Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Life Substitutes No More are improving

The biggest, bestest news of yesterday was that Coach Andy Reid of the Philadelphia Eagles, pulling a complete 540, has returned Michael Vick to the starting QB position and benched Kevin Kolb. The Life Substitutes No More have a pulse!

There is no more unprincipled creature in the Universe than a Fantasy Football team owner. He would field a team with Ryan Leaf at QB, Maurice Clarett and OJ at RB, Rae Carruth, Braylon Edwards and Plaxico at WR, Mark Chmura at TE, Jeff Reed at Kicker, and the Baltimore Ravens defence, with unconvicted murderer Ray Lewis at the helm. He would gladly take buffoons like TO and Ochocinco, and criminals such as Big Ben and Donte Stallworth if it means a slightly better chance to win. After all, if you don't take them, they may end up on your opponent's roster, and come back to beat you. It's safer to have them than to not have them, see?

We here at RIHQ are not much different. We refuse to own players from certain teams, since we refuse to cheer for anyone on those teams, but that's about as far as our principles go. We will refuse to own a player with character issues, but more out of a sense of avoiding risk (suspensions, revolts in the locker room, jail) than because of our moral outrage.

So while we normally would not have touched Michael Vick with a ten-foot pole, our heroes had Derek Anderson and Matt Stafford on the roster to open the season. Ouch. Stafford was out with a busted shoulder in the first 15 minutes of Opening Weekend, and Anderson will prove to be worse than Leinart in Arizona. So we snagged Vick on the waiver wire for Week 2 and he was the only Subby who put in a decent effort, along with Rackers. MJD, Matthews, Colston, Boldin, Heap, the Pats, they all stank.

Things looked even more grim for Week 3 because Vick was slated to be on the bench, but with Reid's flipflop a weak position has now turned into a modest strength. Also, an owner in the league (Crazy Canucks) has panicked after two weeks and dumped Baltimore QB Joe Flacco for Josh Freeman (the owner was probably smarting for having benched Schaub and his 497 yards for Joe, and acted rashly and vengefully). Fingers crossed, but if by Friday morning our waiver claim goes through and Flacco ends up on our roster, we would be reasonably set for the season at QB.

The TE position has been a headache. We had Winslow for Week 1, dumped him and grabbed Heap for Week 2, and now have Greg Olsen. We'll try to stick with this for a while, and quit chasing our own tail and the next TE waiver wonder who gets hot for one week. Cutler seems to be righting the Offensive ship in Chicago, and Olsen is an athletic and attractive target for him, despite Offensive Coordinator Mike Martz's history with TE's. If you miss out on Gates and Finley and Witten and Clark and Gonzalez, Olsen starts to look pretty good as a fallback position.

One WR position has been a revolving door, with Lee Evans turning into Kevin Walter into Dexter McCluster into Demaryius Thomas. Evans will get triple-teamed the rest of the year, and no one n Buffalo can get him the ball. Walter is a gamer and can produce, as he showed last week, but we got burned by his inconsistent outings and frail health last year, so we're twice shy. Dexter is too much of a project, and will probably do most of his damage on Special Teams, which wouldn't help us any. Thomas is an upgrade, in that he is a fast, physical receiver, without too much competition at that position on the Broncos, and has a competent QB in Orton to get him the ball. We'll stick here for a while as well.

We've already thrown in the towel as far as Jacobs is concerned. He is banged up and slow and in the coach's doghouse, so we took a flyer on Marshawn Lynch, hoping our numbers come up in the Lotto and he gets traded to Green Bay. Or Houston. Right now, the RB free agents are all dogs, so this move costs nothing, especially since we have MJD and Matthews on the roster every week anyway.

