Friday, February 10, 2006

A Bedtime Tiger Tale

Once upon a time there was a king named Norman. Norman was beloved by his subjects in the Kingdom of Columbia despite the fact that he was never as victorious as other kings. His people loved him, however, because he often defeated the foul birds of Lawrence and the invaders from east of the Great Archway.

Norman was growing old, however, and decided that he would rather spend his golden days privately enjoying a quieter life free of the burden of ruling. He turned his kingdom over to a handsome young prince who had grown wise in the shadow of the Great Duke. The prince had golden locks of curly hair that made the young maidens swoon as he walked into the Court of the Kingdom.

The prince pledged to his subjects that he would honor the tradition of King Norman, but his feats would be greater. His goal was to enter the realm of the Four Great Kingdoms and challenge the greatest of kings for supreme victory.

At first, the prince showed great promise. His men won great victories, and at one point, he even challenged his former master, the Great Duke, and almost defeated him, but alas, it was only "almost," and "almost" was all that the prince could accomplish.

As his men began to lose not only to the great kings but the lesser fiefdoms who should have been swatted away like flies, the prince heard the grumbling of his subjects. Desperate, he hired a mercenary from the West with a dark past. The Lords who governed the rules of the court decreed that the prince had to forfeit a portion of his treasure as retribution for his transgression. The mercenary turned on the prince and his knights, and the kingdom began to crumble.

The prince found that the most promising young squires in his kingdom were leaving the land to serve in the courts of other kings. The land under the Great Archway was closed to his searches for potential new knights, and only the lesser squires chose to serve the prince.

The prince experienced a humiliating defeat to the Eastern power, but successfully defeated the birds of Lawrence. The kingdom hoped that perhaps the prince would fulfill his promise. Alas, the end had already come. His knights refused to serve him any further on the court, and the subjects of the kingdom demanded his exile.

Despite his determination to keep fighting, the prince knew that his fate had already been sealed, and rather than face the executioner's axe, he chose to leave the kingdom. He left in sadness because the promise that he once showed had been so greatly dimished, yet he left determined to seek success in another kingdom, one in which he might perhaps remember the lessons that the Great Duke had taught him.

Meanwhile, in the Kingdom of Columbia, the subjects long for the golden days when King Norman was on the throne and wonder who the next prince might be. The kingdom is in a sad state of affairs, and it will take a ruler of strong will and mighty vision to restore the roar of the Tigers.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

FORD means "Found On Road Dead"

Owners of professional sports often ingratiate themselves into the fabric of their team's identity, most notably George Steinbrenner in MLB and Mark Cuban in the NBA. But probably no sport is as reflective of their owner's personality than the NFL. The Oakland Raiders are Al Davis. The Washington Redskins have been up and down because of the extravagant spending and impatience of Daniel Snyder. The Pittsburgh Steelers' stability is a reflection of their owner, Dan Rooney. Even the Rams still feel the influence of the increasingly reclusive Georgia Frontiere.

The Minnesota Vikings stank for the period of the Mike Tice regime because former owner Red McCombs was a stupid nouveau-riche redneck Texan used car salesman who was trying to sell the team. Once he sold the Vikes to New Jersey real estate magnate Zygi Wilf, the team began to reflect his personality, culminating in the hiring of squeaky-clean drill sergeant Brad Childress to eliminate the police-blotter hijinks that have characterized the past few seasons in Minnesota. Class begets class; rednecks beget brain-dead coaches and players.

Which leads us to the Ford family in Detroit; yes, those Fords, those of the Edsel and the Pinto, just to name two. This is a family that supposedly knows something about running a business, but that philosophy includes competing with the Walton family for title of "cheapest billionaires on the planet." Ford just announced massive nationwide employee layoffs the week before the Superbowl festivities in Detroit at (you guessed it) Ford Field. How's that for brilliant PR?

But what indicates the absolute height of cheap football stupidity is the apparently collapsed deal to bring former Rams head coach Mike Martz to the Lions as their new offensive coordinator. Long-time readers know that I'm no Martz apologist; I've been calling for the Rams to sack him for a couple of years now, and I think it was, in fact, the right thing to do.

But the fact remains that Martz is perhaps the most brilliant offensive mind in the NFL, and Detroit's offense stinks in spite of the considerable weapons they possess. It's like having a hanger full of F-18s but no pilots to man them. But Joey Harrington's a bust, you say? Martz specializes in building NFL quarterbacks. He took three unknowns named Trent Green, Kurt Warner and Marc Bulger and made them into Pro Bowl caliber players. He could easily do the same with Harrington in his corps of talented receivers. New Lions head coach Rod Marinelli reportedly hit it off big-time with Martz and wants him as part of his staff, and Martz wants to come to Detroit and prove to everyone that he still has what it takes to succeed as an offensive mind.

So what's the problem? The Fords are too cheap to pay him. They want a Mustang, but they're only willing to pay for an Escort. How typical. Why are the Lions consistently one of the worst teams in the NFL? In this league, if you want to know why a team is good or bad, all you have to do is look up into the owner's box.

And if that doesn't convince you, I only have two words for you: Bill Bidwell.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

My Pre-Season Superbowl Picks

I'm not picking a winner for tomorrow's game, but since I'm not above getting a good laugh at my own expense, here's what I had to say about this year's Superbowl participants in my NFL preseason predictions:

Pittsburgh Steelers—With both running backs hurt and Ben Roethisberger poised to experience a sophomore slump, I can’t expect the Steelers to repeat another title run. (And now, Tuck will attempt to light my hair on fire...)

I picked the Ravens to win the AFC North, with the Bengals third. Doh!!!

Seattle Seahawks—The so-called experts like Seattle to win the division again this year. My question is why? They should have the helmet logo in the dictionary under "inconsistent."

I had the Rams picked to win the West. I am such a homer it's almost sickening.

Then there were my playoff picks...

NFC Division Winners:
St. Louis
(all wrong!)

Wild Cards:
Carolina (correct)
Dallas (doh!)

AFC Playoff teams:
New England
San Diego
(right on two)

Wild cards:
New York Jets (what?)
Houston (uh, I had just taken some cough medicine...)

Oh well, if you can't be right, at least be funny! I'm going to root for the Steelers, but I think it's just plain bad karma for them if I officially pick them to win, don't you?