Growing up in New England, there was a certain civic pride taken in, well...lots of things. The smug, misguided feeling of intellectual superiority that comes with claiming Dartmouth, Yale and Harvard as "yours," even if you lacked the SATs and GPA to gain entry into their hallowed halls; the nobility in rooting for storied and successful sports franchises like #33's Celtics, and, oddly, the even greater nobility in rooting for storied and unsuccessful sports franchises like the team CARNEY LANSFORD, DOUG BIRD and DAVE STAPLETON wore mustaches while playing for. But nothing - truly, nothing - gave us a keener, more obnoxious sense of self-satisfied entitlement than the literati-laden sports section of The Boston Globe.
For readers born after, say, Alf was on the air, The Boston Globe
remote to the Parents Television Council: "This raunch-o-rama about two beer-swilling slobs in their 20s who routinely engage in premarital sex and use foul language is inappropriate for children and teens at any hour." Kinda makes you want to head straight for Amazon to buy the Blu-Ray, huh? (Dear Parents Television Council, You had us at "raunch-o-rama...") But where we? Oh right, the Globe...
WILL MCDONOUGH. LEIGH MONTVILLE. RAY FITZGERALD. BOB RYAN (we guess). And the crown prince, PETER GAMMONS, and those Baseball Notes so many of us pored over every Sunday, before church and after, sometimes with a yellow highlighter. The Times, as it's been sung (sorta), they are a-changin'...
These days, no matter where you call home, regardless of which side of the aisle your political leanings may have left forehead-shaped dents, nor which teams you rightfully call your own, we can all agree on this: The media is absolutely shameful in its shameless, one-note devotion to what's easy and sensational, to what sells. The bottom line is the bottom line. It's their version of the Hollywood Exec who carps about not being able to "see the poster." (If we weren't so busy up here on our soap box, we'd acknowledge that we too are stooping toward the easy way out; that there are, of course, exceptions, like MIKE REISS, BOOMER ESIASON, ADAM SCHEFTER and others, for whom "fair and balanced" is more than just a catchy bit of dubious sloganeering.) At no time is the NFL media's shameless sensationalism more shamelessly sensational than one week after Week One of football's regular season. Let's take a look around...
The New York Jets
LAST WEEK: A brash bunch of burger-scarfing, big-hittin' bad boys, led by a fun-loving football legacy, the pot-bellied purveyor of profane (and goddamn snack-haver), REX RYAN. We love the in-your-face trash-talk as much as their opponents will hate it - and with SANTONIO and SAN DIEGO imports LT and CROMARTIE, both offense and defense are awash in new playmakers!
THIS WEEK: The Same Old Jets are a one-dimensional team of over-penalized, under-disciplined, mouthy thugs who won't win a damn thing with that Cautionary Tale of a quarterback and playmakers so unfocused they don't realize it takes ten yards, not nine-and-a-half, to get a first down. P.S. Fumblin', bumblin' SHONN GREENE ain't ready for prime-time!
FAIR & BALANCED: That D stands for Dominant, with or without KRIS "ACL - OUT" JENKINS. The QB remains iffy, but is armed with just enough weapons to put up just enough points, and is motivated by a desperate need to avoid following - once more, with failing - in the footsteps of MATT LEINART. As for Greene, ball-security aside, the kid can flat-out play. One crappy game against RAY LEWIS & Co. ain't exactly a crime. (And if it was, he wouldn't report you anyway.)
So, yes, the Jets talk (way, WAY) too much, and it's a blast to see that blow up in their faces - we don't begrudge ANYONE giving them grief about eating their words - but as far as actual *analysis * goes, they lost a game to a ravenous defense, and a much better offense, by one measly point. Did they look terrible? Yes. Is it likely they'll look that bad going forward? A girl can dream...
The New England Patriots
LAST WEEK: Is BELICHICK too old to coach in the NFL? Is the secondary too young? The upside of this offense is great, but the defense is downright dreadful. And where's the pass-rush? ARE THE PATRIOTS ELITE ANYMORE?! ("Child, please! Now pass me my flask...")