We're a little concerned that we dumped the Chargers after Week 1's loss to KC. They didn't even look or perform too badly that Monday Night, but we snapped up the Patriots instead, and that is a swing of about 20 points we suffered Week 2 compared to if we had been patient. The Pats host the Bills this Sunday, so we hope we are in for a big game. Any decision in that regard will have to wait until after we rack up three interceptions and five sacks, along with a probable touchdown or two.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Michael is visibly no longer chronic

We here at Relentless Ineptitude don't have a lot of respect for Michael Vick as a person, and it's not just based on his canine hobbies. We disliked him long before the sundae was crowned with that cherry. There was the secret compartment in the water bottle incident, the arm's-length marijuana distribution business, there was him giving his fans the finger.

One reason we have to be hopeful though is his appearance during interviews. Besides the fact that he got rid of the awful cornrows he used to sport, he no longer is the heavy-lidded glassy-eyed arrogant thug he used come across as. He now stands up straight and attempts to communicate clearly with the public through the media. That's a positive change in our book.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Life Substitutes No More are in tough

When we drafted one of our two fantasy football teams a couple weeks ago, the draft didn't go as we had meticulously prepared for, and somehow we ended with a roster we're not overjoyed with. We drafted Maurice Jones-Drew in the #7 slot in a twelve team standard-scoring league, because he fell to us. We don't necessarily love the guy, have never owned him in any other league, and we tend to stick with players we know, but we were caught short and felt we couldn't pass him up this far down the draft. The players we had mock drafted in that position had been Brees and Andre Johnson, so we were ready for a scenario with either player as our #1 pick, but sure enough they were both gone by the time we had to pick, and here we were with a MJD and a two plans worth a whole lot of nothing.

For the second round, we expected to draft Ryan Matthews, who we thought would be relentlessly productive this season, with DeAngelo Williams and Arian Foster as our fallback option. We weren't going to touch Ryan Grant or Cedric Benson with a ten-foot pole. We got Matthews. We were optimistic about the future.

Third round was going to be dedicated to grabbing a wide receiver. We figured if we couldn't get a stud quarterback like Brees or Manning or Brady who were long gone by now, we would value shop and wait for Schaub in the third round, or Rivers in the fourth, but both were already gone as well. Our view was that if there was a rush for QB's, there would be a corresponding increased value in RB's and WR's. So we grabbed Colston and we were pleased. But we didn't rest.

Fourth was time for another WR, unless Gates or Jermichael Finley were still there. They weren't, Gates was taken one pick before ours, and Finley was taken in the second round by packr4life, of all people, so we took Anquan Boldin and felt mighty good about it.

Our plan was almost back on track. We had two stud RB's and two stud WR's on our roster, and now the tricky part of the draft began. We had identified Mike Sims-Walker, Mike Wallace, Pierre Garcon and Malcom Floyd as WR's who were vastly undervalued, and who would provide great production without the high cost of a Calvin Johnson or Randy Moss. Based on our mock drafts, we thought we would grab Sims-Walker in the 5th round, then try for the others in later rounds. Sims-Walker was already off the board, however, so we got the Pittsburgh long-ball artist Mike Wallace, and then watched and got cold feet as serviceable running backs flew off the board while we waited for our sixth round pick. Fearing that the cupboard would be bare, and hoping that our Cinderella WR's would keep for another round, we deviated and grabbed Joseph Addai. We crossed our fingers.

Fortune rarely favours the coward. The seventh round was the low point of the draft for our team, Life Substitutes No More. Garcon and Floyd, the WR's we really, truly coveted, had been drafted by informed opponent-owners who knew a good deal when they saw it. The remnants of the original plan had fallen apart. Rudderless, we knee-jerked and grabbed a RB, Brandon Jacobs, hoping he returned to form this season and avoided injuries, even though we suspected that Ahmad Bradshaw was the better option in the Giants backfield. Week 2 has proven true that suspicion.

Eighth round, and now our situation was dire. We need a QB and a tight end, and no one was available that didn't generate a gag reflex, except maybe Matt Stafford, and we figured we could get one of these bums in a later round anyway, so we snagged Steve Breaston, the current #2 WR in Arizona who has shown lots of promise in the past, but who would no longer have Warner feeding him the ball. We feel queasy at this point.

