Sunday, November 18, 2007

steelers radio

This is shaping up as the most action-packed NFL season of all time. Can you remember a year when more stuff happened before Thanksgiving?

Think about everything that has happened since Labor Day: Brett Favre finding the Fountain of Youth; CameraGate turning the Pats into the Cobra Kai Yankees; Adrian Peterson threatening to become the Barry Sanders of his generation; the dueling quests for 19-0 and 0-16; the running-up-the-score debates (one of the top-10 sports radio topics ever); Michael Vick's incredible fall from grace; big-time years from two spectacular receivers (Moss and T.O.); an increasingly bitter Colts-Pats rivalry; Brady's quest to shatter the TD record; the Norv Turner Face climbing to new heights; another Ricky Williams comeback; Roger Goodell turning into Buford Pusser; the Cris Carter-Steve Smith interview; one of the greatest "Monday Night Football" games ever (Favre beating the Broncos with the OT bomb to Greg Jennings); the Saints improbably climbing back from 0-4; Tony Romo and Ben Roethlisberger emerging as big-time QBs; the Browns finally waking up as a potential playoff team; Jimmy Kimmel getting banned from "MNF"; Herm Edwards shattering the Unintentional Comedy Scale on "Hard Knocks"; Vinny Testaverde's improbable comeback; Andy Reid's bizarre season; Jon Kitna and God's Team potentially sneaking into the playoffs; the Travis Henry Show (which should really be a reality show); Tiki Barber's quiet run for the Ewing Theory Hall of Fame; and the Niners potentially handing over a top-three pick to the Patriots in 2008.

And that's just the stuff I could remember off the top of my head. More importantly, we're looking at a 2007 playoffs in which five teams have a realistic chance of winning the Super Bowl: New England (the team of the decade and the NFL's biggest villain since the Raiders of the late '70s); Indianapolis (the defending champs); Pittsburgh and Dallas (arguably, the two most popular franchises in the country); and Green Bay (the NFL franchise with the most history, the best stadium and the most popular player). If you were picking five teams to battle in January for a Super Bowl trophy under the criteria, "Which five teams would generate the most interest?" ... I mean, wouldn't you pick those five teams?

32. Miami

31. San Fran
30. N.Y. Jets
29. St. Louis
28. Oakland
27. Carolina
26. Atlanta

25. Baltimore
24. Minnesota
23. Kansas City

22. Houston
21. Cincinnati
20. Arizona

19. Denver
18. Chicago
17. Philly

16. Washington
15. New Orleans

14. Buffalo
13. Tampa Bay
12. Detroit

11. Jacksonville
10. Tennessee
9. N.Y. Giants

8. Seattle
7. San Diego

6. Cleveland

5. Green Bay
4. Indianapolis
3. Dallas
2. Pittsburgh

1. New England
The way it's lining up right now, we're looking at six riveting playoff games out of a possible 11: Colts-Steelers in Round 2; the Pats possibly putting an undefeated record on the line in a Round 2 game; the Packers hosting a divisional playoff game on the Frozen Tundra; the Pats playing Indy/Pittsburgh in the AFC Championship Game; Cowboys-Packers in the NFC Championship Game; and whatever the Super Bowl matchup turns out to be. When's the last time we had six kick-butt playoff games in one month? And if the Patriots were going for a perfect season in the Super Bowl against the Packers or Cowboys, wouldn't that break every ratings record? Who's not watching that game? Would there ever be a harder Super Bowl ticket to get than Pats-Cowboys or Pats-Packers?

Maybe we can't answer that question for another 10 weeks, but we can definitely bang out the Week 11 picks. By the way, I'm guaranteeing 10 wins this week or you'll get a full refund for this column. (Home teams in caps)

JAGUARS (-3) over Chargers
The Chargers were an Adam Vinatieri shank away from blowing a game in which they got five interceptions (they added a sixth after the shank) and two special-teams touchdowns. Even for Norv Turner, that would have been amazing. I can't take them seriously anymore. I just can't. When they make the video of San Diego's 2007 season, it should just be a one-hour loop of Phil Rivers awkwardly scrambling around and chucking the ball out of bounds, followed by that crazed close-up of Norv's face in the second half Sunday when it looked like he might be having a nervous breakdown, then LaDainian Tomlinson breaking down in that news conference after the Packers game. That's all we need to see.

