Archive for November, 2009

Embarrassment In The Windy City

Posted in NFL Football, Sports with tags , , on November 30, 2009 by thelasthonestman

Some quick NFL thoughts going into the Monday night game:

— The Bears are a complete embarrassment right now.  At this point, everyone needs to go.  To paraphrase the immortal John Blutarsky, “Cutler — he’s a dead man!  Lovie — dead! Ron Turner — dead!  Jerry Angelo — dead!”.

What's the best seats to see quality Bears football at Solider Field the rest of the season? Correct answer: None of them.

Ugh — after the debacle in the Metrodome yesterday, I think that the situation in Chicago absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody’s part.  Of course, if you’re looking for futile and stupid acts, then you don’t have to look too far in Chicago these days, starting with the move to bring Mr. Sunshine, Jay Cutler, in this past off-season.

Since then, it’s been one catastrophe after another for the Bears.  The running game, shuffled aside in importance after the arrival of the Chosen One, has been completely non-existent.  Blocking has become an anathema to the Chicago offensive linemen.  The defense is in complete shambles.  The receiving core has turned into a collection of mediocrity — oh, wait … it was that bad even before this off-season.

The Bears have  no direction, no identity, no passion, and no soul.  They were barely a .500 team coming into the season before the Cutler trade, and while the franchise’s front office might have deluded themselves into thinking that the “franchise” quarterback was all they needed to make the step back towards returning to the Super Bowl, it’s as obvious now as it should have been then that the team is careening in the wrong direction — and the sooner that the Bears realize that and blow the whole organization up and start from scratch, the better.

Head Coach Lovie Smith should be gone — if only the tight wallets of the McCaskeys didn’t take precedence.  Instead, look for Offensive Coordinator Ron Turner to be the sacrificial lamb — but it’s the whole coaching staff who should join him.  Sadly, the Bears wagon is going to be hitched to Cutler for the near future; while it would be great to see someone with the backing of ownership and an iron will, and who understands how to win with defense and ball control  — Bill Cowher, anyone? — take over and rein Cutler’s worst tendencies in somewhat, I won’t hold my breath in waiting for it to happen.

Leinart where he performs the best

— An exciting game in Nashville saw an old, familiar sight — Vince Young beating a team helmed by Matt Leinhart.   I had to laugh at hearing the annoucers talking about the “solid game” that Leinhart supposedly played.  Really?  It must have been some other game than the one I was watching then, since the Leinhart I saw could barely move the Cardinals down the field (to the tune of 10 points on offense — one touchdown was courtesy of the special teams, which ran back a 3rd quarter kickoff).

Leinhart can’t seem to throw downfield with anything resembling accuracy or strength, and the offensive looks completely inefficient with him at the head.   If anything should be learned from watching the Arizona offense on the field during Leinhart’s play this year, it’s that there may be no player more valuable to his team’s chances of winning than Kurt Warner.  With him, the Cardinals are a solid team, capable of making some noise once the playoffs arrive.  Without him, they’re a 6-10 team, even in that putrid division.

Meanwhile, all Vince Young does is win, apparently.  He’s now 23-11 as a starting QB, and he’s led the Titans to five straight victories following the team’s 0-6 start.  After what looked like a completely lost season for Tennessee — remember the disaster against the Pats in the snow just over a month ago? — the Titans are now edging their way back into playoff contention, and Young is busy resurrecting his career.

— My friend Steve and I on the phone early in the afternoon, with the Texas beating the Colts 20-7 early in the 3rd quarter, had this conversation.

“You know the Colts are coming back to win this game, don’t you?” Steve asked.

“Of course they are,” I answered.

Sadly if you’re a Houston fan, that exchange has more to do with the general ineptitude shown by the Texans more often than not than it had to do with the continued excellence by the Colts and Peyton Manning (though that played a huge part as well).

Looking forward to a great game tonight in the Big Easy.  Coming tomorrow — it’s Le Boo time!

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And Now For Something Completely Different …

Posted in Le Boo Coaching Awards, NFL Football, Rants, Sports with tags on November 29, 2009 by thelasthonestman

Bill The Cat, our Le Boo Macot, expresses his disapproval at bad NFL coaching

In another one of those “Better Late Than Never” moments, I introduce to my readers a new feature to be found here during the NFL season:  the Le Boo NFL Coaching Move Of The Week.

