Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Here's a Challenge: Imagine Something That's Pretty Easy To Imagine

In a comment I recently made on my anti-Keith Olberman post from Sunday, I hyped up a big article I'm working on right now. I planned on putting it up tonight, but was unfortunately derailed by this article you're about to read. So the big project is on hold on until tomorrow. I think you'll understand why things unfolded this way once you're done with the garbage below. Take it away, Mike Nahrstedt of The Sporting News. Hit me with a puff piece.

2007 Sportsman of the Year: Tom Brady

More like 2007 Fathering Kids Out of Wedlock While Dating A New Womanman of the Year! Am I right? Am I right?

Here's a challenge: Imagine the NFL without Tom Brady.

I'm not feeling very challenged. Given that all 32 teams in the league carry an active roster of 53 players, it doesn't sound too difficult to omit one dude. Regardless of his credentials.

Seriously. Put aside, for a moment, any anti-Goliath sentiments you might bear. And think.

I don't hate the Patriots because of their "Goliathism." I hate them because a disproportionate number of their fans are assholes. But fine, I will try to put that aside. And think.

Think about the Patriots with somebody else under center. No, you can't plug in Peyton Manning or Brett Favre or Tony Romo. For purposes of this exercise, let's go with Matt Cassel. Just like Bill Belichick would.

Ok. I just did. Well, I mean, Belichick wouldn't plug in Cassel. He would go get someone a little more legitimate. But that's splitting hairs. Let me imagine the Patriots of the 2000s and today with an average NFL starting quarterback at the helm. Hmmmmm.

After several seconds of contemplation, I can confirm that they would still be very good. Hell, they'd still have been to a couple Super Bowls in the last decade. I wouldn't bet against them winning it all in 2001 (based on the fact that Brady was merely a bit above average during the regular season and did nothing in the playoffs other than the "tuck rule" game) probably win it all in 2003 (Brady was great, but his defense was even better) but probably wouldn't get a ring in 2004 (Brady carried that team all through those playoffs). However, maybe they'd also have a more of a chance to win the Super Bowl in 2005 than the real Patriots did, because Brady's imaginary replacement hopefully wouldn't throw a terrible interception in Denver's end zone which Champ Bailey returned for a touchdown during the divisional round. As for this year, they'd still be one of the top 5 teams in the NFL. They'd still already have locked up a playoff berth and maybe a first round bye on the strength of having loads of talented players pretty much everywhere except QB. So basically, these imaginary Bradyless Patriots are doing just fine. They're not as good, because Brady is definitely a great QB, but they're still a perennial contender with at least one title in the decade. No doubt in my Patriot-hating mind about it.

I'm sorry, Mike, did I interrupt your journalistic knob scholbbing? Please continue.

Back to the Patriots, a 14-0 team in the real world. Think that happens with Cassel?

Probably not. They'd probably be more like 12-2, 11-3, or at worst 10-4 (Colts, Cowboys, Chargers, Browns?).

OK, to be fair, Cassel hasn't seen much of the field in his three seasons. Put him behind New England's line and surround him with the likes of Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Donte' Stallworth and Benjamin Watson and he'd have some nice numbers, too.

That's correct. Pretty much any NFL level QB would.

But, remember, we're imagining an NFL without Tom Brady, which means we're left with "nice numbers," not out-of-this-freakin'-world numbers. And so there's no way we'd be looking at a quarterback with 45 touchdown passes -- the third-best season total ever -- with two games to go. We wouldn't be anticipating the imminent fall of Manning's league record of 49, a total that was hard enough to comprehend only three years ago.

It's true, Brady's had a great season. But I wouldn't call the prospect of his getting 5 TDs in the next 2 games "imminent." His pace has slowed considerably since the midway point of the season. And he's left with two meaningless games, both of which will probably be played in bad weather: home against Miami and in the windy Meadowlands against a Giants team that could be fighting for a playoff berth. Will I be surprised if he gets it? Given how much Belichick probably hates Manning, no. Is it "imminent"? No.

New England's opponents wouldn't mind an NFL without Brady, that's for sure.

That right there is pure, unadulterated puff. It might be the puffiest part of the whole article. That's a sentence you'd expect to come out of the mouth of a 70 year old barber who owns a Patriots-themed barbershop.

Remove him from the equation and you're probably not gasping at the whuppins inflicted on the likes of Miami, Buffalo and Washington. The utter domination was a sight to behold -- or, depending on your point of view, a massacre from which to avert one's eyes. But you couldn't help but admire Brady -- his poise in the pocket, field vision, perfect form, quick release, rocket arm, pinpoint accuracy.

His offensive line is so astonishingly good, it's a rare occasion that he even gets touched by a pass rusher. That's really more astonishing to me than his ability to hit Wes Welker on a five yard curl twice a quarter.

And, above all, his complete command of the offense. Quite simply, Brady was toying with opponents.

So much puff!

Says CBS analyst Solomon Wilcots, "He wins ... games. It's as plain and simple as that. He wins football games."