(Random question: Did you know that LaDainian's wife is named LaTorsha? Do you think LDT openly looked for someone whose name began with "La," or did he like her already and the "La" pushed it over the top? I can't wait for them to start having kids.)

Browns (-2.5) over RAVENS
For the past three weeks, I've been riding the high-scoring Browns like I'm Sharon Stone in "Basic Instinct." (In retrospect, we should have known they were good right after Week 5, after their inspired quest to cover a 16½-point spread against the Patriots.) Do you realize they have a chance to finish 12-4? Here's Cleveland's schedule the rest of the way: at Baltimore; Houston; at Arizona; at the Jets; Buffalo; at Cincy; San Fran. Stick the ice pick under your mattress and start riding the Browns.

(The only potential drawback for Cleveland bettors: In terms of clock management, Romeo Crennel makes Herm Edwards look like a Rhodes Scholar. Have you ever seen a coach blow two timeouts on the same play like Crennel did in the waning minutes of the Steelers game? He called a timeout to SEE if he should challenge the go-ahead touchdown, watched the replay a few times, decided to challenge, then lost the challenge. ... Of course, the Browns eventually ran out of time and had to attempt a game-tying 54-yard field goal that fell short. Did Romeo know he should have called timeout and challenged the play during that same timeout so he didn't waste two? It's unclear. More importantly, why hasn't "Best Damn Sports Show" produced a "50 Worst Timeouts" show yet? Don't we have enough of them stockpiled at this point?)

JETS (+9.5) over Steelers
I loved what we saw from "Ben" (as every announcer lovingly calls him) in the Cleveland game last week. You have to admit, he pulled out all the stops to win that one. If you were making a list of quarterbacks you'd want for the next five years, after Brady and Manning, the next two guys would be Romo and "Ben" in some order, and I have absolutely no idea who'd be fifth. Derek Anderson? Carson Palmer? Drew Brees? The only thing we know for sure is that it's definitely NOT Alex Smith. Anyway, I like the way the Steelers are playing right now, but we have too many favorites in that 9- to 11-point range this week, and you know what that means ...

COWBOYS (-10.5) over Redskins
... everyone and their degenerate brother will be making three-team teasers this week ...

Dolphins (+10) over EAGLES
... which means the Eagles, Steelers, Cowboys and/or Packers are either losing or squeaking out one of those heart-attack, three-point wins. I'm picking the first three teams just to be safe.

(By the way, the most underrated 2007 sports media story was how the talking heads and radio hosts debated Andy Reid's family life for a solid week. I don't know him. I don't know his troubled kids. I don't have any information about the situation other than what has been reported, but that's not stopping me from plowing ahead, anyway: Andy Reid needs to leave the Eagles and be with his family. I think we've reached a stage in sports when you have to have an opinion on EVERYTHING, even if you come off like an ass in the process.)

FALCONS (+3) Buccaneers
Who else is excited for somebody to win the NFC South with a 7-9 record??? I'm downright giddy. Come on, Falcons!!!! Salvage my sleeper pick! Come on! Daddy needs a new pair of shoes!!!!!!!

Raiders (+5) over VIKINGS
Blame me for Adrian Peterson's injury: After the 296-yard game, I sent out some taunting e-mails in my West Coast fantasy league that inadvertently injured Peterson's knee a few days later. It's all my fault. That reminds me, you might remember me writing about my quest to go undefeated in my Week 7 picks column: I ended up losing by two points in Week 8 because Jay Cutler bounced a game-winning TD pass to Brandon Marshall at the end of the Packers-Broncos game; in Week 10, I was down by 17 points heading into Sunday night with Tomlinson and Vernon Davis left for me ... and I ended up losing by two because Tomlinson had a pedestrian game (for him) and Davis threw up a goose egg. Now I'm 8-2 and Peterson might be done for the season.