I had originally intended this to be an event starting back in Week 1 of the season — but with the blog on hiatus for much of the last two months, that turned out to be an impossibility.  Never fear, however — there’s plenty of football left to be played, and plenty of bad coaching decisions still to be made before the 2009 season is finally over.

So why “Le Boo”?  Why not? A French flair given to our All-American raspberry — displayed so tactfully to the right by Bill The Cat — has just that touch of disdain for the stupidity sometimes shown by the men being paid huge amounts of money a year to simply manage a football game.  As you’re going to well see over the remaining weeks of the season, sometimes that simple task is beyond our targets to do.  The Le Boo move of the week isn’t going to be a case of second-guessing, but almost always will be something a NFL coach does — whether it be personnel decisions, game-calling strategy, or just plain overall ineptitude — that is so egregious, any random guy sitting on his sofa at home — that’s you and me, if you’re scoring at home — knows how ridiculously bad a decision it was.  It’ll be those highlighted moments when our tanked buddy Bill would have been better off wearing the headsets than the coach.

As a happy subscriber to the NFL Sunday Ticket, I get to watch more football action than should be allowed, so I’m sure it’s not going to be a problem to find a worthy candidate for ridicule celebration each week.  So as today’s games unfold, keep your eyes out for bad coaching at it’s finest worst — and feel free to make your own suggestions in the comments section of the column when it comes out.  The first installment will be up sometimes on Tuesday.

‘Tis The Season — For Hitting The Stores

Posted in News/Current Events, Personal with tags on November 28, 2009 by thelasthonestman

We’re now in Day Two of what’s termed the busiest shopping weekend of the year — but for me at least, it’s Day Two of plan “Stay As Far Away From The Stores As Possible”.   As my friends and family, as well as the followers of the blog, already know, I once worked in retail as a store manager for the now defunct KB Toys.  Frankly, that whole hectic experience, particularly at this time of year — as rewarding as it was in many ways — was enough to sour me on the more commercial aspects of the Christmas season.

That’s not to say I didn’t do some shopping yesterday — I did, but from the comfort of my living room in front of my laptop.  No crowds, no fighting for a place to park or a spot in line, no rude people pushing and shoving for a chance to get that last Blu-Ray player on the shelf.   Online shopping gives you the opportunity to get most of those same Black Friday deals from stores’ online sites while avoiding a number of the headaches that go along with being out there in person.

While estimated sales numbers on the day won’t be available until this week at the earliest, I won’t be stunned if it turns out that consumer spending is down again this holiday season.  The state of economy, the ever-increasing unemployment rate, and the general sense of unease that’s being felt by the American consumer these days would seem to all be leading towards that result.  But is that such a bad thing?

I don’t think so.  Don’t get me wrong, though — I certainly don’t want to see stores struggle with lesser sales during this period.  After all, that could lead to another rash of store closings and company bankruptcies around the retail world, and that doesn’t benefit anyone.  The last thing I want to see if people losing their jobs around the Christmas season — my wife and I went through that once already, and I wouldn’t wish those emotions on anyone.

But it’s not a bad thing if people use the current economic climate to focus on what the Christmas Holidays are about — or at least, what they’re supposed to be about.  Raised a Catholic, the holiday obviously has a special meaning for me — but you don’t have to be religious at all to focus on the aspects of the season that should appeal to all of us:  time spent with the family and friends who mean so much to us, an appreciation for whatever the good things are in each of our lives, and a feeling of good will towards our fellow men and women on this earth.

Over the recent years, Christmas has become over-commercialized (though anyone who’s seen A Charlie Brown Christmas will tell you that’s it’s not anything new), a contest to see who can give the most gifts, and who’s got the most expensive baubles under their tree.  The current financial situation of many — and with it, a  concerned effort by people to not spend beyond their means this year (with the aggressive, antagonistic, and often unethical actions by the credit card companies of late, more people than ever before are eschewing the use of credit to fund their holiday spending) — means that many are hopefully beginning to focus on the more intangible aspects of the holiday you can’t stick on a Visa card to pay for.  That’s not a bad thing — and you don’t need to find a place to park at a crowded mall to do it.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Posted in Personal on November 26, 2009 by thelasthonestman

It’s that time of year again, for everyone to look back and to give thanks for the good fortune they’ve received.  What better place for me to do just that then here?  So with that in mind, what I’m thankful for this Thanksgiving:

— I’m thankful that I’ve made it another year with my health intact, and in a year when multiple relatives passed away, I’m thankful for the family I have remaining with me.  Family is the most important thing in my life, and it’s during times like these that it’s easiest to be reminded of it.

