Monday, May 30, 2016

Who was history's greatest male athlete?

I am long overdue to write about Seattle's eventful offseason.

I've been posting a lot on my history blog. It rarely relates to sports, but yesterday was an exception.

I wrote this piece weighing the evidence for who deserves the title of greatest male athlete in recorded history.

Even the most casual reader of this blog knows what a hopeless homer I am, but no, I did not make a case for any Seahawks--not even my man Walter Jones, a transcendent talent who remains criminally underrated.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Good riddance, DirecTV

...and the horse you rode in on.

Once the Seahawks got eliminated from the playoffs, I eliminated DirecTV.

When you live outside of your home team's market, NFL Sunday Ticket is the only way to ensure that you can see every Seahawk game in the comfort of your own home. And subscribing to DefecTV is the only way to get NFL Sunday Ticket.

When you roll in taxes, fees and nickel & dime equipment charges, RegreTV gouges customers about $100 per month for basic service--about double what cable costs, for essentially the same channels! And then, when football season comes, you still have to pay several hundred additional dollars to get NFL Sunday Ticket.

To add insult to injury, InepTV's college football offerings have always been feeble, unless you pony up another several more hundred dollars for yet another sports package. Penury forced me to choose between the Huskies and the Seahawks, and that's not right.

It almost used to be worth it to pay DiureticTV. Before I had a family, I played fantasy football and watched every televised NFL game, every Thursday and Monday night and all day on Sundays. Now I can barely make time for the Seahawks game once a week.

Aside from football, I've never watched that much television. I'm in the dad zone right now: I don't have much time to watch anything my son can't watch with me. In the unusual event that he falls asleep when I'm awake, watching television is generally dead last on my list of things to do.

However, when we had DefecateTV, my son could not get enough of the several Disney channels, the Cartoon Network, Nickel Odious, etc. While there is some good kids' programming (Wonder Pets, Octonauts), much of it is stultifying (Thomas & Friends), ugly (computer-animated everything), ultraviolent (superheroes, A Clockwork Orange) or idiotic (Paw Patrol--the dumbest thing to come out of Canada since Loverboy).

So, when Carolina eliminated Seattle, I leapt at the chance to cancel Hubris UncheckedTV.

Of course, it's not easy to cancel JesusWepTV. On their website, you can upgrade your package (i.e., agree to pay them more money), but you can neither trade down to a lower-priced package nor cancel your service altogether.

To do anything that might result in SuspecTV taking less of your money, you need to dial it back to the 20th century, pick up the phone and spend an eternity navigating an inefficient automated labyrinth designed to thwart you from speaking to a human being.

When you do reach a customer disservice representative, the conversation somewhat resembles the horrible experience that one guy had trying to cancel his service with Comcast.

Of course, Dick (not his real name... probably) asked why I wanted to cancel. I didn't feel like baring my soul to Dick, so I told him it was a purely financial decision and I politely asked if we could complete the transaction as quickly as possible.

"Are you aware that you are still under contract with us?" Dick asked ominously. He explained that I owed HenpeckedTV five more months and it would cost me money to break my contract.

"What's the damage?" I asked.

Dick did some math and said I would need to pay $120 to be done with GenuflecTV.

"That's a bargain!" I exclaimed. "That's like paying one month to get out of paying the next four months. Yes--please cancel my service now."

"Is there anything we can do to encourage you to stay with us?"

"Nope. I need to save money, so unless you are going to pay me to keep DirecTV, please cancel my service immediately."

"We can give you 5% off per month for the next year," Dick offered hopefully.

"No. That's not you paying me. That's still me paying you. Please cancel my service."

My broken record routine eventually got through to him. After twentysome excruciating minutes (hold time plus talking to Dick), I was a free man.

I enjoyed boxing up their equipment and shipping it back to them. Die, Wrecked TV!

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Manning hobbles into the Hall of Shame

Manning in happier times (Photo Credit: Denver Post)
Along with most of America, I was hoping that Peyton Manning would play well in the Super Bowl.

Like many, I admired his dad, his distinguished career, his gaudy stats, his cerebral approach to the game, his heroic fight against injuries and Father Time, his quest for redemption after the Colts cut him and Seattle humiliated him in Super Bowl XLVIII.

I worried a little about the Al Jazeera allegations of performance-enhancing drugs, but not too much, because I don't regard Qatar's news leader as a particularly credible source for US sports news.

More than anything, though, I appreciated the goofy and likable persona he cultivates in all of those commercials.

Don't get me wrong: I didn't want Manning to win the game, because John Elway and the Broncos already have too many rings. I just wanted him to play well enough to retire on a high note.

