Archive for December, 2009

The Year In Review

Posted in Entertainment, Le Boo Coaching Awards, News/Current Events, NFL Football, Personal, Rants, Sports, Television, The Wayback Machine, The Wrapups on December 30, 2009 by thelasthonestman

It’s been a long year here — and in case you missed it the first time around, here’s some of the highlights (and lowlights) we focused on in 2009:

Why are so many of our nation’s banking institutions having problems keeping their heads above water?  A look at this story of my personal experience with one of those banks — with prime examples of  idiotic decision-making and completely appalling customer service — might shed some light on the reason.

If you were looking for ugliness in 2009, there was no better place to find it than the car wrecks found on reality television shows.  My personal target — the disgraceful Jon & Kate Plus 8 — and my thoughts on it has been one of the most popular posts on the blog this year.

Sportsmanship on sports has been on the wane for  long time now — and we’re not just talking about at the professional level.  One of the most atrocious displays in 2009 of that lack of class was found in, of all places, girls high school basketball.  After reading this, you might wonder where former coach Grimes is now — if I had to guess, he’s probably been with the Grinch all month trying to figure out how to steal everyone’s Christmas away.

A chapter of my life went away in 2009, as a company I’d worked for went quietly into bankruptcy and oblivion.  It was a sad moment, and one I hope never to have to experience again.

One of the better sports documentaries I’ve seen came on HBO earlier this year, a look back at the war between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier.  My take on it — and on the Ali-Frazier blood feud — was one of the pieces I most enjoyed doing in 2009.

The coal in my Christmas stocking actually came early in the year — I just didn’t know it then.  It was the trade of Jay Cutler to my beloved Chicago Bears this year that made me feel like I was being punished for not being on Santa’s good list.  I already railed on Cutler’s crybaby act before he was traded to Chicago — and it’s only gotten uglier as the season’s gone on.  On the bright side for Bears fans like myself, it can’t get any worse — can it?  Maybe that question doesn’t need to be answered.  If you want to compare Jay Cutler to Jeff George — like I heard ESPN’s Tom Jackson do this week — you won’t get an argument from me.

And finally, there’s the disgrace to both the NFL and the Indianapolis Colts that took place on Sunday.  That article is probably still fresh in your mind, but if you didn’t read it, it’s worth it to check it out.

I’ll see you in 2010 — and enjoy your New Year’s celebration.

Monday Night Musings

Posted in NFL Football, Sports with tags , , , , on December 29, 2009 by thelasthonestman

So — where was that Jay Cutler all this time?

As anyone who’s been a reader on this site is well aware, the Bears quarterback wasn’t anywhere on my Christmas card list this year.  But at least for one night, Jay Cutler is who Bears’ fans thought he might be.

That’s not to say he was perfect.  Cutler’s lone interception was a 2009 classic, an ill-advised throw into double coverage when he should have simply thrown the ball away.  But for most of the night, the beleaguered signal-caller showed flashes of why Chicago thought he was worth trading for in the off-season — and in one magical night at Soldier Field, he gave the weary fan base something to look forward to in 2010.  I’m not convinced he’s the answer for the team — it’ll take a lot more than an isolated performance for me to get on board with Cutler as the franchise’s future under center — but tonight hopefully was a start.

Meanwhile, the Vikings have shot themselves in the foot, possibly blowing the #2 seed and a first-round bye to the Eagles (if they beat Dallas this upcoming weekend).  Part of what made the Vikings attractive as a Super Bowl contender was the idea that they wouldn’t have to travel during the playoffs into cold weather (with the Saints and Vikings long looking like the top two seeds); now, however, a brutal road game in January in the City of Brotherly Love may await Minnesota — and that, I believe, would represent the end of their chances of being in Miami at the end of the season.

It’s hard to say what effect the Favre-Childress dust-up had on the team this week; the Vikings were clearly flat and lifeless in the first half, but they looked like a completely different team in the second half.  It took a Herculean effort by the Bears (and a collapse by the entire Minnesota defense) to hold them off.  With the Saints struggling mightily, the Vikings looking like they’re in trouble, and an Arizona team that I think lacks what it takes to go back to the Big Game, it may this weeks Eagles-Cowboys tilt that, not only decides the NFC East Champion, but the favorite from the conference to reach the Super Bowl.

