I know what you’re thinking—why should I read this? You abandoned me when I needed you most (when people stopped posting vacation pictures on Facebook come fall), and now you want me to take you back?
I can explain my absence briefly. I’ve been too busy napping, working and starving. Most of…
Never fear, The Spoonman is still a prolific contributor to Atlas Rocked.
I’m just no longer posting about other topics on *THIS* blog.
The insightful and incredibly hilarious political commentary can be found at aspirinbetweentheknees.wordpress.com.
And the hard-hitting, cutting edge sports reporting can be found at www.thesportspin.com (author: J.D. Hollis)
I hope you’ll check out both sites. Thanks for reading!
In an epic, highly anticipated rematch that had more storylines than a 2-hour Jerry Springer special, the outcome was determined appropriately by just a few dramatic, breathtaking moments.
The Giants and Patriots were locked in a relative stalemate until the final stages of the fourth quarter, when it appeared the Patriots were about to take the upper hand. However, after a few ill-fated Tom Brady passes and an expertly thrown Eli Manning rail shot, the tables were turned.
The box score won’t lead you to the victor; no, all you’ll see is that, for the most part, the two teams played similar football in almost every respect. At the end of the day, it just came down to big plays in critical situations: The Giants made them, and the Patriots didn’t. Simple as that.
- Chase Blackburn redeems himself after getting juked and burned by Aaron Hernandez for a 12-yd TD pass in the 3rd quarter by going up and pulling down a long Tom Brady pass intended for a less-than-100% Rob Gronkowski.
- The very open and typically sure-handed Wes Welker drops a 2nd-down pass in the 4th quarter that could have potentially sealed the deal for the Patriots.
- The Manning-Manningham connection, a play that was nearly as unbelievable as (and eerily similar to) David Tyree’s helmet grab in the 2007 Super Bowl, sparks an impressive go-ahead drive for the Giants.
- On the game’s final drive, Aaron Hernandez fails to pull in a spot-on pass from Tom Brady. On the same drive, Deion Branch can’t snag a relatively catchable ball thrown in his direction.
The game never comes down to one play. But it can come down to a few. And as much as I love to hate him, there’s not much more Tom Brady could have done. He was resilient against a relentless Giants’ pass rush, he scrambled around to extend plays, and he went to the right place with the ball. Even on the Blackburn interception, the match-up was favorable, and the specimen known as Gronk most likely catches that ball (or at least knocks it down) 9 times out of 10. A heated Giselle cut to the heart of the matter, albeit somewhat comically due to her foreign accent: Manning’s receivers stepped up, and Brady’s didn’t.
Too Much Significance?
The hallmark of the Patriots has long been their ability to execute with robotic precision and consistency. That seemed to be missing Sunday night with the uncharacteristic penalties, mental lapses, and dropped balls. It may have been that some Patriots just attached too much emotional significance to the game. Between just wanting to win, wanting to make up for missing the playoffs in 2008 and exiting the playoffs early in 2009 and 2010, and not wanting to come up short against the Giants for a second time, the cumulative pressure may have gotten to a few players. Ironically, it was Eli Manning and the Giants who exhibited the Patriots-esque cool confidence and detachment.
Did Gronk Help or Hurt the Patriots?
In the two weeks preceding the Super Bowl, the Patriots handled Gronk’s injury just as you would have expected them to: they were very careful not to say too much one way or the other so the Giants would have to continue to account for him in their practices and preparations. And once the game started, it was clear that the massive tight end was out there primarily to serve as a decoy. He wasn’t running or cutting at full speed, and after a season for the record books, he caught only 2 passes for 26 yards on 3 targets. The strategy seems to have worked, as New England remained in the game against a stellar defense until the clock expired and would have won if the other receivers had made the crucial catches already discussed. It would be unfair to just isolate the jump ball with Blackburn (or even the last pass of the game) and use that to support the argument that his injury significantly hindered the Patriots.
The larger problem the Patriots will need to address this off-season is the absence of a big-time playmaker on offense…and defense for that matter. Welker, Hernandez, and Gronkowski are all extremely talented and reliable, but they need to round out their passing attack with a big-bodied burner that can consistently stretch the defense and come up with grabs on down-field bombs. Their defense was statistically abysmal this season, but they have a core to build around with Wilfork and Mayo. And analysts seem to think they have some promising young players in their secondary that can mature and develop.
What’s Next for the Giants?
The Giants had the elements of a championship squad but needed to address some shortcomings in performance, namely turnovers and play in the second half of both games and the season. Having resolved those issues, the Giants will just need to maintain and repeat going forward. Coughlin will need to continue to bring in players who will both buy into his system and positively contribute. The defense needs to play with intensity all season long. And Eli will need to continue to combine big plays with ball security and good decision-making.