I didn't get my wish: He played rather poorly, and the Broncos won.

Five years after he retires, Manning will be voted unanimously into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

But today he earned a more dubious honor, joining Bill Cosby, Jared Fogle, Ben Roethlisberger, OJ Simpson and Woody Allen in the Hall of Shame, where formerly beloved figures rot in the eternal discredit generated by their creepy and downright criminal behavior.

Earlier today, the New York Daily News broke a story that USA Today inexplicably buried 15 years ago.

In a nutshell:
1. Manning allegedly sexually assaulted an athletic trainer he disliked at the University of Tennessee.
2. She filed a complaint.
3. Manning allegedly taunted her after the fact by twice mimicking the sexual assault in her presence with his teammates;
4. UT chose the star quarterback over the trainer. University officials allegedly...
a) invented an alibi for Manning, which he used;
b) lied to support that alibi;
c) pressured another football player to lie to protect Manning, and revoked his scholarship when he refused to do so;
d) asked the complainant to frame one of his black teammates for the offense, instead; and
e) terminated the trainer, but UT ultimately paid her a large settlement. As part of the deal, Manning and the trainer made a nondisclosure agreement.

That's bad enough, and it should have been the end of it.

In 2001, Manning violated the nondisclosure agreement. He and his father published a book (Manning) that included several vindictive allegations of unprofessional and inappropriate behavior against the trainer. Case evidence casts serious doubt on all of that defamation.

Nevertheless, The trainer--by then an assistant professor in Florida--lost her job due to the slurs in Manning. She filed suit. Ultimately, the case was settled on undisclosed terms.

Elsewhere in Manning, Peyton wrote of his Christian faith: "My faith doesn’t make me perfect, it makes me forgiven."

I think Manning's response to today's report will tell us everything we need to know about the sincerity of his religious convictions.

Shaun King, the author of the New York Daily News article, wrote, "Peyton Manning... is the Captain America of sports.... He's also a prolific pitchman, the friendly face of several multi-billion dollar corporations...." Citing the available case evidence, King concludes "it's all a facade, an act, a well-designed for-profit creation, maintained and manicured at all cost."

I think King is wrong about that last point. The frightening thing about people like Cosby, Allen, OJ and Manning is that they are authentically fun and charming. That's what makes it so hard to believe when we encounter evidence that they have done evil things. And that's why it's so easy for them to get away with it.

In other news...

In other news, we note with sadness and gratitude the retirement of Marshawn Lynch. Beast Mode has left the building.

It was nice to see Russell Wilson and Michael Bennett play well in the Pro Bowl and claim offensive and defensive MVP honors.

Other than that, the playoffs were a drag after Seattle's elimination.

I had hoped Arizona would show some life against Carolina and get another Super Bowl ring for my man Red Bryant. It would be nice for the Cardinals to take home the Lombardi Trophy once. I confess to being a little soft on Arizona after living in the state for a dozen years.

After Carolina crushed the Cardinals, I was rooting for the Panthers to win the Super Bowl.

I don't buy into the Cam hate.

Yes, he's arrogant. There's a lot of that going around in professional sports, including on the Seahawks. ("I'm the best corner in the game!")

Yes, his celebrations sometimes border on gloating and taunting, but since Seattle has two Stanford grads prone to "drop a deuce" celebrations, we can't really claim the high ground there, either.

Yes, he tossed a 12th Man flag when a fan offered it to him after the Seahawks game, but in the exuberance of victory people don't always make great decisions.

Yes, it was unwise for him to say, "I'm an African American quarterback that may scare some people." Not because racism is over--it's not--but because the good guys won the black quarterback debate a long time ago.

We won it in 1988 when Doug Williams won the Super Bowl.

We won it again when Warren Moon won five consecutive Grey Cups, made nine Pro Bowls and entered the NFL Hall of Fame.

We won it again with the careers of Randall Cunningham, Steve McNair and Donovan McNabb.

And, of course, we won it once and for all when Russell Wilson hoisted the Lombardi Trophy two years ago.

So, I wanted Carolina to win because they've never won a Super Bowl.

But the game revealed that Cam deserves not our hate, but our pity. Early in the game, when the going got tough, the newly anointed league MVP started pouting, and he continued to sulk throughout the game. It is deeply demoralizing when a team leader displays such downcast demeanor and defeated body language. Oddly, for most of the game, his execution remained decent--he is that good at his craft--but if I'd been coaching, I would have benched him, anyway, until he could pull himself together and act like a man and a leader.

The nadir, of course, came when Cam quit/wussed out/made a business decision, by declining to dive for a fumble with the championship on the line. That will haunt him forever.

