Joey Harrington in Detroit?

Lions coach Steve Marriucci is not too high on Harrington, having brought in Jeff Garcia from Cleveland and drafted Connecticut quarterback Dan Orlovsky. In other words, Harrington had better win early. But maybe Lions fans should be rooting for Harrington to fail. St. Louis (Kurt Warner), Baltimore (Trent Dilfer), New England (Tom Brady), and Carolina (Jake Delhomme) all reached the Super Bowl in recent years with quarterbacks who started the season as backups.

8. Who is going to win the running back job in Denver?

Does it matter? Reuben Droughns was the latest running back to go from obscurity to light in the Broncos offense. Why not select a fan before each home game to be the team's running back? It has to be a better option than Ron Dayne. It is just a shame the Broncos and coach Mike Shanahan has not had the same success finding a successor to Elway as they did for Davis.

9. Isn't it about time Mike Vick lived up to his potential?

Vick is one of the most marketable quarterbacks in the league, but one of the least effective. Sure, the Falcons reached the NFC Championship Game in 2004, but that was reaching the finals of the Real World/Road Rules Challenge. Vick ranked 24th in the NFL with 14 touchdown passes as even Billy Volek tossed more. The Falcons ranked 30th in passing offense and 16th in scoring offense. It is hard to believe that some still think the Chargers made a mistake by taking LaDainian Tomlinson instead of Vick.

10. Does anybody want to win the NFC West?

The Cardinals could have won the division in 2004, but two loses to San Francisco (the club's only victories) prevented that. Mike Martz could not win when his core players were in their prime instead of past it. Mike Nolan is more concerned wearing a tie on the sideline, while Mike Holmgren has pretty much proven to the world that Matt Hasselbeck is not Brett Favre. Look for 8-8 to take this division--if anybody is that good.

11. Which Ben Roethlisberger will show up for the Steelers this season?

Will it be the smooth rookie that led the Steelers to the best record in football? Or will it be the wide-eyed rookie that was exposed in consecutive playoff games? Blaming his poor playoff performance on a bummed toe does not give a good indication. Neither does riding a motorcycle without a helmet. Tommy Maddox once made a living selling insurance and will be a valuable insurance policy for the Steelers this season if Roethlisberger regresses.

12. Which team will surprise the experts?

Do not even pretend that you thought the San Diego Chargers would win the AFC West last season. One NFL pundit (yours truly) named his fantasy team, Chargers 0-16, in the hopes that the Chargers would make history. They did. Parity is alive and running rampant in pro football, sort of like a washed up celebrities running through reality televison. So the question is not whether a new team will emerge, the question is its identity. But do not bother consulting with any of the experts. They do not know, either.

Monday, August 22, 2005

A Whole New Curse

Spent Sunday afternoon at Angel Stadium after a faulty alarm clock dashed any dream of making it down to San Diego for the exhibition opener. (Nice run by LaDainian Tomlinson, eh? If this guy is not the first pick of your fantasy draft, drop a line so others can cash in on your league's inability to recognize talent.)

The dog-day afternoon sun allowed us to openly ponder, while the Red Sox were warming up in the field, how Boston was able to win a world title with a left fielder (Manny Ramirez) who cannot field and a center fielder (Johnny Damon) who cannot throw. Damon wheeled around and calmly tossed the ball into the "Salsa Bowl"(right field stands) at the same moment that this thought was verbalized to a Sox fan sitting to our right.

The ball was headed right into my direction (which was a miracle that Damon could throw it that far) and just in our grasp before a sound--associated more with a college baseball game--was heard.

*Ping*

If you have been reading along, it should be clear to everyone that the "ping" was the sound of the baseball colliding with our metal splint and bouncing into the hands of another fan. (And that also pushed back our Madden return date.)

And to think that we missed our recreation softball league game this week because we did not want to get hit with a ball.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

So Much for the Honeymoon

We hate to say that we told you so, but we did. We just figured it would take longer than a week.

