This weekend is the Grand Prix of Bahrain at the International Circuit in Sakhir, Bahrain. Three years ago I wrote about the local protests in Bahrain seeking some modicum of civil liberties and fair treatment. Instead there was a violent crackdown by the tyrannical ruling Khalifa family leading to bloodied protestors and dead bodies near the track.
There is no good reason, save for greed, that Formula One is in Bahrain this weekend but, nevertheless, there it is.
What might the journalists report on were they allowed in Bahrain? Maybe the petrol bomb attack members of the Force India racing team were caught up in. The incident so shook the team that it withdrew from the second practice session and at least one team member left the country due to safety concerns.
How is this occurring? Why is the race still being sanctioned? Money and hegemony.
F1 Grand Prix is big money. Really big money.
Big money and the mighty US war machine are a potent combination and, between the two of them, are permitting the disgrace occurring this weekend in Bahrain. It is a stain on international human rights, and it is a stain on Formula One. F1 and Ecclestone cravenly hide behind the false premise that they are a business and would be allowing themselves to be politicized if they were to cancel the Bahrain Grand Prix again.
The USA war machine is, obviously, the Fifth Fleet, which is based in Bahrain. That, too, is of big money and logistical importance to US Mideast hegemony. Same as the huge race sanctioning fee Bernie Ecclestone and F1 is important to their bottom line. By last report, F1 charged over $40 million as the sanctioning fee for the Bahrain race, which is far more lucrative a piece of income than many of the traditional grand prix in Europe and elsewhere. It is raw greed.
So, after canceling the 2011 race under duress, and showcasing the civil liberty atrocities of the Khalifas and their regime in 2012, there has been a lot of progress, right? There is so little mention of strife now that it must be better, right?
Sure Bernie Ecclestone put some lip gloss on the money pig:
Formula One has long-insisted this is none of its business. “We’re not here, or we don’t go anywhere, to judge how a country is run,” Bernie Ecclestone pointed out two years ago. The damning Amnesty report, however, was preceded by another announcement with considerably less fanfare. In it the group Americans for Democracy on Human Rights in Bahrain said that it had concluded an agreement with F1 that the sport would begin a policy of analysing the human rights impact it might have on host nations. “Formula One Group has committed to taking a number of further steps to strengthen its processes in relation to human rights,” it read.
But there is the Amnesty report, and as laid out in the Guardian article from yesterday linked above, it is not pretty. The same denial of speech and liberty, not to mention brutal oppression still maintains in Bahrain.
Worse yet, it is clear that the presence of Formula One in Bahrain doesn’t just ignore the brutal problems, it is a significant cause of them:
He does not believe this was an isolated event. “Many journalists come to cover F1 and maybe that’s why they arrested my father,” he says, adding that it was part of a wider crackdown that has occurred in areas where there are regular protests. “If you go to the villages, you will see them surrounded by police, any gathering of six or seven people chanting will be attacked with tear gas or Kevlar bullets or birdshot; the government are not allowing any protests to happen there.”
While there are human rights issues in other countries the sport visits, the activists claim that, unlike in China for example, it is Formula One’s very presence in Bahrain that makes the situation worse. Maryam al-Khawaja, the co-director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights who is living in Denmark having been sentenced to one year in prison in absentia for allegedly assaulting a police officer, describes the reforms since 2011 as both a smokescreen and a whitewash.
“The problem is that the F1 isn’t just being used as part of that whitewash, the F1 actually causes human rights violations in Bahrain,” she says. “Right before the race we have the government going on an arrest spree to try and prevent protest. We have protesters cracked down on during the F1 and the violence that is used is usually more than what we see for the rest of the year. F1 causes human rights violations and for that reason it should not come to Bahrain.”
That would be exactly consistent with reports from the ground in Bahrain in 2012. Nothing has changed. And nothing will change so long as powerful entities like Formula One and the US Government will blindly sanction such oppression to further their own interests.
As to the race itself, practice was as expected with the Mercedes and Ferraris leading the rest of the pack. Qualifying just concluded, however, and there was a bit of a shakeup at the top. Lewis Hamilton took his fourth pole to open the season, but Vettel took P2 followed by Rosberg and Raikkonen in the second row. No front row lockout for Mercedes as they have become expected to lately. The rest of the top 10 in order are Bottas, Massa, Ricciardo, Hulkenberg, Sainz and Grosjean.
Will the Ferrari and Williams cars have anything for Hamilton and Rosberg in the actual race? We shall see, but they are getting ever closer.
Also, baseball has started the regular season, and the Tigers and Royals look awesome so far; the Giants not so much. The NBA playoffs are starting and the NFL draft is nearly upon us.
Consider this a full Trash Talk and discuss anything you wish. And don’t be a dick like Lewis Hamilton and spray champagne into unsuspecting girl’s eardrums.
Welp, here we are for our last regularly scheduled Trash Talk for the football season. It may be the biggest game of the year, but it is always a tad melancholy because it means no more football. On that note, off we go.
