Friday, January 27, 2012

Terrell Suggs: One of my New Favorite Players

There was some discussion this week about a scoreboard error at Gillette Stadium which made Baltimore kicker Billy Cundiff think it was the wrong down. This not only shook up his pre-kick routine on the sideline, it also seemed to force him to rush his lining up for a 32 yard field goal. A field goal he famously missed.

There was an attempt by some to turn this into SpyGate 2.0. It's being called ScoreboardGate. And one Ravens coach (Randy Brown, the Ravens' kicking consultant) when asked about the possibility of the Patriots intentionally sowing confusion said "I don't think you can rule anything out in New England, can you?"

The story never took off, despite considerable effort from the bombastic and outlandish wing of the sports media. Outside of Boston, some people tried to make a name for themselves by spewing innuendo, and implying some scoreboard trickery. And inside of Boston, fans and media stalwartly defended their team against an attack that never really came.'s headline, for instance, read "Ravens blame scoreboard for missed kick." Which wasn't true at all. The Ravens didn't make any assertion. The aforementioned Brown was led to say what he said. Which was kind of stupid, but the kicking consultant is hardly the voice for the entire Ravens organization. And head coach John Harbaugh called the whole notion of foul play "nonsense." None of the Ravens made accusations. All accusations were made by sports media people, who then tried to generate a story about the accusations that they themselves made. Sort of like accusing someone of being an alien, then referring to them as an "alleged alien."

The media tried to make a story out of nothing, but their wheels never got any traction. Mainly because despite the confusion, Cundiff should have still made the kick. And also because any sensible person could realize that the scoreboard's error was due to miscommunication over a ruling on Anquan Boldin's fumble out of bounds, which brought the ball back to where he last controlled it, not where it left the field of play. Moreover, the circumstances were so weird that the notion of premeditation was absurd.

Imagine Belichick telling a scoreboard operator, that just in case the Ravens fumbled a ball out of bounds past a first down marker, to screw up on the down and distance, thus confusing the placekicker. That's a little far-fetched, even for the Arlen Specters of the world. And he's the guy who came up with the Magic Bullet Theory.

Terrell Suggs had the best dismissal of this non-story, when Skip Bayless tried to jumpstart the conspiracy theories.

I'm glad Suggs called out him out. But asking Skip Bayless not to be a douchebag is like asking water not to be wet.

Even after Bayless tries and fails to get Suggs to accuse the Patriots of cheating (using a gentle sounding euphemism like "home-cooking"), he then tries to get Suggs to badmouth his own coach. He tries to start one fire, then moves on to start another.

Bayless is a tool. And that's why he has a job. Which makes him an even bigger tool. And makes people who watch him, even if they hate him, tools. Because people do like to watch him be a douchebag, and that's why he gets paid. And that pisses me off.

I want a "Be an Analyst, Don't be a Douchebag" t-shirt. Of course Bayless is such a tool that he'd probably be the one selling them.

NHL All-Star Teams Selected

There's really only two interesting parts of the NHL's All-Star weekend: the draft, and seeing whether or not Chara can break his own fastest shot record. Last night was the draft, with Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson and former Senator Zdeno Chara picking teams.

Not surprisingly, all the Slovaks and Bruins wound up on Chara's team. All the Swedes and Senators found their way to Alfredsson's team. Carey Price will also be on Team Chara. So will Dennis Wideman. No Canucks wound up with Chara.

But Phil Kessel did. I'm so glad Kessel is not on the Bruins. He puts up impressive numbers (except against the B's), but he's such an awkward creep. Chara's assistant captain for the draft was Toronto's Joffrey Lupul, so the Maple Leaf connection saved PK81 from more shame.

So Tim Thomas, Tyler Seguin, and Zdeno Chara will be on the same team. I'm going to predict that Thomas will allow 4 or 5 goals (no defense in the All-Star Game), Chara will win Fastest Shot, and Seguin will get a hat-trick.

Why the Sox MUST HAVE Jackson or Oswalt

Rumors are flying around Boston that the Red Sox are pursuing Edwin Jackson and Roy Oswalt. They've even been offered contracts, according to these rumors. These rumors aren't flimsy whispers, either. These are the loud, shouting, firm rumors. The kind that originate from the Red Sox' Front Office through their network of leaks and anonymous sources.

Either pitcher would help solidify the Sox rotation. The Sox cannibalized their bullpen in order to fill the gaps in that rotation, and there's no guarantee that a guy like Bard will be able to cut it as a starter. The Sox could use something a bit more concrete.

Jackson won 12 games with a respectable 3.79 ERA last season, split between the White Sox and Cardinals. He's far from an Ace, but he's a guy who can throw a decent 200 innings at the bottom of your rotation.

Oswalt isn't as appealing, but he might be cheaper to get. I doubt he'll recapture much of his 2010 form, when he was 6th in NL Cy Young voting. But the 33 year old still has something to offer.

So either guy improves the rotation, provides some depth, some insurance, some solidity.

But the Sox need to sign one of them for different reasons, for off-field reasons. I got an e-mail from last night, telling me that a majority of tickets go on sale tomorrow.

The Sox need something to keep the fans happy, to give them hope in 2012.

This off-season started with rage and frustration and an overwhelming desire for change. And apart from getting a new manager, losing a GM, and losing a closer, the Sox haven't changed much. No big ticket free agents. No blockbuster trades. No stud prospects coming from AAA. What is there for Sox fans to be excited about? What is there to drive them to spend money on tickets?

The Sox also have to compete with the Patriots, who are going to their 5th Super Bowl in 11 years. The Bruins just won the Cup and will likely see their season extend deep into the warm months. People in Boston only have so much money to spend on sports. And those dollars are shifting away from the Red Sox.

The Sox haven't made the playoffs since 2009. Haven't won a playoff series (or even a playoff game) since '08. Their TV ratings are going down. They still have that sellout streak, officially, but we've all seen more than a handful of empty seats at a few games.

The Sox need to make some sort of noise. They need to make it at least appear as though they want to win a World Series. This weekend is perfect to do so. The Pats have a week off. The Bruins are in an All-Star break. Time to fill the sports sections of the Globe and Herald with rumors and contract offers.

That's why the Jackson and Oswalt rumors have been so widespread, so firm, and so specific. Even if Jackson and Oswalt don't sign, the Sox have made it very public that they're trying.

Sox fans need something to look forward to in 2012. They want hope, and the Red Sox need to start selling them that hope.