November 9, 2009
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Jared Nelson

Jared Allen

by Brad Eastland, T.S.P.





      Well, we’re suddenly halfway through the 2009 NFL season (where does the time go?) and, therefore, it somehow seems incumbent upon me as your local dime-store sage to share a few stray thoughts and observations on what we have enjoyed and endured so far.   So here goes.

*   Peyton Manning.   Peyton Manning is the best player in football.   Let’s just all take a deep breath and say it out loud.   Peyton Manning is the best player in football,” and probably always has been.   What he does week in week out, for a team riddled with injuries, putting up the kinds of numbers he puts up and making all those adjustments at the line of scrimmage and winning games with equal parts his arm and the brain lodged inside his oddly-shaped, oblong head, it just staggers the imagination.   The Colts are 8-0 but they’re not nearly that good.   Their running game is below average, their receiving corps has been riddled with retirements and injuries, they have a rookie head coach, and their defense is anything but intimidating.   But they are till 8-0.   It’s all him.   No wonder he’s won three MVP awards and might win a 4th this year.   And when he’s done he’s going to hold every QB record in the book.   Hats off to him….

*   The Saints.   What is up with the friggin’ New Orleans Saints?   One of the most pathetic if not the most pathetic franchise in NFL history is suddenly 8-0 too, the only other undefeated team besides he Colts, and they are blowing away teams to such a hellacious degree that they have already been penciled by many right into the Super Bowl.   Good for them.   (But I warn you; if the Saints win it all, the Saints, it’s a sure sign that the Apocalypse is upon us…)

*   Tony Sparano.   Some of you are at this moment mouthing the words, “Who the hell is Tony Sparano?”   I know.   He sounds like he should be a morally bankrupt button-man on The Sopranos, right?   But he’s not.   He even looks like a ‘Goodfella’, but he’s not.   What he is, is the head coach of the Miami Dolphins.   Anyway, he gets my award for authoring the dumbest coaching decision of the 1st half of the season.   A couple weeks ago against the aforementioned New Orleans Saints he’s leading 24-3, the Saints are on the one-yard line with a few seconds to go in the half, and so they have time for only one play.   They decide (surprisingly) to go for the field goal.   The field goal team rushes onto the field, as the Saints have no time outs left and the clock is getting ready to re-start.   So what does Tony Soprano, uh, Sparano do?   He calls time out.   The Saints have graciously decided not to go for the touchdown, they are struggling to get their field goal team on the field, the clock might even run out before they get any points at all….but Sparano calls time out.   He said later that he “wasn’t sure we had the right personnel on the field,” or something lame like that.   Right personnel?   Are you kidding?   The Saints have agreed to do the cowardly thing and kick the field goal, they are struggling to even get their own people out there, all you have to do is put your goal line package in there and let them try and kick it!  

      So what happens?    The Saints use the time out to catch their collective breath, quarterback Drew Brees talks Saints coach Sean Payton into going for the touchdown, of course they get it, the lead is suddenly only 14 points rather than 18, the Saints have all the adrenaline and momentum in the world, and they come out in the 2nd half and storm their way to victory.   All because Tony Sparano is one of a legion of NFL head coaches who are good at building a team and commanding respect and loyalty from their players, but neither sufficiently cool nor qualified to coach an actual NFL game from the sidelines.

      To paraphrase a famous celluloid Goodfella, “It’s not personal, Tony…it’s strictly business.” 

*   the 2009 Sports Philosopher over-achievement award?   The Cincinnati Bengals.   These perennial doormats are suddenly 6-and-2.   This is not a misprint.   Cedric Benson—once the most underachieving back in the league—is now one of the league’s best.   Carson Palmer is healthy again and throwing darts.   Chad Johnson (I won’t say his new legal name in print) is having a great year.   And even their usually flimsy defense is top-drawer.   I don’t get it, but here and now I salute it.

*   the 2009 Sports Philosopher under-achievement award?   The Chicago Bears.   Over 40 points allowed in two of the last three weeks.   Worse than just playing bad, the Bears are—week in and week out—the dumbest team in the league.   Dumb penalties, dumb play calls….Last week against Arizona they hit a new “football stupidity” low (for a detailed look at “football stupidity”, here’s my column from a month or so back: ) , when their best lineman Tommie Harris was ejected on the 4th play of the game for trying to punch his fist through an opposing player’s facemask while the latter was lying on his stomach.   And finally, anyone who knows anything about the Bears knows that their likeable yet clueless head coach, Lovie Smith, is too confused, too passive, and generally not nearly bright enough to warrant keeping his job.   That’s what happens when you hire a head coach with the same first name as Thurston Howell the 3rd’s wife on Gilligan’s Island.

      Yes, I’m a Bears fan.   The world can be an awful place….

