Wednesday, November 7, 2007

TMTMQR: Gregg Easterbrook Stoops To Several New Lows

Where to begin... where the ass to begin? After almost a month of filling his columns with relatively mild (by his standards) bullshit, let's just say the TMQ is back this week with a fucking vengeance. Oh my Jeebus. Record setting levels of pretentiousness? Check. Stupid nicknames? Check. Awkward/forced praise of cheerleaders who would probably incapacitate Easterbrook if he ever so much as made eye contact with him in real life? Check. But most importantly- Making numerous claims that demonstrate a total lack of knowledge about how football is played? Check. Let's begin.

Once, in Silicon Valley, I heard Joe Costello -- a founding light of "electronic design automation" and now CEO of the lowercase think3 -- give a talk about the difference between seeking success and avoiding failure. Studies of crashes during aircraft landings under difficult circumstances, he said, showed that pilots who made bad mistakes when approaching an airfield and crashed, but lived to tell the tale, reported that they had been focused on avoiding obstacles. Pilots who made difficult landings without incident reported they had focused solely on the runway. Business and artistic success, Costello continued, follow the same pattern. Setbacks result from constantly trying to avoid obstacles, worrying about what might go wrong. Achievement results from keeping your eyes glued to the prize and endlessly repeating to yourself, "I can do this." Or, as I once wrote, "Keep your gaze in the distance, and though you will stumble, you will reach your destination."



Kidding me?

Who attempts to quote themselves like that? I don't think the ten biggest assholes I've met in my entire life could come up with something that outrageous if they combined their efforts and worked exclusively on this imaginary project of pure douchehead brainstorming for an entire year. Hey Gregg, hows the view from your tower? As I once wrote, "Easterbrook is comically pretentious."

These thoughts came to mind when Tiki Barber said on NBC's "Football Night in the Known Universe," or whatever its formal name is, that rookie Adrian Peterson of Minnesota keeps his eyes straight ahead, looking only down the field, ignoring tacklers. Watch tailbacks: Most are darting their heads from side to side trying to figure out where problems are. Peterson says he is always looking at the goal line and driving his legs, ignoring tacklers. His runs have this quality: maximum power toward the goal line, pay no attention to the obstacles. The great Walter Payton once said he could never remember the numbers of those who hit or missed him because he was looking down the field and the rest was a blur. (That's a paraphrase.) Peterson seems to have this same success-focused running style, plus he's bigger and faster than Payton was.

This paragraph really shows a smooth transition from pure own-fart-sniffing self-promotion to demonstration of a complete lack of knowledge about the sport of tackle football. See, this is how it actually works. If you are an offensive player carrying the ball towards the end zone, there is only one thing that will stop you from getting there: tacklers playing for the other team. You will absolutely, positively, not reach the end zone if you do not avoid them. Sure, you can run over or through a couple of them. But even a great RB like Peterson depends largely on not not getting anywhere near the other team's defenders. When they grab onto or run into the guy carrying the ball, it usually results in the end of the play.

I know Peterson says he doesn't think about avoiding tacklers. Excuse the double negative, but that doesn't mean he's not subconsciously doing exactly that! It speaks to his abilities that he (allegedly) doesn't really worry about any of the eleven guys who are trying to tackle him when he has the ball. But if he really, truly ran without regard for where defenders were, he would not be good. He would not be average. He would be a really athletic guy who sucks at football. He would probably be a track star or something. He would definitely not have set the NFL single game rushing record last weekend. Sure, he's not thinking about it. But I've seen him make enough devastating cutbacks this season that it's clear some part of his brain understands the concept of avoiding tacklers.

I can't believe I'm actually explaining this, as if any of the seven of you don't know how football works. Let's make it really simple. I have two friends named Chris and Alan. They're both more or less equally athletic. Whenever we get together with some other friends for a football game, they always have to play on opposite teams because they're easily the two best players and both are a threat to break a big play at any time. Next time one of these games goes down, I'm going to ask one of them to play the game like he normally would, and the other to "focus on the horizon/goal line" rather than the defenders trying to bring them down. I will bet everything in my parents' basement (there's a pretty nice coffee table down here, plus some old LPs and a record player) that the first guy has a really good game and the second horribly disappoints his teammates. Hell, to control for any variation in their individual performances, I can have them switch roles halfway through. I don't think I can overstate this: IT'S ABUNDANTLY CLEAR THAT GREGG EASTERBROOK HAS NO FUCKING IDEA WHAT HE'S TALKING ABOUT HERE. None.