Super Bowl XLIX is right here in the Phoenix Valley of the Sun. Except that it has not been that sunny; in fact, the end of the week has been nothing but rain, starting Thursday and through all day Friday, and it is overcast again this morning as I write. The temperature has been quite moderate and comfortable, but the overcast and rain a real downer. Curiously, none of the fans I have run into, and there are a lot of those, seem to mind in the least; but as a local, I sure hoped for better. That said, all the parties and festivities seem to have gone off just fine, and of course the gorgeous VIP crowd, between all the limos and controlled indoor settings, probably never noticed. In short, so far, so good, despite the inclement weather. I have also had great fun seeing all the Squawkers in their vaunted “12th Man” shirts. To a tee, so to speak, I see them and say “Love yer Number 12 Tom Brady Jersey!”. So far, I have not been punched yet, but there is still time.
There are so many different things to do if you are here and a fan, and it is spread out over the valley. There was the NFL Experience set up at the Phoenix Convention Center Downtown, the seemingly continuously running Super Bowl street party in and around downtown central square, and also the simply idiotic looking huge “Bud Light House of Whatever”, that appeared designed for hollow 20 something twits. 10-12 miles northwest, in Glendale, by the actual University of Phoenix Cardinals stadium, were more stages and whatnot sponsored primarily by DirecTV. I know some of the pretty people were bussed out there, and promptly bussed right out of there as soon as they could. Cause no one with any shred of common sense parties in freaking Glendale when you could be doing it in Scottsdale. Come on man. That is just the way it is, and the way it has always been. And it will always be that way, cause Glendale is a bag of Chalie Brown’s rocks on Halloween. People with money and the appropriate je ne sais quoi wouldn’t be caught dead hanging in Glendale, and that won’t be changing anytime soon.
The fact that the game is in Glendale, but all the real playahs and money somewhere else actually has some real implications locally. Yes, it is what it is, but Glendale has a problem as a result. You see, Glendale is its own municipality; it is not Phoenix, and it sure as hell is not Scottsdale or Tempe. It has its own tax and spending obligations, and it has fucked it up royally, as my friend, and the always excellent, Travis Waldron of Think Progress details:
In a world in which American cities have handed over billions of dollars in public money to finance sports arenas and stadiums, there is perhaps one city that stands above the rest as a warning for what can go wrong when they do so. It just so happens that place is Glendale, Ariz., which will host Super Bowl XLIX this Sunday.
Glendale has spent liberally on sports in the past decade and a half, luring professional hockey, football, and spring training baseball with millions of dollars of its own money and plenty of help from the state. Sunday will mark the second time it has hosted the Super Bowl, and the game’s biggest proponents are, in typical fashion, making the argument that helped sell all of this sporting infrastructure that brought teams and events to Glendale in the first place: it will be a boon for the local economy.
The problem is that the Super Bowl almost certainly won’t generate $500 million in economic benefits for Arizona. Economic research has shown that for a variety of reasons — among them: a failure to account for costs, money that leaks out of the local economy, and money that would have been spent anyway or, in the absence of such an event, elsewhere in the city — Super Bowls and other mega-events and the publicly-funded stadiums built to host them virtually never have such an effect. They may provide minimal gains, and sometimes losses, to host cities, but they’re never major shots in the arm. Cities that believe otherwise, about stadiums or the events themselves, run the risk of major trouble.
Travis is right, the “economic stimulus” from major events like Super Bowls, NCAA National Championship games, in both football and basketball (both of which are here in the immediate future), are just never what they are cracked up to be when you factor in the hard costs to host cities. But, it goes a little further than even Travis lets on when the hard costs of the game itself, and ridiculous security therefore, are being paid by a, frankly, minor municipality like Glendale and the real big bucks are being spent in Scottsdale/Paradise Valley and Phoenix. And that, my friends, is exactly what is going on here.
And, then, there is Scottsdale/Paradise Valley. That is where the real players and action are. I live, literally, on the intersection of East Phoenix/Arcadia, Scottsdale and Paradise Valley. Even with an old rotator cuff, I can throw a rock and hit all of them. So, I went to all the glitzy parties and can tell you about them, right? Nope. For one thing, I just don’t care as much anymore, and certainly not enough to work it to get to them. But, secondly, the big money, and exclusivity, is so pervasive now that it is really hard, much more so than it once was, whether for Super Bowl XXX or even XLII.
I didn’t miss the Playboy, Victoria’s Secret or Jerry Jones parties in either of those, but trying to get into the equivalent this year was insane, and I am not going to pay to do so. You think bmaz is gonna pay $350 to go to a Scottsdale bar to hang with lowlife B-level celebs like Drake, Brody Jenner and some idiot, I never in my life heard about, named “William Lifestyle”? Uh, no. I wouldn’t pay a lousy buck to see that trashy shit like that. So, save for a one day pass I got into the ESPN live set gig at Scottsdale Fashion Square, about two miles down the road, I just didn’t partake in the festivities. (Couple pictures from that, here, here and here; featuring mostly my new friend, and totally awesome guy, Tom Jackson) Your Phoenix based Roving Reporter has failed you. Sorry about that. And, no, I won’t be going to the game either. Tickets are, in even the cheapest markets, going for $7,500 – $10,000 for any seat, and WAY more for a reasonable seat, to the game. If I had tickets, I would sell them and buy a new car, or a Cessna, or something.
