From the "Talks too much" studios, here we go...
There are moments in sports that we know will be permanent. Some are for greatest - think Kirk Gibson's one-legged homer in 1988, MJ's shot over Bryon Russell in the 1998 Finals or even David Tyree's catch. Some are for the not so greatest - the ball bouncing off Jose Canseco's head for a home run, the ball going through Buckner's legs, Scott Norwood's missed kick ("Laces out DAN!").
Some are simply historic - Buster Douglas dropping Mike Tyson, Lo Charles dunking Houston in the most influential sports play ever. (Explanor: Lorenzo Charles' dunk to win the 1983 NCAA title lifted little-known N.C. State coach Jim Valvano into celebrity status, Valvano became a big-time college hoops figure and when he died of cancer, the sports world galvanized around his death and has raised more than $100 million to fight cancer. Is there another sports play that has done that much good? We say no way.)
The NFL replacement referees had their defining moment late Monday on the final play of Seattle's 14-12 win over Green Bay. Here's a Youtube of the play http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TXDs1YQO04k.
There are several things to discuss here. Let's break them down old-school - John Madden style. Here's how pretend old-school Madden would review:
"First off, the play was just the last part of a rough night for this crew. BAM - Jon Gruden, a 5-at-10 favorite not known for restraint, was controlled and consistent with his complaints about the officiating. What about that Gruden, huh? Great coach who could be a great announcer, but WOW, that's bad hair.
"Now, we get to the end and there's craziness and you got big guys looking for other big guys and that little fellow Russell Wilson is back there running around and running around. John Madden has had breakfasts bigger than Russell Wilson for crying out loud.
"Where were we? Oh yeah the final play. The pass, the offensive interference, the double catch and then the refs coming in and making separate calls, and they stick with the wrong call. Heck, Stevie Wonder called and, Stevie's a hugh Seahawks guy, and even Stevie said, 'Wow, they missed that one.'"
Thanks pretend John. We promise to come back to you later this fall.
Now off the field, let's look at the fallout from this. First, the Green Bay Packers are now 1-2. One of the NFL's most popular franchises and a preseason pick by many to make the Super Bowl is behind the 8-ball three weeks into the season. If they miss the playoffs, well, here's saying this play will factor in greatly.
Secondly, after last week's story that Vegas lines makers were shaping point spreads toward the home teams because the refs were trending calls toward the home teams, this justifies that measure chapter and verse. Plus, the spread on this game was Green Bay minus-3.5, so the Seahawks (the home team) covered the spread with this play. And while we have ZERO proof that any shenanigans were at play here, when it comes to sports gambling and conspiracies, pro sports league can never be too careful. And for the record, the reported amount of action that was affected was roughly $200 million. Perception can be reality and vice versa.
Third, replacement referees now becomes THE story in the NFL. Think about it this way: We're less than 48 hours from the Titans winning one of the most thrilling games in their history and doing it 100 miles away from our desk, and all anyone will talk about today is the blown call 2,500 miles away that most of us didn't see live.
We've said it before and sadly we'll probably say it again, but the NFL is risking the reputation, the status and the future of a $9 billion (yes, billion with a 'B') industry for a few million bucks.
This must be fixed now. Not tomorrow, not after breakfast, not next week. Now. Period.
And know this, the regular officials need to strike while the public opinion is in their favor. If this is not rock bottom for the replacement refs, then it's at least in the team picture. And the regular refs are not going to be in a better bargaining position than today.
Let this moment pass - especially when the NFL starts spinning the demands of the regular refs that include pensions for guys that technically have part-time jobs in an economic culture where no one is getting pensions with full-time jobs - and then the pendulum will swing. Because eventually these refs will get better, and when the public outcry comes and goes, the regular refs will be the former refs.
Guys, it's time for this to end. For everyone's sake.
NFL POW-er Poll
On to the POW-er Poll (abbreviated version since we're already running long). And raise your hand if you had the Patriots, Steelers and Packers each at 1-2? Yeah, we didn't either.
1) Atlanta: Who has a more complete passing game with quarterback Matt Ryan, receiver tandem Julio Jones and Roddy White, and ageless tight end Tony "Ponce de Leon" Gonzalez? And in a pass-first, pass-most and pass-last league, that's a good thing.
2) Houston: The Texans are in the proverbial cat-bird seat - they are one of the league's best teams in the NFL's worst division. Although we're still not sold on QB Matt Schaub's ability to play the entire season.
3) Regular NFL referees: Who has more street cred than those guys right now? And when they come back, there won't be a soul complaining about a call for at least like 11 minutes. Seriously, Roger Goodell has been accused of having too much power. We never thought that, considering he has guided the league to unprecedented heights and the undeniable top spot in the nation's sporting view, and in his case, the ends justified the measures. But he if does not fix this mess today, then his mad consumption of power was purely selfish. It's all well and good to wear power suits and jet set and rule with an iron hand in player issues as long as the league is cruising. Well, this mess is screaming for direct and immediate action, and well, Mr. Goodell are you ready for your close-up? Fix this in time for week 4 and issue an apology on behalf of the NFL as a whole. Now.
