Saturday, May 26, 2007

Phillippi, Idol, O'Donnell, Doolittle

The fellow there in the blue shirt and hat is Phillippi Sparks. Sparks used to be famous for one thing: He was the cornerback who played opposite Jason Sehorn with the New York Giants. In fact, his own daughter, on national television, explained who he was by saying he was the cornerback who played opposite Jason Sehorn with the New York Giants. She said that because, although her father was considered a fine defensive back, Sehorn was considered a star. Why?

Years in NFL 9 9
Games played115117
Interceptions27 19
Spouse College
Law & Order
Fun factOne of dozens
of African-American
NFL cornerbacks
The only white guy
playing cornerback
in the NFL

OK, that's not really fair. Sehorn did have more return touchdowns and more sacks, stats that wound up being trimmed from the chart. One can certainly make the case that Sehorn was a little better than Sparks. But only a little. What's clear, though, is that Sehorn was not one of the league's best corners. So why did he get so much publicity? Why did he get endorsement deals? Because of his race? Yes and no. Sehorn didn't have a high profile because he was white, per se. He had a high profile because he was a novelty -- a white guy playing corner in the NFL. The assumption that was made about him was that if a white guy was making it as cornerback, then he must be really good.

A newly released biography of Condoleezza Rice bears the title Twice as Good. It's a reference to the belief that for blacks (or women) to overcome prejudice and succeed in jobs long dominated by whites (or men), they must be "twice as good" as others who do the same work. The flip side is that sometimes, when a white person succeeds in what is considered a "black" job, many people will just assume that the white guy is twice as good. Bringing us back to Jason Sehorn.

Anyway, Phillippi Sparks has now become famous for something besides sharing the field with the Palest of Corners. That's because his daughter, Jordin Sparks, last week was crowned the winner of American Idol's sixth -- and by far its worst -- season.

Jordin's victory was especially sweet for many Americans, because it was just one more thing that Rosie O'Donnell was wrong about. O'Donnell, remember, created one of her regularly scheduled stinks earlier in the year when she charged that Idol was a thoroughly racist institution. Naturally, then, this year's final four included three African-American women. And this season made it three times out of six that the winner was of African-American descent (three and a half times, if you buy what Taylor Hicks is trying to sell).

O'Donnell based her claims of racism on the fact that one of this year's Idol contestants, Antonella Barba, was allowed to remain on the show after cheesecake photos of her popped up on the Internet. O'Donnell cited the case of Frenchie Davis, who was booted from the show a few years back after it came out that she had posed topless for a porn site. See, Barba is white, and Davis is black. So it's racism, QED.

But Barba's photos were meant to be seen only by a boyfriend and were never intended for public display, whereas Davis accepted money to pose for "Daddy's Little Girls." Barba was victimized by her dirtbag spiv of an ex. Davis signed on the dotted line of her own free will. O'Donnell glossed over that part, because when you're making a second career of being aggrieved by proxy, you can only afford to read the headlines.

It would have been nice to see Barba win, if only to make O'Donnell feel that much lonelier, but, alas, the girl couldn't sing. So the winner might as well be Jordin Sparks. God knows she was preferable to the competition.

Her stiffest competition, of course, came from Melinda Doolittle. No one in America cheered louder than I did when Doolittle finally got bounced in the season's penultimate week. She was the critics' and judges' consensus choice as the best singer Idol had ever seen, yet she was utterly devoid of charisma.

Plus, the fact that Doolittle was even on the show at all was absolutely detestable.

Think about it: The woman was a professional backup singer. That means she already had the kind of access to the music industry that amateurs and shower singers can only dream about. And yet she never did anything with that access. Instead, she chose to bigfoot the amateurs and shower singers on Idol. The best singer on the show? Well, of course she was. She's a professional.

Despite being a ringer, though, Doolittle lost. It seems America finally got fed up with her who-me? act every time the judges praised her singing. We like modesty in this country. We admire humility. But when you go to pieces week after week whenever anyone says anything nice about you, it gets tiresome. It comes across as fake. Just smile and say thank you. Idol, and the media, tried to pass off her departure as some sort of huge shock, like Chris Daughtry getting kicked off last year. Daughtry, however, was done in by his fans' complacency. Doolittle got the axe because people just got sick of her.

