Friday, January 30, 2009

Super Bowl 43 preview

By Rick Morris

One of the most low-key media weeks of the modern Super Bowl era is behind us now as the Arizona Cardinals and Pittsburgh Steelers prepare for the ultimate football struggle this Sunday night in Tampa. These two teams took a characteristically low-key approach to the game's grandest stage, leaving us thankfully short of tabloid headlines and trash-talking nonsense to digest. One storyline that has been beaten into the ground is Pittsburgh's success in the Super Bowl era and the complete futility of the Cardinals team going back to the 1940s.

There are many great angles to this game on and off the field, but let's start by examining some of the more offbeat ones:

^ Pittsburgh's only loss in a Super Bowl came IN Arizona 13 years ago in Super Bowl 30 at the hands of Dallas. To this day, Neil O'Donnell's face is on the dartboard of every meth lab in the greater Pittsburgh area ...

^ Al Michaels and John Madden are calling the first Super Bowl on NBC since they regained NFL broadcast rights in 2006. When was their last Super Bowl together? Super Bowl 40, the last NFL game on ABC in February 2006 -- a game that also featured Pittsburgh. In that game, the Steelers beat (or perhaps "beat" is a more appropriate term, what with the big part the refs played in that travesty) the Seahawks -- who were coached by Mike Holmgren. "The Walrus" also lost Super Bowl 32, which was the last Super Bowl on NBC, giving him the unique distinction of losing the last game on two different broadcast networks.

^ This game follows in the footsteps of some true classics. 40 years ago in Super Bowl 3, the Jets and Joe Namath shocked the world. 30 years ago in Super Bowl 13, the Steelers and Cowboys played the second of their 1970s epic battles. 20 years ago in Super Bowl 23, Joe Montana led one of the greatest drives of all time to lead the Niners past the Bengals in the final minute. 10 years ago in Super Bowl 33, the Broncos and Falcons ... well, every rule has its exception, I guess.

^ This is only the fourth time in Super Bowl history that two QBs who have won Super Bowls will go head-to-head, albeit this is the first time that one of them won his ring with another franchise (Kurt Warner with the Rams in Super Bowl 34). The AFC won all three previous games (Pittsburgh over Dallas in Super Bowl 10, Pittsburgh over Dallas in Super Bowl 13 and the Los Angeles Raiders over Washington in Super Bowl 18 -- the first Super Bowl in Tampa). Now, there are many battles between QBs who would ultimately go on to win the big one, but very few that took place when both of them already had. And how about this note? Warner won his previous Super Bowl in St. Louis -- the former home of the Cardinals.

Before the hardcore analysis begins, I want to direct you to some other fine coverage on the Internet:

^ Our own FDH New York Bureau designed some fun prop bets for your Super Bowl party.

^ The great Football Outsiders site checks out some of the Xs and Os.

^ Greg Cosell, one of the best in the biz at dissecting film (along with our good pal The Scout Ken Becks of Gridiron Evaluations!), tells in his Sporting News column about how the two QBs in the game differ -- one is much better before the snap and one is much better after.

^ ESPN's analysts make their picks.

^ Here's's Super Bowl home page.

The obvious media hook to this game centers around the fact that the Steelers passed over Ken Whisenhunt for their head coaching job two years ago when Bill Cowher retired. Whisenhunt was the longtime offensive coordinator for Pittsburgh and he was designing the plays (including the sweet flea-flicker) when the Steelers won the Super Bowl three years ago. Many columnists have drawn comparisons this week to the Tampa Bay-Oakland Super Bowl of six years ago when Jon Gruden used his inside knowledge of the Raiders to help his Bucs disembowel them. Given that Gruden's protege Bill Callahan was leading Oakland on that day and Whisenhunt will be facing Mike Tomlin (who was unconnected to the Pittsburgh organization prior to being hired as head coach and who has made some changes, especially on the offensive side of the ball), it's very easy to overstate the advantage that Arizona gets from familiarity. Coach Whiz may be privy to some individual player tendencies and some lingering organizational philosophies that may be of some use, however.

One area of relative continuity is the defensive side of the ball for Pittsburgh, where longtime genius Dick LeBeau continues to design the "Blitzburgh" schemes. When Tomlin (a Tony Dungy protege) took over, he initially made noises about moving the Steelers more towards the Cover 2 scheme, and while Pittsburgh doesn't operate exactly as they did when Bill Cowher was supervising LeBeau, Tomlin was smart enough to back off and allow the necessary continuity. LeBeau's tenure has been so great that Mike Ditka grumbled this week about "idiots" voting for the Hall of Fame who don't give assistant coaches the credence in their voting that they should (incidentally, a stand that I have long held). Again, some of the wrinkles are different, as are some key personnel, but Whisenhunt's familiarity with his former defensive counterpart's philosophies will prove useful.