Alright, let us get to the only thing that matters in a game between the two best teams in football. Deflategate. Roger Goodell was his normal sack of salted dicks self in his press conference here. What a bullshit joke. Goodell is an embarrassment. He and the NFL have ignorantly, stupidly, and against the interests of the league and the Super Bowl, weakly and cravenly not just allowed, but actively encouraged, the ginning up of the non-story of Deflategate into something that has consumed the oxygen of the Super Bowl. The only thing that matters to tight ass billionaire owner driven cracker like Roger Goodell is the money. First he looks at the purse. Players health, and fans’ desires are not even really on the list.
If that is not enough incompetence to get Goodell fired, on the heels of the ignorant and incompetent handling of the Ray Rice situation, I guess there is no such thing as incompetence to the beyond hubristic and arrogant NFL owners. As a fan, fuck that shit. Goodell and the vaunted “NFL Shield” are craven, self serving, pathetic reactionaries worried far more about covering their gravy train asses than being positive, proactive, forces for good in society. Oh, and by the way, their “evidence” and “investigation” is, once, as always, total shit. So far, the NFL has a an equipment manager that had the misfortune of taking a piss in a bathroom and a bunch of physics that even all the best scientists now admit actually could support the Patriots. What a load of sensationalistic crap. Without more (which Goodell and his crying ass stooge Ted Wells may well try to falsely gin up, same as the asinine “Mueller Report”), Bob Kraft, Tom Brady and BillBel are indeed owed an apology. As Bill Simmons said in a couple of tweets on Twitter:
The NFL is searching for a person of interest who dressed like a referee and didn’t write down the measurements of 12 footballs. We spent 3 days talking about a ball boy taking a piss. Meanwhile Walt Anderson was approving footballs with his gut feelings. What a farce.
Alright. As to the game. Yeah, sorry, there are no more cheap ass platitudes on the elusiveness and brains of Russell Wilson, the strength of the Squawks defense, the greatness of Brady and the brilliance of BillBel’s game scheming. It is all out there, but I am done with that tripe, cause at this point it is all bullshit. These are two different and both wonderfully constructed and coached teams. One will win, and one won’t. We’ll see.
Music today, at the top, is INXS. Irrespective of the team you support, sometimes you kick, and sometimes you get kicked (as lifelong Packers fan, trust me). Also, the Brady’s Balls AC/DC thing is really well done. Don’t miss the J. Geils I added late, cause it is everything. Lastly, I especially love the Favre and Carve spot (one of several related Wix spots), though, truth be told, Headmistress, and my boss, Ms. Wheel made me do it! So, thanks to one and all for a great football season. We will see you again when the start of the F1 Circus begins and/or the force moves us. You are, all, truly and always, the greatest.
Let’s rock this joint lug nuts! Gronk on bitchezz!!
Back by popular demand, and in the face of kudzu like anti-sports grumps, it is Emptywheel’s Famous Football Trash Talk! The field is now down to four Green Bay at Seattle, and Indianapolis at New England.
The early game is the one that Phred and I will be glued to the TV for. The Packers return to the hostile confines of Seattle’s Century Link field to face the Seahawks. This is exactly where the first NFL regular season game was played this year. In that meeting, the Squawks owned the Packers. Green Bay’s defense looked unable to cope with Russell Wilson, and Rodgers refused to throw a single pass to Richard Sherman’s side of the field and Seattle waltzed away with an easy 36-16 win.
But a lot has changed in the interim. Seattle has developed their young receivers, but has lost the game changing explosiveness of Percy Harvin. And Green Bay has changed their defense around a bit with Clay Matthews being moved inside much more frequently, especially on obvious passing defense downs. But late in the season, Matthews was playing inside even on run defense because AJ Hawk just wasn’t physical enough to get it done. It seems like a small change, but the difference has been palpable. The Pack’s defense is far better than it was early in the season. Green Bay’s offense seems to be healthy and firing on all cylinders. Except one, and that is a big one, of the Discount Doublecheck variety.
I expect Rodgers will be slightly more mobile, and confident of his ability to move laterally, this week than last week against the Cowboys. He will need to be, because Seattle’s defense is a lot more lethal than Dallas’ was. The key will be whether Eddy Lacy can get untracked early and establish the run to a reasonable extent. Lacy has been healthy and very solid of late, so there is hope. If Cliff Avril, Bruce Irvin and Michael Bennett are allowed to constantly pressure Rodgers, it will be the end of the line for the Cheese. However, if the Green Bay O-line and Lacy can take some pressure off, Rodgers has the downfield accuracy to beat Seattle. That’s a big if. The Squawks are 7.5 point favorites, and I think that is maybe low. Seattle is headed here to the Super Bowl.
In the second game, the Colts go east to tilt with the Patriots. Frankly, I didn’t think Indy could beat the Broncos at Mile High. But they did, and it was not as close as the 24-13 score indicated. Andrew Luck was everywhere, extending plays and throwing darts. And the Colts’ defense was spectacular in their ability to wrap up and tackle relentlessly. There are not a lot of known names on the Indy defense, but they have been pretty impressive in this postseason.