Thanks for clarifying what kind of games he wins, Solomon. I thought at first that you meant he wins board games. Or backyard wiffleball games. Or maybe even complex captive/hostage mind games. But then you came through with the specifics, and showed me the light. He just goes out there and wins football games. Finally the key to Tom Brady's success is explained. If only Cleo Lemon could go out there and win football games, maybe the Dolphins wouldn't suck so much.

OK, maybe the Patriots aren't your favorite team.

True. In fact, besides all three of my favorite team's divisional rivals, the Patriots are probably my least favorite.

Maybe you don't like all those rings.

Did you say dickheaded bandwagon fans? No? You said rings? Sorry, I thought you said dickheaded bandwagon fans.

Maybe those lopsided scores grate on your nerves.

A little bit. Not nearly as much as the aforementioned fans.

Maybe Spygate soured you. Whatever.

"Spygate" was overhyped as shit. I was tired of hearing about it by early October. I'm really more concerned about, you guessed it, the fans.

Don't hold that against Brady. All he does is execute the offense he's told to execute.

What... how does that... what are you talking about? Even if someone went into this article hating Brady, how are they supposed to interpret that as a reason to change their mind about him? Of course he's executing the offense he's told to execute. How many NFL quarterbacks get a play call from the sidelines, then go to the huddle and tell their teammates "Fuck what coach said. We're running the fumblerooski every down this drive. On one on one BREAK." I'm so confused... how how is this supposed to vindicate Brady in the minds of haters?

The sheer puffiness of these next two sections is enough to make even the biggest Tim Tebow fan nod with respect.

"He is a nicer and better human being than people see or imagine," says Patriots owner Robert Kraft. "He's a great leader, and everybody respects him. I would say every woman in New England between the ages of 2 and 80 is nice to me so they can meet him."

Every woman except Bridget Moynihan! OHHHHH! ZING!

"He doesn't like being in the limelight," says Browns linebacker Willie McGinest, who played with Brady on all three Patriots Super Bowl championship teams. "He's a great guy. He's humble. He works hard. He's quick to say his success comes from 'these guys.' Even though a lot of it has to do with him, he's not selfish. At all."

Assuming Brady really does say things like that, hey, more power to him. At least he realizes that (this year, at least) he's got one of the best receiving corps in the league and an offensive line that regularly gives him enough time to go through his reads twice.

Think of an NFL without Tom Brady.

I already did. It didn't change much. It wasn't like imagining the NHL in the late 80s/early 90s without Gretzky. It sure as shit wasn't like imagining the NBA in the 90s without Jordan. Here are some other players I'm comfortable of imagining an NFL without: Ladanian Tomlinson, Peyton Manning, Terrell Owens, Randy Moss, Brian Urlacher, Champ Bailey, and Adrian Peterson. I hope that makes my point clear.

Actually, let me sidetrack for a second. There actually is one Patriot I can't imagine the NFL without. You know who I'm talking about. A mountain of a man named Tedy Bruschi. 260 pounds of pure American hero. He solves cold murder cases for third world countries during the offseason. He's actually the guy who found Saddam Hussein's hiding spot. He's going to help baseball get rid of its steroid problem by sitting all the players down for a motivational speech. Did you know he had a stroke, but returned to the NFL less than a year later? True story. I read about it in an underground NFL fanzine. I guess the mainstream media somehow missed out on that compelling story. Regardless- Tedy Bruschi. He shits pure gold, and donates it anonymously to the United Way.

Sorry about the side rant. Back to Brady and his perfectly chiseled chin donut.

Think of the water cooler discussions you wouldn't be having because Brady wouldn't be doing something every week that absolutely blew you away.

BARF. The puffiness of this puff piece has finally overcome my ability to keep food in my stomach. Think of the discussions I wouldn't be having without Brady? Are you fucking serious? Now, let me clarify- you can legitimately say this about the Patriots as a team in 2007. Their pursuit of perfection and running up the score storylines are interesting enough to be talked about by even a Patriots hater like me. But Brady himself? For sitting untouched in the pocket all afternoon and alternating 3 yard outs to Welker with heave-hos to Moss? You can't be serious. Fuck that. Let me name ten QBs who are more "water cooler talkworthy" than Brady this year. (Not all of them are playing well, or even playing every week, but that doesn't mean they aren't being discussed for one reason or another.) Romo, Grossman, McNabb, Kitna, Brees, Anderson, Roethlisberger, Young, Rivers, and Favre. Boom. That's not counting the always discussable Mr. Vick. Or, you know, people who play other positions. Bad news, Nahrstedt: while Tom Brady is very good, and having a great season, and a super swell guy to boot... he's not that eye poppingly impressive. He's basically a very good QB behind a dominant offensive line who consistently makes good reads and hits wide open receivers. Yawn. When's lunch?

Think of Randy Moss in continued decline, his amazing skills going to waste yet again.