Now, these Steelers aren't the same as they were in the Super Bowl three years ago in some key regards. They're even better defensively, the top unit in the league this year with NFL Defensive Player of the Year James Harrison having come into his own. But offensively? That's a different story. The experience that Ben Roethlisberger continues to gather has not offset a weakening offensive line (which has lost talent over the past few years -- not least of which the dominating Alan Faneca -- and the great O line coach Russ Grimm, who joined Whisenhunt in Arizona) and a running game that lost super rookie Rashard Mendenhall for the season and stud Willie Parker for parts of it with an injury. With a hobbled Parker and a better-than-expected-but-still-not-great Mewelde Moore manning the position for Pittsburgh, they finished a disappointing 23rd in the league in terms of rushing the ball. The receiving corps has been solid, but Hines Ward's good comeback season has a cloud over it at the moment after suffering a knee injury in the AFC Championship Game.

The Steelers come into this game undeniably battle-tested, having competed against the league's toughest schedule (with out-of-division games against the brutal AFC South and NFC East). Conversely, the Cardinals played many cupcakes en route to winning the pathetic NFC West, another reason that their 9-7 record impressed so few coming into the playoffs. The team was particularly outmatched when they played on the road in the cold, so balmy Tampa will be quite to their liking.

It would be easy for Arizona to take heart in the fact that their worst-in-the-NFL rushing attack wasn't much lower statistically than Pittsburgh's. It would also be grossly misleading, since injuries accounted for most of Pittsburgh's falloff and Parker seems fairly healthy now. Alas, Arizona came by their putrid numbers honestly as Edgerrin James finally showed the effects of the countless "city miles" he racked up during his decade in the league and Tim Hightower proved adequate as a TD vulture back at best. The Cards mysteriously improved their ground attack during the playoffs, and against some really good defenses to boot, but none on a par with Pittsburgh's.

The alpha and omega of Arizona's offense is the passing attack with The Recycled Miracle Kurt Warner at the helm. In displacing Matt Leinart and returning to Pro Bowl status, Warner became the best QB in the league this season statistically against the blitz (bringing back memories of his Greatest Show on Turf days when TV announcers every week would make the point about how his days in the Arena Football League honed his quick passing skills) -- which makes the matchup against LeBeau's attacking unit that much more intriguing. And while Steve Breaston became arguably the league's best #3 WR and Anquan Boldin was another elite option (when he was healthy and not crying about his contract), Larry Fitzgerald was on his way to becoming a bona fide legend at age 25. Rarely have we seen in the recent history of any sport a postseason that yanks a player up from the ranks of All-Star to arguably one of the very best regardless of position (with Henrik Zetterberg's almost unparalleled two-way play in last year's Stanley Cup Playoffs perhaps coming closest to mind), but the humble Fitzgerald has provided just such a historic burst of greatness. The beauty of LeBeau's defense is that it camoflagues a lack of shutdown corners, but the Pittsburgh secondary will find it very hard indeed to double-team Fitzgerald as needed with the threat of Boldin (if sufficiently healthy) and Breaston also evident. And as much as the Steelers have suffered for Grimm's loss, that's how much the Cards' offensive linemen have benefitted.

On the defensive side of the ball, analysts everywhere have been lining up to shake the hand of coordinator Clancy Pendergast for his team's great playoff performances -- when in fact they should be shaking him by the lapels and screaming in his face about how his team could have underachieved so horribly in the regular season (19th in the league in defense). Arizona's run has been especially mysterious because the running game and the defense have both improved so unexpectedly in the postseason. The Cardinals don't have a lot of big names on defense, but they have more than a few players like Adrian Wilson who should be more famous than they are. This is a good unit if they play up to their potential, as they have recently.

But one troubling note for Arizona fans is the fact that the team has been so reliant on causing turnovers in this postseason run. Two weeks ago, I correctly noted that Baltimore could be vulnerable against Pittsburgh because of a similar overreliance defensively on causing turnovers.