The Pats. What is left to be said about the Patriots at this point? Tom Brady, Darrell Revis and the best coach in football, they have all of that and a Gronk. But if the Patriots want an eighth Super Bowl appearance, which would tie them for the most in NFL history (Pittsburgh and Dallas), they will likely have to do it without center Bryan Stork, who injured a knee last week. The Pats will likely go back to emphasizing their rushing attack against Indy, after gaining a historical low of 14 net yards rushing against Terrell Suggs and the Ravens. And the Pats have lit up the Colts on the ground in the past, so expect Belichick to go back to LeGarrette Blount and Bolden far more heavily Sunday. The Colts are game I am sure, but the Pats are a 6.5 point favorite and I think they will cover that and win easily.
There you have it. This is our last Sunday of football before Super Bowl XLIX, which happens to be right here in Phoenix. Time will tell who gets to Phoenix. Drink and chat it up people. Music by Phoenix’s own Glen Campbell.
UPDATE: Allright Emptywheel lugnuts, here is yer update to the post I said would serve all huge games this expanded weekend. Not much has changed on my original discussion below, however, Oregon had a number 3 receiver, Darren Carrington, suspended because of a terminally stupid positive pot test.
Both teams are not at perfect strength, so disregard the injury/suspension factor. Ohio State stands a better shot than most may think. I still think the Sweatervests will not be able to put down the Duckies. Cause you just cannot put down the Duck. And I am, despite my betting losses on Oregon in previous years, going to stick with that.
I went 3 for 4 in predictions on the NFL, but suffered a painful loss when the Colts stomped the Broncos and now confirmed peg legged Capt. Manning. Oh well, my bad.
Enjoy our first playoff NCAA Championship game! In honor of that, I have sacked the two offending Packers love songs and inserted some Quack shit. Cause the Duckies will NOT be put down (please see the new video attached.)]
The first game up is Baltimore at New England. The Ravens seem to be the trendy pick these days, and they certainly are capable of wandering into the Big Razor and knocking off the Pats. Flacco, Suggs and yadda, yadda, yadda. I don’t think so. The Pats are a touchdown favorite, and there is good reason for that. Brady and Gronk are rocking and have a hard nosed running game with Blount. Add in that the Ravens are not all that strong in the secondary and it spells success for the Pats. Throw in the shutdown ability of Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner for the Pats in the secondary and there you go.
Second game is the late game Saturday, Carolina at Seattle. Love to see the Panthers pull off the massive upset so there might could be Conference title game at Lambeau, but that just is not happening. The Panthers are better than their record reflects, especially at this point in the season, but the Squawks are not the quarterback less Cardinals and this game is in Seattle.
Sunday early game is the game of the week. Naturally, the Cowboys at Packers, Ice Bowl II. ‘Boys won all their road games this year, Pack won all their home games. Lately Romo has been performing in a Rodgers like manner. Cowboys have the running game edge with Murray and Aaron Rodgers is got a gimpy calf. If this game was straight offense against offense, I’d have to take the ‘Boys. But defense wins playoff games, and on the Frozen Tundra, I trust the Packers’ defense more than that of Dallas. This is probably a net toss-up in my mind. Oddsmakers have Green Bay as a 5.5 point favorite. I don’t know about that, but I think they find a way to eek out the win.
Last game is Colts at Broncos. I was stunned that the Colts looked so good last weekend. They really did. But this game is not indoors in Indy, it is late afternoon/evening at Mile High. That is a whole nuther thing, Peyton has great numbers at home, and finally has Julius Thomas back and healthy. The two Thomases, Welker and Emmanuel Sanders are too much firepower for Indy to handle, and Von Miller will be bothering Andrew Luck. Toss in the vastly improved Denver running game with C.J. Anderson, and you can see why the Broncs are a touchdown favorite, and I think they will cover that.
The Cowboys are not there, but there is a big game at Jerryworld in Dallas. The first ever College Football Playoff Championship. Oregon, and I am still shocked by this, Ohio State. The Ducks just flat rolled Florida State, can OSU keep up with their high octane offense? I am tempted to say no, but Michigan State played Oregon awfully tough early in the year, so maybe. Cardale Jones is a load, and he can throw too. No way I am picking against the Quackers here, but if Ohio State plays like they did last week again, they can win. But Urban Meyer would be absolutely insufferable with a third national title, so he must be stopped, and I think the Ducks finally get their crystal trophy. If the Ducks lose, it may be because their receiving corps is depleted, both from injuries and from stupidity.
Okay, sorry about the music selections, but PHRED MADE ME DO IT! Actually, Phred wanted Let’s Go Lambeau by the Bodeans as the music. I did too, but it is not on You Tube. You can hear it at this link though, and it really rocks. If the Cheese get by the ‘Boys, maybe I will try to make a music video of it for next week.
It is wildcard weekend and there are four awesome games on tap. Let’s get to them.
First up is the snake bit 11-5 Cardinals visiting the 7-8-1 Carolina Panthers. In a sane seeding system, this game would be in Phoenix as the Cards have 4 more wins than Carolina. This may actually occur with some playoff reforms the NFL is considering for next year. But this is Roger Goodell’s NFL and things are not necessarily sane. That said, the edge has to go to the Panthers. They have been on a late season roll and playing very good ball. Both Cam Newton on offense and Luke Kuechly on defense are just killing it. Newton is not running up big numbers at all, but he is managing the game and not hurting the team any longer. The Panthers allowed the second fewest points in the league over the last four games, and the Cardinals struggled to score points at all over that stretch. Ryan Lindley is back at QB for Arizona. He is not good, but certainly played a lot better in the regular season finale against the Niners. Hey, if Ohio State can wax Bama with a third string QB, maybe there is hope for Lindley and the Cardinals. But I don’t think so; Panthers are a six point favorite, and that sounds about right.