The judges may have loved Doolittle, but you can bet the marketers who would have had to push her album had she won are breathing easier now. They're already sitting on a hundred thousand copies of Taylor Hicks' stink bomb. There's no way they wanted to take out an ad in Rolling Stone for "Doolittle Sings Torch Songs" or whatever disaster will be forthcoming. When the Idol competition had been whittled down to three this year, the show sent the finalists to their hometowns. We saw thousands cheer Jordin Sparks in Arizona and Blake Lewis in Seattle. What of Doolittle? She had a small ceremony in the governor's office in Nashville. Ooh, buzz marketing.

After Doolittle, the competition was two-dozen shades of dreck:

Fellow finalist Lewis eventualy came to be known as simply "The Beat-Boxer" because he sure as hell wasn't much of a singer. Lewis' biggest Idol highlight was singing a song by his favorite band, 311, whom the judges had never heard of. What, did they sleep through the entire 1990s? Paula, you don't have to answer that.

Fourth-place finisher LaKisha Jones didn't have a chance. O'Donnell would probably say she was the victim of sizism, but Jordin's a big girl herself. And don't forget Ruben Studdard.

Phil Stacey was a nice singer but would have been a nightmare staring out from an album cover with those dead, dead eyes.

Chris Sligh started out well as a self-deprecating goofball but was quickly revealed as a self-aggrandizing douchebag.

Chris Richardson was supposed to look like Justin Timberlake but instead looked, as Television Without Pity so aptly put it, like a drug dealer. The kind who sells meth out of his Camaro in the 7-Eleven parking lot.

Barba and Haley Scarnato were nice to look at but impossible to listen to.

Plenty has already been written about Sanjaya Malakar, who really wasn't any worse than Sundance Head but got to stay around a lot longer because preteen girls thought Sanjaya was an androgynous cutie but Sundance was a bloated monster. The judges spent the middle third of the season bitching about how awful Sanjaya was and how he didn't belong on the show, but they were the ones who cast him in the first place. If you're going to put him on the ballot, don't blame us for voting for him.

Brandon Rogers was another professional backup who tried to use Idol to weasel his way to the front of the stage. He was completely invisible.

Gina Glocksen, the token "rocker," was a cliche sandwich. Leslie Hunt had lupus, poor thing. And there were 10 other people who made so little of an impression that their names don't even sound familiar. A.J. Tabaldo? WTF?

Then there's left-wing loon Rosie O'Donnell, who last week quit her latest job (helping destroy The View) after an on-air dustup with right-wing loon Elisabeth Hasselbeck, wife of another New York Giant, backup quarterback Tim Hasselbeck.

And with that, we're back to football!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

MMQB: Quel retard!



1. Peter King is often barely coherent in English, so he ought not try to be "funny" in other languages. About Chiefs president Carl Peterson's affection for the NFL's European minor league, King writes, "No other NFL exec is as into NFL Europa (nee World League of American Football, nee NFL Europe, nee NFL Spring League That No One in America Gives Two Hoots About)." What? Née (with the accent) is French for "born," which is why you see it in wedding announcements to denote the bride's maiden name -- the name she was "born" with. Née doesn't mean "formerly." You're only born once, with one name. No matter how many times Brunhilda McGillicuddy gets married, she'll always be just "née McGillicuddy." Asswipe.

2. This week's "Factoid That May Interest Only Me" asserts that it is interesting that Keith Olbermann and Chris Berman happened to do radio play-by-play of the same football game when they were college students 31 years ago. Imagine that. What's even eerier, according to King, is that in 1989, one of the head coaches from that very game, George Siefert, was winning the Super Bowl while Olbermann and Berman both "critiqued him for ESPN." OK, not only is this not "interesting," the second part isn't even true. Olbermann didn't join ESPN until 1992.

3. In the "Aggravating/Enjoyable Travel Note of the Week," King writes admiringly about a road rage incident, in which one woman used her minivan to block the path of a car, got out, and began screaming at the other driver. Had the other driver pulled a gun -- this was happening in New Jersey, after all -- and popped the minivan woman, you can bet Schoolmarm Pete would have written about how foolish that chick had been. Remember, this is a guy who every week takes it on himself to police the skim-milk consumption of Starbucks customers even fatter than he is.

4. King prints an e-mail from an NFL Network executive who asserts that the recent NFL-Comcast ruling was bad for consumers. Last week, King said of the decision, "It's hard to argue with a judge's ruling in New York last week that allowed Comcast to put the NFL Network on a pay tier." This week, King says, "I think I still wonder why the New York jurist who sided with Comcast issued a summary judgment in the case." (Emphasis added.) "Still"? Last week he said there was nothing to argue about. Now that his sweetie at NFL Network is pouting, suddenly he has doubts.

