Editor’s Note: It once again is my pleasure to hand over control of the blog to special guest writer Zeus, for another This and That entry; enjoy.
1. The Very Fast Start – After months of forced withdrawal from professional football, it was a bit of a shock to see the New England Patriots play fully one-eighth of their 2013 season in a five day period. I watched the first game on television and attended the second game in person. Now, I confess to getting on a bit in years and some people who are in a position to know the truth might regard me as dangerously insane (for what turns out to be very good reasons that, in the interests of time and decorum, I will not get into here). Nevertheless, I could have sworn that the Patriots beat both the Bills and the pathetic (Embarrassment to Mankind) jets. And yet, the voices on the television/radio and the sentiments expressed on The Intertoobz unequivocally suggest otherwise. Long, long ago, in The Pigskin Dark Ages (pre-2001 A.D.), a win was a win was a win. A win did not need to be aesthetically pleasing nor a work of art to count. In the Age of Enlightenment, things are different.
2. Jumping to Conclusions (Part 7,234,214) â€“ The usual breathless rush to Crown the Champion and demean the losers began about halfway through the first quarter of the very first game as The Sporting Press began to pogo from one Super Bowl favorite to another.
On opening night, it quickly became apparent that the Broncos would finish undefeated and shatter every scoring record of all four major sports by Halloween.
Later in Week the First, defending NFC champion San Francisco looked invincible against a good Green Bay team. Emerging (tattooed, bicep-kissing but somewhat surprisingly fully clothed) star Colin Kaepernick threw for 412 yards in leading the 49ers to victory. Never mind the Broncos. The 49ers, sayeth the short attention span pundits, are the best team in the NFL.
Come Week the Second, the 49ers are humiliated by the rampaging Seahawks, 29-3. Yet another best team in the league? Now Seattle is the odds on favorite to win Super Bowl XLVIII.
[Ed. Note – Those who might be tempted to believe this have conveniently forgotten that only a week before, the lowly Carolina Panthers gave the Seahawks all they could handle. But, as it turns out, thereâ€™s an explanation for Seattleâ€™s poor showing against such a weak opponent. It seems that the mighty Seahawks were very nearly derailed by having to take a charter flight from the Pacific Northwest all the way to North CarolinaÂ and then (horror of unimaginable horrors) having to play football at 10:00 am PDT on Sunday morning. Such adversity is of course unparalleled in the long-storied history of human undertaking, never mind professional sports. Itâ€™s a miracle the Seahawks managed to show up for the game at all. Whew!]
Still, the jaundiced observer may wonder if any of these teams has the mental fortitude to persevere throughout the long haul of the regular season and then the physical and emotional meat grinder that is the NFL playoffs. Just maybe we should continue to pay attention after all.
3. Heâ€™s Mr. Know-It-All â€“ Every fan in Boston grows up thinking he can manage the Red Sox or fill out the Patriots draft board. Many fans sincerely believe that they know better than the guys in charge. These fans intrepidly forge ahead, arriving undaunted at passionate conclusions without the benefit of access to all of the pertinent facts. Such beliefs are most often heavily tinged with 20-20 hindsight, a luxury not afforded to the real decision-makers. It is truly our good fortune to live in The Age of the InternetÂ where the resulting unfounded opinions, idle speculation and outright fabrications can quickly be disseminated to millions. The enhancement to the public discourse of such matters has been incalculable. (Ed. Note â€“ oblivious though I may be, I do recognize the irony of what is being communicated here.)
4. An Axe to Grind?Â – Itâ€™s a drumbeat that started back in June and hasn’t abated since. The Sporting Press continues to claim that Bill Belichick is arrogant, stupid and criminally negligent for not constructing his roster in prescient anticipation of innumerable surgeries, murderous rampages, persistent festering infections, assorted legal entanglements, tainted urine samples and various sprains, broken bones, muscle/tendon/ligament tears and other unforeseen medical complications. Armed with the damning facts and bound by the stringent ethics of their most honorable profession, the local media had little choice but to outright ignoreÂ the poll conducted by SI.com of twelve NFL general managers, nine of whom asserted that Coach Belichick is the very bestÂ in the business. Nary a mention of this by the Local Chroniclers of The Truth, The Whole Truth and Nothing but the TruthÂ who frequently and correctly remind us that under Belichickâ€™s longstanding reign of terror and continued malfeasance, the team has struggled to win a paltry 39 regular season games and three playoff games over the last three seasons. Hell, even the lowly Houston Astros have won 51 games this season alone.
As an interesting sidelight to the aforementioned poll NFL GM Poll: Bill Belichick top coach, Ozzie Newsome best GM – NFL – Dennis Dillon – SI.com. Others receiving votes were John Harbaugh, Tom Coughlin and Jeff Fisher. Harbaugh coached last yearâ€™s Super Bowl winner, so okay. Coughlin has coached two Super Bowl winners (so far, so good) but his team, only an occasional playoff participant, has written the book on uneven and indifferent play even in its championship seasons. As for Jeff Fisher? Imagine that you are the owner of an NFL team and one day you find out that your very own general manager, the person to whom you have entrusted your franchise and its $125 million payroll, thinks that Jeff Fisher is the best coach in the NFL. Pass the hemlock.
5. Intergalactic Manning Sycophancy FestivalÂ â€“ Thank God this hideous media slobberfest is over. Okay, I get it â€“ Archieâ€™s a great guy, Peytonâ€™s a great guy, Eliâ€™s a great guy, even Cooperâ€™s a great guy. Jesus. Give me a fucking break. It would be a superhuman undertaking to sandblast the veneer off the Manning myth to reveal the unpleasant reality of Archieâ€™s megalomania, Peytonâ€™s appalling money-grubbing greed and the fact that Eli (despite his two rings) is a clueless human turnover machine. (Okay, Cooper probably really is a great guy and deserves a pass from this invective). This was a disgusting spectacle to which decent people (i.e., non-jet fans) should never be subjected. Letâ€™s hope it never happens again.
6. O Come, O Come EmmanuelÂ – The Patriots have taken a bit of criticism for not going harder after Steelers WR Emmanuel Sanders, A slightly higher contract offer than $2.5 million might have forced the cap-strapped Steelers to say goodbye to Sanders and take the compensatory 3rd round draft pick from NE. But looking at the Steelers, you have to wonder WTF they were thinking? The team is clearly going nowhere this year and Sanders is almost certainly headed elsewhere next year. Bad choice. Might Pittsburgh consider dealing the receiver as the trade deadline approaches?
7. The Long and Winding RoadÂ â€“ Two games do not a season make. Those who are taking delight in the imminent demise of the 2-0 New England PatriotsÂ do so at their own peril. Injuries will heal, young players will learn, coaches will adjust. The lessons learned from early season adversity may well reap dividends when the weather turns colder and the stakes are higher. The challenges the team will face this year are great. The intriguing part of the 2013 season will be seeing whether this young football team can indeed rise to the occasion. I have no idea if they are up to it, but that, after all, is why we watch.
A sincere thank you to Zeus for taking the time to share his thoughts on the Patriots and the NFL.
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