Next up is the late game today, Ravens at Steelers. Pittsburgh is hit hard by the loss of Le’Veon Bell, who was really balancing out the load for Roethlisberger. Everybody knows about the Ravens’ knack for getting on a playoff roll, so they are a scary team. But Big ben and the Stillers can do that too, and they are at home, where they are 3-0 against the Ravens in playoff games. I’ll take the Steelers again in a close one.
The early game Sunday is Cincinnati at the Colts. The Bengals haven’t won a playoff game since Ickey Woods and Boomer Esiason were leading them. And the Colts are at home and have Andrew Luck. Still, something has seemed off about the Colts down the stretch and the Bungles seemed to be getting their groove back a little…other than when they played the Steelers. I think the Bengals will get the job done in an upset.
The last game is maybe the best one, Detroit at Dallas. Somehow, the appeal reduced Ndamukong Suh’s penalty for stomping on the Most Valuable Player in the NFL to a fine, so he is not suspended for this game, which is huge for Detroit. The Lions will need Suh to keep DeMarco Murray from running wild. Murray proved last week that he can play with his injured thumb. Romo is on a serious roll, and playing the best QB of his career. Detroit also gets center Dominic Raiola back from a one game suspension too. Everything seems to be in the ‘Boys favor in this game, with the exception they are an average home team at best. Dallas is a 6.5 point favorite, and that sounds right. It will take a hell of a game out of the Kittehs to win this, and I just don’t see it.
Those are my picks, what you have to say??
[ew: WTF with Trash Talk with no music YouTubes? Added Lou Reed cause you gotta have something.]
Wildcard weekend in the NFL is coming up soon! But, it is New Years Eve and we are well into the meat of NCAA Bowl Season. There are both traditional bowls to yammer about and the new fangled college Football Playoffs. A cornucopia if you will! ASU squeaked out a narrow win over Coach K and Duke in the Sun Bowl, thus salvaging at least a 10 win season and bowl win in what was once an incredibly promising season. Still not very satisfying. Our other major university here, University of Arizona, is in action in the Fiesta Bowl here in Cardinals’ stadium against Boise State this afternoon (should be starting soon on ESPN). I love Boise State, but this is almost a home game for the Cats, and they should prevail. TCu is on the teepee right now just freaking obliterating the ‘Ole Miss Rebels. Really ugly. Tonight, another SEC “powerhouse”, Mississippi State takes on the Ramblin Wreck from Georgia Tech in the Orangutang Bowl. I’ll take MSU, but it may be close. From here on out, I will be writing this in conjunction with Gaius Publius, still sailing high on this fine Irish win (he made me say that). For the Outback Bowl, Gaius says:
The head picks Auburn, the heart picks the Badgers. In the world of the heart, Wisconsin will run it down their throats.
Bmaz agrees, because, you know, cheese and Packers are Wisconsin staples. Booyah! For the Cotton Bowl, it is a matchup of Baylor versus the Spartys of Michigan State. Gauis says:
The head picks Baylor. The heart picks Baylor. Up yours, say the Bears, to the corrupt selection committee and its “process.”
The big games are, of course, tomorrow with the Championship semifinals in the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl. Let’s start out with the first game out of the gate, the Grandaddy Of Them All, the Rose Bowl. The Oregon State Quackers versus the Rapists er, Seminoles, of Florida State. Bmaz is gonna take the Ducks, because, well, they are the proper Pac-12 thing to do and I also think they are a better team. Florida State is overrated. Gaius says:
Ducks-with-talons (did you see those helmets and uniforms?) makes no sense. FSU, despite their peccadilloes (yes, in the world of sports, rape is a one of the peccas), will leave it on the field; also the Ducks; also their feathers, pointed and sharp though they be. That’s the head. The heart? Hey, I’m just upriver from them, and Jameis Winston needs a bring-down, a comeuppance. Time for Winston to trip up on the field.
Next up is the Sugar Bowl with Ohio State and Alabama. How many times are the college football powers that be going to put the Buckeyes in these huge games to to get embarrassed for having done so? Just stop. For starters, OSU should not be in the Championship series to start with, both TCU and Baylor, or either one of them, would have been a FAR more deserving choice. And, next year, we can all blarney on about the raging mediocrity of the team in Ann Arbaugh. This year, the fail is from the home of the Horseshoe, not the Big House.
It’s troubling to pick with the corrupt selection committee and its “process” — the one that favors the big-money “Big Five” conferences. But pick we must. The head says Alabama and its own corrupt process — the one where they sign 200 recruits, then toss out the worst 175 of them after they enroll in “school” — will take the game. But the heart says, please god, may the Bamans fall far. I’m not picking against the most corrupt — clearly the selectors are that — but the heart chooses the lesser evil, at least this time. tOSU in a heartbeat.
