Kurt Warner: Superbowl or Bust?

Unlike Rodney Dangerfield, Kurt Warner is getting respect, just not enough of it.

Unlike Rodney Dangerfield, Kurt Warner is getting respect-just not enough of it.

It was Colin Powell who once said, “Have you ever noticed that people will personally commit to certain individuals who on paper possess little authority, but instead possess pizzazz, drive, expertise, and genuine caring for teammates and products?”

Come Sunday night, should the Cardinals win, we should all commit to Kurt Warner’s validity as a Hall of Fame quarterback.

Hall of Fame debaters on the negative side constantly point to the five season egg (2002-2007) he laid in the middle of his career. This reminds me of a variation of a sheik term that I’m convinced has evolved into the modern day Golden Rule: In life, you’re not measured or judged by the times you got knocked down. You’re judged by how you reacted afterwards.

Warner is not living the American Dream (again) by accident either, in fact he’s a model architect of how to become a winner in life.

Forget about Warner’s lack of numbers, this is not baseball.

According to it’s home website: “The Pro Football Hall of Fame celebrates its forty-five years of excellence in honoring the legends and preserving the history of professional football.”

I dare any author to write a complete historical review of the NFL without mentioning Warner. It’s going to be difficult enough for screenplay writers to do the same.

The first chapter of Warner’s Hollywood-like story was writing its script right before our very eyes, by leading the Rams franchise, a perennial doormat, to a Super Bowl victory.

If you’re still not convinced Warner should someday have his bust displayed in Canton, I’ll throw you my hypothetical theory in desperation.

Nothing beats the “grocery bagger” dynamic Warner’s original championship plot had, but now he’s threatening to write the sequel-and this one is arguably more impressive.

You could say that Warner leading the Cardinals to a championship is as unlikely as Tony Parker leading the Clippers to an NBA Championship. If Parker were to point guard the Clippers to a championship, that means he would have to do it without his Hall of Fame sidekick in Tim Duncan. Overnight, that would put Parker from “very good NBA point guard” to Hall of Fame lock. So if Warner was to point guard the Clippers of the NFL to a Super Bowl title without Marshall Faulk, wouldn’t we have to label him as a “Great” quarterback from then on? Aren’t ALL “Great” quarterbacks enshrined in Canton? Again, purely hypothetical, but fun to think about nevertheless.

Hopefully, for Warner’s sake, the odds of the Cardinals actually beating the Steelers is not as far fetched as his Hall of Fame potential appears to be. Continue reading

#7 Train to Manny: “Stand Clear of the Closing Doors, Please”

Hot Stove '09 hasn't been kind to Manny. He's still unemployed.

Hot Stove '09 hasn't been kind to Manny. He's still unemployed.

Remember the movie entitled “A Christmas Story”? It’s about the boy who is infatuated with the idea of obtaining a Red-Rider B-B Gun for Christmas, but everyone warns young Ralphie that he’ll “shoot his eye out.” That’s how I view the Omar Minaya/Manny Ramirez relationship.

For Omar, the seemingly elusive to acquire, Manny (playing the Red Ryder),  has long doubled in description as both empowering, but with a conscience looming reality of becoming destructive.

See Mets fans, it can’t be that Manny Ramirez, maybe the most feared hitter in baseball, hasn’t signed with the Mets just because of the money issue, it’s because like your organization’s play over the last two years, he’s scarred his reputation as a two-face.

And if there’s one thing the Mets don’t need, it’s another double-edged sword for David Wright to have to equivocate for to the ubiquitous media in the Big Apple.

And if Omar does sign Manny, just adds to the laundry list of talents on the Mets roster that already disappoint for their inconsistent play and questionable character. Carlos Delgado has a reputation of dogging it to spite Willie Randolph. Jose Reyes’ play and hustle blows hot and cold with the best of them.

And while Pedro Martinez is undoubtedly a fan favorite and carries an encouraging “good clubhouse guy” reputation, his performance on the mound was below average at best last season (for the brief period he’s healthy enough to play that is).

Mets fans do have their own reputation as being overly optimistic and hording for as many stars as they can piece together. But that was before the unprecedented catastrophic meltdowns of the last two seasons. Now they are bitter.

At this point, many Mets fans would probably rather have seen George W. Bush fill the empty seat in the New York State Senate than seeing Manny take the occasional seat after unsuccessfully chasing fly balls in the new Citi Field’s outfield.

What the Mets fans want is the truth. They want to see or hear Omar’s real take on the possibility of signing Manny. Omar continues to claim that the organization has to stay within the boundary of a $145 million budget.