Speaking of Baltimore, the Steelers are very fortunate to have had the Super Bowl bye week after that game. The Steelers, Titans and Ravens were arguably the most physical teams in the league this year and Baltimore felt the effects of having to play the other two aforementioned teams in consecutive weeks in the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Steelers have had a chance to heal up a bit this postseason with two playoff bye weeks and an initial playoff game that might as well have been flag football against an exceedingly soft Charger team that melted in the snow.

So what will decide this game? If you love the Xs and Os of football as I do, the battle of Arizona's offense against Pittsburgh's defense will be truly epic. I always note that the winner of a game is determined by who forces their style of play on the other team and this will certainly be the case here. If Arizona can turn this game into a track meet, they will win and it may not even be close. Warner is a legitimate big-game QB (leaving aside the donut hole of his career between the great runs in St. Louis and Arizona) and Roethlisberger turned in one of the absolute worst performances of a winning QB in Super Bowl history three years ago. That scenario is fairly doubtful, however, unless the unlikely resurgence of the Arizona running game can endure against the toughest challenge they have faced yet. But if that can happen, if James and Hightower and the dangerous-in-space J.J. Arrington can keep the Steelers on their heels, then Pittsburgh is in big trouble. Conversely, if Harrison and fellow OLB LaMarr Woodley can apply a lot of pressure without LeBeau having to commit to full-out blitzes, then Arizona's offense will be unable to function effectively.

When Pittsburgh has the ball, Roethlisberger has to be careful to not continue to pad Arizona's impressive recent interception tally. But the Cardinals have to be wary of his ability to make throws when flushed out of the pocket and the difficulty in bringing him to the ground. He is reputed to be at less than 100% physically and if either he or Ward is at subpar capacity, the Steelers will really struggle. The guess here is that both will be functional for what they need to do -- and remember that Ward is more of a possession receiver anyway. Pittsburgh would probably be feeling much more desperate if speedy Santonio Holmes was the one with a gimpy knee. Parker needs to outperform the other RBs Arizona has played against in the playoffs in order to give the passing game an honest chance. I would not be surprised if the Steelers threw in a few gadget plays in order to give the Mad Genius Whisenhunt something to think about -- since he'll surely put in a few for the Arizona offense.

In the end, the unlikelihood of Arizona being able to establish a truly balanced offensive attack looks to be their undoing. Pittsburgh does not have the offensive explosiveness that would indicate that they could win in a blowout (minus big turnovers to be generated by safety Troy Polamalu and company), so this one figures to be close. Can Arizona win? Most definitely, as we have established -- under the right circumstances. Those don't seem exceedingly likely to materialize in my book. The pick here is for a moderately exciting 24-16 win for Pittsburgh with Willie Parker taking home the MVP for chewing up yards and clock time -- helping the defense to mess with the rhythm of Warner's offense. Having said that, my playoff predictions are an uncharacteristically weak 3-5, so take the prediction with more than a few grains of salt. For that matter, three of my five losing predictions have come at the hands of Arizona, as I have been part of the army of skeptics who picked them to lose every week. Now that I have made my unbiased prediction, I will note on an extremely biased personal level that, as a lifelong resident of Cleveland, I sincerely hope that I am as accurate in picking the outcome of this Arizona game as I have been the entire postseason. Go Cardinals! And America, do yourself a favor and stick around for the special episode of "The Office" after the game as it should be outstanding as well.

Super Bowl XLIII Prop Bets

By The FDH NY Bureau (posted by Rick Morris)

Fantasy season over? Hate both teams? No rooting interest other than your box pools? Me too. So do what I do, come up with some absurd angles on this game to bet on with your friends. Here are some I came up with that I might try my luck at this Sunday...

1 - Will the Cardinals score a Defensive TD in the Game? (Y/N)

2 - Will the NBC Broadcasters (Al Michaels/John Madden) have a 'Terrible Towel' in the booth? (has to be visible on camera) (Y/N)

3 - Which #3 (non-starting) Wide Receiver will score first? ARZ: Steve Breaston PIT: Nate Washington

4 - How many Pat Tillman mentions by Al Michaels will be made during the NBC Broadcast? (O/U 3 1/2)

5 - Will Cardinals' TE Leonard Pope have at least one reception? (Y/N)

6 - Which 'TD Vulture' will score first? ARZ: Tim Hightower PIT: Mewelde Moore

7 - Will Cardinals' Kicker Neil Rackers hit at least one 50-yard FG? (Y/N)

8 - Which number will be higher: Kurt Warner INT's or Ben Roethlisberger passing TD's? (a tie is a wash)