There you have it kids. It is bowl season, look alive! We will be back with a Wildcard Weekend NFL post (assuming I do not get too sloshed for the New Years. Music this week by the original Chicago Transit Authority with a live version of Make Me Smile. Holy shit was Terry Kath great. Rock and roll em.
Here we are at the cusp of the end of the regular season line for the NFL and official start of the college football bowl season. Man, things are not what they used to be. As I write this, I am watching the Fiesta Bowl Parade on local TV. It looks fucking pathetic. This used to be a parade that hundred’s of thousands of people came out for. Now it looks like a podunk town homecoming parade. Right this second, there is some mope on a bicycle towing a freaking monkey in a little red wagon. I need to start drinking stat! Maybe with the Tequila Gun!
Okay, so the ASU Sun Devils are playing the Blue Devils of Duke in the otherwise long ago relevant, but now piddling, Sun Bowl, and that game is on CBS and just started. I’ll take the Devils! Boston College versus Penn State, the Nittany Lions fresh off of truncated probation, in the Pinstripe Bowl from Yankee Stadium on ESPN may be a decent toss up. As may be the Cornfuskers versus Trojans in the Holiday Bowl tonight, also on ESPN. There are other bowls starting up on Monday, and there may or may not be Nuevo Trash between now and next Tuesday or Wednesday, so make this yer Bowl Trash Talk home thread until you see another one!
So being done with the Joes, let’s move to the Pro’s. Really, is there any doubt but that the biggest game of the NFL regular season comes down to bmaz and Phred’s beloved Packers versus teh Evil Kittehs of Ms. Wheel. Matt Stafford currently looks like a scruffy lumberjack that has eaten more hotdogs than Joey Chestnut on July 4th on Coney Island. Which should make pulling away from rookie center Travis Swanson, who will be taking his live first snaps ever in the critical game on the Frozen Tundra™. That would because the 12 year starting center of the Lions, Dominic Raiola, who was suspended for going all Suh on a Chicago Bear last game. Unless Aaron Rodgers gets cheap shotted by the Dirty Felines, expect the Packers to continue the Lions losing streak at Lambeau to 24 years in a row.
There are really only three other true games of interest in the league Sunday. First, Bengals at Steelers, where my bet is Big Ben once again denies Marvin Lewis and Andy Dalton the big game win they so covet. Second, the Panthers are at the Falcons for the NFC south Championship and a losing record berth in the playoffs. Not just a losing record berth, but a home field game to boot. The NFL really needs to rethink their seeding priorities. The Cardinals will almost certainly be the wild card opponent for the victor of this game, and Ariaona will have won many more games going in, and against far better competition.
Lastly, the combo of the Cardinals versus Niners in San Francisco and Rams at Squawks still counts. Were the Rams to pull the road upset over Seattle and the Cards to pull a road upset over the Niners (the Cards still have Ryan Lindley at QB, so a win would be a HUGE upset), the Cards would still win the NFC West and home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Of course, neither upset will come even remotely close to happening. Yes, I know Marcy and Rosalind say I am a whiner and bellyacher on these points, but I have not been wrong about them yet. Most unfortunately. I’d love to change this world and have had Carson Palmer for the whole season so that it was a fair fight for the Cardinals in the NFC West, but that was not to be the case. It is what it is.
Music today by Ten Years After who also wanted to change the world. Eat well, drink responsibly and let it rip!
Late start on Trash this week as I was otherwise occupied and, well, with little college football, there was little action on Saturday. Navy beat Army for the 13th time in a row and Oregon’s Marcus Mariotta won the Heisman, as was expected.
But Sunday is another matter, as the NFL is really heating up. The Cardinals won a tough defensive slugfest in St. Louis against the Rams, but suffered yet another crushing injury as QB Drew Stanton suffered a sprained MCL and ACL. No one knows when, or even if, he can return. There is a big push to get Kurt Warner to come out of retirement to save the day. I, of course, am lobbying for the ‘Ole Geezer Gunslinger himself, Brett Favre. Good times.
I think the Steelers at Falcons may be a great game. Atlanta’s record sucks, but they are very much in the playoff hunt in the woeful NFC south. And they seem to be getting their groove back. The Steelers have been hot or cold lately, better stay hot or the Falcons will take them. The Pack is in Buffalo. If there is one team that won’t be freaked by cold and snow in the outdoors of Orchard Park, it is Green Bay. They are used to it. Patriots should take care of the Dolphins at Foxborough.
Broncos at Chargers is a critical game. Of course you have to pick the Donkos, and Las Vegas is. But the Chargers will be tough. The Vikings have been gelling of late and, were this game in Minnesota, I might be tempted to go with an upset over Detroit. In Detroit, however, have to ride with the Kittehs. Can the Niners get back on the winning track against the Squawks in Seattle? Nope. Cowboys at Eagles for SNF is arguably the game of the week. I rate it as a tossup, but think the eagles may wear out the Boys if Sanchez can play decent.
