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February 4, 2008

[Business Day One] And Then That Happened

In short, the New York Giants won because they were able to bring consistent pressure with their defensive line. They didn’t need to cheat up their linebackers or sacrifice coverage to get through He was really good.the Patriots’ offensive line. They did it with Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora on the outside and Justin Tuck up the middle. With only four or five men needed to collapse the pocket and hurry Tom Brady up, linebackers could cover the short routes and the safeties and corners could cover the deep routes. And they didn’t need to cover that long, since Brady had substantially less time to find open receivers than he’s been used to all season. That’s it. That’s the game. Like the two previous Giants championships, it was done with the defense.

The “defense wins championships” sentiment was obvious as soon as Eli Manning took the final knee. But with a night to sleep on this and a nice long walk this morning, a few others thoughts came together:

-There are three things that slightly tarnish the Giants victory for me. 1) I absolutely hate Jeremy Shockey and am disgusted that he gets a ring. 2) I absolute hate Mercury Morris and am disgusted that he’ll get to run his mouth about this. 3) I love rarity of utter dominance in sports. I don’t think I’ll get to see an undefeated football season in my lifetime – this was the closest I was going to come to it, and it was happening in my town. A team that I legitimately liked and enjoyed following could’ve done it. And it didn’t happen. This rare thing didn’t materialize and it likely never will.

-I don’t think any Giants fan ever expected to say “Yeah, Eli Manning deserved that SuperBowl MVP Award.” And a good million of them said that very thing last night.

-It was a pleasure watching Michael Strahan play last night. He was showing a first step so fast that no one on the Patriots line could block him. He wasn’t even using counter-moves and spins. He was just speed rushing around the outside and destroying the pocket. He played like a 25 year old, even though his driver’s license says 36 on it.

-I called my dad and grandpa and left messages after the game. It was a pleasure to do so.

-Watching the game with a mix of comedians and nerds (and nerdy comedians) makes for a very healthy environment. There was a lot of snark being thrown about, and the conversations revolved around Star Wars references and witty deconstructions of the commercials.

-Post-SuperBowl traffic ranks up there with Christmas traffic and Thanksgiving at the airport traffic as “worst unavoidable traffic situations.”

-National Signing Day for college football recruits is February 6th. Pitchers and catchers report to training camp in ten days. Basketball is happening right now. There are plenty of distractions out there if you want them. I suggest you take them if you need them.

Good game, everybody.

February 1, 2008

18 And Life To Go

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , , , — Peiser @ 4:00 pm

The perfect season has been foiled at the last minute before.

From The Washington Post‘s The Redskins Book:

The 1942 Redskins went 10-1. Their only loss was 14-7 to the Giants in the second game of the season, a score they reversed against the Giants amid a nine-game winning streak. The Redskins allowed only 13 points in their last four games. Once more, their title-game foe would be the Bears. The Bears, who had won 18 straight games, were favored.

The defending champion Bears’ 11 wins in 1942 were rough, physical victories staked on hard-hitting defense. The Redskins had gotten back into contending shape after a mediocre 1941 on the legendary arm, back, and quick-kicking leg of Sammy Baugh. The favored Chicago team quickly went up 6-0. But the final score was 14-6, with the last 1 yard scoring play a handoff to Andy Farkas. By all accounts, it was smash-mouth football, the kind of game that you can’t watch without wincing every minute of the way– despite the fact that “NFL commissioner Elmer Layden ordered ‘a clean game.'” (Goodell shouldn’t have to worry about a ‘clean game’ on the field- just keep Tom Petty from flashing some tit and everyone’s happy. Also, check the Giants’ Gatorade jugs for audio transmitting devices.)

The Bears had won 18 straight. The Redskins stopped them. All it took was a charter member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. And George Halas off coaching duty due to naval service. And… ok, fine, so let’s just stick with the “18 and out” part.

Then, there’s at least one recent example of a perfect season bid gone unrealized with a connection to this weekend’s contest:

That video is never going to get old.The connection, of course, is the coach of the then-victorious Eagles: Tom Coughlin. Sure, it’s a stretch, and there’s pretty much no comparison of even the biggest NCAA game to any pro game, but the man did coach an underdog to ‘glory’ once before. Hell, they even got to play in the Carquest bowl or some shit. And that loss sent the ND program into a slow spiral which… well, you saw what happened this year.