A run on QB's right before our pick (McNabb, Cutler and Alex Smith) in the ninth round sealed our decision and we snapped up Stafford. We don't think he's the Messiah, but he's tough, he has weapons and a strong arm, and won't get pulled if he has a bad game. We think we'll be shrewd and protect the roster by taking Ben Roethlisberger as our backup, but he's taken two picks later, so now we feel like we're screwed.

In the tenth round, we took WR Lee Evans, based on his tremendous talent. Of course, he fell to the tenth round because he's surrounded by a morass of apathy in Buffalo, and it will be hard for him to shine. We are resigned to our fate.

In the eleventh, we snicker as we draft a body to fill the TE slot, in the form of Kellen Winslow Jr. While he paid dividends one season a long time ago, we know that he's injury-prone, currently dealing with his perpetually aching knee, and that he will have a weak supporting cast, but at this point all the TE's are long shots. We suspect Kellen will hit the waiver wire early and hard. We feel the opposite of love.

Twelfth round, we grab the Chargers DST, because we need one. We know that DST's are interchangeable and unpredictable most seasons. We feel ambivalence.

Round thirteen we pick up Chargers RB Darren Sproles to handcuff Matthews, but mostly because there are no gems remaining. Sure, there are longshots who could pay off, every year there are, but at this point they're all longshots.

Round fourteenth, we feel modestly fortunate the Kicker Neil Rackers is still available. We're not idiots who take a 'star' kicker in the sixth round, we know they're all pawns, but if you need to have a kicker, might as well be one who plays in a warm weather city and for a high-scoring team. Rackers had a great season for the Cards four or five years ago, so there's hope.

As of now, the team has underwhelmed, with two losses, and a failure of its key members to produce points. MJD hasn't had a big game, Matthews has fumbled and underperformed, Stafford got hurt and waivered, the WR's haven't exploded. We picked up Vick on waivers, and he did well yesterday, but he'll be on the bench for the near future, so we still need a QB. We picked up Derek Anderson of the Cardinals on a hunch before the season, but the hunch looks unfounded right now.

One thing we do know about Fantasy Football though is that the season is not usually won in the draft, but through inspired pickups during the season, whether by trade or on waivers, and that's where the fun lies as well, so we'll keep plugging and hope to make the playoffs with this pack of mutts.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

NFL rules, Ines Sainz stretched it until it broke

By now you have seen Calvin Johnson's catch in the end zone on Sunday against the Bears that was somehow ruled an incomplete pass. I don't want to spend too much time explaining why it was ruled that way, except to comment that the NFL has ended up with a nonsensical situation. By parsing and defining to a ridiculous degree, they called a dramatic game-winning catch an incompletion, while everyone watching on their couch or at the pub saw it as it clearly was.

Another nonsensical situation is the investigation by the NFL and the NY Jets of the treatment Ms. Ines Sainz received while working on an interview of the Jets' quarterback Mark Sanchez. Again, I won't repeat the entire story, except to comment that this incident stretches reality to the breaking point. We can accept that a sports journalist needs access to the locker room to do her job, and to restrict access to women journalist would be discriminatory. We understand that while they are doing their job they should be allowed in to the locker room without hindrance, and that everyone should act professional and like grownups.

In this case it appears that many Jets instead acted like hormonally-supercharged teens, gawking and going in for a closer look and flirting with Ms. Sainz. This would be mildly reprehensible, if she hadn't built a career purely on her looks and sexuality, and didn't bill herself on her website "the hottest journalist in Mexico". Ms. Sainz isn't reporting the news, she is trying to create the news and inject herself into the proceedings. She tries to titillate and create a response based on her appearance, and here apparently she succeeded.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Albert Haynesworth is getting a raw deal

If you read Sports Illustrated or the papers or watch sports commentary on TV, Albert Haynesworth is universally reviled as the worst example of the new breed of selfish athletes who sign huge contracts and then don't live up to them. Walking, talking, breathing best example of 'person with no credibility' Deion Sanders just asked Marshall Faulk, on the NFL Network 8 hour pre-game show, "what happened to players signing contracts and then saying to themselves that they had to live up to them and show they deserved them", or words to that effect, while referring to him.