Tonight is the last debate before the Florida primary, which will be held this coming Tuesday, and heading in, it seems as though Romney has recaptured some momentum. Taking Gingrich to task in Monday night’s debate has helped the former Massachusetts governor to some extent, and he will need to maintain some level of grittiness going forward.
However, he needs to be smart and not go too far with the personal assaults, as he would run the risk of tarnishing his image and turning off voters. They may see him as just another grenade-throwing politician who can’t transcend the typical Washington “neener-neener” BS.
Also, you can tell that being overly confrontational is not Romney’s preferred operative state. When it comes to the back-and-forth digs, he’s almost like a normally submissive housewife who’s just summoned the courage to “pipe up”: the words and substance are there, but there’s an obvious element of unease to the presentation (in contrast, Gingrich is a salty Waffle House waitress who speaks her mind in a brash, unfiltered manner). If Romney stays out of his comfort zone for too long, he’s liable to have a Buster moment and do something hilarious but also extremely uncomfortable and awkward.
Or have a Black Swan moment and lose himself in his newfound evil powers.
What a great day of football yesterday; I probably only left my couch twice over 8 hours, which is a new record low. And I probably wouldn’t have left at all, but I finally broke the seal after consuming at least 6 Sierra Nevadas. But both games were fantastic, and the stage is now set for a historic rematch between the Giants and Patriots.
At the end of the day, it occurred to me that the AFC and NFC Championship Games were remarkably similar: grudge matches where the victorious team’s supporting elements ultimately determined the outcome of the game. All year, New England’s strength has been their overpowering offensive attack, but yesterday, their much-maligned defense stepped up and shut down Joe Flacco and the Ravens in those intense closing minutes of the 4th quarter. And in a misty stalemate in San Francisco, the Giants’ special teams unit came through and made two critical plays.
There was also the theme of capitalizing on the opposition’s mistakes. Brady and company clearly had an off day and essentially handed the game to the Ravens. However, Joe Flacco and his crew, given 2 chances to win and 1 chance to tie, just couldn’t make it hurt. On the other side of the country, the Giants turned 49ers’ punt returner Kyle William’s two gaffes into a very meaningful 10 points and trip to the Super Bowl.
The losing teams need to chin up and walk proud, as they both have much to look forward to. Joe Flacco outplayed Tom Brady, and his performance seems to have garnered him a little bit more respect around the league — not a bad platform from which to start next season, where he will look to solidify his status as a top-tier quarterback. And the 49ers have to be thrilled about what they were able to accomplish this season. In his first year, a dynamic Jim Harbaugh energized the franchise, put a lost Alex Smith back on course, and lead his team to the NFC Championship Game. They’ll certainly have opportunities to redeem themselves, as they don’t seem to have anyone breathing down their necks in the NFC West.
As for the victors, NFL fans couldn’t ask for a better Super Bowl storyline. Manning, the young Jedi, versus the Sith lords of New England. Will the Giants stay hot and topple a favored Patriots’ squad once again or will Brady and Belichick get sweet, sweet revenge? It’s anybody’s game at this point, but ever since the Giants nearly beat the then-undefeated Packers earlier this year, the parallels between this season and 2007 have been uncanny.
Newt G. bossed out the South Carolina primary on Saturday, further shaking up an already-dramatic GOP race, and is the currently the man of the moment with his media-b-slapping ways and ability to tap into conservatives’ anti-Obama/left frustrations and angst. But is he the long-term answer for the right? My larger-than-average gut says no.
There’s no doubt Newt is a fighter and a master when it comes to political gamesmanship. And I think he definitely should have a prominent role in the next administration (if Repubs win). However, I’m still backing Romney at this point: he’s a steady, fresh-faced moderate with a record of private sector success and history of successfully reaching across the aisle. I think he can positively differentiate himself from Obama more so than Newt, who’s been a career politician and carries an aire of Washington insider-ness.
However, Romney is struggling to get himself to the finish line. As I’ve said before, he needs to get more aggressive on tax reform and put a better spin on his personal wealth. He’d also benefit from taking a few pages out of Newt’s playbook. No matter what you throw at the former speaker, he’s unflappable. He also articulates his views not only with tremendous clarity but also in a way that really energizes people. Romney needs to watch some game film and somehow find a way to adopt that same sturdiness and fiery passion.
The race has moved to Florida, where the next primary will be held Tuesday, January 31st. The action continues tonight with a debate at 9pm on NBC.
Ok, so I know talking about the GOP primary isn’t “cool” or likely to get me a ton of zOMG reblogs. But the debates have basically turned into a reality series, given their frequency and sexy drama, so I figured I’d give them some approps blogosphere coverage.
- I’m a Libertarian at heart, so I’m all about Ron Paul. However, we all know he’s never going to win. First of all, he doesn’t even have a shot at nabbing the Republican nomination. Elephants love his tough talk on small government and spending cuts, but they get WAYYY nervous when he talks foreign policy.