Denver's defense was extraordinary, and I'm very happy for Von Williams and Wade Phillips.

But I wanted the Broncos to lose because John Elway is such an insufferable jerk.

And now we know that Peyton Manning is as bad, if not worse.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Pity about the first half

The first half was so dreadful that it almost erased everything Seattle achieved this season.

The second half reminded us why the Seahawks made it as far as they did.

Carolina played well and deserved to win.

Assessments can wait for later.

Thank you, Seahawks, for another very good season.

Kam vs. Cam

When we played Carolina last year, Cam Newton carved us up with passes to Greg Olsen. In our base defense, Kam Chancellor is responsible for covering the opposing tight end.

As a runner, Newton keys one of the league's best running attacks. As the eight man in the box, Bam Bam also keys our run defense.

So, much of this game comes down to our quarterback vs. their strong safety.

The first game was close, but that was without all-world middle linebacker Bobby Wagner, a fleet tackling machine. We also upgraded at cornerback by cutting Cary Williams and replacing him with a rotation of converted safety DeShawn Shead and Jeremy Lane, who returned from injury.

Our offense has seesawed radically of late. After a six-game streak of scoring 30 or more points, Seattle sputtered against St. Louis, blew out Arizona and then eked out a mere 13 points against Minnesota. Hopefully, the return of Marshawn Lynch and Luke Willson will help spark the kind of production we will need to bury Carolina.

King MortStar's prediction: Hawks win, 24-17.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Seahawks vs. Vikings and "Muskrat Love"

Bam Bam Kam strips AP (Photo Credit: ESPN)

Hawk Haters dismiss Seattle's victory over the Vikings as mere luck.

They're wrong. Unless they're using the correct definition of luck: When preparation meets opportunity.

The Seahawks earned that win. Blair Walsh choked on his fourth and final field goal try because Richard Sherman came within a fraction of an inch of blocking his third attempt. Walsh and his holder hurried both the third and fourth attempts. In neither case did his holder dare to spend a split second to spin the laces away from the kicker. On that last kick, Walsh kicked it even quicker, and he shanked it. Go ahead and hate on the man if you've never missed a layup or a 2' putt under pressure.

Even if Walsh had split the uprights, Seattle still had a few seconds to get into field goal range. With Tyler Lockett returning kickoffs, Russell Wilson under center and Stephen Hauschka kicking the ball, I liked our chances.

(By the way, how cool is it that several members of the Legion of Boom make regular appearances on special teams? I love how Coach Carroll's ethic of selfless competition makes star players want to contribute wherever they can, even in relatively unglamorous roles. I hope we get to see Kam Chancellor hurdle the deep snapper again at some point.)

Seattle's defense certainly earned the win. The Vikings averaged more than 22 points per game during the regular season. Only two teams held Minnesota to fewer than 10 points: San Francisco in the season opener, and Seattle, both times we played them.

Once again, Seattle's defenders smothered Adrian Peterson and the league's best rushing offense. Gap discipline was absolute. Kam Chancellor came through with the crucial strip. Michael Bennettrator invaded the backfield at will. Sherm came up big in run defense, scoring several solo tackles. Peterson is nearly as hard to stop unassisted as Marshawn Lynch.

The Philippine Dream's one-handed snag (Photo Credit: The Big Lead)
The linebackers and the Legion of Boom kept the Viking passing attack contained until that last drive.

Tom Cable's O-Line earned the win. They helped Christine Michael outgain AP (70 yards vs. 45 yards) on a comparable number of carries against a similarly stout run defense. They provided decent pass protection for DangeRuss against a tough Vikings pass rush. Aside from a few errant snaps, it was a solid performance.

Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell wisely used designed rollouts and read options to provide some additional protection for Wilson.

But Seattle consistently failed to sustain drives. Given the tendency of balls to travel shorter distances in the cold, I wouldn't have called quite as many long passes--none of them worked. Moreover, instead of letting headset problems waste most of our timeouts and incur delay of game penalties, I would have turned DangeRuss loose to run a no-hurry no-huddle offense. (It works just like the two-minute offense, only slower.)

After three quarters of frustration, the offense finally came to life in the fourth quarter. Only a consummate athlete like Wilson could make something of a play when the snap sails past him. A slower quarterback would be wise simply to fall on the ball, but DangeRuss knew his speed bought him time to take stock of the situation, scoop up the ball, roll right and hit Lockett for a big gain. Wilson and the rookie receiver earned their share of the win on that play.

Two plays later, Doug Baldwin fulfilled Cris Collinsworth's prediction by using the referee as a pick to get open for a touchdown. With that reception--and his spectacular one-handed grab--the Philippine Dream earned a victory. Last night on the NFL Network, Nate Burleson claimed that after his circus catch, Baldwin told Vikings cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, "I'm the Captain, now."