Raiders receiver Randy Moss is now going to be under the watchful eye of the NFL after making a few incriminating comments on HBO. Moss could not wait to brag about his street credibility and how he keeps it real by admitting that he still smokes marijuana.

But, of course, only in the offseason.

"I have used, you know, marijuana ... since I've been in the league," Moss said in an interview for HBO's Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel scheduled to air Tuesday night. "But as far as abusing it and, you know, letting it take control over me, I don't do that, no."

Vikings running back Onterrio Smith looked like an idiot when he was caught with a "whizzinator" at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport. At least he was trying to hide his drug use. Moss went on television and admitted to the world that he still likes to spark up during the offseason.

What in the name of Todd Marinovich could have been going on in his mind? (Other than, "Where the hell is the pizza delivery boy?")

When pressed whether he still smokes marijuana, the star receiver with the checkered past said: "I might. I might have fun. And, you know, hopefully ... I won't get into any trouble by the NFL by saying that, you know. I have had fun throughout my years and, you know, predominantly in the offseason."

Yeah, the NFL typically has a pretty good sense of humor about that whole drug-use thing. They will likely look the other way. And we will be selected as the Raiders new managing partner. Moss will avoid the NFL's drug testing policy because stupidity is not considered an offense. But the wheels of a Moss melt down have been set in motion.

"But, you know, I don't want any kids, you know, watching this taking a lesson from me as far as 'Well, Randy Moss used it so I'm going to use it.' I don't want that to get across. Like I say ... I have used (marijuana) in the past. And every blue moon or every once in a while I might."

This comes off about as sincere as Lawrence Taylor’s cameo in The Water Boy when he tells a group of kids to not smoke crack.

Moss's agent, Dante DiTrapano, proved that he was no Drew Rosenhaus said HBO was trying to intentionally damage the player's reputation. He said Moss was talking about past use in the interview.

"In an attempt to promote their dying network, they have maliciously couched his remarks in a manner that is confusing and leaves room for negative interpretation," DiTrapano told The Associated Press. "Randy is not in the NFL substance abuse program (yet) and has complied with all urinalysis required by the league, the team, insurance companies, endorsers, etc."

Did he really blame it on the editing? That is typically the recourse of those media-whores that appear on the Real World. Have Moss do some sit-ups in the driveway or something. Odds are that "faulty editing" is not going to fly with league officials.

Congratulations Oakland. You thought you were getting a reformed receiver who was going to help your club back to the promised land. Instead, it is just the same Randy Moss, making the same mistakes again. It will not take long for him to take off plays, criticize quarterback Kerry Collins, and run over a meter maid.

Well played, Oakland.

News Flash: Tom Brady Likes Porn

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady recently admitted in a GQ interview that he is a regular guy, just like us, who likes to search for porn on the Internet.

Brady is just a regular guy, just like us. Except of course for the movie-star girlfriend, multi-million dollar contract, and women throwing themselves at him on a daily basis. Yeah, he is just like us.

Does anybody get the sinking feeling that Brady is trying a little too hard to convince us that he is a regular guy? Even Tom Cruise could see through this recent publicity stunt.

Searching for porn on the Internet is not the only revelation that Brady gave to us recently. A new Last and Ten is up in the left hand margin.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Paging Rod Serling

Does anybody remember the old Twilight Zone episode (Time Enough at Last) that starred Burgess Meredith, where he played the bookworm who could never get enough time to read? Most Madden gamers could relate to that. There is always something--like work--that gets in the way.

The story begins:

"Witness Mr. Henry Bemis, a charter member in a the fraternity of dreamers. A bookish little man whose passion is the printed page but who is conspired against by a bank president and a wife and a world full of tongue-cluckers and the unrelenting hands of a clock. But in just a moment Mr. Bemis will enter a world without bank presidents or wives or clocks or anything else. He will have the world all to himself – without anyone."