Le Boo NFL Coaching Move, Week 16

Posted in Le Boo Coaching Awards, NFL Football, Rants, Sports with tags , , , , on December 28, 2009 by thelasthonestman

Pictured here: the Indianapolis braintrust searching for some testicular fortitude

Normally, this column doesn’t come out until after the Monday night game — but this week’s dishonor is such a slam-dunk exercise in stupidity, there’s no need to wait.  And considering how utterly bad some of the coaching decisions often are in the NFL, that’s saying something.

Jim Caldwell and Bill Polian — come on down!  You’re the next two contestants on “What the hell were you thinking?”.

By now, following the Colts throwing the game against the Jets lying down in the fetal position pulling their offensive  starters while holding a 15-10 lead over the Jets midway through the 3rd quarter, you’ve already heard the reasoning behind why the decision was made.  “The perfect season was never one of our goals,” said head coach Caldwell after the game.

Obviously.

You’ve heard the excuses from Colts management, and you’ve heard the excuses from columnists, pundits, and “experts” from all around the country as to why this was the right decision (and don’t get me started on the embarrassing company line that was being spouted by Tony Dungy on NBC Sunday night — is he on NBC’s payroll or still on the Colts?).  You’ve heard it all already: They need to focus on winning the Super Bowl.  They have to stay healthy for the playoffsThey had nothing to play for.

Really?  Nothing to play for?

How many Super Bowl Teams — even winning ones — do you actually remember?  Without looking it up, who won Super Bowl VIII in 1974?  Or Super Bowl XV in 1981?  Too long ago, you say?  What about Super Bowl XXVI in 1992?  Or even Super Bowl XXXIII in 1999?  That’s only ten years ago — no problem, right?

You probably don’t immediately identify any of those champions, and that’s not a big surprise.  There’s some great teams in that list, including two franchises  — Miami in 1974 and Denver in 1999 — that were winning their second consecutive titles in those years (the other two teams were Oakland in 1981 and Washington in 1992).

But you certainly do remember the 1985 Monsters of the Midway Bears, don’t you? And you won’t forget the 1998 Broncos and John Elway’s first championship either.  And you definitely aren’t going to forget the 1973 unbeaten Miami Dolphins team — even though that club is arguably not even one of the top-10 Super Bowl Champions of all time.

The reason you remember those clubs — and the reason you’ll never forget the 2008 match-up between the Giants and the then-unbeaten Patriots — is because those were teams that were faced with the prospects of sports immortality and true greatness and seized the moment.

It might have mattered to these fans, but Caldwell and Polian were never accused of having a sense of history

Don’t confuse any of those great teams with this year’s Colts.  Indianapolis — or at least, the team’s leadership — was faced with the opportunity to achieve something legendary, magical, and defining — an accomplishment that would cement their legacy in the NFL annuals for as long as football is played — and they didn’t just come up short in the task, they purposely turned away from it.

It’s says a lot about the team’s leadership that they’re more afraid of what bad might happen then about the good that could be accomplished with finishing off this otherwise magical season in a perfect way.  It’s not an attitude that will serve them well in the playoffs, when they’ll be facing other teams willing to do anything and everything necessary to win — while they themselves, at least for this one Sunday, seemed willing to do anything to keep themselves from winning.

But what about the ultimate goal, you say?  What about winning the Super Bowl?  In theory, that’s why they made this decision — in order to rest, avoid injury, and prepare for the playoffs.  And it’s worked well for them in the past, so why wouldn’t they do it again?

Except it hasn’t worked for them.  Ever.  With all of their talent (arguably more than any team in the AFC over the last decade) and with arguably the greatest quarterback of all time under center, the Colts have a whopping one Super Bowl title to their credit.  And that championship came in a season where the Colts rested no one, having to play hard through the season’s final game to get the #3 seed and needing to win in the playoffs’ opening wild card round.  Despite the “extra” work and the added “risk” of injury, the Colts drove through the playoffs that year.  They were in sync all through the postseason — and it showed.