I'm not normally a proponent of smack talk, but I hope that's true. The only way to improve it would have been for Baldwin to add, "And you're Tennille."

Except that Angry Doug and Munnerlyn are both too young to know about "Muskrat Love."

The Captain & Tennille (Photo Credit: The Daily Mail)

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Did they learn that at Stanford?

Coach Pete Carroll with two Stanford alumni (Photo Credit: Juneau Empire).

Doug Baldwin and Richard Sherman--both 2011 Stanford alumni--form cornerstones of the Seattle offense and defense. Most of the time, they provide inspirational leadership for the team and our city.

Both feel perpetually disrespected and underestimated. A dauntless determination to defeat disrespectful detractors fuels the phenomenal performance of both athletes.

Unable to make the cut as a wideout at Stanford, Sherman shifted to defense. A mere fifth-round pick, he emerged in the NFL as a perennial All-Pro and Pro Bowl cornerback. Some continued to discount him because we always lined him up on the left, enabling opposing offenses to avoid him rather easily. However, Kris Richard adjusted our scheme this season, allowing Sherman to shadow each team's #1 receiver most of the time.

Baldwin went undrafted and toiled in anonymity, blocking selflessly and making the best of the paucity of receiving opportunities in our run-first offense. That finally paid off this year in the form of his first 1,000-yard season, the team touchdown receiving record and recognition as a Pro Bowl alternate.

Both possess fiery temperaments that make them polarizing figures, mostly loathed by Hawks haters.

Sherman became probably the most hated player in the game for awhile after his unhinged rant against Michael Crabtree in 2014. To his credit, he then turned over a new leaf and skilfully rebuilt his reputation as a thoughtful sportsman.

Baldwin remained generally ignored until his novel touchdown celebration during Super Bowl XLIX, wherein he mimed pulling down his pants, squatted over the football and pretended to drop a deuce.

Baldwin's poopdown (Photo Credit: Twitter)
This is not how you want to get famous.

NBC cut away fast from Baldwin's defecation celebration, but not fast enough.

Angry Doug was frustrated because Darrelle Revis had shut him down to that point and talked a lot of smack along the way. But that's no excuse.

Appropriately, the officials flagged him for unsportsmanlike contact.

To his credit, Baldwin later apologized and showed up this season with a constructive new attitude. Inspired by his Filipino mother, Baldwin has apparently replaced the sizable chip on his shoulder with the wings of an angel.

Living in the Bay Area, the epicenter of Hawk hate, I feed off the loathing I regularly receive from the many Niner fans I encounter. (I have nothing but pity left for the Raider faithful, because so few remain.)

As long as their antipathy constitutes pure jealousy for Seattle's success, it merely amuses and energizes me.

However, I squirm when our players disgrace our great franchise and offer ready fodder to our unworthy detractors. I hate having to apologize for the behavior of Seattle players.

The soul of the Seahawk franchise has always been built upon a foundation of decency, high character and good sportsmanship: Steve Largent, Jim Zorn, Dave Brown, Curt Warner, Cortez Kennedy, Walter Jones, Shaun Alexander, Matt Hasselbeck, Marcus Trufant, Russell Wilson, Earl Thomas III.

This is widely misunderstood, in part because has Seattle become best known in recent years for Sherman's mouth, Baldwin's squatting and Beast Mode's Skittles, crotch grabs and reluctance to talk to the media.

Those antics tend to distract our detractors from the real foundations of our team's success: Coach Carroll's philosophy of selfless competition, the righteousness of Russell Wilson and the badassitude of the Legion of Boom

richardshermanLast week, it happened again. In the midst of our triumphant domination of the Cardinals, Sherman revived Baldwin's dookie taunt: the same mimed pants drop and deuce drop (sans ball), followed by pointing at the Arizona bench just in case anyone missed the message.

Once again, the officials threw a richly-deserved flag for unsportsmanlike conduct.

Did Baldwin and Sherman learn this $#!+ at Stanford? Like many overpriced private schools, the Farm cultivates a haughty intellectual reputation. Is it part of the curriculum to inculcate a fecal fixation of nigh-Teutonic proportions?

Seattle team leaders need to mount an intervention to ensure that Baldwin and Sherman can maintain their personal dignity and that of the team and the city going forward.

As they consider their conduct during games, I wish all NFL players would remember that millions of us are watching with small children. I should be able to cite the behavior of my favorite Seahawks as models of sportsmanship for my son to follow, not as counterexamples or cautionary tales to avoid.