Bemis (Meredith) loves to read. He sneaks into the vault at lunchtime to read and is knocked unconscious by a shockwave. When he wakes up, he discovers a nuclear war has destroyed the Earth. He decides to commit suicide until he sees a library. This is paradise to him, and he begins to organize books to read for years to come. Just as he settles down to read, his glasses slip from his face and smash, forever trapping him in a blurry world.

We feel your pain Mr. Bemis.

A broken left index finger has thwarted a perfectly planned evening of playing Madden football in a turn of Rex Grossman-like bad luck. The break occurred mere hours after penning, Confessions of a Madden Addict (see below). Instead of gearing up for another season of Las Vegas Rat Pack football, a broken finger will keep us out of action for weeks.

You can almost here the Twilight Zone music and epilogue now:

"The best-laid plans of mice and men – and NFL Adam, the man who wanted nothing but time to play a video game. NFL Adam, now just a part of a broken landscape, just an erased memory chip, just a crashed X-Box hard drive of what he has deeded to himself... NFL Adam in the Twilight Zone."

Monday, August 15, 2005

Confessions of a Madden Addict

Each year, millions of Americans face the same dilemma: Keep the players and teams they have worked so hard to develop, or switch to the latest version of EA Sports' Madden Football. Should you sacrifice all the hours you spent training and preparing to make Nick Pappagorgio the biggest NFL (video game) legend since Super Tecmo Bowl Bo Jackson in exchange for some new features?

Should a grown man in his 30s really be obsessing over fictional video games?

It is hard to resist. EA Sports always seems to add something to Madden that is just too enticing to let go, even if your franchise, in its 20th season, is on a 12-year winning streak. The circle of life for an NFL video game is one year--just long enough to allow you to run through the retirement of every current NFL player and well past the ones that you created or imported in the meantime.

Every gamer has their own ritual with discarding the game. Some callously toss aside a game and the relationships that were formed over many sleepless nights to make the change. (Video game football can be a cold business, much like the real thing.) Those with an ounce of compassion will take a little extra time to say good bye to the team, to look over the draft cheat sheets one more time and think about what must have been going through their minds when they gave Kyle Turley that seven-year contract extension. Odds are it was a couple of Miguel's Jr. burritos and a few too many Coors Lights. Those mistakes will not be repeated in the new game. It is time for fiscal responsibility this time around. (Have you ever wondered how many NFL owners would like to take advantage of that function?)

The excitement that builds in the days prior to the Madden release can only be described in the same vein as concert tickets of your favorite band going on sale. (Unless your favorite band is Tom Petty.) Luckily, there is not an endless line of people camping outside the local Best Buy store--probably because most of the gamers used their "camp outside" privilege waiting for Star Wars, Episode III.

The drive home from the retailer, with game safely belted into the passenger seat, is a lot like you would imagine Donovan McNabb ducking and weaving throw traffic like it was the Giants secondary. Fortunately there is not a Madden cover jinx on your car.

The first thing that is to be done with a new Madden game is to immediately set up the franchise mode. A lot of players--this one included--like the player development aspect more than anything. Players get to scout, draft, and develop players through mini-camp and preseason games. The only thing missing is having your star receiver walk out of training camp to go home and shoot baskets. Many gamers prefer to fast forward the regular season and go straight into the scout and NFL Draft portion of the game.

Kind of like the Bengals.

Nothing beats the excitement of setting up the franchise mode of that first season of the new game. Your favorite team's destiny is now controlled in your hands. But what do you do if your favorite team (the Los Angeles Rams) does not exist anymore?

You do the next best thing and take over the St. Louis football team and put them on the move. It is the remaining dream for those of us who play Madden well into the night, wearing a two-sizes too small Jim Everett jersey. There should be a function on the franchise portion of the game where you wed Georgia Frontiere, have her accidentally drown in three feet of water, inherit the team, push out all of her relatives, get married again within a year and put the team on the move.

