Tuesday, September 18, 2007

KingWatch: Those awesome Browns

Peter King spends about half of this week's Monday Morning Quarterback column dissecting, trisecting and quadrisecting the scandal he refers to, incessantly, as "Spygate," even though we've made it abundantly clear that "Tapegate" would be a far more appropriate name, assuming you're creatively bankrupt enough to still be leaning on the "-gate" crutch at this late date. It's not worth it to go into everything PK writes about the matter, so we'll say only this: Dude is taking this whole thing awfully personally. King all but declares that he's going to use his clout on the Hall of Fame selection committee to keep Bill Belichick out of Canton for a while. He quotes a tsk-tsk column from the New York Times (imagine that: New York media pissing all over the New England Patriots). And he flat-out demands that Belichick rend his garments in public: "He owes the public an explanation for why he did what he did." Oh, come off it, Pete. What you're saying is he owes you an explanation, because you've been holding him up for years as the messianic genius love child of Al Einstein and Tom Edison's civil union. And now it turns out that Belichick is not beneath breaking the rules if he thinks it'll help him -- in other words, he's a 21st-century American -- and it's eating you up inside. Yawn. How's this for an explanation: He thought it would give him a competitive advantage. What the hell else needs to be said? Well, enough things to fill out The 5 Dumbest Things King Said This Week:

1. I usually have no desire to quibble with the way King chooses to rank the teams that make up his "Fine Fifteen." The rankings are just his personal opinions. But I was a little intrigued by his decision to put the Pittsburgh Steelers at No. 5. King notes that the Steelers have outscored their opponents 60-10. And although those opponents have been the Bills and Browns, he says, "don't concentrate on that. Concentrate on the fact the Steelers are playing terrific, bone-crunching, Bear-like football." So if we leave opponents out of it, why do we have the 2-0 Steelers below the Bears and Chargers, both 1-1? The Bears' incompetent offense cost them the game against San Diego in the opener and struggled against the flaccid Chiefs on Sunday. The Chargers won that opener only because they made fewer mistakes than the Bears, and they followed that up with Sunday's night's disaster, in which the Pats yanked down the Chargers' pants and pointed out their tiny little pee-pees to a national TV audience. The Steelers have utterly destroyed both their opponents, while the Bears and Chargers have struggled mightily against theirs. Me no get it.

2. When King isn't screaming "Where's the outrage?" over Tapegate (see?), he's slobbering all over the Cleveland Browns' pole. The Browns' 51-45 victory over the Bengals was quite a game, all right, and King really goes to town. King quotes Browns quarterback Derek Anderson, he of the 13 minutes of fame and counting, as saying that coach Romeo Crennel "thought we'd go out and play really well today." King follows up with: "But this well? In the long NFL history of the Browns, which dates to 1950, they'd never had a game in which (blah blah blah stats blah blah)." As his "Goat of the Week," King chooses "the entire Cincinnati defense." And he strokes Braylon Edwards a little for his highlight-reel TD catch: "That's what a high first-round draft pick does, make diving catches with the game on the line." (I'm not sure the game qualifies as "on the line" when you're already leading a shootout 41-38 with 10 minutes left, but we'll let that pass.)

The problem with all these laurels, if you haven't yet detected it, is this: The Browns gave up 45 points. King says it's unbelievable how "well" the Browns played ... but they gave up 45 points! Further, by tabbing the Bengals defense as the goat, he's really saying the Browns didn't play well at all. They just went through the motions while Cincy sat around playing with their dongs. (How many penis references can we cram into this item?) You can't at once praise Jamal Lewis for running roughshod all over the Bengals while condemning the Bengals for not even laying a finger on Lewis. Get it?

3. King is supposed to know football. He's not supposed to buy into the QB-on-QB bullshit that so much of the media tries to reduce NFL games to. Yet he chides Titans quarterback Vince Young, "You'll need to be more accurate than that to beat Peyton Manning." Young isn't out there trying to get the ball past Manning; he's trying to get it past a Colts defense that might not be as good as it appeared in Week 1 against the suddenly suspect Saints. King mentions a ball that Young badly overthrew to Bo Scaife in the second quarter, but ignores that on the final drive in the fourth quarter, when the Titans were down by just 2 points, Young put a pass on the hands of Brandon Jones, who dropped it. If Jones makes that catch, the Titans probably get into position to kick the winning field goal. Yes, Young has accuracy problems (and attitude problems; grow up already, ya baby) -- but he could have beaten the Colts (er, I mean Manning) even with those problems. He did so just last year, remember?

4. Ever notice that the anti-union movement never actually goes after the members of a union? They're always saying that their real problem is with the corrupt and selfish "union bosses." They know that there's no way in hell that people would stand for politicians and others attacking teachers, cops and firemen -- so they create these Hoffa-esque caricatures of "bosses" and attack them instead. I mention this because it's exactly what retired NFL players have been doing in their push to get better pension benefits out of the players' union. (That push is entirely justified, if you ask me.) Who are these retirees going after? You guessed it: Union "boss" Gene Upshaw, himself a retired player. King gives over a big chunk of his column to Hall-of-Famer Bart Starr's anti-Upshaw rant:

"It's disgraceful. I'm embarrassed. It's shameful. If I told you guys some of the players from past eras, their retirement package is below the poverty level. Gentlemen, that is absolutely unacceptable and in my opinion shameful and all of us should be ashamed of that, and it's a disgrace. ... I'm surprised and disappointed that some time ago the National Football League Players Association didn't step up ... When you have someone [NFLPA executive director Gene Upshaw] making the kind of money, $6 or $7 million a year, to me that's just despicable ... They need to step up and change this."

Fine and dandy, but remember who Upshaw works for: the current members of the union, and only the current members of the union. If the union reps from the individual teams came to Upshaw and said something like, "Chief, we want to start assessing members 5% of their net salaries to fund better benefits for current retirees," you can bet he'd go for it. He'd have no choice but to go for it, because the reps are his bosses. So why doesn't Starr call out the current players? Why doesn't he say, "You guys are making millions of dollars, and it's a result of the sacrifices we made to build the game. You owe it to us." I'll tell you why: Because current players are popular, and the retirees don't want to get in a fight with them. So the retirees pretend like it's Upshaw's call, and his alone, and King and other lazy idiots in the media just go along with that. And why doesn't Upshaw just make this very point? Why doesn't he say publicly, "If the current players want me to increase benefits, I'll do it?" Because they pay him that despicable "$6 or $7 million a year" not to. He takes the heat so they don't have to. Sorry, Bart. Better get some more ice for those knees.

5. Last week King declared that "Fashion Week" made no sense to him. As if anyone gives a fuck. This week he asks, "How does James Spader beat Gandolfini for best actor at the Emmy's?" Uh, by getting more votes? Look, we know you're obsessed with The Sopranos, and that every time it comes on the TV, so do you. But just because you thnk James Gandolfini is just so dreamy doesn't mean that everyone else has to. I don't know if Spader is the best actor. Frankly, I don't care. (However, I'm sure that PK has never seen Boston Legal and is therefore no more qualified to judge than I am.) But whoever makes those decisions seems to think he is. That's the trouble with awards. If you use them to establish your credibility -- which HBO has done non-stop with The Sopranos for eight fucking years -- then you have to smile and deal with it when those same awards eventually go to someone else. That's the way it works.

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