And those seasons they went with the strategy they’re employing this year?  Those Colts performances have been notably unimpressive, featuring  a 3-8 overall playoff record and no less than an incredible six seasons where the Colts were one-and-done.  In three of those one-and-outs, the normally high-powered Colts offense scored 18 points or less.  In most — if not all — of those losses, the Colts looked rusty, out-of-sync, and struggling to find a rhythm while their opponents — often teams that were facing must-win games all the way to the final week — took advantage.

There are no such things as coincidences.  If you believe that, then you also have to believe that the Colts are following a questionable strategy – again — that has never worked for them in the past, and it’s as likely to hurt them again this year as it is to lead them to that ultimate goal of the Super Bowl that Caldwell and Polian have been talking about.  When asking yourself why the Colts instead wouldn’t follow the one path that actually has led to a championship, but continue to do what hasn’t worked, it serves to remember that the definition of idiocy — or insanity — is doing the same thing over and over again and somehow expecting different results.

Don't even let your Colts practice, guys -- someone might break a nail

Worried about injuries?  Despite Rex Ryan’s pressure defense, the Jets got no closer to putting Manning on his backside yesterday than you or I did.  Heck, Reggie Wayne could blow out an ACL in practice between now and playoffs — he wouldn’t be the first player to do so.  Dallas Clark could get hit by a car driving to the store this week.  Do you keep him and all of the other Colts isolated until the playoffs begin?  If you’re worried about Manning and others getting hurt, then why did they even play at all yesterday?  Why keep the starters in games that are out of hand earlier in the season — which the Colts do — if the only thing that matters is health in January?

If you thought there were distractions — or pressure on the Colts — before, then what about now?  Caldwell and Polian have taken a team that was all on the same page and focused and handed them a huge distraction in the enormous amount of second-guessing and questioning that will take place over the next two weeks about their decision.  And forget the company line being spouted by players after the game — one can’t ignore the possible locker-room issues that may have been created, a questioning of the team’s management decisions that was clearly evident on the faces of an unhappy Manning, Wayne, and others as they watched Curtis Painter fumble away the team’s chances at immortality.   And in their decision to throw away that chance, Caldwell and Polian have made winning the Super Bowl an all-or-bust proposition, and in doing so, they’ve not only diminished the team’s remarkable achievements so far, but they’ve increased the pressure on the entire team tenfold.

And none of these points even touch on the integrity of the game — what the Colts did with a lead yesterday was tantamount to fixing the game’s outcome, and in a league that concerns itself so much with its image and with gambling influences, yesterday’s debacle was a black mark for the whole league.  But I suspect it’s not going to matter in a couple of weeks anyway, and if history repeats itself, then Indianapolis’ management will get their just desserts in just a few short weeks.  The San Diego Chargers — not the Colts — are the team hitting on all cylinders right now, and they show no signs of following Indy’s lead and letting up off of the gas pedal.  Don’t be surprised when Indianapolis is looking at another one-and-done playoff performance.  There are potential playoff opponents looming other than the Chargers that may match up well with the Colts — a tough defense and an emotionally-charged team in the Bengals, and a bent-on-revenge Patriots team that should have beaten them once already in the dome, for example.   An ultimate irony would be the Jets facing off with the Colts and knocking them out of the playoffs, since it was Indy’s generosity that put New York in a position to make the playoffs in the first place.

If that happens, don’t blame Manning or his teammates — they wanted to go for the ultimate achievement and they wanted to keep playing to win, even if they didn’t know it was what they need to do to give themselves the best chance of winning it all in Miami.  Instead, blame the people who’ll be shouldering the real blame when someone other than Indianapolis is representing the AFC in the Super Bowl.

Le Boo, Jim Caldwell and Bill Polian.  Le Boo.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays

Posted in Personal on December 24, 2009 by thelasthonestman

It’s Christmas Eve, and I’m preparing to spend some time with the people who mean the world to me, my family.  So with that in mind, it’ll be quiet here for a few days.   But to everyone who’s been reading the blog over the past year, I want to say thanks for coming by.  I hope you all have a joyous holiday season, no matter what you celebrate.