Relocating the club back to Anaheim was fun the first couple of times in the earlier versions of the franchise mode. Why not live it up? Retire the "Rams" name to the good fans in Los Angeles (both of them) and look for a new, untapped location that will give your franchise a fresh start. There really is only one sensible thing to do--move the club to Las Vegas, build a stadium downtown, and rename the team the Rat Pack. Three things that could never do in real life because a.) The league would never approve the deal, b.) Las Vegas would likely want the thing in the Caesar's Palace Parking Lot, and 3.) The Rat Pack heirs would never approve the name for a sports team (it is rumored that many minor league and Arena Football League teams have tried).

That is the beauty of playing a video game; you leave the real world out of it. Who cares if the team is in Las Vegas and the team's star player has the same last name as you? This is your dream and your team now. After designing a stadium (The Sands Stadium), new uniforms (with an orange color scheme--Frank Sinatra's favorite color), and firing Mike Martz, it is time to tank the final lame-duck season of the St. Louis football team and wait for the PSLs to start rolling in.

See, there is some realism in this game as it is a lot like the final days of the Los Angeles Rams.

Through trades (bye Marshall) and a bad final season it is possible to land two picks in the Top Ten, enough to tab USC's Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush to run new head coach Bill Belichick's complex offense in the desert. The cycle of life for the video version of the Las Vegas Rat Pack has begun--and will last again until next summer when you face the same dilemma again.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Raiders See Future in Owens

Is anybody in the Eagles organization surprised by the actions of Terrell Owens? They had to know exactly what they were getting when they traded for Owens a year ago, unless they had their heads buried in the sand during the enigmatic receiver's tenure in San Francisco. The world saw Owens feud with quarterback Jeff Garcia and coach Steve Mariucci among his many distractions. There should be no surprise that Owens relationship with his quarterback and coach in Philadelphia is going to end badly.

You do not hire a convicted bank robber to count the company payroll and then act surprised when he makes off with the loot.

The Owens saga should send shivers down the spines of Raiders fans (if they had a spine) as they have their own problematic receiver Randy Moss. The former Vikings receiver has said the right things and acted like a model teammate during his first Raiders training camp.

As did T.O.

The shelf life of Owens model behavior lasted about a year--but that was during a Super Bowl season. The Raiders are not going to have that luxury as they are not going to go to the Super Bowl this season. Owens walked out of training camp and was making like Rocky Balboa in his driveway coming off a Super Bowl performance. This should send a red flag to Raiders fans that tigers cannot change their stripes and malcontent receivers do not turn into model citizens overnight.

"As long as we win, I'm just having fun," Moss said at the opening of training camp last week.

Uh, oh. Hopefully Moss finds Kerry Collins interceptions and overthrows fun. How many losses will it take before an unhappy Moss decides to run over a meter maid? The signs of a Moss meltdown are already starting to form as the grouch has already thrown former teammate Daunte Culpepper under the bus. And Culpepper is good. Moss put the Raiders on notice that he will have an Owens-type blow up. He has even apologized in advance for it.

"There is no telling what you are going to see," Moss said.

Sorry Randy, we actually have a pretty good idea of what we are going to see; and it is not good.

LAST AND TEN

The Last and Ten list is now updated in the left-hand margin. There will be a Last and Ten archive page coming soon.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Owens Takes Ball and Goes Home

Eagles receiver Terrell Owens walked out of training camp on Wednesday after a spat with coach Andy Reid who reportedly asked the enigmatic receiver to leave the club's training facility at Lehigh University.

Owens, obviously still starved for attention, then returned to his home in Moorestown, where he was shooting free throws on his driveway basketball court around 4:15 p.m. so reporters could see him. Owens had been held out of practice to rest a sore groin.

WebMD.com does, of course, recommend basketball to rest a sore groin.

Owens, whose mouth is in regular-season form, quickly turned the incident around to predictably blame his coach as Donovan McNabb was not around to blame this time.

"I mean, if he (Reid) wants to be a man about it and really have me go on the air and tell people what happened, then I can," Owens said. "But it was a difference of opinion."

On radio station WIP, former NFL player Gary Cobb said he had talked to an unidentified Eagles player today who said the dispute started over Owens' morning workout.