The lesson, as always: If your fantasy team is undefeated, it's a terrible idea to write an entire column about it and/or send out taunting e-mails like this one: "999 points thru 9 weeks! Just remember, when Wilt scored 100 points against the Knicks, eventually, the Knicks all learned to appreciate that they were part of history that day. The same will happen for all of you ... anyway, relish the next two months and enjoy being in the same league with such an unforgettable team. As far as I'm concerned, we're all winners."

BENGALS (-3) over Cardinals
God, I hate this game ...

Cardinals (+3) over BENGALS
That doesn't feel right, either ...

BENGALS (-3) over Cardinals
Neither does this ...

Cardinals (+3) over BENGALS
I just don't know ... I can't predict the push, right?

BENGALS (-3) over Cardinals

Screw it, let's just move on ...

COLTS (-14.5) over Chiefs
I see Indy running this one up to regain its mojo a little. By the way, I'm furious about all these Colts injuries that probably killed their season. The football fan in me is furious because this particular Colts team was built for cold weather/January football, which would have made the AFC Championship Game a helluva lot more interesting than the Steelers getting blown out in Foxborough (which is where we're headed). The Patriots fan in me is furious because a 19-0 season wouldn't feel quite the same if they didn't beat the Colts twice.

The Sports Gal promises to return to ranting next week. In the meantime, here are her Week 11 picks: Chargers +3; Browns -2.5; Jets +9.5; Cowboysl -10.5; Dolphins +10; Bucs -3; Raiders +5; Cards +3; Colts -14.5; Giants -2.5; Texans -1; Packers -9.5; 49ers +3; Bears +5.5; Pats -16; Broncos -2.

Last Week: 7-7
Season: 74-62-8 You know what it's like, actually? When the '86 Celtics were slapping together the greatest NBA season ever, they avenged the '85 Finals in two regular-season wins over the Lakers, rolled through the East in the playoffs and were poised to destroy Showtime as we knew it. So what happened? The Lakers never showed up! They got smoked in the West finals by an underrated Houston team. To this day, every Celtics fan feels cheated by the fact we didn't get the Lakers. The following season, the Celtics fought back to the Finals despite a wave of injuries and lost to the Lakers in six, and now I have to watch Magic's Sky Hook for the rest of my life instead of whatever Bird would have unleashed on them in the '86 Finals, and only because the '87 Celtics had more dignity and pride than the '86 Lakers. How the hell is that fair? I feel the same about what's happening with the 2007 Colts. If the Pats could claw their way to the AFC Championship Game with a battered secondary and a CFL receiving corps, then the Colts should do the same this season without Freeney and with Harrison limping around. It's only fair.

GOD'S TEAM (+2.5) over Giants
I have to admit, the Giants roped me in with the winning streak and all the "Coughlin is a good guy now!" stories. When the Cowboys smoked them in Jersey last week, I wasn't even thinking, "Wow, I'm an idiot!" but "Good God, what happened???" Then I looked at their 2007 schedule again and saw the six victims in that aforementioned winning streak: Washington, Philly, the Jets, Atlanta, San Fran and Miami. Why didn't I notice that before the Giants game? Because I'm an idiot. Anyway, I'm going with God's Team and predicting the long-awaited Calvin Johnson Fantasy Breakout Week.

TEXANS (-1) over Saints
Reggie Bush. Mario Williams. Reggie Bush. Mario Williams. Reggie Bush. Mario Williams. Reggie Bush. Mario Williams. Reggie Bush. Mario Williams. Reggie Bush. Mario Williams. Reggie Bush. Mario Williams. Reggie Bush. Mario Williams. Reggie Bush. Mario Williams. Reggie Bush. Mario Williams. Reggie Bush. Mario Williams. Reggie Bush. Mario Williams. ...

PACKERS (-9.5) over Panthers
Remember the scene in "Caddyshack" when the bishop was having the round of his life in a pouring rainstorm and every putt was dropping? That has been Brett Favre for the past 10 weeks. And, yeah, the media has beaten this to death. But isn't this one of those rare stories that can't really be beaten to death? Some of these Packers games have had endings more improbable than some of the "Friday Night Lights" endings. When he killed Denver in OT with the Jennings bomb, it was like watching the bishop drain the putt that went past the hole and back for a birdie. I'm tired of picking against Green Bay -- clearly, something is happening here that transcends sports. And if it ends with Favre throwing a critical interception in the Super Bowl, looking at the sky and screaming "RAT FARTS!" then getting hit by lightning, so be it.