— I’m thankful for the fact that, for the first time in more than a decade, neither my wife or myself is working in a capacity that would require us to be at a store at midnight on the day after Thanksgiving to wait on customers.  While we both miss our toy store days, what we don’t miss is having our Turkey Day festivities ruined every year because we needed to be asleep in bed by 5:00 in the afternoon, or face the consequences of a weekend of 20-hour work days on no sleep.

— I’m thankful to have my parents at my own house for the holiday for a change, rather than us having to go to theirs.  The renovation still goes on, but we’re far enough along to allow us to do the hosting for once.  Suddenly, I feel a lot older as well.

— I’m thankful that I’ve had the opportunity to focus so much on my writing this past year, whether it was on this blog or on my novel.  Most people don’t get the chance to do what they truly love to do — I’m thankful to have had at least this chance to live out one of my dreams.

— I’m thankful for the close friends I have.  While they are not large in number, they are irreplaceable in their loyalty, their compassion, and their good hearts.  My life is enriched to the fullest by having them in it.

And on a lighter note:

— I’m thankful not to live too close to Jay Cutler — I might  get into some trouble if that were the case.

— I’m thankful Miguel Cabrera homered in the playoff game against the Twins in September, saving my money spot in my main fantasy baseball league.  In the same breath, I’m thankful I’ll never have to own Francisco “How many runs did I just give up?” Liriano ever again.

— I’m thankful for the Sunday Ticket from DirecTv, and never being forced to watch a Raiders/Chiefs/Browns/Rams game unless it’s for comedic value.

And on the most serious of notes, I’m thankful to have my wife by my side.  Of everyone in this world, she is the one who I can count on the most, who I care for more than anyone else, and without whom, nothing in my life would be possible.

To all of you, enjoy your Thanksgiving holiday — and we’ll see you back here again soon.

The Muppets: Bohemian Rhapsody

Posted in Cartoons, Entertainment, Music, Television with tags , on November 25, 2009 by thelasthonestman

Just came across this today — enjoy!

More Good News For The Bears — If You Like Losing On Sundays, That Is

Posted in NFL Football, Sports with tags , on November 25, 2009 by thelasthonestman

Only a few days after watching Bears “savior” Jay Cutler unable to take advantage of easy touchdown opportunities on at least three occasions by overthrowing receivers so wide-open, I think I could have hit them in stride (including a potential game-winner heaved well over the head, amazingly enough, of the fastest man on the field, Johnny Knox) — there’s even more troubling word good news coming out of Bears Land.  Apparently, one egotistical quarterback with poor-decision making propensity isn’t enough to sink the Bears chances of contending in the near future.  Next up — Mike Martz possibly heading to the Windy City as the offensive coordinator.

"Running play? They allow those?"

I’ve never been a fan of Martz in his previous stints in the NFL as offensive coordinator/head coach; while he’s gotten loads of credit for innovation of the offensive side of the ball, he’s always struck me as just another in the long line of NFL coaches who wear the label of (self) proclaimed “genius” a little too easily (see Mangini, Eric as another fine example of this trend) — even though his decision making and play-calling was often suspect.  Martz never met a called pass he didn’t like, and his aversion to running the ball in St. Louis — even with stud running backs Marshall Faulk and Steven Jackson on the sidelines during his time there — bordered on the sometimes ridiculous (see Reid, Andy) and cost the Rams as many games as his offensive creativity won them.

Must ... not ... hurl ...

And now he may be going to Chicago? Awesome news.  The Cutler-led Bears have already lost the identity that made them successful in the past — that of running the ball, ball control, and defense — in favor of the offensive built around their flashy new quarterback — and bringing Martz into the fold is only going to make the situation worse.  I can’t wait to see the Bears try to implement the newest version of the “Greatest Show on Turf” in Chicago under a Martz regime as offensive coordinator — the results should be aboutas messy as letting your extremely drunk friend hop onto the Top Thrill Dragster coaster after chowing down a chili dog — hilarious if you’re not directly involved, not so much if you’re anywhere near.