According to Cobb, the player told him that Owens was supposed to be off today in order to rest his strained groin muscle and Reid was upset to see him running pass routes with a trainer at full speed. When Reid suggested that if Owens felt good enough to run routes all out, he should be good enough to attend practice, and the player told Cobb that the argument escalated from there.

It is clear to see that Reid is the one to blame here. How dare that ogre ask his star receiver to participate in practice? Especially when he is barely making enough money to feed his family (that does not live with him). Why is Owens constantly being persecuted?

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Steve Young, Picture of Perseverance?

Steve Young was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this weekend as many members of the media bent over backwards in praise of the former 49ers star. Most talked about his dedication and willingness to learn his trade behind Joe Montana. Young himself even praised the 49ers legend in his speech.


But was it the truth? Was Young really the good guy everybody has made him out to be? According to Charles Haley in his autobiography, All the Rage, Young is not the hard-working teammate that everybody has made him out to be this weekend.

Young comes off as a bad guy in the chapter, "Why Steve Young couldn't carry Joe Montana's jock:"

I understand what Steve was going through. He'd been the man wherever he was. He'd always been the star. And all of a sudden he was standing on the sidelines, charting plays. Maybe he had felt the frustration of being lied to... or misled... or whatever. But that's the way it goes. You just keeping working, doing your job. You have to earn playing time. You don't bad-mouth the guy in front of you—especially when that guy is one of the greatest quarterbacks ever to play the game. But that's what Steve did. He was always moping around the locker room, bad-mouthing Joe, stabbing him in the back. I never appreciated that at all, and neither did anybody else. The last couple of years I was there the press tried to make it seem like there was a quarterback controversy: half the guys supporting Joe and half supporting Steve. But it wasn't like that at all. Everybody backed Joe. He had taken us there so many times. Even when his body tried to stop him from playing, Joe would go out there. He was a warrior, man, and everybody respected him for that. He had a good heart, too. He'd help anybody... even the guy who was trying to take his job.

Steve couldn't see any of that. He was such a whiner. The coaches would pacify him by letting him take half the snaps during practice—which, believe me is un-[expletive]-heard of in the NFL; the starter usually gets 95 percent of the snaps—but even that wasn't enough for Steve.


What an ingrate.

It is fair to say that Young would not have been accepting his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame if he had spent the rest of his career with the Buccaneers--a franchise that did not post a winning season from 1981-1997. Judging from Young's numbers during his first two seasons (21 interceptions, 11 touchdowns), he might not have played until that first winning season under Tony Dungy. Young was destined to be the next Steve DeBerg or Steve Bartkowski before he was rescued in San Francisco. Young then tried to stab Montana in the back to show his appreciation.

How come we did not hear about that this weekend?

YOUNG, HALL OF FAME MATERIAL?

It is ironic that Joe Montana ended up putting Young in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Boomer Esiason might have been considered the best left-handed quarterback of all-time if Montana had not rescued the 49ers in Super Bowl XXIII.

But that is Young, always in the right place at the right time. Just look at his $40 million contract from the USFL.

Young had the good fortune of putting up good regular season numbers against NFL powerhouses like the Falcons, Saints, and the Los Angeles Rams during Georgia Frontiere's final "Major League" days of the franchise. Much like Peyton Manning today, his dominant regular season numbers did not translate to post season success.

Maybe that is why his teammates did not want him to start.

Young and the 49ers gagged in both the 1992 and 1993 NFC Championship Games. Young would eventually win Super Bowl XXIX thanks in part to a coach's firing (Jimmy Johnson was let go by Dallas), the Cowboys 21-point self destruction in the first five minutes of the 1994 NFC Championship Game, Barry Switzer, Deion Sanders, and playing the most overmatched AFC representative during the NFC's dominance (it hurts to say that).