- And to be honest WITCHU, I personally have mixed feelings on his stance. I really dig the idea of maintaining a strong national defense but downsizing our military presence abroad. And I agree in theory that we should abide by the “golden rule” when it comes to dealing with other nations. But, in today’s world, a world that we have in large part created with a haphazard, semi-hypocritical foreign policy, would this type of isolationism work in practice? IDK!!!
- Second, he’s kind of crotchety, and I’m just not sure he’s polished enough to woo voters in a general election. He’s kind of like your old, brazenly honest grandfather who doesn’t give a shit anymore and says really uncomfortable things at the dinner table.
- Maybe he should run as a third party candidate??? GASP!
- Anyway, on to my SECOND CHOICE: Mitt Romney. The guy’s legit. He’s a $$$ boss, and the guy was a freakin’ consultant. For those of you who think consulting is some fluid, esoteric thing — IT’S NOT. Consultants help businesses figure out good solutions to complex problems, using you know, spreadsheets and stuff.
- I’d rather have a consultant in the White House than a “community organizer”. WTF is that? Channeling Michael Bluth and George, Sr., it sounds like some “new-age, feel-goodery”.
- BUT MITT, wake up dude. You need to get more aggressive on tax reform. What’s the one thing that all conservatives can rally around? MOTHERF**KING TAX REFORM! If you want to “energize the base” or have people “coalesce” around you, unveil a freaking awesome tax plan that will blow people away.
- I love when you tout your private sector experience, but at this point, your financial wisdom and expertise need to translate into something concrete that GOPeeps can get excited about!
- And come on, you need to get smarter/more proactive on the whole “releasing your taxes” issue. Every time it comes up, you act like someone just found out about the frustrating hemorrhoid you’ve been dealing with! With the money and brains you have, and the brains you have AROUND YOU, why aren’t you handling this better?!
- Romney —> more aggressive on tax reform + better spin on personal wealth and taxes = knockout punch.
- And Newt, gah, Newt. Can’t you see what’s happening here, people? You all are like “oh, I can’t believe John King asked that question first…what? they sat around all day in their production meetings and that was what they came up with?!” It’s a strategy!!! Obama and the Democrats want to run against Newt. He’s an old, stuffy white guy with an airplane’s worth of political baggage.
- Think about the crap that’s come out on Romney so far; none of it sticks! “Oh, yeah, he created jobs, what an asshole!” — “He’s really wealthy; what a dick!”
- They know that Newt debates well and is reallyyy good at scolding the media. So that question from John King was an intentional softball, designed to get Newt back in the thick out of it!
- AND OH, thank you, Herman Cain, for getting back on the trail for absolutely no reason at all. ENDORSING THE PEOPLE??? I’m pretty sure when people started using the phrase “farting in the wind”, this is what they had in mind.
The question’s been posed: what does the Tim Tebow phenomenon/debate say about modern-day America? Well, I’m not sure there’s a cut and dry answer, but one thing is clear: there’s a stunning lack of sensible thought when it comes to issues of national importance these days. In this fast-paced, 24/7 media age, controversial sound bites, caustic tweets, hard-line stances, and ear-pleasing, fluffy platitudes seem to elbow out astute analysis and genuinely insightful commentary. It’s rare that you see someone take a step back, consider all the pieces, and put together a thoughtful, logical argument. So, given that the discussion around the Denver QB became so ridiculously polarized at the end of the season, I, The Spoonman, on my humble blog platform, am here to offer some rational middle ground.
Let’s start with a few points about Tebow as an athlete and a NFL QB:
- Yes, Tim needs some work: He needs better footwork, a quicker set, and a quicker release. Can he make these adjustments and become more consistent? No one has a crystal ball, but probably the number one factor to consider when someone’s trying to make adjustments is their overall athleticism. And Tim is incredibly athletic. So when I think about his off-season workouts, especially under the tutelage of John Elway, it’s hard to believe that we won’t see a Tebow 2.0 next season, or at least a Tebow 1.5. As far as the long run, who knows? It’s just foolish to say for certain what the future holds for him, good or bad. We’ve seen of a lot of professional athletes have a good season or two then completely fall off the map. And then you have the Alex Smiths of the world, who lead their teams to a conference championship game after six seasons of awfulness.
- No, he’s not revolutionizing the game. I never thought this to begin with, but I heard it tossed out there over the course of the season. Yes, Tebow can beat you with his legs, and he appears to be both strong and durable enough to withstand the punishing blows QBs sometimes receive when they scramble. But as a running threat, do you think he brings anything to the table that’s significantly different or better than Michael Vick or Cam Newton? And given that the NFL is a passing league, that plenty of good passing quarterbacks emerge from the college ranks every year, and that John Elway is in the Denver front office, I don’t see the Broncos concocting some avant-garde option scheme that Tebow will command. Tebow becomes a good passing quarterback that runs every now and then or he’s out.