(Random stat of the year: In six out of nine games, the Panthers have used two quarterbacks or more. Last week, they used three. Like everyone else, I'm excited to see how Steve Smith will snap over the next seven weeks. It's going to be epic.)

Rams (-3) over NINERS
Having San Fran's No. 1 pick next year is like owning a casino and seeing Charles Barkley walk in.

Bears (+5.5) over SEAHAWKS
I know, I know ... Rex on the road. But if this Seattle team has proven anything over the past few years of the Holmgren Era, it's this: Just when you think you can count on them to cover a game, they'll shoot 200 mph of air into your head like Anton Chigurh in "No Country for Old Men." And you won't see it coming, either. All of the sudden, there's just a hole in your head.

(By the way, if somebody has a good explanation for the last 25 minutes of that movie, I'd love to hear it. Everyone at my theater applauded when it was over, like something special had just happened. Meanwhile, I was sitting there going, "Wait, it's over? What the hell just happened?" Without spoiling it, from the moment we see a hotel pool for the first time, the wheels come off so fast that it's like Norv Turner took over for the Coen Brothers. So frustrating. If you see one movie this year, go see "Michael Clayton," George Clooney's movie about a second-year NFL receiver who kills more than 200,000 fantasy teams. Just kidding. It's fantastic.)

Patriots (-16) over BILLS
Come on, you missed having the Pats around a little last weekend. It's OK. You can admit it. Meanwhile, here's an intriguing e-mail from Jim in Boston: "I want the Patriots to bring back Doug Flutie out of retirement for the sole purpose of kicking an 'eff-you' drop kick. This will hopefully occur in Week 15, just before halftime with the Pats up 84-0 against the Jets. During the postgame news conference, Belichick will deadpan to the reporters, 'Hey we're just playing the game -- what did you want us to do, kick a field goal?' This has to happen."

(That reminds me, I can't wait for the Belichick-Mangini handshake after the carnage is finally over in Week 15. Every week when Belichick does the handshake, he has the same satisfied smirk on his face that someone has when they're meeting the boyfriend of a kinky ex-girlfriend -- like he's particularly delighted to make eye contact for that split-second as they're shaking hands. The Mangini handshake is going to be epic. He's going to look like Ray J meeting Kim Kardashian's new boyfriend at Le Deux.)

BRONCOS (-2) over Titans
Reason No. 43,587 why I hate making picks Friday morning: Sending them in, then finding out a few hours later that Albert Haynesworth is out for Week 10.

(Flash-forward to next weekend, when Reason No. 43,588 is "Sending them in, then finding out a few hours later that Albert Haynesworth is in for Week 11.") As participatory SportsWatch stunts go, it ranked somewhere between watching FSNY for 24 hours in a row and listening to Yankees and Mets games on the radio - simultaneously.

Last week I made the ultimate sportswriter sacrifice by attending the Cowboys-Giants game ... without a parking pass!

No, really.

Neil Best Bio | E-mail | Recent columns

The mission was to experience the satellite parking system at Giants and Jets games that will be in place until the new stadium opens in 2010.

It was a stiff test, one the parking people had been waiting for: a season-high crowd of 78,964 to watch bitter rivals battle for first place.

How did it go? It was surprisingly less-than-awful, with a few caveats. More on those later.

Short version: After a meandering tour of an office park in Lyndhurst, N.J., I reached the orange lot at 2:35 p.m., 100 minutes before kickoff.

At 2:37, I was parked. At 2:40, I was in line to board a school bus. By 2:45, I was on the bus, which got to lot 17 at 2:53. The lengthy walk to the stadium took until 3:01. Twenty-six minutes total.

I was one of 9,393 people who arrived in 4,083 cars to be moved that day, more than will show up for today's Jets game against the Steelers and perhaps for any Giants game down the stretch as the weather gets nastier.