We’ll see you back here again over the weekend  — I hope to get a best of the year compilation from the blog up sometime next week.  Until then, enjoy the holidays.

Justice Served Hopefully Sends A Message

Posted in Entertainment, News/Current Events, Rants, Television with tags , , , , on December 23, 2009 by thelasthonestman

Our society has gone off of the deep end when it comes to people and their quest for celebrity.  A look through the archives here, and some of my diatribes towards reality television and its worst offenders, should tell you enough about how I feel about those who are willing to do anything and everything — no matter who it affects and how — in order to get their fifteen minutes of fame.

Which is why I’m smiling ear-to-ear this morning with the announcement that Richard Heene — the father of “Balloon Boy” and the “mastermind” behind the hoax that riveted the attention of much of the country back on October 15 — has been sentenced to spend 30 days in jail for his role in the fraud he helped perpetrate on the public.  In addition, Heene will also be on probation and will be unable to profit form his criminal act at any point over the next four years.  His wife, Mayumi, will be facing sentencing of her own shortly, and the family is still looking at having to pay back the costs incurred by state and local officials during the search efforts for their son — which at the moment, could exceed $50,000 by the time everything is accounted for (including a fine they could owe the FAA).

My satisfaction at the news is somewhat tempered by the desire I had to see an even stricter punishment levied on the reckless and irresponsible Heenes.  The couple — or at least Richard Heene — has been borderlined obsessed with making the family television celebrities, no matter what the cost, even if it involved using their own children as pawns or putting them at real risk and in danger.  Neither Heene has apparently understood what their responsibilities as parents entails, and I would not have shed a tear to see both of them sitting in jails for longer than a month’s time, and with it, their children removed from their care.

Still, there’s no doubt a great deal of love from the three Heene children for their parents (since none of them are old enough to fully understand how reprehensible their parents’ actions in using them for their own advancement truly has been), and only further harm would be done to the children themselves if they were taken away permanently from their parents, or if either Heene spent a longer time behind bars.  The children are going to have enough to suffer from because of this incident in the future — not only will the financial repercussions impact their future, but how would you like to be “Balloon Boy” or one of his siblings and have to attend school — and listen to the taunting from your peers — for the next decade? — so at some point, the interests of the true victims here, the children, have to be taken into utmost consideration.

Hopefully, this bit of justice will be a grim example of what lies ahead for other people who put attaining celebrity ahead of everything else.  And maybe those of us in the public can make a resolution in the upcoming year to stop giving people like Richard Heene what they so desperately crave — our attention.

Le Boo NFL Coaching Move, Week 15

Posted in Le Boo Coaching Awards, NFL Football, Sports with tags , , on December 22, 2009 by thelasthonestman

With Christmas only a few short days away, and with me still having a lot to do around the house in preparation for the holiday, I’m eschewing my NFL notes for the week (and besides — nothing could zap  my festive holiday spirit faster than talking about the Bears debacle and the ongoing Cutler suck-fest that’s taking place in Chicago).

In that same spirit, I’ll spare a long-winded commentary about this week’s Le Boo coaching move — rest assured, in this case, a picture (or video) is worth a thousand words of scorn and shame.  If you haven’t seen the last play of the first half of last night’s embarrassing Washington loss to the Giants, then you owe it to yourself to check it out now.  If you’re not in a happy mood, you’ll be laughing uproariously once you’re done watching this horrific play (well — unless you’re a Redskins fan, obviously).

Who gets the blame for this sequence?  Whether you want to point the finger at Jim Zorn, Sherman Smith, or Sherman Lewis as the culprit — was this play  “O-72” on the bingo card? — there’s no doubting that it’s a terrible call worthy of our Le Boo dishonors.  If there was anything that new GM Bruce Allen learned last night, it’s likely that he’s got a long job ahead of him — and none of the Three Stooges above will likely be around for the rest of the rise following the merciful end to the season in two more weeks.

Here’s the play — note the befuddled responses from the Monday night trio of announcers, including Mike Tirico’s comment, “This is embarrassing”.