Memo to the Bears:  Martz isn’t the answer, but he’s only going to help compound the first mistake you made in dealing for Cutler in the first place.  Unless you want to get Doc Brown’s help with a DeLorean that will allow you to bring Marshall Faulk, the 2000 versions of Kurt Warner and Torry Holt, and Issac Bruce back from that Rams Super Bowl team to go along with Martz, the Bears will continue to go in the wrong direction if Martz is hired — and in another year or so, he can join Lovie in being unceremoniously pushed out the door.  At least it won’t be Cutler’s fault — I’m sure he’d tell you as much if you asked him.

What Gets Me Off Of Hiatus And Back Into The Game?

Posted in NFL Football, Rants, Sports with tags , , on November 13, 2009 by thelasthonestman

This guy.

jay-cutler-bears

Must ... avoid ... sack ... so I can ... throw ... interception ...

So let’s get this out-of-the-way first — I’m back updating the blog, but it’ll be on a somewhat limited basis (maybe once to twice a week tops), as the great unfinished novel is still — well — unfinished (but tantalizingly close to completion).  To anyone who’s still been patiently checking me out during the hiatus, I appreciate the visits, and I look forward to getting some new stuff up for your perusal in between working on chapters of the book.

Meanwhile, what are we to make of our good buddy Jay?   My thoughts on Cutler — the way he forced his way out of Denver and the impact I thought he’d make on the Bears — can be found here and here.  And now that the NFL season is slightly more than halfway over?  Those concerns haven’t changed a bit.

A few stats to chew on:  Cutler now leads the NFL in interceptions, with 17.  Cutler is the first Bears quarterback in almost forty years (since the immortal Billy Wade in 1962) to have thrown four or more picks in more than one game in a season, and with last night’s stink bomb, he tied for the most picks in a game by a Bears quarterback since the equally-immortal Zeke Bratkowski threw seven in 1950.  (In all fairness, I bet we didn’t have to give up a ton of draft picks to get the Zekester that year, though.)

Pretty much since Opening Day — and Cutler’s backbreaking four picks in a game that they easily could have won against Green Bay — the Bears feel like they’ve morphed into a team that looks to pass first, and run second — a transformation that can be laid directly at the feet of the coaching staff (both Lovie Smith and offensive coordinator Ron Turner).   I can guess that Turner and Smith, thrilled with the acquisition of their new “toy”, felt that the Bears best chance to win was to utilize Cutler and the passing game more — except for the inconvenient truth that, not only have the Bears never won that way (dating all the way back to Papa Bear and the infant days of the franchise), but the team doesn’t have the personnel on offense to even try (Devin Hester, Earl Bennett, and Johnny Knoxville don’t add up to the talent level of Brandon Marshall).

Granted, the Bears running game has struggled all year.  But to establish the run, often a team has to stick with the run — and having watched most of the Bears action this year, there’s never been an effort for the team to even get into a rhythm moving the ball on the ground.

And why?   Cutler’s temperament — the same one that led to him writing his ticket out of Denver because his feelings were hurt — makes me wonder if Bears coaching believed they wouldn’t be able to bring Cutler in successfully unless the Bears offense was retooled to make him the focus on offense, personnel be damned.   And if the case, then it’s pretty much what I suspected would happen way back when the trade for him was first made.

I’ll repeat what I said back in April:  Cutler simply isn’t going to be a winner in the NFL, no matter how gaudy his numbers look or how strong his arm is.  I’m not backing down on that until I see something to the contrary.  Watching more of his antics on the sidelines yesterday — my favorite was when, on the sidelines, he started barking at Greg Olsen — ironically the one Bears receiver who is as good as anything the QB had in Denver — following a pick.  It’s a familiar pattern for Cutler — blame the offensive line, the receivers, the refs — anything but himself, when game-costing mistakes are made (even in the post-game press conference, he made sure to blanket the rest of the offensive with the blame for the loss, rather than man up and simply say “I threw five picks — we lost — and I just can’t do that if we’re going to win”).

bears fanIf Kyle Orton — or another unsexy “game manager” had been behind center last night for Chicago, the Bears win.  Just like they would have against Green Bay.  And Atlanta.  Would that type of QB have still led the Bears to wins in Seattle or at home against Pittsburgh the way Cutler did?  While all of this is just speculation, this Bears fan wishes we could have found out.  As it stands, I’m preparing myself for a lot of turnovers — and excuse-making — in my team’s immediate future.  The Bears are a team without identity, trying to be something they’re not and being led by someone who, to paraphrase Denny Green, isn’t who they thought he was.

It’s going to be a long rest of the season.