Here is what Omar’s list of pros and cons concerning Manny probably looks like:


Pros

1. Manny being Manny to loosen clubhouse.

2. The guy simply rakes-and the later the season the better.

3. I look like a genius if we sign him and win it all.

4. More teams have won, and made it to the playoffs because they had Manny, as opposed to that one isolated season when he decided winning wasn’t important.

Cons

1. After the way the last two seasons have played out, this team could not overcome Manny quitting on us-no matter what our record at the time is.

2. If I don’t sign him, I depend more heavily on the likes of Jose Reyes and Carlos Delgado to produce runs.

3. By going over the budget in signing him, we have to at least make it to the playoffs in order for me to keep my job.

4. Not that I would say this publicly, but I can’t use “boosting fan morale” as a reason for signing Manny. Citi Field will undoubtedly help heal the wounds the past two seasons has created.

While it may look like the pros and cons are dead even in numbers, the meat of the cons most certainly outweigh that of the pros. The bottom line is that the Mets come into 2009 with too-many  “what-if’s” that need to work in their favor if they are to win the World Series.

The only black and white issue behind bringing in Manny would be the advantage of having a great hitter in your lineup.

Arizona, Flacco aren’t who we thought they were

It's underdog weekend here at Fish Food. Like Hung, the Ravens maybe down, but their certainly not out!

It's underdog weekend here at Fish Food. Like Hung, the Ravens may be down, but they're certainly not out!

NFL week 16: I thought that Joe Flacco’s atypical rookie fortitude would finally surrender. It turned out to be the week that the Ravens, led by their Icy Hot first-year signal caller, dismantled America’s Team, on the road, in prime-time. Flacco and the AFC North runner-up proved to everyone that they, not the Cowboys, were ready to take their season to the next level.

Fast forward to present day, Championship Weekend in the NFL. The Ravens are still alive and strangely, they have yet to win or lose despite the play of Flacco, who just last season, was studying film of Hofstra’s defense while playing at the University of Delaware. The Ravens play a style that seems to get its opponent to play down to their level. They play with a survivor’s edge. That’s why I like them to finally beat the Steelers in tomorrow’s AFC Championship in the Steel City.

Just so long that “Joe Cool” Flacco doesn’t finally screw one up. Flacco has had one hand on the Ravens proverbial wheel, seat belt seemingly unbuckled, driving underage without getting pulled over all season long.

With all the necessary publicity the Ravens defense gets, its their offense continues to grow right before our very eyes. Coming into this season, I forgot how good veteran wide out Derrick Mason really is, let alone if he was still playing. What he lacks in size, he makes up with in grit. Mason’s a football purists type of guy. Mason’s wide out partner in crime, Mark Clayton, always seems to make one big play a game. Todd Heap is still a dangerous tight end. Le’Ron McLain and Willis McGahee give this offense substance on the ground. Together they exude an old-school mix that can be best described as: steady, sound, dependable, and capable on every play. The Raven offensive line has proved that there can be life after losing a future Hall-of-Fame left tackle in John Ogden.

All the conventional “betting man” cliches are stacked up against Baltimore: injuries to key players, playing on the road, rookie quarterback starting the game, rookie head coach leading his team to battle. It’s just too much! Right? The only thing stranger than the Ravens winning this game would be if they lost the Super Bowl to the Arizona Cardinals.

And as much as I like the Ravens because nobody is giving them a shot, in contrast I love the Cardinals because they have all the elements lined up in their favor: 1. They’re hosting the NFC Championship Game in front of a city buzzing from drinking the team’s Kool-Aid 2.) They have an experienced/proven/champion quarterback 3.) They’re riding the high of a freshly developed team identity and  4.) The likelihood of game-breaking wide outs Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin, and Steve Breaston seeing no double-teams because of Philly’s blitz-first defensive scheme.

Because their opponent plays a similar smash mouth style, the Ravens can overcome a “wrong place at the wrong time” situation. In comparison, Philly, the other road team, I don’t think can do the same. You can’t measure just how potent momentum can carry a team in the NFL. Philly almost accidentally got into the playoffs and they beat two teams, in Minnesota and New York, that they were fully capable of beating. The Cardinals play like a team that doesn’t know how to lose right now. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a team rage like an inferno during the playoffs quite like they have. That could lead to a Lombardi trophy.

For you bacon lovers: stock up this week. Pigs could be flying out of farms next Sunday when either the Ravens or Cardinals win the last game of the year.

Religulous?

If you want the athlete censored, then the Touch Down Jesus building should be draped during game time as well.

If you want the athlete censored, then the Touch Down Jesus building should be draped during game time as well.