This might be the funniest line in the whole piece. As if it's somehow not Moss's own fault that he sucked in Oakland. It's abundantly clear to anyone that watched a Raiders game during 2005 or 2006 that Moss didn't give much of a shit. And considering that he's not an overly beloved character, I don't think the idea of him spending another year with his skills "going to waste" is going to bring a tear to many eyes. But thank goodness Belichick and Brady came along and rescued him from obscurity!

Think of the '72 Dolphins, long ago having uncorked the champagne.

I'll admit, the thought of the '72 Dolphins having to shut up and go away should the Patriots go undefeated is the one thing keeping me from going to Foxboro and trying to kidnap Belichick. Those stuck up, self-important, insufferable fucks. You've got to be kidding me. It's been 35 years. You played a joke of a schedule. GET OVER YOURSELVES. Should the Patriots finish undefeated... I'll be disappointed. But I bet those crusty old ex-Dolphins will be crying. And that realization makes me happy enough to merely be disappointed.

Think of the final two weeks of the regular season and the impending playoffs with no talk of perfection, no speculation about this Patriots team being perhaps the greatest the NFL has ever seen.

Whatever would I do during weeks 16 and 17 without this drama? Follow the exciting chases for wild card berths in both conferences? Yeah, that probably is what I would do. And in fact, will be doing anyways. I will check in on the Patriots score whenever CBS/FOX updates me or on the internet later in the evening. If they lose, awesome. If they win, I'll just hope they lose next week. And I imagine pretty much anyone who isn't a Patriots or Dolphins fan will take the exact same approach.

Think of how ordinary the 2007 season would seem by comparison.

Gag me. I won't even dignify this with a list of things about this season unrelated to the Patriots (OH NO! WHERE WOULD WE GET EXCITEMENT WITHOUT SPYGATE, OR THE TOTALLY RELEVANT BELICHICK/MANGINI "FEUD," OR THE PURSUIT OF PERFECTION!) that make it very unordinary. Actually, I will dignify it briefly- I'll just throw out a couple names to prove I'm not bluffing. Peterson. Chad Johnson, even in defeat. Favre. Sorry, I don't mean to sound like Peter King with all this Fav-ruh hoopla. I know Mr. "I Feel Comfortable in Wrangler" doesn't need more praise or recognition. But in the context of this particular article, he's ten times more compelling and interesting than Brady this year. Easily.

We'd rather not.

I hope you're using the royal we, as in you singularly. Because I personally don't have a problem with that proposition at all.


Tonus said...

This could start an interesting game, though. "Imagine *team* without *player*"

-Imagine the 2007 Dolphins season without Jason Taylor!
-Imagine the 2007 Ravens season without Ray Lewis!
-Imagine the 2007 Falcons season without Michael Vi... oh, nevermind.

Or even imagining the 1982 Dolphins season without David Woodley! I mean, come on! It'd be interesting to see a sportswriter textually fellate Woodley. Wouldn't it?

dan-bob said...

I very rarely find it interesting to mentally consider textual fellation.

Imagine the 2004 Giants without Barry Bonds!
Imagine the 2007 Yankees without Alex Rodriguez!
Imagine the 2003 White Sox without Willie Harris!

Anonymous said...

Tedy Bruschi is the Chuck Norris of the NFL.

kclock said...

While I would love for the '72 Dolphins to shut up and go away if the Patriots go undefeated, I would dread the future when SportsCenter holds a crappy 30 minute debate over the greatest team ever: the '72 Dolphins, the '07 Patriots, and some team that just started the season 4-0.

I'm hoping that ESPN pulls an '05 USC and declares the Patriots the greatest team ever -- right before they lose the Super Bowl.

Jarrett said...

Think about Fire Jay Mariotti without Jeff Pearlman.

Larry said...

I agree...Massholes are annoying.

eriz said...

see at this point i am rooting for the pats to finish undefeated to shut up those goddamned ex-dolfins a little bit. Of course I want the to lose in the playoffs or super bowl in order to make the gap between football and baseball a little more tolerable

Andrew said...

It's so funny that the possible debate in the future of "who was better, the '72 Dolphins or the '07 Patriots" will be used on Sportscenter to decide who the "best team of all time" is. Nevermind that it's pretty unlikely that either team could have beaten the late 70's Steelers, Montana's OR the '94 49ers, or the 90's Cowboys, etc etc.

God... there's nothing worse than this current world where the city of Boston dominates sports. Ugh. Massholes are goddamn insufferable.

larry b said...

I'm going to guess that we don't have many regular readers from Boston. Although I'm surprised they don't lash out more often in the comments...

eriz said...

actually, I'm willing to bet the 07 pats would absolutely murder any juggernaut team from the 80s or earlier simply based on advances in training, conditioning and coaching. In fact, I'd count on the 07 dolphins being able to crush the 72 dolphins.

Thats why those team from x decaded vs. team from y decade arguments are so stupid. Especially in football.

jf said...


i'm sure repeatedly ripping boston wonderboy simmons doesn't help increase the MA readership much

but it sure helps the rest of us