4) Arizona: The NFL is the baseline for the sporting truth that you are what your record says you are. The Cardinals are unbeaten. They are imperfectly perfect, but aren't we all?
5) San Francisco: Everyone relax. Yes, the 49ers laid an egg Sunday against Minnesota. Everyone lays an egg every now and then. Just ask Roger Goodell.
Tennessee-Georgia, T-minus 4 days
We've been thinking about what it would take for Tennessee to beat this Georgia team.
Masterful game plan? Almost assuredly.
Mindful measures by many. For sure.
Let's examine those three:
Miracle: If you would call a Tennessee win over Georgia this Saturday in Athens a miracle, that's more of a compliment to the Bulldogs than insult to the Vols. This Georgia team is well-constructed and star-laden.
Masterful game plan: Tennessee's strength is its passing game. Georgia's defense is on the short list of the elite in the country as our SEC ace David Paschall tells us here http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2012/sep/25/uga-needed-time-with-3-4-d-ut-now-uses/. Tennessee coaches are going to have to craft a thoughtful plan that gives the Vols the best chance to have success running the ball. We know a lot of Johnny Vols Fans that are less than enamored with offensive coordinator Jim Chaney's aptitude. Well, Coach Chaney, this is a chance to make believers out of a lot of doubters.
Mindful measures by many: For the Vols to have success Saturday in Athens, it will take more than alliteration and catchy catch phrases. At least three Vols will have to have career days, and one of them has to be an erratic California quarterback known as much for his one quarter back tat than any one quarterback stat. Let's list three:
Tyler Bray: It's time gunslinger. It's time to meld potential and production against an upper-echelon foe. It's time to make the throws in tight windows with pressure and pounding and pursuit all around. It's time.
Curt Maggitt: We believe there will be no fewer than six NFL first-or-second-round defensive players on the field Saturday. Georgia has five - Jarvis Jones (who could go No. 1 overall), Jonathan Jenkins (first-rounder), safety Shawn Wiliams, safety Baccari Rambo (who is listed as the starter at free safety on the UGA web site), inside linebacker Alec Ogletree (who also is listed as the starter on the UGA web site) - and Tennessee has A.J. Johnson. A.J. is a stud, but he needs a running mate against the super-duo of freshmen runners, Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall. (Side note: The tandem of Gurley and Marshall has been dubbed "Gurshall" with all due respect and rhyme to Herschel Walker.) Mr. Maggitt, please pick up the orange emergency phone. You're presence is needed in the spot light.
Derek Dooley: Hey, there are a slew of UT players - Raijon Neal, Byron Moore, any UT kicker since John Becksvoort, et al. - that could overachieve and help shape this game. But this is a chance for Dooley to craft a hallmark moment. Or even a Hallmark moment This is a unique opportunity for Dooley. This is a big-stage setting with little backlash. UT is a two-touchdown underdog, so winning would be gravy. Competing is the first step, and Dooley must have his charges ready to fight from the opening whistle. And he must give his fan base a reason to watch the second half. If he thinks angry fans after the Florida loss are bad, let a Georgia train start rolling and apathetic fans turning the channel or avoiding the call-in show are 10-times worse.
This and that
- Did you see that the domain name of cowboys.com was changed last weekend to a gay dating web site (not that there's anything wrong with that)? The switch left a lot of NFL fans searching for different kinds of stats this weekend. Let's move along. Deal? Deal.
- Texas slugger Josh Hamilton missed five games because dry eyes that occurred in part because of too much caffeine and energy drinks. OK, we'll bite. Hamilton missed multiple years with drug and alcohol addiction. Now, Red Bulls and a black coffee are off the list too? To his credit, here's how Hamilton opened his news conference to discuss the situation: "It's me we're talking about here," Hamilton told reporters prior to Monday's game. "Guys, it's me - it's Josh. It's going to be something weird."
- Alleged tree-poisoner Harvey Updyke was arrested last week in Louisiana for becoming hostile trying to return a lawn mower to a home improvement store. He was charged with terrorizing after throwing a fit when the manager wouldn't give him full credit for the $150 mower. Updyke faces the same charge in Texas. So if you're scoring at home, Updyke has terrorized people, plants and things in three different states.
- Sweet buckets of terrified middle schoolers. Jarnell Stokes, the University of Tennessee stud sophomore basketball player, has a little brother named Isiah. Well, he's little in that Isiah is only an eighth-grader. Isiah is 6-foot-7 and there is a photo of him playing football on this yahoo.com blog http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/highschool-prep-rally/brother-university-tennessee-hoops-star-most-terrifying-8th-211930637.html. That's a scary site for 14-year-olds everywhere.
We're open for a give and take if you're interested.
That said, who wants a UT-UGA contest. Pick the score like we did for UT-Florida and we'll give it a go.
Discussion is always welcome, and if you need a topic, how about a Mount Rushmore of worst calls in sports history?
We'll start with Colorado getting five downs against Missouri, the Thanksgiving referee that called the coin flip wrong between the Steelers and Lions, Eric Gregg behind the plate for the Braves-Marlins playoff game in which Livan Hernandez got 10 inches off the outside corner, the crew at the U.S.-Russia hoops game in 1972.