Now, I said Cowboys/Iggles was “arguably” the game of the week, and any other week it might be. But not this week. Oh no, this week THE game of the week is absolutely the Bengals at the Brownies. And the starting debut of one Mr. Football. Cleveland should have gone to Manziel last week. Brian Hoyer was just pitiful, and the Brown still only lost to the Colts by one point. There is no way Manziel would not have been better. But with the loss to the Colts, Cleveland is gasping, but still technically alive in the playoff hunt. America will be watching. And in a weird scheduling deal, a LOT of America will be watching because FOX, which normally runs NFC games, is broadcasting this strictly AFC matchup. Go Johnny Go, Johnny be good!
Christmas music by Dave Edmunds.
Okay, I tried to get folks interested in the criminal docket report yesterday, to sadly little avail. Oh well, so be it. Let us dive headfirst into trash then.
First up is the Pac-12 Championship game between the Oregon Quackers and the Cats from Arizona, played in the Big Blue Jeans in Not Frisco (yes, I am trying to piss off those NoCal locals who HATE the term Frisco). Halfway through the third quarter and the Quack Attack is just rolling Rich Rod and the Sad Cats. Ouch. All I can say is, yo, enjoy it Cats, unlike ASU, this is as close to the Rose Bowl as you are gonna get. I rooted for you for one night, and look what happened! Bygones baybee!
That was last night, today brings us conference championship games like Ohio State and Wisconsin, Kansas State and Baylor, Alabama and Missouri, and Florida State versus Georgia Tech. I’ll take, respectively, Wisconsin, Baylor, Crimson Tide and Tech in a wild upset. In some NCAA criminal docket new, Jameis Winston is one of the most reprehensible pieces of human trash I have seen in years. He refused to testify in his disciplinary hearing, but cravenly filed an unnecessarily graphic and lewd belligerent letter and then released it to the press. Then, not satisfied with what he has already done, Winston is mentally raping his victim once again. Winston and his lawyers now are threatening to intentionally try to separate the victim from her lawyers by suing the lawyers for defamation. This won’t work, but will eat up time and money for the victim trying to fend it off. It is one of the most assholish things I have seen from an attorney in some time; Winston is one nasty piece of work. Unbelievable.
In the pros, There are a morgue full of games that may put the losers in coffins. This is similar to a guillotine day. The Steelers play the Bengals twice in the last four weeks, starting in Cinci this weekend. They probably need to win both if they want to win the division. Unfortunately, I don’t think they get it done. The Browns, like the Steelers, have a 7-5 record and can’t lose many more games and still hope to make the playoffs. Don’t think they get it done at home against the Colts either. Colts are not flashy, but Luck has them on a roll. The Ravens and Fish play in Miami. Both of them are also 7-5, and the winner will be looking good and the loser not so much. That game is really a tossup, but I like the Fish at home.
The Chefs come to the desert to meet the suddenly reeling Cardinals. The Cards are very tough at home, and they desperately need a win after two losses in a row because they finish the schedule out agh the Rams, home for Seattle and away at Niners. There is an air of doom and gloom right now in Phoenix, with the fear that the Cards may no win another game and will not even make the playoffs despite the 9-1 start. There is good reason for that fear.
The best game of the week is Seattle at Philly. The Squawks have their groove back and the Iggles are now sitting, at 9-3, with the best record in the league (shared with Green Bay, AZ, NE and Denver). It is the age old battle of lockdown defense versus high flying offense. Mark Sanchez has been pretty good since replacing Nick Foles, but hasn’t faced anything like Seattle’s defense. I’ll take the Squawks for a key road win. The Pats have spent all week in San diego getting ready for their game with the Bolts. The Chargers close with Denver Niners and Chefs, with the last two on the road, so they could really use a win against Bill Bel, Brady and the boys. No idea why I have this crazy notion, but I think the Bolts will pull this one out.
The Pack are in Atlanta for Monday Night Football, and Denver is home against the Bill. Both should be fine, but that will about end Buffalo’s slim playoff hopes. Music this week from the Killers who are….simply killer.
Whoo boy, there is a bit of snow that shuffled in to Buffalo recently. So, with the Kittehs over in Foxborough taking on the steamrolling Pats, Buffalo will be the “home team” in Detroit for their game against the Jets. And tickets will be free, which is a cool thing for fans in Motown. The Jets just stink and Buffalo ought be a little jacked up, so I’m taking the Wagon Circlers. But what about the Kittehs? The Bill Bel and Brady brigade are just flat out rolling and just signed a new/old battering ram, er running back, LeGarrette Blount to solidify their running game. The Lions might be slipping back into the penalty prone ways. Hard not to take the Pats here.
Other than Pats and Lions, the other truly big game is the Cards up at the Seasquawks. The Squawks are favored pretty heavily. The national press, especially all the chatterers on ESPN, seem fixated on the Cards being in trouble because Carson Palmer is done for the year and backup Drew Stanton is in charge at QB. But I don’t think that is the worry, Stanton is competent, and the Cards were not exactly flashy even with Palmer. I think the problem is the running game, or actually lack thereof. The Cards get a little bit out of Andre Ellington, but really just don’t have much of a ground game. I think against a still tough Seattle defense, in that noisy stadium, that will doom the Cards. The Dolphins at Broncos and Ravens at Saints will also have big implications for all four teams and their playoff chances.