Wow, that may be the longest rant I've ever delivered about a single paragraph of crapass sportswriting. But I'm pretty sure it was worth it. After Easterbrook reads this, I'm sure he'll print a retraction in next week's column. As long as he can squeeze it in between an update on space telescope technology and complaints about the lack of realism in Battlestar: Galactica.

Cheerleader of the Week (peace offering to Patriots fans edition): Reader Jim Hickey of Andover, Mass., nominates Jessica of the New England Patriots cheerleaders, whose swimsuit photo we can link to but not show for cleavage-based reasons. According to her team bio, Jessica is majoring in cardiovascular technology at St. Vincent's College, a specialized health care institution, and her career goal is echocardiography. Imagine the effect of Jessica administering heart tests on any traditional male patients: "You seem healthy, but your heart rate is a little high at 195."

Now, as a 23 year old guy living in my parents' basement, I don't have a lot of room to talk here. I haven't had a date since I took my second cousin to my senior prom. (Our parents set it up.) I don't think I've talked to a woman besides those related to me in well over a decade. But all that aside, that joke is awkward as hell. LAWLLLL! Hott gurlzzz make guys nervous! Ohhhhhhh noooooooo! I hope Jessica never needs to check my heart rate. It would probably be more like TWO hundred ninety five!

Sweet Play of the Week: With Buffalo trailing Cincinnati 21-19, the Bills reached first-and-goal on the Bengals' 8 in the fourth quarter. Marshawn Lynch had rushed on six consecutive snaps, and the Cincinnati defense was fixated on him. Lynch took a pitch right, accompanied by pulling tackle Langston Walker, and flipped a touchdown pass to tight end Robert Royal.

What? A trick play can be sweet? What happened to "just run the ball up the middle and everything will be OK," one of Gregg's favorite Greggisms? If this play had resulted in an interception and the Bengals had gone on to win, he'd be waxing poetic about how Bills coach Dick Jauron should be fired and deported to Iran. And that the forward pass should be made illegal during the 4th quarter for teams with the lead.

Sweet Series of the Week: Atlanta and San Francisco tied at 7, the Falcons reached first-and-10 on the Squared Sevens'

Math joke! Seven squared is 49. Clever.

19. Atlanta rushed on five consecutive snaps, scoring the touchdown, and went on to win. The football gods smile on this sort of thing!

And they also smile on halfback passes. So basically, hindsight is 20/20 and the football gods smile on anything teams do to win.

Untouched Touchdown Run of the Week: Carolina-Tennessee, scoreless, the Flaming Thumbtacks

That's what their logo looks like!

were facing third-and-goal from the Panthers' 3. Vince Young dropped back, scanned the field, saw the middle open and simply walked in for the touchdown. Note: Tennessee recorded seven sacks in the game, and Carolina has a total of seven sacks on the season. Didn't we used to hear that Julius Peppers was the new Fred Dean?

Clearly, any DE who isn't recording sacks must be terrible. Wait, what's that? There's such a thing as offensive schemes in which multiple offensive linemen block the same defender? To be fair, I guess my sarcasm there doesn't hold a ton of water because if Peppers is consistently getting taken out of plays that should theoretically open up other guys on the team for sacks. I can't explain why it's not happening. I can, however, explain Peppers' sack totals so far for each of his 5.5 years in the league:

2002- 12
2003- 7
2004- 11
2005- 10.5
2006- 13
2007- 1.5

There you have it- proof that Peppers is not good. Fred Dean, your legacy is safe.

Denver is barreling down the tracks toward a switch in the wrong position, likely to become the train-wreck team of the 2007 season. By Thanksgiving 2006, the Broncos were 7-4, had a highly ranked defense and held the inside track to win their division. Then Mike "The Ultimate Leader" Shanahan showed the door to quarterback Jake Plummer and began making wholesale changes on his defense, including firing his defensive coordinator. Since that moment, the Broncos are 5-8; their rushing defense is now the league's second-worst; and they just got punched in the nose by Detroit, last season's second-worst club.