Young, however, did get his ring. Had Young not won the big game, it would have been easy to label him as the 49ers version of Danny White and keep him out of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Once again, though, Young was in the right place at the right time.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Moss' Mouth off to Running Start

It did not take long for Randy Moss to pontificating about his life in the NFL and his, uh, unusual end zone celebrations. Moss even apologized in advance for any of his antics that might occur during the season. At least he is planning ahead.

"There's no telling what you're going to see," Moss said Monday in his first interview of training camp. "I love what I do. I love having fun. When it comes to big games, you never know what you’re going to see out of me."

In fact, Moss said that if the Raiders are in a big game this season, he might stay for the whole thing.

MORE MOSS

He also notes the vast difference in the two playbooks. "It's night and day. The playbook in Minnesota was like one-plus-one. Here it's more like Algebra II. It's very complicated and I'm trying to get the plays down to where I can line up and after you do all that, everything else is very simple."

How hard is it to take a play off?

And do not blame the Vikings for having such a simple playbook under Mike Tice. It is hard to write a playbook and run a ticket-scalping business at the same time.

"My best football days I think are still ahead of me. In Minnesota there were a lot of things I couldn't do because the offense wouldn't allow it. Being here in Coach Turner's offense is something I am very, very excited about."

Moss said that he looks to be the next Leslie Shepard and Michael Westbrook, guys who flourished under Turner in Washington. Turner looks to be another in the great line of offensive coordinators that could not cut it in the NFL such as Mike Martz, Kevin Gilbride, and Rich Kotite.

T.O. LEAVES PRACTICE WITH GROIN INJURY

Disgruntled wide receiver Terrell Owens missed the final part of the Eagles' morning practice Thursday with left groin inflammation. The Eagles said it is possible that he could participate in the afternoon workout.

Do not laugh, Jesus missed time with a groin injury, too.

CAN YOU TRUST THE EXPERTS?

Remember this the next time one of your friends uses an NFL writer to justify one of his opinions.

"In the first on-field session of camp, Vick didn't even approach mediocre, let alone perfection." -- Len Pasquarelli, espn.com 7/25

"I think one of the great things about watching this team practice is the beauty of the ball that Mike Vick throws. Gorgeous pass after gorgeous pass." -- Peter King, si.com 7/27

Even Jason Giambi did not have that big of a turnaround.

It Wasn't Us!

A man has been calling media outlets, claiming to be the assistant to Yankees president Randy Levine, with information that Jason Giambi had tested positive for steroids, the New York Daily News reported Thursday.

In response, Yankees officials have asked the New York Police Department to find the caller, who claimed Major League Baseball would announce the failed test Friday. A team and a league source both told the Daily News that Giambi, who has been tested at least once this season, has not failed MLB's steroid tests.

Giambi, when told of the news, turned green and smashed up the Yankees clubhouse with his bare hands. A swat team was called in to calm down the Sultan of Steroids who stood juggling A-Rod, Derek Jeter, and Tony Womack.

Giambi hit 14 homers in July, becoming the first Yankee to hit that many in a month since Mickey Mantle in 1961. He was hitting a season-low .195 on May 9, but has raised his average to .284.

At least they tested him once. It is not like Giambi testified that he had used steroids in front of a grand jury or something.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Giambi Draws Suspicion from Media

The press finally has gotten around to ask Jason Giambi about his thoughts on steroids after Rafael Palmeiro was busted for using the performance-enhancing drug.

Way to go media.

It is not like an admitted steroid user suddenly went from hitting .220 in April to hitting .350 with 14 home runs in one month. It is not like an admitted steroid user suddenly went from looking like his college picture (left) earlier this season to resembling Bill Goldberg today.

But hey, they finally asked him a few questions.

The New York Times reported that Giambi was "steadfastly upbeat" and "chipper" when asked about the recent steroid news that broke on Monday. But wouldn't you be upbeat and chipper if you were taking steroids and it was the other guy who got caught?

"I really don't care [what people think], to be honest with you," Giambi said at Jacobs Field on Tuesday before the Yankees played the Cleveland Indians. "I'm just working hard. It's the result of playing hard and working hard.