5. Also in the NFL-Comcast item, King says that a summary judgment means that the judge "saw zero merit in the NFL's case." Well now. Actually, it means that the judge believed that there were no material facts to be decided at a trial -- in other words, that the facts in the case were not in dispute -- and that, given those facts and the law, it was clear which party would prevail. It's not a judgment on what's right or wrong, or what's fair or unfair. The judge could believe that the league has a reasonable and understandable grievance -- but that it has no chance of prevailing under the law.


Peter is well-connected: " 'I think we're going to Deutschland,' club president Carl Peterson told me ... "; "Having been around (NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell) for good chunks of time the last two decades, I ... "; " 'He hasn't changed a bit,' (Colts coach Tony) Dungy told me ... "; "Sterling Sharpe deserves a back pat for being a classy TV teammate ... "; "We had some Football Night in America meetings last week in New York, and my guess is that Tiki Barber is ... "

Peter is a drama queen: "Tiger Woods and I have something in common."

Peter does something for us: "Next week, I'll be skipping my first Monday column since last July. Off to Italy for a recharging family trip."

Total number of quotes of the week: 4. Total unrelated to football: 1.
Total number of things King thinks he thinks: 26.

Red Sox fellated: Eric Hinske; the team as a whole. Yankees subject to bitchy comments: George Steinbrenner; Roger Clemens.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

We read MMQB so you don't have to

Mmm. Combo platter ... Down and Distance returns from its annual post-Super Bowl hiatus with a long list of ideas -- and, thanks to an amicable separation from our former employer and a quite lucrative home sale, new freedom to pursue those ideas. So let's get back to work by taking a few shots at a big, soft, blunt-fingered target.

Peter King's weekly "Monday Morning Quarterback" column on is an attempt by Sports Illustrated and parent company Time Warner to capitalize on what the media world calls "convergence." Convergence is when you "leverage" (force) your "assets" (employees) to "produce content" (turn out extra material) "across multiple platforms" (for print, TV and radio, and the Web). And as is so often the case when Old Media wanders into the New Media realm, unshaven and with its pants unzipped, what winds up on the Web (Monday Morning Quarterback) is the leftover crap that didn't make it into print (King's gig at SI) or on TV (King's gigs on HBO, NBC and God knows what else).

Regular readers of MMQB are familiar with the drill: King leads off with some football-related items, which demonstrate that the guy really does have fantastic access, and it's too bad he doesn't do more with it. The first page of the column is usually the only part worth reading. When there's anything worth reading.

From there, several features appear, in no particular order. King gives us his "Quote of the Week" and, during the season, identifies his offensive, defensive and special teams players of the week. Except he's never able to narrow it down to just one quote or player, so just about everybody gets a trophy, like in pee-wee soccer. Or the Special Olympics.

Next comes "Stat of the Week," in which King identifies some number that he finds really interesting. Often the stat he highlights says more about the undisciplined nature of King's thinking than about the subject nominally at hand. Like, he'll go off on how many draft "busts" are highly touted first-round picks, without recognizing that, by definition, only highly touted first-round picks can even be busts.

Next comes "Aggravating/Enjoyable Travel Note of the Week," the single most loathsome feature in any recurring NFL column. In it, King bitches about how hard it is to fly first-class and stay in nice hotels on the company dime. Seems a lot of minimum wagers out there aren't sufficiently chop-chop for King Peter. It isn't all negative. Sometimes he has nice things to say about his most recent $100 dinner.

In "Factoid of the Week That May Interest Only Me," King discusses something that, to his credit, usually interests only him.

Then we get to the best/worst part of the column: "Ten Things I Think I Think." The list is never 10 items long, of course, yet the name persists because long, long ago King and his editors committed themselves to an unsustainable and too-rigid format. (Who says Old Media is dead?) Several of the first nine items will have nothing to do with football, yet No. 10 always begins, "I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week," and there are up to a dozen of those.

The non-football thoughts offer readers a frightening glimpse into King's sad little world. He gives his take on the latest episode of The Sopranos, that mobster show on HBO that you quit watching two years ago. He fills us in on whatever his daughter and her idiot friends are up to. He announces that he's discovered the most amazing thing, like Velcro or the iPod or something else that's been around so long that you've already gone through more than one. A running item slugged "Coffeenerdness" deconstructs the goings-on at various Starbucks (where a true "coffee nerd" wouldn't be caught dead). And there's all sorts of shit about the Boston Red Sox.