I don't want to spend a lot of time defending Mr. Haynesworth, as he is a reprehensible human being for other reasons, but this holier-than-thou preaching that he should 'honour' his contract is poppycock.

When Mr. Haynesworth was a free agent, he did not entertain any offers from any team that was running a 34 defense (3 linemen, four linebackers). He only negotiated with teams than ran a base 43 (four linemen, 3 linebackers). He signed a contract with the Redskins because they offered him a ridiculous pile of money, but also because they run a base 43, and have for years.

One reason was to preserve his health and avoid injuries. As a defensive tackle, he is expected to take on one blocker straight up, and penetrate gaps, at which he excels, whereas his role in a 34 would be that of a nose tackle, holding the middle, taking on two blockers consistently and getting frequently "caught in the wash" when bodies are flying around and likely to take out his knees. Careers are short enough, he knows that he is more likely to play longer and be healthier when he retires by refusing to play nose tackle.

Some people claim that it is a selfish desire to protect his stats, because by playing NT he would have fewer opportunities for tackles and sacks. While this might seem shallow and unsuitable for a player in a team game, this is what stars do. They get a lot of say in how and how much they are used. Albert, as a free agent under the rules collectively bargained by NFL owners and players, had every right to say to a team where and how he would be used.

Which brings us to a really important point: Daniel Snyder, the owner of the Redskins, didn't have to sign Mr. Haynesworth if he felt these demands were unreasonable. Instead, he gave him a contract he now regrets. He then hired coach Mike Shanahan who brought in a staff who want to install a 34, and force Mr. Haynesworth to play a position he specifically was assured by Mr. Snyder he would not have to. The villain here is Mr. Snyder, who should have informed Mr. Shanahan of the promise he made Mr. Haynesworth and his agents. The Redskins are the ones who didn't honour the contract, not Mr. Haynesworth.

NFL contracts in general are very one-sided. Players sign these and have to honour them, but teams can release these players before the contract ends, and not have to pay them. Some money is guaranteed, but most isn't. For most players, none of the amount is guaranteed. So if they overperform and play at a level higher than their compensation would indicate, they are locked in and must continue to play while being underpaid. If they underperform, and the team feels it's not getting the bang for the buck it deserves, it can cut the player and not have to pay him anymore.

The Redskins, and owner Daniel Snyder, are the ones who should be enjoined by the chorus of media shills to respect their contractual obligations.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Peter King, like LenDale White and Rush Limbaugh, is a Big Fat Idiot

An interesting sidenote to the Ben Roethlisberger scandal for us here at Relentless Ineptitude headquarters has been the putrid performance of Sports Illustrated Senior Writer Peter King on this subject. There are many reasons to dislike Mr. King and his work, notably his Grade 8 level writing skills, and his self-absorption which compels him to inform us of what he has for lunch and whether he enjoyed a particular cup of coffee obtained at a specific location, described in agonizing detail. He has an infuriating habit of, while publishing emailed questions he has received, including the vapid pleasantries in the introduction ("Peter, I love your column and me and the boys at the barbershop here read it every week...."), as if they were newsworthy, and as if they were sincere, instead of platitudinous formalities. Whether he does so to stroke his sense of self-importance or pad his word count is beyond us.

A recent column has seen him give us a blow-by-blow of an argument between him and another man, during which our corpulent hero called his adversary out on a perceived transgression and swore at him, but when asked to step outside to settle it like a man, went for the nearest escape hatch, hiding behind his wife and a female employee of the hotel he was staying at. 