And finding steroids they are not testing for, like Human Growth Hormone that is not tested for under Major League Baseball's new agreement. Poor steroids, they are like the forgotten family member that does not get mentioned when an actor wins on Oscar night. It seemed that Giambi was giving an Academy-worthy performance to the press on Tuesday.

But look how far acting got Palmeiro.

Giambi said that he was shocked when he heard the Palmeiro was tested positive for steroids. Giambi was probably thinking, "Dude, I'm faking out the tests and taking stuff they are not even testing for now. He should have hooked up with the Yankees pharmacists. Once again old George Steinbrenner gets over on Peter Angelos."

Or something like that.

Other players are starting to weigh in on Palmeiro's behalf. Two of Palmeiro's former teammates, Ruben Sierra and Mike Mussina, told the New York Times they believed Palmeiro did not know what he had been taking because it is pretty common to contract steroids from a typical major league clubhouse.


Sierra, who played with Palmeiro in Texas from 1989 to 1992, said that while he never expected Palmeiro to hit more than 500 home runs, as he has, he never suspected him of steroid use.

"I believe him, because he doesn't look like he uses steroids," Sierra said. "The way his body is, it doesn't look like he used steroids."

In other words, Sierra insinuated that Palmeiro is the laziest steroid user, ever. And who can argue? If Palmeiro actually worked out when he used steroids, imagine how many home runs he could have hit.

Pity the poor players that have to answer those questions. Sierra was likely thinking in his mind when he answered that, "Look at the guy, he is not juicing but look at freaking Giambi. There are guys in the NFL that would love to have his arms. The veins popping out of his forearms are bigger than my bat."

Or something like that.

ORIOLES SPEAK OUT

From the Washington Post: "The Orioles players who spoke to the media Tuesday expressed a range of emotions -- from sadness at the spectacle of a respected teammate stained forever, to frustration over losing the team's best hitter of late at a time when wins are few, to fear that a jar of protein powder in their own lockers might contain a banned substance without their knowledge.

"If it happens to your teammate," said right fielder Sammy Sosa, "it can happen to you . . . [But] I don't have that problem. Chicken, rice and beans -- that's my protein."

You think Sammy? People have likely noticed that you went from averaging 50 home runs to barely being able to get the ball out of the infield. What must go through a reporter's mind when Sammy says something like that?

And for the record, rice is a carbohydrate.

"Anybody can make a mistake in this game," said shortstop Miguel Tejada. "He made a mistake. He not kill nobody."

Palmeiro did not kill anything other than his reputation and maybe the sport of baseball.

FINAL THOUGHT

Who is having the best week ever? It might be Ryne Sandberg who was recently inducted into the Hall of Fame. Palmeiro was a teammate of Sandberg in Chicago in the late 1980s. That relationship went sour when Palmeiro was rumored to have slept with Sandberg's wife at the time. Sandberg then put pressure on the Cubs to trade him and Palmeiro was dealt to Texas, where he hooked up with owner George W. Bush's steroid factory known as the Rangers. Palmeiro then met Jose Canseco, and the rest is history.

Imagine if Palmeiro had allegedly kept it in his pants and not slept with his teammates wife? But then again, he not kill nobody.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Jose Canseco: All is Forgiven

The life of Jose Canseco took a turn on Monday morning with a positive drug test. The only thing is, it was not his.

Canseco was considered a bigger lowlife than your typical Real World cast member following the release of his tell-all book, Juiced. Canseco, despite the media firestorm, started a resurrection with a convincing appearance on 60 Minutes and boosted his appeal on the Surreal Life. (Who figured that Bronson Pinchot would come off creepier?)

The positive drug test of Rafael Palmeiro on Monday cemented his Canseco's rebirth. Canseco has been vindicated and is looking pretty good after months of being baseball pariah. Jose, sorry that we doubted you.

Canseco has made a comeback that guys like Kobe Bryant could only envy. And it did not cost him a $4 million ring, either. The only way that Canseco could top this revelation would be to sign a contract with the Angels to be the designated hitter, hit 20 home runs, and lead the team to the World Series.