What about after the game, a far greater challenge for parking people? I left the stadium at 8:12, an hour after the game. By 8:21, I was back at gate 17. It took until 8:34 to get on the bus. I was in the orange lot by 8:45 and in my car at 8:55 after briefly wandering aimlessly through the faceless office lots. Forty-three minutes. Not terrible.

Bill Squires, an operational consultant to the Giants and Jets, said that after a rocky start at the "Live Earth" concert in July and kinks during the preseason, "it's been smooth."

That doesn't mean perfect, of course. But the challenge is daunting.

About 20,300 Jets fans and 19,400 Giants fans bought season passes for $150 to get into lots near the stadium.

The alternative is a couple of miles away and costs $20 for Giants games and $25 for the Jets, and no lavish tailgating that involves cooking!

(Unlike at Yankee and Shea Stadiums, public transportation remains a relatively minor factor, but a rail stop set to open in 2009 should help greatly.)

Why a higher cost for a less convenient lot? It was designed in part to encourage the purchase of season passes. It also helps the teams offset their additional costs.

And why are the Jets higher than the Giants? "We don't coordinate on pricing with the Giants, so each team made the parking cost decision based on their own team expenses," a Jets spokesman said.

The result is a healthy secondary market in passes to park near the stadium, which often go for several times face value.

Mostly, that's not necessary. But here are some pieces of remote lot advice:

1. Go directly to the remote lots (maps are on the teams' Web sites), then carefully trace and recall your route. The roads and lots are disorienting after dark despite staffers to answer questions.
When Orioles designated hitter Aubrey Huff walked into a Florida radio studio last week, he probably never thought he was about to join a fellowship that includes Monica Lewinsky, Britney Spears and Michael Vick.

But in the week since he impugned Baltimore's nightlife and shared the Bubba the Love Sponge studio with a naked porn star, Huff has become a subject of Internet infamy.

He's in hot water with fans and club executives over a radio appearance that never could have circulated five or 10 years ago. And he's learning a prime new media lesson: If you're a public figure, assume that anything said near a recording device will be heard by anyone and everyone.

Related links
Poll: Huff out of line?
Should the Orioles discipline Aubrey Huff for his radio comments?



View current results

Huff's act on radio panned by Orioles
Medium Well: WNST posts partial transcript of Huff's comments
Roch Around the Clock: Going for the Love Sponge record
O, by the Way: Huff the Sponge Brain
Will Leitch, creator of, the site most responsible for spreading the Huff video, sees no problem with that.

"The problem is with the way things were before," he says. "I can't see how flipping the switch toward more information is a bad thing."

Leitch, whose site received 9.5 million page views last month, sees himself as a crusader on behalf of free information. If athletes are going to profit from the mythology around them, he says, fans and bloggers have every right to punch holes in that mythology.

"It's this idea that because Peyton Manning can throw perfect spirals, I should emulate him in life," Leitch says. "I try to puncture that."

He does it with biting commentary and links to embarrassing video and audio clips. Fans eat it up, making Deadspin among the most popular of thousands of sports sites on the Internet. More than 15,000 browsers had viewed the site's Huff topic as of yesterday afternoon.

An opportunity
But John Maroon, longtime spokesman for Cal Ripken Jr., says athletes shouldn't be paranoid about the ever-growing swarm of media.

"I look at it as an opportunity to get your message out that much more," he says. "But the other side of that is you have to be aware of what you're walking into. Everything you say is going to be cut up and shared by so many outlets."

Ravens receiver Derrick Mason frequently hosts radio shows and says most athletes are aware of the widespread scrutiny.

"Even if you're at dinner or at a bar or wherever you may be, you might be talking to a friend and somebody overhears you. And when you come to work in the morning, it's in every Internet chat room or on the front of every sports publication out there," Mason says. "Yeah, you've got to be careful with what you say. Then again, you've got to be able to speak your mind and be honest, but in a way that doesn't shed a dark light on what you're talking about."

The Internet emerged as a news star in 1998, when Matt Drudge reported that Newsweek had refrained from publishing an account of Bill Clinton's relationship with a White House intern. The Monica Lewinsky scandal ensued and resulted in the president's impeachment.

Since then, the Web has become a repository for anything and everything having to do with celebrities. From a Paris Hilton sex tape to film director Kevin Smith's musings about what he ate for lunch, it's all there.