It is really a weak schedule in the college ranks this week. Arguably the two best games are in the Pac-12. First up is Rich Rod and the Arizona Wildcats in Utah to face the Utes.As I said earlier in the year when ASU played Utah, the Utes are good, and especially so at home in Rice Stadium. Lot of people picking Utah, but I think the Cats will pull out a narrow win. The other Pac-12 tilt of note is the yearly grudge match between USC and UCLA. The Bruins are favored at “home” in the Rose Bowl, but home field doesn’t mean much with these two. Both Brett Hundley and Cody Kessler are having great seasons at QB. I think it is a tossup, maybe slight edge to the Trojans. The SEC seems to all be playing Eastern Podunk State this week, so who cares about them? Special shoutout for Scribe on the Lehigh and Lafayette game being played in Yankee Stadium. I rate it a tossup, because who knows what can happen when these two get together! Seriously though, this is the 150th meeting in this ancient rivalry, and the NYT has a great story about the history.
Really, that is about it for excitement. There are only the two top shelf games in the NFL, but they should be good ones. The announcement of a no-bill, the opposite of an indictment for you non-criminal lawyers, is likely to be announced from the St. Louis County prosecutor’s office on Sunday, or so it seems to be shaping up to my eye. Officer Darren Wilson will skate for the homicide of Michael Brown, and all because prosecutor Bob McCulloch designed and ran a ridiculously out of the ordinary and craven grand jury designed to insure there was no indictment. Wilson figuratively chased a boy through the park and put a bullet in his heart. So today’s music is an absolutely kick ass version of Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker) by the Stones from 1972. Rock on.
Update from emptywheel. Scribe actually wrote a great piece on the Lehigh/Lafayette game so I’m making an executive decision to share it with you all.
This is the weekend someone in the marketing department decided would be called “Rivalry Weekend”. And, so it is. Even though BMAz says it’s a lame weekend for college football, he’s wrong again. Many of the greatest rivalries in the college game get played today. But there is one rivalry which stands apart from the others. Today, Lafayette College and Lehigh University will play football against each other for the 150th time. That is more than any other pair of teams have played each other, anywhere, ever. This year The Game will take place at a neutral site. Yankee Stadium.
These are two smallish Eastern colleges with campuses about a dozen miles apart in two of the small, now post-industrial, cities of Pennsylvania. The schools are justly proud of their academics and the distinction of their graduates. You can look them up, but they routinely wind up near the top of the “highly competitive” categories.
Lehigh is a full-blown university awarding all sorts of degrees through the doctorate, but it came up as a school of engineering and the hard sciences. It was founded in the 19th century by the man in charge of the Lehigh Valley Railroad and located literally up the hill – Bethlehem’s South Mountain – from the main works and offices of the Bethlehem Steel Company. For generations there were many young men who, upon graduation, would go down the hill and into the offices of The Steel, to retire from there 40 or so years later. For the longest time, Lehigh’s teams were “the Engineers”. But, in recent years either they had an attack of the marketing department or a crisis of confidence and they wound up renaming themselves the “Mountain Hawks”.
Lafayette is an all-undergraduate college sited on College Hill, a bluff overlooking the city of Easton and the confluence of the Lehigh and Delaware rivers. Its professors actually teach students in classes. It was founded in the first part of the 19th century. Its graduates have been more catholic in their fields of accomplishment, though business and Wall Street are strongly represented. Since time out of mind, its teams have been called the “Leopards”. In the days before the No Fun League, college football was the game and Lafayette was a national powerhouse as well as innovators. They were consensus national champions in 1896, 1921 and 1926. That’s right. Three-time national champions. In those old days, responding to the team from the University of Pennsylvania stealing their signals, Lafayette’s team invented the huddle. And, after tiring of getting banged around, one of Lafayette’s players invented the old leather football helmet. And in the late 40s when Texas’ Jim Crow would have stopped their star running back, a former Tuskegee Airman, from playing, Lafayette told the Sun Bowl to keep their bowl bid.
The rivalry between these two colleges is and always has been intense even as they’ve gone from I-A to I-AA in football, I-A in other sports. If you haven’t experienced it from the inside it’s quite hard to describe. It extends from football through all other sports and into the work and social worlds. That whole “Roll Tide -War Eagle” bit has nothing on this. For many years, the intensity of the rivalry required The Game to be played twice – home and home – every year. Thus, today is the 150th time The Game has been played even though they only started playing in 1884. The energy behind the rivalry played out in stunts – can you build an egg launcher that can be smuggled into the game and will reach to the other side of the stadium? – violence – both were all-male schools until about 1970 and all that energy went into … something – vandalism – once, some Lehigh students put their welding skills to work and removed the balls from a larger-than-life bronze of General Lafayette. (After that and some very professionally done repairs, all outdoor statuary was boxed over for most of November. Students often repainted the boxes to look like outhouses.)
Two schools where football players play more for the love of the game than anything else. Both schools are antipathetic toward athletic scholarships and there are no academic shortcuts. Hardly any of the players ever gets a look from the No Fun League, so today is the end of football for most of the seniors. Each school has long traditions, alumni who deeply love them and many reasons to be proud. Today is one more. For me, Yankee Stadium is too far to travel, but I might be going to a sports bar where The Game will be on CBS Sports Network.
Raise a glass. This is what college football should be.