- Intangibles do matter. Look, I know that measurable, objective skills come first. For a quarterback, I know that he has to get the ball from point A to point B with precision and velocity over and over again. I get it. But beyond that, what about Brady’s coolness? Manning’s field vision? Brees’s steady leadership and ability to motivate? To be great in the NFL, or in anything for that matter, over a long period of time, you need a rock-solid makeup, mental fortitude, and an endless motor that pushes you to do whatever’s necessary to reach that next level. You also need to have the ability to positively connect with your teammates and lead them, especially at the QB position. So, yeah, you need a few intangibles. With Tim, you can check off all of those things. Intangibles are also important when it comes to making adjustments; you need someone who has the will to put in the work, day in and day out. I guarantee you no one will work harder than Tim Tebow this off-season.
- He’s still young and needs time to develop: I’ve said from the beginning that Tim is a project and would need 2-3 years before he was really game-ready. Not only does he need to shore up the issues with his throwing mechanics, but he also just needs time to get comfortable and feel at-home in the pocket, as he’s both adjusting to the NFL *and* to primarily being a passer. It would have been great if he could have been the backup on a team with an established QB for a few years. That didn’t happen, and he got thrown in the fire. And, yes, his weaknesses got exposed, but he also made some huge plays, had a massive, positive impact on his team, and lead them to the playoffs. The end of the season wasn’t pretty, but considering how incredibly stacked the odds were against him, he did a good job of keeping his head above water overall.
- Tebow didn’t lose to the Patriots 45-10. The Broncos did. My point is: the Broncos are not a good football team. This is a team that drafted 2nd overall last year, and started this season 1-4 with Kyle Orton at the helm. Yes, Tebow could have played better. A lot better. But he doesn’t have a stellar supporting cast either. Just another thing to consider before you continue dumping on Tim.
Now, let’s address the religious stuff:
- Yes, the assertion that Tebow won games because of divine intervention is completely absurd. And there are kooks out there that actually think this. And lots of analysts and sports columnists love it because it gives them easy ammunition, and they revel in deconstructing such nonsense. But has Tim himself ever suggested this? Yes, he may thank his Lord and Savior frequently and mention his spirituality quite a bit. He may say that his relationship with God helps him focus or that it gives him the strength to get through grueling workouts or never-ending practices. But has he actually gone as far as to say that he wins because he is a Christian favored by God? No, because that would be ludicrous. And in my experience, there are a lot of people who realize this isn’t “Angels in the Outfield” and enjoy watching and cheering for Tebow for a variety of other reasons. There are those who (in a healthy way) admire his unwavering faith and community outreach. There are those who think he’s just a good kid who’s exciting to watch. And finally there are those that appreciate the fact that, as soon as Tim stepped off University of Florida’s campus, he became a giant underdog. And come on, this is sports, what’s better than an underdog doing what everyone told him or her they couldn’t do? Don’t punish the kid because a small percentage of his fan base has made some really bizarre suggestions. It’s funny what people choose to really pay attention to sometimes.
- No, he’s not the second coming of Jesus. And there are those who probably think he is, or at least worship/praise him like he is. He’s just a good Christian kid who’s comfortable being vocal about his beliefs. Good for him for sticking to his guns and not letting anything change his behavior. I’m sure there are other very devout Christians in the league who just lead a quieter spiritual life…or they fear the backlash that might ensue if they were to mention it more often….hmm, wonder where they would get that idea?
- People who have problems with the anti-abortion commercial, the expressions of faith…just get over it. Tim has a made a choice about the way he lives his life, and the same freedom that allows him to do that allows you to blabber on about whatever BS you’re passionate about. That’s sort of the beauty of living in this country. If you don’t like the Focus on the Family ad, you can band together with some like-minded fellows and raise money to run your own ad. So, you can respectfully disagree with his perspective on abortion and other social issues, but there’s really no need for hostility. And how do you reduce him to his stance on one issue? You know, he also does endless amounts of charity and mission work. Again, it’s funny what people really pay attention to sometimes. Finally, why are we so quick to excuse deviant behavior in the NFL and then turn around and hold Tim over the coals for his belief in God and expressions of faith?
At the end of the day, the larger debate has been really unfair to Tim Tebow — on both sides of the ball. He’s not a hopelessly untalented quarterback who’s also ignorant and represents everything that is wrong with America. Nor is he a saint who’s on his way to a spot in the Hall of Fame. He’s a good kid. He does good works. And he did some exciting things this year that we didn’t think he could do. But he also has a long way to go to solidify his place in the NFL. So, in conclusion, I have no conclusion. Because sometimes, that’s what objective analysis gives you. It’s not sexy, but sometimes you just have to wait and see.