9 - Will the Referees blow an obvious call at some point in the Game? (Y/N)

10 - Will Cardinals' backup QB Matt Leinart take at least ONE SNAP in the Game? (includes kneeldowns) (Y/N)

11 - Will there be a safety in the Game? (Y/N)

12 - Will a rushing TD be scored by ANY QB in the Game? (Y/N)

13 - Will the TV cameras catch a Cardinals player arguing with a Cardinals coach? (Y/N)

14 - Will Al Michaels make a reference to Joe Torre's new book during the NBC Broadcast? (Y/N)

15 - Will the same set of numbers win TWO quarters in everyone's box pool? (Y/N)

GOP won't always be drunk, lefty media will still be ugly

By Rick Morris

There are two distinct elements in today's politics who are having a hard time getting acclimated to the Age of Obama: Congressional Republicans and those in the left-wing media (described for these purposes not as the mainstream media -- which is actually pretty pinko -- but blogs like Daily Kos and Huffington Post and the MSNBC shows from the likes of those jerks Olbermann and Maddow). Their difficulties bring to mind the saying from the drunk guy: "Yeah, I'm drunk, but I'll wake up in the morning sober. You'll still be ugly!" This analogy fits both parties perfectly.

Make no mistake, the Congressional Republicans are drunk on their own stupidity right now. The decision to oppose the Obama stimulus package on a unanimous basis was idiotic. The leadership is practically begging Obama to portray them as obstructionists who are stuck in the Bush era.

Now, the stimulus package is loaded with a lot of garbage (although the tax provisions are good and the infrastructure repairs are necessary) and did deserve to be voted against -- but for the nimrods in charge should not have made this a party loyalty issue. For once, a couple of squish RINOs could have done the party a favor by casting wimpy unprincipled votes untethered to principle. The measure was going to pass the House almost entirely on Democratic votes, so why the Republicans would make themselves a political target by voting against it 100% instead of 98% or 90% or 85% is beyond me. Actually, no, it's not, now that I think about it. The Republican Party just can't help stepping on its own johnson every time it turns around -- the Bush years and last year's presidential campaign prove this notion to be true. The GOP hasn't had a successful president since the Gipper rode off into the sunset 20 years ago last week and they're begging for more of the same by not being smart and picking their spots in opposing the Obama Administration. Just once, just once, I'd like to see the Republicans try to be as slick as the Democrats instead of merely thinking that they're slick.

But everything in politics is cyclical and even if the dinosaurs still calling the shots in the Republican Party in Congress haven't stepped aside, eventually they'll be gumming their porridge in retirement and some new blood will get a chance. If there's anybody with Reagan or Obama-type skills in that bunch, that will take care of a lot of problems, as impatient as I may be in waiting for that to happen.

The left-wing blogosphere and media structure, though ... now, that's a different story.

Their permanent structural flaws are being laid bare right now in a way that would be unsettling if any of the people involved had the slightest amount of self-awareness. Whether it be that pompous moron Olbermann or that Maoist enforcer Kos or that shrieking menace Huffington, none of them have apparently gotten the memo that their allies now control the entire federal government.

Now, it's true that right-wing media spends time railing against liberals -- and to a large extent -- but not to a complete extent. The only thing that the Maddows of the world can do is rail against the "EEEEVIL CONSERVATIVES!" -- witness their tirades about how none of the (marginalized, irrelevant, powerless) House Republicans voted for Obama's stimulus package. Now, even Helen Keller could tell you what form this is going to take -- blaming everything over the next four years on George W. Bush -- but it's funny that you never hear liberals talking about specific policy ideas. You don't have to agree with Republicans on talk radio or Fox News parroting conservative think tank ideas, but at least they're putting something out there. Democrats don't know how to be FOR ideas in their media platforms. Being affirmatively FOR Obama and the Congress is something they simply can't handle. If you thought right-wing media was disoriented when Bush and his pets in the Republican Congress were in control, you ain't seen nothing yet.