I’ve been a Giants fan my whole life. Baseball’s my first love, of course, but I can remember watching Simms, Bavaro, Mowatt, and LT lead the charge in Pasadena, mere months after Mookie poked a dribbler through some guy’s legs. It was a glorious time to be a six-year-old sports nut in Queens. And I am grateful to this day that my family were not Jets fans. That would suck. A lot.

Given the reigning baseball champions, I can’t shake the feeling like there’s some guileless little kid in Quincy or Watertown or wherever, MA, who doesn’t yet know that he’s supposed to be a smug asshole about cheering for his teams, just that he likes Varitek and it was fun to see the Sox win, and his dad yells about the Patriots a lot and it’s fun to see them win. For that kid, sure, it’d be nice if the Patriots won.

For the rest of you, eat a dick. 24-21, smash-mouth Giants victory.

This is the end of today’s PICKSTRAVAGANZA by the Nerds on Sports staff. Read the previous five posts for more “insight” from the nerds.

[Business Day One] – What My Dad Does

Filed under: Business Day One,Football — Tags: , , , , — Serpico @ 3:00 pm

“So, dad, I hear you skipped work today.”

“Yeah, I felt pretty bad.  I should be all set for Sunday, though.”

“Well that’s good.  I’d rather you sick now than too sick to make the chili.”

“The package is on the way.  I should get it Friday.”

“Glad to hear it.  I hope it does some good.”

“This game is going to be a lot closer than everyone thinks it’ll be.  We’re gonna win this thing.”

“Maybe.  They just have so many weapons.  It’ll come down to the pass rush.  Listen, dad, I gotta jet. I’ll talk to you later.”

“Let’s Go Giants.”

——————————-

I was eight years old when the New York Giants beat the Buffalo Bills in the SuperBowl.  I don’t remember Norwood’s kick sailing wide right, but I do remember the moment after.  The Giants burst into celebration on the sideline, and Bill Parcells was smiling as he ran on to the field in that sweater he wore.  My dad picked me up and tossed me into the air and I was terrified that I’d bang my head against the ceiling.  We were all laughing and cheering.  My grandfather, my father and me.  And the Giants at Tampa Stadium.

That was the purest moment of sport I had ever experienced.  Three generations of men (or, rather, two generations of men and one generation of me) that had grown up within a dozen miles of Giants Stadium watched one of the most amazing displays we could possibly watch.  Neither before nor since have I seen my father that happy.  The fan in me was defined that Sunday night, as we celebrated in the living room.

Every year, on SuperBowl Sunday, my dad watches the Giants/Bills game, and the Giants/Broncos game from 4 years earlier.  You remember SuperBowl XXI, right?  It’s the one where the Denver receivers stopped running cross routes in the second half because they were terrified.  He makes his chili as the grainy VHS tapes are playing, and pulls out every piece of Giants merchandise he owns.  Last year, the Nintendo Wii was incorporated into the pregame festivities.  This year, the Wii’s coming back and is being joined by a Giants rug and Lawrence Taylor Fathead.

The reason why I want the Giants to win is because of my father.

I was asked how folks from New Jersey pick their teams.  It’s a family thing.  Seeing the man or woman that raised you happy makes you happy.  Taking a roadtrip to a patch of the greenest grass on Earth that is surrounded by 60,000 fans makes memories that never fade.  Nowadays, I know more about the daily goings on of the New England Patriots than I do about the Giants’.  I’m not as familiar with the non-Strahan-and-Umenyiora elements of the defensive line as I should be.  I flat-out hate the tight end.  I remeber the stench of Giants Stadium more than the turf.  But they’re the team I picked when I was being tossed into the air as a child.  They’re mine.

I’ve been adopted by Patriots fans because I know as much about their team as they do.  Gillette Stadium is beautiful.  The Kraft family is intelligent and charitable.  Tom Brady is legend.  And I cheer for New England every game.

Except this one.

So I suppose that’s my prediction for the SuperBowl.  I predict that I’ll be cheering hard for New York.

Hey dad, Let’s Go Giants.

