Happy New Year, NerdsOnSports readers.
Now comes word that the Ravens have indeed fired Billick, making him the honorary first coach to get canned after the 2007 season. Considering Billick’s earlier comments that his job was safe, the move came as a surprise, but it probably shouldn’t have, considering the team’s lackluster performance in the second half of this season. Billick had been with the team for eight seasons. He was 80-64 in the regular season, 5-3 in four postseason trips and led the team to a win in Super Bowl 35.
While Billick was known as an offensive whiz before taking the job as the Ravens’ second-ever coach (he replaced Ted Marchibroda), his defenses were usually the better units. Under Billick, Baltimore never had a high-level wide receiver or quarterback — Trent Dilfer game-managed the team to the Super Bowl win. The team instead thrived on the power-running game of Jamal Lewis and ferocious defense, led by linebacker Ray Lewis.
After the team finished a surprising 13-3 last season and won the AFC North, little went right this season. Though the club nearly beat the now 16-0 Patriots, it was humiliated in a loss to the then 0-13 Dolphins.
Let’s take a moment to remember this maverick genius in his best form:
Who do you think should replace Brian Billick?
Edit: See also: bootbootbootbootbootbootbootbootbootbootboot.com.
On November 25, the Patriots met the Eagles for what was, at the time, the largest point spread in professional football in a game that didn’t involve an expansion team. With McNabb out, the bookies laid 23.5 points on the game, expecting another blowout. An onslaught of blitzes and three competitive quarters later, Brady looked rattled. The Patriots, taking grief for running up the score in the 4th in all other games, had to scramble to pull out a win.
All right. So the Pats had been shown to be vulnerable. But Belichick was a smart man; he wouldn’t make the same mistake twice. Especially not against Baltimore.
I took in the Red Sox/Orioles game this Saturday, and the experience so dominated my weekend that I must write about it today. Like at all Sox home games, the area around the ballpark was packed with fans wearing Papelbon and Ortiz jerseys and Boston hats of various colors. Kids in oversized red shirts jogged around to avoid their parents, who were yelling after them in every accent from North Shore to Southie. Folks carried bags of souvenirs, gorged on pretzels and drank $2 bottles of water. Just like every other Mardi Gras-esque pregame party on Lansdowne Street.
Only we were about 400 miles away from Lansdowne Street. At Camden Yards. At which the Sox were playing an away game. Could’ve fooled me. Considering the ratio of Sox to Orioles fans both on the streets of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor (10 to 1) and the ratio inside the stadium (let’s say, conservatively 4 to 1), you’d think Baltimore was a stop on the Ashmont-Mattapan High Speed Line. Might as well have been, really. The City of Baltimore makes it very, very easy for a Bostonian to come down and have a great weekend.
If you have never seen a game at Camden Yards, you owe it to yourself to do so. In fact, make a weekend out of it, as I did. Here’s a good itinerary for a Saturday game:
Friday – Take an afternoon or evening Amtrak down to Baltimore’s Penn Station. Read More
A month ago today, fellow blog conspirator Willis invited me to the Mother’s Day game at Fenway Park. I gladly accepted; in addition to the opportunity to watching the Sox play, I would get to watch players use pink bats and start rumors that those who used the regular bats were in favor of spreading cancer.
In order to alter the size of the tagcloud to my left, your right, I’d like to talk about a sport that’s not baseball.
On Monday, June 4, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell handed down a series of suspensions for off-field misbehavior:
- Tank Johnson, DT, Chicago Bears: for violating probation with misdemeanor firearms possession: eight games
- Chris Henry, WR, Cincinnati Bengals: driving with a suspended license, supplying alcohol to minors: eight games
- Adam ‘Pacman’ Jones, cornerback, Tennessee Titans: aggravated assault, inciting violence, travelling with gun-toting felons: one season
All three are appealing the suspensions.I don’t feel the least bit of remorse for either of these three. All of them are repeated delinquents: Pacman Jones has been arrested five times in two years, Henry a mere 4 times in fourteen months, and Johnson was already on probation for a firearms charge nine months earlier. Criminal charges clearly haven’t been sufficient, especially since these guys earn enough money to defend themselves out of anything short of assaulting a federal officer with rolled-up stolen missile plans.
I have no sympathy for their plight, but I do understand how they ended up where they did. Each of these young men were earning more money in a month than I earn in a year. Tank Johnson’s suspension, for instance, is estimated to cost him $255,000, which works out to $42,500 per unregistered firearm (and you thought your hobby was expensive). College athletes at universities with strong football programs already live the life of Achilles – and that’s when they’re (technically) not allowed to be paid for their work (ha ha, wink wink). Throw $1,212,000 at me within my first two years out of college and some of it just might end up on a stage in a Vegas stripclub.
One of the virtues of being in the thirties when it comes to draft day is that hey, you’re there for a reason. You’ve got shit figured out. Take it easy. Now’s the time to start making long-term investments that’ll pay off in a year or two, rather than hurrying sandbags into a collapsing levee.
So I’m going to talk about my Ravens.
1st round: Ben Grubbs, right guard, Auburn. One of the most liked linemen coming into the draft. The combine is full of those non-specific but enthusiastic notes that, were this baseball, would make Billy Beane tip over a lat press machine. “Explodes off the line” … “non-stop motor” … “mauler with a mean streak.”
On the other hand, it’s tough to quote impressive figures about a guard, so I understand the ambiguity. So here’s one impressive stat: Ben Grubbs never missed a game in college. This speaks of good health and, more importantly (on a team which still starts Jamal “Probation” Lewis and Ray “Obstruction of Justice” Lewis), good behavior.
3rd round: Yamon Figurs, wide receiver, Kansas State. The Ravens probably didn’t draft Figurs to catch passes, which is no doubt making the Texans pull their hair out. Say what you will about his hands – Figurs posted the fastest speed at the combine this year, and he ran back more than five fields’ worth of punts, twice for touchdowns. Pair him up with the like of B.J. Sams and the Ravens could once again have a punt return unit that puts points on the board. Read More
My old man once told me that sports is the universal language among guys. Find out that your new neighbor just moved in from Ohio and ask, “How ’bout them Bengals, huh?” And you can strike up a conversation with any stranger on the T by talking about the Sox, the Patriots, the Bruins or (if you’ve lost that lovin’ feeling) the Celtics.
Given the ties between city and team, it’s always a heartbreaker when a storied franchise moves from one city to another. But in the continual struggle between a team’s business interests, a city’s tax needs and a fanbase’s fervor, someone has to lose out. And it’s a shame when your team moves on and you can’t move with them.
In that vein, I give you my Five Most Controversial Franchise Moves in U.S. Sports. These are the big ones, or the sad ones, or the ones worth talking about.
This past week the day job had me travel down to D.C. to meet with a client. Well, our team of 4 decided (after a long day of work that had started at 4am by waking up to catch a flight) to squeeze into a Honda Civic driven by someone’s cousin for the hour drive to Baltimore to catch the Orioles v. Tigers game. At the time I didn’t know if this was a very intelligent idea, but the only ballpark I had ever been to was Fenway and it’s high time I start exploring.
We arrived just in time to see former ESPN personality Roy Firestone sing the national anthem. At this point I started compiling the ways Camden is better an Fenway. So far: cheaper seats, cheap and available parking, fireworks during the national anthem (rockets red glare and bombs bursting in air) and space to walk around. We then decided on what to eat. Even though Boog’s was right there and recommended, we weren’t in the mood for BBQ. We went with spicy cheese dogs and beer — perfect baseball food.