There are two problems here.

1) Who gives a shit how bad the Lions were last year? It's pretty obvious that they're good this year. Should we crap all over anyone who loses to the 2007 Browns or Bucs? I guess we would if we wanted to be like Gregg Easterbrook and desperately pounded home our points with irrelevancies.

2) Three weeks ago the Broncos beat the Steelers. Now, this doesn't mean Easterbrook is wrong about Denver. They look absolutely awful (and I say that as a Bronco fan). But for the sake of not looking like more of an idiot, why would Gregg choose to immediately follow that paragraph with this one below?

Monday Night -- You're Surrounded: Will Dec. 9 -- Pittsburgh at New England -- be Super Bowl XLII.LXXV? The Steelers just blew Baltimore off the field. Not only did they win big, they held the Ravens to five first downs! Sure, the weather was bad. And sure, the homecoming-game atmosphere -- was there a dance afterward? -- was a factor. But it takes great defense to hold any team -- even the low-voltage Ravens -- to five first downs. Here are the Baltimore offensive possession results: fumble, punt, fumble, punt, punt, interception, touchdown, end of first half, punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, punt. Pittsburgh has a great defense and a good offense. Unless the Chargers snap out of it, the Steelers are the only team besides the Colts that can threaten the Patriots. Circle Dec. 9 on your calendar now.

That great defense gave up 31 points to a Denver team that has trouble cracking 14 most Sundays. Also, here's who Pittsburgh has beaten: Cleveland (decent), Buffalo (bad), San Francisco (awful), Seattle (average), Cincy (awful), and now Baltimore (average). Oh, and they've also managed to lose to Arizona. Let's wait for them to beat someone besides the Browns before we decide these guys can hang with the Patriots. Speaking of which, here's my favorite part of Gregg's New England/Indianapolis breakdown:

For the Patriots' part, you saw that steely-eyed determination when, trailing 20-10 in the fourth quarter on the road at the house of the defending champion, New England looked more pumped and resolute than Indianapolis did.

Lunchpail alert!

Well, that's it. Exhaustion has set in. I have nothing left to form into a coherent conclusion. That rant about Adrian Peterson's running style really took a lot out of me. Um... do you want to go back and read it again? I mean, I really worked hard on it, and it would mean a lot. No? Wait, where are you going? Come on, you can at least stick around long enough to leave a comment.

Fine. See if I care.


Anonymous said...

I am taking pity on you and leaving a comment. Also, great article but I have to agree with Esterbrook on one point.
Trying to execute an emergency landing in an airplane is exactly like trying to score a touchdown in the NFL. Therefore, if you are on an airplane and it's about to crash you better hope that Adrian Peterson is on board so he can attempt to land the damn thing.
Wow, I just read what I wrote and I think I am now qualified to write for ESPN.

Anonymous said...

Well done, Larry. Well done. The only thing I would add would be his ridiculous 'stats of the week'. He just picks random dates when teams started a winning or losing streak and tries to find an event to explain the change in performance. 'Since the Bucs 2nd string fullback went down in week 5 of 2006, the Bucs are 13-4.' Obviously, I made that up, but its not that far off from some of his bullshit statistics. It's very Mariotti-ish, how he always uses the July date for the White Sox. Check out his 'stat of the week for No. 7'. Hilarious.

larry b said...

Awwww... you guys are sweet!

Chris Hart said...

I completely disagree. I'm pretty sure I could only look at the goal line and still run your ass up and down the field every Saturday at the middle school. Make plays, get money, it don't stop.

Chris W said...

"but he's bigger and faster than payton" what are you suggesting easterbrook? that peterson is better than the best RB to play the game? more talented?

good fucking grief.

"he's like roger clemens, but throws harder and will have a longer career"

Anonymous said...

This is a perfect example of why Bill Simmons is such a horseshit hack!

In his (typical) rambling bullshit, he compares a Nazi POW camp with the Pats-Colts, then weaves in baseball references, hockey references and (naturally) a fucking NBA reference.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, content and subject matter of his "columns" aside, Simmons is a godawful writer. I think he just rambles into a digital voice recorder and then uses voice recognition software to transcribe his tripe.

I'd rather read something from Ted Simmons!

When began pimping this three-note hack (red sox, nba, poker) is what chased me away from its website.