So that's all you need to know about the format of "Monday Morning Quarterback." Starting this week, Down and Distance will be checking in with MMQB regularly, so you don't have to.



1. Two of King's "Quotes of the Week" come from Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, an Eagles season ticket holder who thinks Philadelphia made a mistake in choosing quarterback Kevin Kolb with its first draft pick. King bleats: "Rendell was outspoken eight years ago against the Eagles' picking McNabb, saying they should have chosen Ricky Williams. Now he's upset the team has chosen a player to compete for McNabb's job." Eight years, Peter. Eight years! Rendell, then Philadelphia mayor, was hardly the only person in 1999 who thought the Eagles had wasted a pick on McNabb. The fact that he's now defending McNabb says only that he acknowledges he was wrong. King, however, is saying that if you were once wrong about a subject, not only can you never be right, you are no longer even entitled to an opinion. If that's the case, King -- every football writer, actually -- should have given up writing about football long ago.

2. King continues after Rendell by asking, "Why doesn't he just buy the damn team from Jeff Lurie and go make the picks himself?" This is horseshit. The business model of pro sports in the United States is built around the idea that a team is the emotional property of the community it calls home. Fans are encouraged to believe (erroneously, but who cares?) that they have a personal stake in team matters. They're encouraged to "live and die by the team." That's what Rendell is doing here. He's a fan and a customer. (Further, as the mayor of Philadelphia, Rendell was instrumental in getting the Eagles' new stadium built.) Lurie, I would imagine, wants fans like Rendell to be this emotionally invested in the franchise. For King to go to the I'd-just-like-to-see-you-do-better argument shows he doesn't understand the motivations of the fan. Which is probably why he writes his column the way he does: He thinks people are there as much to read about him as to read about football. But if he wants a simple answer, try this: Rendell doesn't buy the team because A) He's the governor of Pennsylvania, and B) He doesn't have $1 billion. And you don't have to be able to buy your favorite team to have an opinion about it. Dick.

3. With coffee on the brain, as usual, King observes: "Number of Starbucks on the Pennsylvania Turnpike while going west from Harrisburg to Pittsburgh: three. Starbucks on the Turnpike going back east: three." That's pretty neat, Pete. Here's a factoid that may interest only me: They're the same three locations. Stores at the Sideling Hill, Midway and Somerset service plazas are available both east- and westbound. There's also a fourth Starbucks available westbound at New Stanton. So the whole item is wrong. And the plural of Starbucks in Starbuckses, dummy.

4. King writes: "I think I hear really good things about (new Falcons coach) Bobby Petrino. I mean, really good things. About his organizational skills, his no-nonsense approach, his offensive plan. ... Imagine if Mike Lombardi had persuaded him to take the Raiders job 16 months ago, and Al Davis hadn't saddled the team with a wasted ArtShell/Tom Walsh year. Imagine Petrino working with JaMarcus Russell." Let's assume Petrino is as good as King makes him out to be (and he may well be, but don't count on it). Had the Raiders hired Petrino last year, they would presumably have turned out significantly better than 2-14. Which means the Raiders wouldn't have had the No. 1 pick in the draft. Which means Russell would probably have wound up a Lion, Buccaneer or Brown. If you're going to rewrite history in order to play a game of "what-if," then for every change in cause, you have to have a change in effect.


Peter looks at certain men and gets hungry: New Steelers coach Mike Tomlin is "meat-and-potatoes," though no more so than any other coach in the league. Drew Brees is a "combo platter."

Peter is well-connected: "I asked Falcons GM and league competition committee chair Rich McKay ... "; "I had a 40-minute chat with Brad Childress. ... I also had two chats with NFL front-office people ... "; "I know (Dolphins coach Cam) Cameron, and he is very big on personal accountability ... "; " 'This city cannot be forgotten,' (Drew) Brees told me last week ... "

Peter arrives on Earth: "Satellite radio and cell phones have totally changed car trips"; "My problem, quite frankly, is the rebuilding (of New Orleans) is too slow."

Peter is a drama queen: "All we want in a workout room on the road is a few stepmills, some treadmills and elliptical trainers. Can't you give us that without charging us?"

Total number of quotes of the week: 6

Total number of things King thinks he thinks: 16. Total number unrelated to football before he gets to his "non-football-related thoughts": 2.