Another saw him finally take a position on an issue, and have it blow up in his face, when he vowed to run an ultra-marathon if Terrell Owens was signed to a contract by the Cincinnati Bengals. Once the contract was announced, our man in the field declared he would be a Promise Keeper, except could he please run only a half-marathon instead, in like a year from now? How about if he mooched some money from his readers and donated the proceeds to a charity, would that square the deal?

These misdemeanours might be overlooked if Mr. King fulfilled his purported purpose, which is to keep us informed on the NFL. Instead the Ben Roethlisberger story has shown him to be useless if not actually deceitful and craven.

In the September 7, 2009 issue of Sports Illustrated, the cover story penned by Mr. King recounted a roundtable discussion between him, Mr. Roethlisberger, Carson Palmer, Tony Romo, Aaron Rodgers, and Matt Ryan on the state of the game and what it’s like to be an NFL quarterback. This was meant to be a frank discussion that took us behind the scenes, but it instead, in hindsight, turned into a puff-piece. 

 In the introductory paragraphs, Mr. King set the scene and described the participants for us:
What were they like? My impressions: Roethlisberger is as opinionated as a two-time Super Bowl champ should be. Palmer is thoughtful and honest. Romo is serious, smart and circumspect. Rodgers and Ryan are bright but were reserved, likely in deference to their more experienced colleagues. "This was great," Palmer said as the quarterback summit broke up. "We ought to do it more often." Same time next year? I'm in.
Fast-forward to August 17, 2010, after the Big Ben Night in Milledgeville story was well and truly broken. Our hero took a long look around, saw that everyone of his colleagues had taken a step forward, and emboldened, took two steps and told this anecdote in a story he posted on the magazine website.
Thirteen months ago, I convened five NFL quarterbacks in a room in Lake Tahoe to have a wide-ranging discussion for Sports Illustrated on the state of the position today. But it almost didn't happen the way I wanted it. The day before we were to sit down in a restaurant overlooking a golf course, Ben Roethlisberger, who had won his second Super Bowl a few months earlier, told me he wasn't going to do it. Didn't want to. Was too busy. I told him he agreed to do it, and he had to keep his word -- months of planning and arm-twisting had gone into it. So Roethlisberger did it, but he wasn't happy about it. He big-dogged the photographer flown in for the occasion. Roethlisberger didn't give his best effort in the roundtable discussion; he was either texting or talking to one of the other quarterbacks or making calls a good third of the time. He left the room first when it was over, and a couple of us just looked at each other and said, in so many words, "What is wrong with that guy?''
That Mr. King chose to gloss over the fact that Mr. Roethlisberger was a total dick during this process is not surprising. It should be understood that sports reporters are not actual reporters, but rather publicists who earn a living by promoting the sport they cover, thus ensuring greater sales at the newsstand and higher broadcast ratings. Controversy sells to a degree, but hagiographies are preferred. Sports reporters are prisoners of the sport they cover, much like the war correspondents embedded with the troops fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan. They are exposed to a lot of information because of their access, but will lose that access if they divulge it.

It is however galling how Peter King positions himself as the ultimate 'insider', and regularly crows about the phone calls and texts he receives from NFL players and executives. This inside info is not for our benefit as readers and consumers. Instead, Mr. King hangs on to these nuggets, and with a moistened finger in the air, gauging the direction the wind is blowing, only doles it out when it is safe and convenient for him. If he was covering baseball, he might by now be letting us in on the fact that Big Mac and Sammy might have been taking “funny vitamins”, as Lenny Dykstra used to put it. Heck, he might as an aside note how Barry Bonds has a somewhat more mesomorphic physique nowadays.

It doesn’t reflect very well on Mr. King that he piled on Big Ben after everyone else did. The time to do some journalism would have been in the original article, possibly in a sidebar, and what the heck, maybe some background research in Pittsburgh. There might now be, say, a thousand fewer people in Pittsburgh regretting having bought a #7 Steelers jersey.

What also doesn’t reflect well on him is that he decided to kick Mr. Roethlisberger once he was already down. The time to call him a prick was when he was on top of the world and being a prima donna, not now when he is an easy target.