Several sports figures have learned that once you're a public figure in the Internet age, it's hard to do anything privately.

In 2003, Iowa State basketball coach Larry Eustachy resigned after photos of him drinking and kissing female students emerged on the Web.

In 2005 and 2006, baseball stars faced questions based on steroid rumors that appeared online but never in newspapers or on television.

Earlier this year, Steelers offensive line coach Larry Zierlein was forced to apologize after blogs reported that he accidentally sent a pornographic e-mail to numerous league officials, including commissioner Roger Goodell.

There's a whole Web site,, devoted to pictures of bleary-eyed sports stars. "This will be a little bit of an old throwback type of game plan from the standpoint that I think over the last five games, they've averaged in access over 40 runs per game. I think in three of the games they've run the ball 50 times. They're averaging 18-20 passes a game, and they really only throw when they have to… If you like physical contact, this is the kind of game that you're really going to enjoy playing in…
"Jon Tenuta is the defensive coordinator at Georgia Tech, and one of the things that has certainly allowed them to do this is of the top-22 players on Georgia Tech's defense, 18 of them are juniors and seniors. And they've grown into the ability to handle a lot of pressure. They are a fire zone blitz team – very rarely do they ever bring seven and play zero coverage, it's always either man-free in the backend or it's always three-deep.

"I guess the best NFL analogy is that they're kind of like the Pittsburgh Steelers. They're always bringing somebody, it may be corners or free safeties, dropping defensive linemen out, they're checking all of your protections out [and] try to give you as many negative plays as they can. Currently, they're No. 6 in the country [in total defense]. I think that we've got some weapons and I think that we can do some stuff against them and I think that if we play well, we can win the game."

On Hakeem Nicks' end zone pass that was ruled incomplete:
"In some of the conversations that we always have with the ACC's head of officiating, Doug Rhoads, we submit every single week 10-12-15 calls that we want some clarification on. Are we coaching this wrong? Was this the right call? Should it have been made? Were the mechanics of the officiating correct? And one of the things that Doug alluded to about Hakeem's catch was that as he went up with the ball, you could clearly see that he had both hands on the ball at the top of the catch. As he was beginning to descend and go down, he tucked the ball under his right arm and braced himself for the fall with his left hand.

"Our contention was that as soon as he had possession of the ball with two hands and he had tucked it away, if had been a foot or a hand that had immediately touched the ground, would that have constituted a catch? We had some television angles that were different from maybe just the coaches' angles that we sent in and we [watched it in slow-motion] and took a look at it, and clearly, Hakeem's hand touches the ground, his elbow touches the ground and then as his full body hits the ground, then you see the ball come out.

"Doug's response to us was that had the call on the field been a touchdown, there was not sufficient enough evidence to change the call that was made on the field. And unfortunately, the back judge called that it was an incomplete pass, because when Hakeem goes down, you really can't see all of the things other than you see his hand. If you're wearing Carolina blue, you'd like to say that should have been a touchdown.

"But that was their validation – their interpretation of the rule was if it had gone the other way, they would have called it a touchdown and they would have not overruled it. But when they called it an incomplete pass, they stood with the call."

On the ground being able to force an incomplete pass in the end zone:
"Simultaneously, if you have the ball and you hit the ground with the ball and the ball comes out, they will call that an incomplete [pass], whereas on the field they wouldn't necessarily do that."

Injury report:
"We've been very fortunate this year. We've lost a few kids who we certainly would have loved to have had throughout the course of the season, but week in and week out, with as physical as the games are and as many guys as we're playing, we've been very fortunate. We didn't lose anybody in last week's ball game, so everybody should be healthy and ready to go on Saturday."

Stadium expansion update:
"They've got preliminary drawings, but they don't have any of the finished product… They hope to have pretty close to what they hope to be the finished product somewhere around the first of December, so that when recruits start coming here for their official visits, we can show them something that would be reasonably close – within 85 to 90 percent accurate."

On uniform changes next year:
"We are going to white cleats for next year. We've already talked to Nike about it. The players were excited. When Nike came in two or three months ago to talk about next year's uniforms… they brought in a variety of different


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home