That is not hard to imagine after the last couple of days.

THE PALMEIRO IMPACT

Let the Viagra jokes begin.

Palmeiro was the one guy that you figured was not taking steroids. It was the one part of Canseco's book that cast doubt on its accuracy. That doubt it gone. Canseco might be a whistle blower, but he is clearly not a liar.

Palmeiro is done. The court of public opinion has weight in and it is heavily against the Cuban slugger. Palmeiro was killed on the late night talk shows on Monday night. You thought figured that Palmeiro had heard it all when he signed on to pitch Viagra; that was nothing. Now even Viagra backed away from Palmeiro.

Forget the Hall of Fame, too. Palmeiro was an outside candidate before he was a proven steroid user. This should cast a doubt on his whole career and put his 3,000 hits and 500 home runs into perspective.

How could this get any worse for Palmeiro?

Oh yeah, there is this little thing called perjury when he testified in front of Congress. The Camp X-Ray softball team looks to be getting a ringer soon.

WHO IS NEXT?

The positive drug test of Palmeiro is surprising. If you had said that a first baseman from the American League East was going to test positive for steroids, the name that would have screamed at you would be Jason Giambi.

Take a look at how far Giambi has come recently.

The former Long Beach State Dirtbag was in baseball Siberia earlier this season. Giambi was hitting .224 with three home runs in the month of April. The Yankee fans and management had turned on him. The club tried to option Giambi down to AAA, but he refused. The Yankees even contemplated giving him his outright release and wanted to get rid of the guy so bad they were thinking of eating millions of dollars to get rid of him. Giambi's baseball career was finished.

Then all of a sudden he seemingly gained 20 pounds in a month and hit .350 with 14 home runs in the month of July. You would like to give Giambi the benefit of the doubt in this situation, but he is an admitted steroid user.

Imagine if O.J. Simpson's girlfriend turned up dead on her porch along with a busboy from a nearby restaurant. You would have to at least question O.J., right?

Giambi needs to be questioned for this remarkable return. Those naive enough can rationalize that he has just gotten more comfortable at the plate, but we remain unconvinced. Not only should Giambi have to take a drug test every day, the Sultan of Steroids should have to pee in a cup each time he steps up to the plate.

If Giambi loses 20 pounds and that batting average dips in the month of August, we can probably thank Palmeiro and his positive test. If not, we will appologize.

We already made up with Canseco.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Have We Been Too Harsh on Raiders Fans?

The headline jumped off the MSN home page, "Five Stabbed outside of Stadium." We had to consider for a moment that the Raider mentality does extend to other fan bases. Maybe we have been too harsh on Raiders fans. Maybe it does happen in other stadiums. Raiders fans--in a rare moment of sobriety--love to tell you that every fan base has idiots, not just the Raiders.

Then you read: "A man is accused of stabbing five people outside of Dodger Stadium.

But what does Dodger Stadium have to do with Raiders fans? For those new to the site, please read the latest chapter of Raiders Fans in the Mist III, The Raider Element Invading Dodger Stadium.

So typical. Thank you to the Raiders fans that continue to perpetuate the stereotype. The Hater Nation can continue to make jokes and relate stories because the Raiders fans continue to prove every anecdote correct. We cannot make this stuff up.

And before you say, "It was a T-shirt vendor, not a Raiders fan... " We have seen these T-shirt vendors at other venues around Southern California. Almost all of them have a faded Raiders T-shirt from the Hostetler-era that even the people who buy counterfeit T-shirts wouldn't be seen in.

The police have said that the suspect got away in a black car, but they were able to piece together a lineup from this group of people (right). A police spokesman said that while members of this group might not be guilty of the stabbing, they are obviously guilty of something. For instance, the Joyce DeWitt-looking woman in the bottom left corner was recently detained on suspicion of running a bootlegging scam that involved importing Pabst Blue Ribbon across state lines.

More on this story to come.