Necessary Roughness, Week 14: Another Week, Another Dead Player
We did it! In case you are not up with the latest on this column, last week saw me pissing and moaning (again), trying to get the boss man to change this column to a Tuesday publication date. This time I dragged YOU, the faithful reader, into the fray, beseeching you via the comments section to voice your opinion, as long as it was in my favor. Well, it worked! From now on I get to turn this in Tuesday, and that means I have plenty more time to put off writing it, absorb ESPN highlights, and steal other people’s material. So from now until the end of the regular season (all of three games) I will be able to include the Monday night game in the column. I thank you MetalSucks and faithful readers for letting me pretend to be a sports journalist the way I want to!
But before we get into the action we can’t ignore the tragedy that occurred in Dallas late Saturday night. At around 2:00 a.m. a speeding Mercedes SUV, driven by drunk-as-shit Dallas defensive lineman Josh Brent, went out-of-control and flipped over, catching on fire in the process. Witnesses describe Brent dragging his passenger out of the vehicle as the flames engulfed it, but it was an effort in vain. The passenger, Jerry Brown, a member of the Cowboys practice squad, was pronounced dead at the scene, having suffered massive head and neck trauma. Described as “best friends” by their teammates, both men had been drinking heavily and Brent failed several DUI tests on his way to being arrested for DUI and involuntary manslaughter.
Stories like this one are all-too-common in the NFL, but this one really took me by surprise. What the fuck are these guys doing going out and getting loaded the night before a game? It would make a lot more sense if it had happened in the off-season; it would be just as fucked up, but it stands to reason that in the off-season months the players are far more likely to get into trouble. We are talking about the most critical time of the season and a team that is struggling to stay in the race for the playoffs. With kick-off less than twelve hours away, two of your players are out getting hammered. I don’t want to go all old-school on you, but don’t they make them go to bed early or something the night before games? Because that’s what I remember George Allen and the 78’ Skins doing! They had this thing called a “curfew” the night before games, and in fact there were so many drunks on the team (who can forget Billy Kilmer and his single-bar, no chinstrap helmet… what’s that? You weren’t even born?) the only way to enforce it was to rent a local Holiday Inn and require that all the players stay there the night before the game. Back then financial penalties actually mattered, and it worked. Kilmer may have been drunk during the game, but he was in bed by eleven the night before, and he sure as shit wasn’t DRIVING anywhere. It’s another senseless tragedy that could have been avoided (ever heard of hiring a driver?), and another black eye for a league that sometimes seems to think the earthly laws that bind and confound the rest of us do not apply to them. Well, they do, and it shouldn’t take a heap of dead bodies to remind players of that.
That kind of self-policing, in any organization, starts at the top, but Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is too busy sucking up tawdry publicity and hitting on cheerleaders to realize the circus he has created is out of control. Any time you have players going out and getting wasted, driving drunk and causing deadly mayhem on the roads THE NIGHT BEFORE a huge game, something is seriously WRONG. Let’s hope for all you Cowboys fans’ sake that this is a wake-up call Jerry won’t hit the “snooze” button on.
But there is hope for the ‘Boys yet after their come-from-behind win over the Cincinnati Bengals. After playing most of the game in a daze, the Cowboys and Tony Romo showed considerable grit as they overcame a 9-point deficit to defeat the Bengals on a 40-yard FG from kicker Dan Baily as time ran out. Unfortunately for the Cowboys, star wide receiver Dez Bryant broke his right index finger. I imagine that might affect your ability to catch a ball, and I know it must hurt like hell! The Cowboys move to 7-6 and stay alive in their quest for an NFC wildcard, while the Bengals, who are having themselves a pretty good season, fall to 7-6 but stay alive for the post season.
For my first official Monday night game I looked forward to a HUGE AFC match-up between the New England Patriots (still lobbying madly for them to go back to their “drunken patriot center” helmet logo) and the upstart Houston Texans (team doesn’t really have an identity except for winning games—until recently, that is). The Texans have been slipping a bit lately — their defense has been getting gouged for massive yardage — so they proclaimed this one a statement game, anointing it as “the most important game of the season”. Bad move, guys. Did you forget whose house you were going to? Because the Patriots don’t like it when you try to make statements out of them, or take any kind of agenda into Foxboro other than getting your ass kicked. Still, I didn’t expect the 42-14 beat down the Pats laid on the Texans. Houston simply was never in the game as the ageless Tom Brady threw for four TD’s and no interceptions. The Patriots made a strong statement as the top seed in the AFC, if not the entire N.F.L., while the Texans need to get their shit together.
I was listening to the Dan Patrick show and the poll of the day question was “what is the biggest story to come out of the NFL this season” and without a moment’s hesitation I blurted out “Peyton Manning!” to my empty office. What this man has done is nothing less than one of the most astounding comebacks in sports history. If he wins a Super Bowl this year it is one of the biggest stories in sports history. Most people, including myself, had written-off Peyton, and I found myself wishing he would retire because I was actually scared for him. I have always had a lot of respect and admiration for the man. What he has done on the field is mirrored by his flawless personal conduct; Archie taught his boys right. But I became a little disenchanted when he started showing up in every other commercial whenever I turned on the TV. Seems Peyton doesn’t have as much time to make commercials nowadays. He’s too busy leading his new team, the Denver Broncos, to a division leading 10-3 record. This after missing an entire season due to series of FOUR neck surgeries he had over a two-year period. He easily could have retired at 35, a first-ballot Hall of Famer, and gone on to dominate sports-casting or whatever else he set his muscular mind towards. But Manning, driven by forces we mere mortals cannot understand (although that pesky little brother of his might have something to do with it), decided to go for it, and we have nothing less than a legend unfolding before our very eyes. Sunday’s 26-13 victory over the hapless Oakland Raiders means the Broncos have won eight straight and are nipping at the Pats’ heels for the AFC top seed. This is going to be a good one, sports fans…
As usual this is getting way too long so I am gonna wrap it up. The Colts kept up their winning ways with a big second-half rally to prevail over the Tennessee Titans, 27-23. The Chicago Bears took a dive, 21-14 against the Minnesota Vikings, in a bruising defeat that I know people were pissed about. RG III continued his quest to kill himself as the Skins won in overtime against the Baltimore Ravens, 31-28. The next day I heard a caller on the DP show call Ravens QB Joe “Flunko” Flacco. Ouch! With fans like that, who needs away games? And then management continued the hating and fired their offensive coordinator. This is from a team that is in first-place in their division! They are a fucking good team, and I really don’t get why they catch so much shit. Elsewhere I couldn’t help but notice the 58-0 torching the Seattle Seahawks set to the Arizona Cardinals. What the fuck happened here? Did the Cards even show-up on their way to losing their eighth straight? Embarrassing!
I am going to rely on my roving reporters to hit on the rest of the games but I wanted to leave you with one final blast. I heard that the NFL front office is on the verge of eliminating the kick-off entirely from play. This is something I have prepared myself for. Every year they take away a little more of what used to make kick-offs so awesome so it seems inevitable that kick-offs will go the way of the padded leather hat. I still hate it, but somehow I will have to accept it… but it’s the solution that I hate even more! If they take away the kick-off, then the team that JUST SCORED gets the ball back on their 20-yard line with a fourth and 30? Please tell me I heard that wrong, because that doesn’t make sense on so many levels that I must blame my own stupidity… somebody please explain this to me!