Does Tim Tebow make you uncomfortable?

Because you know what’s coming-and I’m not hinting about that lethal quarterback draw or the complexities behind stopping his spread option attack. Some people just don’t want to hear Jesus this and Jesus that.

Well get used to it, because like Tim Tebow’s football career, evangelicals praising their savior or higher power in front of a camera is not going anywhere.

On Christmas Eve, Cousin Eddy told Clarke W. Griswold this about the Jelly of the Month Club: “It’s the gift that keeps on givin’.” For those of you who want to bicker: “Church and State! Church and Sport! Separation! Separation!” You should know better. This is the United States of America. The first amendment was arguably the greatest gift the Founding Fathers could have given us. You got a better chance of seeing Rowe v. Wade being overturned than a football player censored for briefly glorifying God, Christ, Ala, The Buddha, Brigham Young or whoever.

If you want to make the argument that the players, like Tebow, take advantage of the Sport platform/backdrop to get their word across, then you’ve probably never read the Bible.

It was Jesus who said, “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in Heaven.”

And it’s not like EVERYONE writes his favorite Bible verse on his eyeblack or praises his respected religious savior in front of the camera. In fact, I challenge you to recall five athletes (and I’ll even spot you Tebow) who ram it down our throat. Go: 1. Tim Tebow…………..

Finished? Here’s who I came up with: Tebow, the late Reggie White, Ray Lewis, Tony Dungy. One just retired, and Lewis only praises his higher power on occasion.

For all that is wrong with sports-and especially the norms our society practices on a daily basis (see Charles Barkley’s DUI or John Daly at Hooters)-shouldn’t we encourage someone who simply practices the idea of living righteously, rather than persecute them?

If everyone acted the same way Tim Tebow or Tony Dungy does, by default, wouldn’t that make our world a better place?

Why It’s a Wonderful Sport

Every time a bell rings, a Yankee gets paid!

Every time a bell rings, a Yankee gets his cheese! Merry X-Mas everybody!

There’s no crying in baseball! So quit crying about how the Yankees ruin baseball by shopping for free agents like your girlfriend shops for designer shoes and purses.

Major League Baseball’s version of the Detroit Lions, the Tampa Bay Rays, made it to the World Series last year; further proving that any team, in any size market, with no historical relevance, can compete for a championship in baseball.

Sabathia, Burnett, Texiera…and maybe even a pair of former Red Sox, in Manny and Derek Lowe, too? Yes! Baseball fans should be rooting for as many blockbuster deals the Yankees can point their pen at this offseason for one reason:

MLB needs the Yankees in the playoffs like the NBA needs the Celtics, Knicks and Lakers to be competitive every year: marquee franchises generate drama. Drama is what sells. No drama, nobody watches the games (see 2008 MLB playoff television ratings).

All the Yankees have to do to hold up their end of the bargain with MLB is simply get into the playoffs. Win or lose in the playoffs, the Yankees create a unique buzz. If they win it all, they add to their prestige, and we hate them more. If they lose, we love seeing them fall flat on their butts that much more. How do you think the modern day Red Sox have gotten as popular, if not more popular than the Beatles were in the ’60’s? The Red Sox had to break their own franchise curse in 2004 by beating the Yankees. Maybe it’s just me, but breaking the curse by beating the Kansas City Royals is just not the kind of stuff that makes sports special.

Intellectual critics of the Yankees hot stove spending spree will argue that you cannot buy championships in baseball, or even a playoff birth. I agree, but you can improve chemistry or locker room morale with the on-field talent you pay a heavy price for. For all the hoopla surrounding the Sabathia signing, I have heard or read nothing but positive statements about his character. Mark Texiera has a squeaky clean, baseball comes first reputation.

Then there’s the prospective free-agent signings, most notably Manny. Obviously, we could argue if inheriting Manny’s hall-of-fame bat is worth the circus (a.k.a., “Manny Being Manny”) that is tagged to his rep. like a run of toilet paper on a shoe. To his credit, we did see what “Manny Being Manny” could do to loosen up an LA Dodger clubhouse and culture that was stiffer and about as fun to enter as your high school geometry book. Maybe Manny can come in and work as the Yin to Joe Girardi’s Yang. Maybe Manny is just what the Yankee clubhouse needs; someone who is a drink stirrer, like former Yankee, Reggie Jackson.

If you’re really a die-hard baseball fan, then you’re supposed to root for the Yankees in the off-season, so that they are playing in the postseason. The Yankees are as iconic in this country as apple pie or Wal-Mart. How in the world do you think this game became our national pastime in the first place? Ty Cobb? Try Babe Ruth.