Friday, 3 September 2010

LenDale White is, like Rush Limbaugh, a big fat idiot

The coefficient of static friction is higher than the coefficient of kinetic friction. Dormant this has been long enough.

Let's get the ball rolling with a remark or two on our least-favourite NFL player, the inimitable Lendale White. Our chubby hero has bounced from Tennessee to Seattle to Denver this season, and has now suffered another of his many reversals of fortune.

We first met LenWhale when he was splitting carries with Reggie Bush in the University of Southern California National Championship team's backfield. He was variously described as being under-rated, being lost in the limelight focused on Reggie, or vastly overrated, riding the coattails of a pro-caliber offensive line. He declared for the NFL draft after his junior season in 2006, and then had a snack, which lasted about four months.

On draft day, he predictably fell out of the first round, based on his horrible conditioning and physical appearance. He claimed to not have been able to train because of a pulled hamstring, while the skeptic in every scout wondered if his pulled hamstring was actually caused by his poor physical fitness. The Tennessee Titans were the dupes who decided to take a chance on this second round 'bargain', picked him 45th overall, 15 picks before Maurice Jones-Drew, and were rewarded with years of petulance and underachievement. I can still remember LenDale taking the call from the Titans at home, surrounded by family and well-wishers, pumping his fist and shaking his head, wearing a white muumuu of a shirt which barely concealed and could not contain his man-breasts, and sporting an expression which plainly read: "I'll show them!"

He did no such thing. His career followed an entirely predictable arc: a failure to deliver on his athletic potential, a constant grumbling and grousing about not getting the credit he deserved from the fans and the media, and a long list of excuses and rationalizations for his poor play or fragility. All the doubters and naysayers who LenDale pouted about before the draft were absolutely right in their assessment of him.

Last season we saw him act as a correspondent for the "Jim Rome Is Burning" show, gleefully interviewing his teammates on camera, delighted with the attention. The most remarkable aspect of his pieces was the juxtaposition of his doughy physique (of which he was vocally proud and attributed to his recent abstinence from tequila) with that of his teammates, virtually all v-shaped action hero-Greek gods. Let's be clear about this: during the segments, they were bare-chested or UnderArmoured, and LenDale wore his muumuu. Thankfully.

Another indication that LenDale doesn't get it is that most of his interviews occurred in the weight room, where his teammates worked out diligently, and he clowned around. He beamed for the camera, heavy lidded and glassy eyed, his speech barely comprehensible, to the encouragement of Jim Rome, who called him one of the best correspondents yet.

This season, having purportedly lost thirty pounds, and yet still sporting a double chinned moon-face, LenDale was cut by the Titans. He was signed shortly thereafter by the Seahawks' Pete Carroll, their new coach and his former mentor at USC. He was released shortly thereafter, with a statement that read in part: "It became apparent at this time that LenDale was not ready to be a member of the Seattle Seahawks."

At approximately the same time, it was announced by the NFL that LenDale would be suspended for four games for violating the league's drug policy. It's hard to believe, based on the visual evidence, that he tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug. While LenDale may have become lighter, he still displayed no noticeable muscle tone. The suspicion on this side of the keyboard is that he ingested a stimulant-appetite suppressant to reduce his weight, instead of working it off the old-fashioned way.

His career threatening to turn farcical, he was given another chance by the Broncos, whose depth at the running back position was non-existent after a rash of injuries. He seemed assured of making the 53 man roster, until he ruptured his Achilles tendon in the final pre-season game on Thursday night. While this is the kind of injury that happens frequently in sports which involve running and sudden bursts of acceleration, it's open to question whether years of overweight and lack of conditioning pre-disposed him to this injury.

So now he gets to serve his suspension on the couch. He has surgery to look forward to, followed by a year of painful rehab work to get back to the NFL. The outlook from here is not good, and his only saving grace will be his unfulfilled 'potential', the siren song which the desperate NFL head coach can never escape from.