THIS WEEK: Business as usual, BB's not too old, he's a genius, the D isn't young so much as "athletic" and "fast," and the offense is otherworldly, 'though Moss is a me-first head-case...
FAIR & BALANCED: Bill is Bill and Brady is Brady - neither perfect, but both remain Hall of Fame great. Chung, McCourty and Butler, while not exactly the Second Coming of RONNIE LOTT and ERIC WRIGHT, are a pleasant surprise, who gave up their share of catches, but got more than their share of tackles and passes-defensed. Speaking of "defensed," the New England D was indeed revelatory, but let's see how they do this week. Even against "an anemic" (© Out-Takes' high school production of Death of a Salesman) like the Jets, we'll have twice as much proof the defense is for real once we've seen both teams play another game. As for Randy...
...okay, yes, that was an ill-timed ramble but - and credit here goes to local-ish "journos" DALE & HOLLEY, as well as Mike Reiss and TOM CURRAN, for their nuanced reading of the tea leaves between the lines - what #81 took sixteen minutes (plus at least one more interview) to express was his desire to remain a Patriot; to get what Reiss ably deemed a "verbal hug."
Moss is high-maintenance, fair enough. At a moment when he and the rest of his team should've been basking in the postgame buffet of "Welker" and "Guyton" and "Chung," he threw fresh meat to the giddy cowherds of the world. But wasn't much of the overkill that followed as willfully, joyfully nasty as Moss's odd monologue was thoughtlessly selfish? And which one's worse?
LAST WEEK: Gleeful two-time NFL Loser-slash-"rah rah" college coach, whose cheerleader-ish sideline antics will end with a sis-boom-bah-humbug!
THIS WEEK: The anti-STEVE SPURRIER, Seattle's Best ain't just a coffee anymore - and this one packs more pick-me-up! The perfect coach for "today's player!"
FAIR & BALANCED: Listen, we scoffed at the guy, too - last week, right here on this page. (We believe the regrettable phrase "The Seahawks Sea-suck" came into play - a prime example of our own lack of immunity to the lazy allure of snarky, moronic word-play.) While we're willing to roll with the punches and readjust to conditions on the ground, not to mention in the air, a wait-and-see attitude seems prudent. The '97 Patriots and '94 Jets started fast out of the chute, too. That said, it's hard not to be happy, pumped and jacked for the guy. (Unless you're USC.)
LAST WEEK: To everyone - no, we know, not you, PETER KING - a fantasy football "sleeper!"
THIS WEEK: Fans shouldn't be surprised that the Texans running back gained 231 yards rushing, as his struggles at the University of Tennessee had more to do with "coaching turmoil" and "a supposed questionable attitude."
FAIR & BALANCED: All that "Inside the Huddle" stuff was delivered like fans are clueless sheep for overlooking Foster, and only good ol' JOHN CLAYTON knew - but was, what, withholding it until now? Why not mention this before * Foster almost single-handedly sent Peyton home to Indy with a record of 0-1? If you're going to act like it's not all that surprising, let us in on even a whiff of it prior to the guy copping AFC Player of the Week honors. You are the "professor*," right?
The Crazy Thing We Read This Week, And We Mean You, Peter King
Coach of the Week: Bill Belichick, head coach, New England
He's taken the slings and arrows throughout the offseason for not doing enough at the receiver position...
Whoa whoa - easy, big fella. The only one we've heard slinging arrows about Belichick "not doing enough at the receiver position" is YOU - on a WEEI appearance and in your column. Long before last week's thrashing of the Mighty Bengals of Cincinnati, we hadn't noticed anyone outside of the King household who would've listed receiver even in the Patriots' Top 5 concerns. They had Moss coming back, the miracle recovery of WES WELKER, internal raves for "red-shirt" BRANDON TATE, the continued maturation of "Wes off the old block," JULIAN EDELMAN. They brought in TORRY HOLT (since released), drafted TAYLOR PRICE... (And we're not even counting DAVID PATTEN (retired) and the three musketeers on the TIGHT END depth chart.)
What exactly were you hoping for and, more to the point, who are these mystery men who've been secretly hounding Bill Belichick with nutso criticism and *Hamlet * metaphors?