This is the 5th installment in today’s PICKSTRAVAGANZA by the Nerds on Sports staff. Check back on the hour from 11 AM to 4 PM for more “insight” from the nerds.

Live From Cambridge, Arizona (Friday)

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , , , — Sean @ 12:00 pm

Calm Before The Storm

Tying up some loose ends, and then the big pick to follow…

Attention P. Burress: So you made a prediction for this week’s game. Here’s the problem. In 1969, the AFL was an unproven league, and while Joe Namath’s fabled guarantee was audacious, it wasn’t *too* audacious because no one had seen the Jets play an NFL squad, ever. The Colts were a great team but not nearly as good as the Packers teams blasting the AFL in the previous two seasons. Today, everyone’s seen the Patriots slap around the NFC East, and we know damn well what heights they can reach. “Predicting” the unbeatens will score their lowest point total of the season is more than a little stupid. The D was keying up on you and your weak ankle already. Ask Freddie Mitchell how that works out. I guess the two week layoff was just a little long, and you got bored. Shouldn’t have pulled a Tiki.

Attention B. Weiser: The news of your alcoholic beverages has at last reached Earth. Now everyone knows that when drinking Bud around animals, you will likely be bitten or head-butted in the crotch; also, when about to drink the last Bud Light, my friends will offer me ludicrous sums or fantastical trades. I have been convinced by your product and now protect my crotch at all-times. Therefore stop buying eight commercials to air at $2,700,000 apiece. In addition, when I buy a six pack, I now hide the other five as soon as I am home. I now own the rights to my cousin’s will, and my mailman chases dogs for my amusement. He was recently bitten in the crotch.

Attention J. Buck: Buck AikmanPlease, please just call the football game. No guests, no cartoon pigskin teaching the kids what an I formation is, no Taco Bell sponsored left upright, just play by play and analysis from Troy in the booth. And make Chris Myers realize what he’s done with his life. One minute he’s hosting Up Close and inventing “Did You Know”, the next he’s sucking up to the California Raisins at a 49ers-Ravens tilt. Get it together, Jub Jub. (more…)

January 27, 2008

One Giant Leap? Pats Won’t Be Kind

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , , — Sean @ 2:00 am

Strahan

We’re not here for the Giants.

I repeat that the Bud commercials, the FOX globalcast, Tom Petty, the pomp and circumstance: none of them are here for the Giants. For all of their efforts this season, they earn the right to play a sixty minute football game. The Super Bowl is never really about football anyway, and even if it were, the pretty boys to the north would earn the acclaim. The accolades will reduce this year’s NFC Champion to the Washington Generals
Wash Gen in cleats. (more…)

January 21, 2008

[Business Day One] Stacks and Stacks of Letters!

Filed under: Business Day One — Tags: , , , , , — Serpico @ 1:25 pm

I’ve got an awful lot of mail to get to and precious little time to get to it in.  But before I jump into the Nerds On Sports mailbag, I have to get something off my chest.

I’ve followed the New York Giants since I was a wee lad.  I saw one of the most stifling defenses of the past thirty years win two Super Bowls before I was ten years old.  Since my tenth birthday, The Graham Train's a comin!though, they haven’t given me much to cheer about.  When I was 12, they released Phil Simms (who everyone in Jersey loved like a dear cousin) to make way for Dave Brown and Lawrence Taylor snorted his way out of football.  Dave Brown then left so Danny “The Blind Gunslinger” Kannell could wreck my teenage years.  Then Kent Graham came in and began firing 80 yard missiles that would often hurt the hands of the defenders that intercepted them.  Kerry Collins, still fighting off that perpetual hangover he was in for most of the 90s, dragged the Giants into the 21st Century.  There was a bright spot, though.  They did make it to Super Bowl XXXV, during which the Baltimore Ravens reminded me what a stifling defense can do in the postseason.  And then came Kurt Warner and Eli Manning a couple of unmemorable years later.

All the while I watched them intently.  I would change the channel in disgust after every red zone interception that Graham threw, or every time Coach Jim Fassel would yell “Are you trying to get me fired?” at his players, but I’d always change it back.  Every hope I ever had regarding the (perhaps “my”) Giants were dashed as soon after they formed.  I hoped that the star tight end they drafted in 2002 wouldn’t end up being a racist moron.  I hoped that one of the finest running backs in franchise history would keep his mouth shut.  I hoped that Giants Stadium would eventually stop smelling like urine.  My hope was always rewarded with crushing disappointment.  My afternoons watching them play fair defense and awful offense for a decade felt like dreadful wastes of my time.  Emotionally, I drifted from the team I always followed.