*   Halfway point Most Valuable Player:  Who else?   The man harder to get rid of than a belligerent cockroach….Brett Favre!   Yes, I hate it too, but in this space we tell the truth, and you have to admit no one has had a better 1st half than old gray-haired #4.  He’s the halfway-point MVP.   I know he’s 40 years old, and I know he’s annoying the way he retires every year and that he’s such a shameless slut for attention, but on the field he’s made all the difference for the team I hate more than any other, the Minnesota Vikings.   He’s had game-winning touchdown passes, come-from-behind rallies, has 16 TD throws, and, incredibly, has only thrown 3 interceptions all year.   Apparently he’s forgotten that part of being Brett Favre is that you throw a lot of stupid interceptions, his one historical Achilles Heel.   But this year he’s never been sharper, never been more prudent, never been more accurate.   I hate it.   And bottom line, he has made both the Vikings players and their long-suffering fans believe, truly believe, that he can take them all the way to the Promised Land.   I sure hope he’s wrong.   Slut.
*   And finally, in conclusion as it were, I must comment briefly (okay, not so briefly) on people who celebrate after scoring a touchdown.   Or after a quarterback sack.  Or even after a first down.   This me-first phenomenon has always been my least favorite thing about the NFL.   Is there anything in football more classless, conceited, disrespectful, un-funny, or embarrassing than a pre-planned sack dance, first down brag-fest, or touchdown celebration???   Whenever I see one coming I usually curl up on the couch like a frightened embryo, hide my eyes and sneak a peek above the rim of my glasses.   Y’see, since they’re not embarrassed, I’m the one who winds up feeling embarrassed.   Embarrassed for the entire Human Race, I’m not kidding.   If I was an NFL player and someone on the other team did a pre-planned celebration at my expense I swear I’d go up and kick the crap out of him, personal foul penalty be damned.  


      Besides, it hurts the team.   A couple weeks ago a San Francisco player celebrated so tauntingly and embarrassingly and sickeningly after scoring a touchdown against the Colts that the referee had enough, flagged him for unsportsmanlike conduct, and the resultant 15-yard penalty allowed Peyton Manning to get his team down the field for a last-second field goal before halftime, even though he’d had only 45 seconds available to him when he got the ball back.   The 15 yards of free field position made all the difference.   And so the Colts—who hadn’t done anything all half long—were able to turn a 14-6 deficit into a 14-9 deficit right before halftime, the gift of free points having also injected and infused the whole team with an adrenaline-like burst of new life, and Manning ultimately parlayed it all into a razor-close 18-14 Colts victory.   What if the ‘Niners wind up missing the playoffs by one game?   All because of a stupid, senseless needless classless end-zone celebration?   Again, I refer you to my column on “football stupidity” mentioned three paragraphs ago….

      If I were an NFL head coach, and one of my players was flagged for a celebration penalty—particularly if it cost my team or almost cost my team a game—I would suspend that player for the following game.   Period.   Send a message.   Teach some discipline.   Or, if we are channeling our mothers, return our nation back to its morally straight, rural, respectful roots….  

      On the lighter side, you know who I feel sorry for?   Offensive lineman.   Because they have no way to celebrate.   It’s tons easier to celebrate something that just happened than something that didn’t happen.   When a defensive lineman beats his man and flattens the quarterback, each and every defensive lineman in the league seems to have his own pre-planned celebration ready to go.   The celebrations take many forms and, admittedly, are generally more clever and creative than the typical wide receiver’s groin-flexing, hip-swiveling TD dances.   One D-lineman used to mimic the using of a shovel to dig a grave.   Another used to dance around like a war-crazed Indian around a campfire.   One current NFL defensive end who played his college ball at Florida does a Florida-Gator-jaw-snapping-shut thing with his arms.   Perhaps the most artistic sack dance is employed by Minnesota’s Jared Allen, who does a wonderful rodeo calf-roping routine.  

      But the offensive linemen have nothing they can do in rebuttal.   So I’ve come up with one.   For an offensive lineman, it’s all about pass protection.   The very opposite of sacking the quarterback is protecting the quarterback, right?   Protection.   So I got to thinking, how could the offensive lineman communicate the concept of protection to both the crowd and a national TV audience….of course!   It hit me like a ton of bricks!   Because….

      ….nothing says protection quite like a prophylactic.   It’s the Mother Of All Protections (note the wry irony employed in the use of the word ‘mother’).   

      So here’s my idea: The next time some no-name offensive tackle keeps the defensive end assigned to him from getting to his quarterback, he should walk a few feet away, puff out his chest, and then mimic the action of tearing open a Trojan wrapper and rolling on a condom.   It’s all about protection, baby (yes, more wry reproductive irony).

      This could wind up the most effective public service message of all time.   More kids watch football in this country than any other sport.   What better way to teach safe sex to the youth of America?   I’m just saying.  

The Sports Philosopher

brad-eastlandBrad Eastland is an author, historian, film buff, NFL junkie, and sports nut, in no particular order.   Brad’s other recent columns for LaVerneOnline can be found in Sports under ‘The Sports Philosopher’ and also in Viewpoint under ‘Brad Eastland’s View’.    Brad has also written four novels and over 20 short-stories.    Samples of Brad’s fiction work can be discovered within the links below :


  1. Hey Brad, enjoyed the column. Your Dad was correct. You (and Chris) could easily star in one of those talk NFL football TV shows.

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