Blooper Reel: "Back by (no sense whatsoever of) Popular Demand" Edition
~ You know it's a banner day for the Patriots when even the pre-game Karma - "Today's national anthem will be performed by CONSTANTINE MAROULIS, a former [preening, mugging, creepy Gene Simmons minus the makeup] *American Idol * contestant!" - can't keep a good team down.
~ MARK SANCHEZ has a lot to learn about being a QB on the field, but he has just as much to learn off of it. Case in point, his comments following the Jets 10-9 loss to Baltimore. Quips like "there's plenty of blame to go around" and "we all had our share in this loss" are fine and dandy when you're not the one whose fault it is. That's what a leader does - passes off the credit and takes twice his share of the blame. But when it's clear to anyone watching that YOU were the prime reason for defeat, it doesn't make you look like a magnanimous leader to go spreading the wealth. It makes you look like a weasel. As does getting into a spat with JOE "I Wanna Kiss You" NAMATH, a Jet QB who, whatever you think of him, actually won something once.
Meanwhile, reenacting their own personal "Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?! Hell no!" moment all week, JET FAN is hilariously frantic - We can't pass downfield! Schotty's gotta go! What was Keller thinking?! - but for all the wrong reasons. They should be frantic because, days later, their Golden Boy still doesn't get that he shouldn't say things like, "There's nothing wrong with going 15-1." Wow, Sanchize. How 'about 14-2?
~ Just when you thought BILL BELICHICK and YOUR MOM had nothing in common, he starts referring to the major social networking site as "MY FACE or YEARBOOK or whatever."
~ REVIS Island closed for repairs? Shocking. Tell us, Darrelle, if you don't play Sunday, will you be holding out for less money? Slouch.
~ Out-Takes may be the last to weigh in, but - for the record - Lions WR CALVIN JOHNSON wuz robbed. That TD reversal was the best example of "good call, bad rule" since a fateful, snowy night in Foxboro when the Raiders didn't take advantage of the six other chances they had to win following WALT COLEMAN and the you-know-what rule. (By the way, as far as Calvin's overturned touchdown reception, we're actually not at all sold on the "good call" part.)
~ One more note on the hard knocks being absorbed by Jabba the HC of the NYJ... Because we've heard it *ad nauseum * for the last couple months, we get that the media adores the audacity of Ryan's hope because it "makes our job easier!" and the stories "write themselves!" But it's like a few years ago when DONOVAN MCNABB admitted he wasn't aware of the regular season overtime rules. If it's true, it's true - but at least be smart enough not to say it out loud.
~ Anyone not rooting for JIMMY JOHNSON to stay on Survivor as long as possible should be ashamed of themselves, if for no other reason than to see what the Hell happens to his hair.
~ With all the talk from the NFL management side about a focus on safety, we find it especially perplexing that, at a time when CONCUSSIONS represent a clear and present danger in football, the powers-that-be continue to push for an 18-game schedule. It's greed, pure and simple. The only other explanation is that it's a shiny, happy bargaining chit the owners have all along planned to "give back." If that's the case, we suppose they deserve some kind of merit badge for collective bargaining deviousness, but it's a pretty sad best-case scenario for an indefensible position.
Oh, and one more thing - please, Commish, for the love of God, stop saying that "the fans clearly want" an 18-game regular season. For one thing, it's dishonest. Hating crummy pre-season games (at regular season prices) is not the same thing as wanting an "enhanced" regular season. And secondly, managing fan expectations can be a risky business. Fine. But sometimes you've just gotta say, WHO CARES WHAT THE FANS WANT? If it's dangerous to the players who make your sport go, don't do it. Handing out a firearm to every JOHN CONNOR fullback, so he can blow away blockers like some latter-day Last Boy Scout, might be something the fans like, too. Doesn't make it a good idea.
You're the world beaters. Congrats. Now act like it.
John Cockrell is a writer for USA Network's "In Plain Sight," and a screenwriter, whose other work has run the gamut from "Sesame Street Parents Magazine" to Playboy TV's "The Weekend Flash." (He figures everything else is pretty much in-between.)