And then I moved to Boston in 2000, home of the Patriots (well, Foxboro, but who’s counting).  There was an articulate and well-mannered quarterback at the helm, a coach that studied under The Grand Tuna, and a fanbase just as rabid and proud as the Giants’.  It felt good to watch their games.  I was never upset, even in the losses.  It was a joy to see them play, which is a feeling I hadn’t felt watching football since the night my dad tossed me up in the air as Longwell’s kick went wide.  I felt like a fan again…

And then the Giants had to beat the Buccaneers, Cowboys and Packers on the road, as the underdogs, in three straight weeks.  They played inspired defense, the twangy and infuriating Eli Manning didn’t make mistakes, and they are now in the Super Bowl against the New England Patriots.  Last night, as I went to bed, I actually asked myself why the Gods of Sport found it necessary to punish me in such a way.  What the heck am I supposed to do now?

I don’t have an answer.  But I do have answers to other questions, which is why I’m very blessed to have a stuffed mailbag in front of me.  Let’s jump in, eh?

Dan (Somerville, MA) – Why can you never get decent beer at any professional sports arena?

-Simply put, because they don’t need to sell good beer to get you to pay eight bucks for it. (more…)

August 28, 2007

The Game in Game Theory

Two children have a slice of ice cream cake to share between them. The longer they debate over what a “fair share” would constitute for each of them, the more the cake melts. It is, in fact, entirely possible that the cake will have melted by the time they reach a consensus.

Keep that image in mind while I talk about the most exciting part of preseason football: contract holdouts!

Rookie QB Brady Quinn made headlines by holding out for weeks after signing. Larry Johnson (KC Chefs) held out until last week before signing a 5-year, $43.2M extension. Asante Samuel (NE Patsies) just announced his return yesterday, though he’s still ducking efforts to wear the “franchise” tag. And Michael Strahan (NY Football Giants) is, as of this writing (Tuesday, August 28th, 9:00ish AM), still undecided. The man might very well hang up his cleats (sources say).

So what goes on during a contract holdout? What are the costs and benefits of avoiding training camp? Is the risk worth the reward? To find out, we turn to one of the classics of game theory, Thinking Strategically, by Avinash Dixit and Barry Nalebuff.

Reputation

For decades, the nation of Israel had a policy of never negotiating with terrorists. The government declared this to discourage hostage-taking: if capturing a civilian, or a politician, will never pay off, why bother? Israel did this to build a reputation of not being someone to screw with. The downside to having this sort of reputation, of course, is that it turns potential hostages into instant victims. There’s always a cost to talking tough.

No GM wants to cave if one of his players pouts and refuses to show up for training camp. To do so would immediately send a signal that this sort of behavior works and would open the floodgates next summer. It’s in every owner’s interest to stay firm.

Asante Samuel knows his game theoryAt the same time, however, the players aren’t chess pawns. There’s a world of difference between an Asante Samuel and a Randall Gay (2 tackles in 3 games last year). Coach Belichick may play it off like Samuel’s return is no big deal, but the defense he spent the entire offseason crafting in his Fortress of Solitude probably hinged more on a guy who caught 10 picks last season than a guy who sat for 12 games.

Samuel knew he was valuable to the Patriots. The question was: how valuable? That’s the kind of question that a holdout is meant to uncover – by watching the management’s change in behavior as the clock ticks and the options narrow.
(more…)

June 15, 2007

Kiwanuka Update: June 15, 2007

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , — BedelBlitz @ 6:34 pm

KiwanukaBased on my irrational love for all things Boston College (I love Flutie Flakes – they just taste better), here is an update for Mathias Kiwanuka, outstanding DE for the Boston College Eagles from 2002-2006.

 This is from ESPN’s Len Pasquerelli here (Insider subscription required):

“Although Mathias Kiwanuka continues to have a few rough spots in his transition, the New York Giants are sticking to their plan to move the defensive end to strongside linebacker for this season.  (more…)

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