I heard this play referred to as a “Swinging Gate” play.  It should be renamed the “Swinging Door” play — as in, don’t set the swinging door hit you on the way out, Redskins coaches.

Le Boo, guys.  Le Boo.

Headed Into The Weekend

Posted in News/Current Events, Sports, Television, The Wrapups with tags , , , , on December 18, 2009 by thelasthonestman

As we head into the weekend, we’re only a week away from Christmas!  If you’re like me, you’ll be wrapping up your shopping over the next two days — if not, then I’ll feel for you when you’re fighting the crowds filled with desperate, last-minute shoppers in the last days before the holiday.

— Like a cockroach that scurries through a crack under the cabinets when you turn the light on in the kitchen, also impossible to rid ourselves of (but not nearly as disgusting) are the Gosselins, continuing to make news.  While I took a great measure of joy in seeing the end of their reality show, Jon Plus Kate, I’ve been continually reminded over the summer and fall that neither Gosselin is prepared to go quietly into that good night.  Whether it was Kate attempting to go it alone on the show, or Jon’s “Am I actually going to have to get a job somewhere — or can I make it as just a celebrity?” approach to his future, we’ve all unfortunately been witness to both Gosselins’ attempts to stay in the media spotlight — their children’s well-being be damned.

Please. Just. Go. Away.

Apparently, the divorce of the couple is apparently final.  So what’s next?  The word a week ago was that, after her initial attempt at a pilot for a talk show wasn’t picked up by any network, Kate Gosselin was trying again.  I’m sure there’s a part of America — a really bored part of America — dying to know the answer to the question: What kind of show is it going to be?  Instead what we should be asking — both about this show and anything that Jon Gosselin tries to do in the future to live off the celebrity he’s been given — is:  Who cares?

Neither Gosselin has any discernible talent or skill that warrants them getting a second more of television time.  The only thing both have shown they’re good at is selling their lives out to television, exploiting their children for fame, and being incapable of keeping their marriage together.  It’s a sad indictment on our society today that doing any of those three things warranted celebrity status and admiration from anyone, or media attention now.  If anyone else asks me what I’m hoping for this Christmas, I think my answer will be to never have to hear from either of these two again.  I’ll do my part — I plan to never mention them here again.

— Charlie Frye will be the quarterback for the Oakland Raiders this weekend, and the JaMarcus Russell era in the Bay is apparently over.  Thank God, is probably the common refrain going through the heads of Raiders fans right about now.  Russell’s tenure as the starter in Oakland has been a failure of Ryan Leaf-style proportions.  It was telling that Frye — who had been doing little more than holding a clipboard all season — is the one who coach Tom Cable believes gives the team the best chance to win, and if he gets hurt this week, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Bills castoff J. P. Losman — just signed this past week by the Raiders — get a start ahead of the former first overall pick.

By all accounts, Russell’s struggles are as much of his own making as anything else; reportedly, the quarterback’s work ethic and general attitude was questionable.  There’s no doubt he has a load of talent, and if the Raiders do release him following this season — and all indications seem to suggest that’s what’s going to happen — someone will sign him as a reclamation project.  But unless the light bulb goes on and Russell suddenly “gets it”, his NFL career could be over shortly.

Jonathan, Andrew .... and Al?

My biggest surprise is that All Davis apparently signed off on the move when meeting with Cable earlier in the week.  Though, maybe we should ask ourselves — are we sure that was Al that Cable talked to?  My friend Steve and I have made the “Al Davis would never have stood for the Raiders’ ineptitude if he were still alive” jokes for years now — can be absolutely certain that the Raiders’ owner isn’t simply being propped up in his box, Weekend at Bernie’s style?  Maybe that was Andrew McCarthy and Jonathan Silverman giving the nod to Frye this week, no?

— On a more somber note, everyone has already heard the news regarding Chris Henry’s accident and death this week.  There’s not much for me to say other than this:  Henry, like all of us, was far from perfect.  He made many mistakes along the way, and he certainly paid for them.  Anytime a life is cut short — no matter who it is and for what reason — it’s a tragedy.

— We’ll see you back here on Monday for some NFL notes.  In the meantime, get that shopping done while you still can!