So while Republican drunkenness will wear off someday (it has to, doesn't it?), Democratic media ugliness never will.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

FDH Fantasy Newsletter: Volume II, Issue V

By Rick Morris

For the most part, we keep our fantasy content on our fantasy website and fantasy blog and keep this site for content on all subjects. It allows our readers to find specific content more easily that way. However, it has come to our attention that because our new fantasy sports newsletter is published on the older Blogger platform that our readers may be limited in their ability to subscribe to it. There does not appear to be a way to have content on the blog forwarded to an aggregate news reader -- however, we know that we have that ability here. So we will link to that newsletter each week right here when it is published. Here is this week's newsletter.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

FDH Lounge Show #44: postponed to February 4, 2009

By Rick Morris

Tonight's edition of THE FDH LOUNGE on is postponed to next week. It is worth noting that we were going to discuss our upcoming Fantasy NASCAR draft guide among other subjects; that will be released within days, so keep checking FDH for all details.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Can You Say 21-0?!?!

By Sean Trench

The road team this time was the Sacramento Kings. The Kings came into this game with an overall record of 10-35. But on this night, they did not play like a team that had 35 losses. With proficient outside shooters such as Francisco Garcia, Kevin Martin, and Beno Udrih, they kept the Kings in the game all the way to the end. Udrih was a part of the San Antonio Spurs during their championship years. He was the backup to Tony Parker. Oh and I forgot Bobby Brown, you know the legendary R&B singer from the former group New Edition? Who is also Whitney Houston's husband? Oh wait, he is actually a rookie guard from Cal-State Fullerton. Another good outside shooter though. Can you see where I am going with this?

This game was ugly for both teams. Well, the final score read 117-110, Cleveland needed some much-needed help from a reliable source. Mo "The Hitman" Williams scored a career high 43 points on 15-24 shooting, and 7-12 from beyond the arc. At one point, Mo hit eight shots in a row! He was on fire throughout the whole game. Mo also had 8 rebounds and 11 assists as well. If it wasn't for Robin,"aka Mo" the Cavaliers wouldn't have won this game. Batman "aka Lebron" finished with an easy triple-double with 23 points, 15 rebounds, and 11 assists. It was his third triple-double this season. Fresh off being named NBA Player of The Week, he proved why. There were other good things to take from this game too, however.

The play that Tarence Kinsey gave them tonight off the bench was outstanding! His constant hustle and tenacious defense really gave them a boost. I would like to see him be given more minutes in the near future. J.J. Hickson also gave the Cavs energy and hustle off the bench with 11 points and 8 rebounds. But J.J. was in good position and constantly was moving to create his shots. He is learning more and more with each game. Other than these four players, the Cavs were flat. The highlight of this game though was the shooting performance of Mo Williams and Kevin Martin.

Kevin Martin finished the game with 35 points for the Kings. He was 8-17 shooting and 4-9 from 3 point range. He was also 15-17 from the free-throw line. He constantly was getting to the basket at will and creating his shot. Cavaliers head coach Mike Brown was not happy after the game saying "This was not Cavalier Basketball, we did not bring it defensively tonight." The Kings as a team shot 50% from the field. The Cavaliers pride themselves on keeping teams considerably under that number. John Salmons finished with 21 points, and rookie Jason Thompson had a nice game with 16 points.

Overall I think that Head Coach Kenny Natt has a team that he can work with, to continue to make the Kings better. He was formerly an assistant coach with Cleveland. He will get this team to play defense and bring in the players to do so. This team as it is currently constructed does not play defense at all. The Cavaliers should have beat the Kings tonight by a higher margin. They just didn't have it tonight offensively as a whole. They shot just 47% overall, and 42% from 3 point range. They did have a bright spot however, outrebounding the Kings 49-25.

I think that with the way that Mo Williams played on the West Coast trip, and also tonight, he has earned a spot on the Eastern Conference All-Star team. He has been a catalyst all season long for this team. It will be tough for coaches to choose between Jameer Nelson (Magic), and Devin Harris (Nets), and Williams (Cavs). Also Mike Brown can be the Head Coach of the All-Star team as well, if the Cavaliers keep winning. He would be the second coach to do so. Lenny Wilkins was the last, in 1989.

So the Cavaliers will be back to practice tomorrow with hopefully more good news. Zydrunas Illgauskas was back to practice and is hopeful that he can play Thursday against the Orlando Magic. This game will be another test for Cleveland as they look to keep building on their now 35-8 record. The Magic have excellent outside shooters and an interior force in the middle as well. Orlando is 34-10, so they are right up there with the top three teams in the NBA. The Los Angeles Lakers have the best overall record in the NBA, followed by the Cavaliers, then the Celtics, and the Magic.

Continue to show why Cleveland has the best sports fans in the country. Keep up the support and passion that makes you the reason why Cleveland rocks! Go Cavs and continue to tune into starting with AM Mayhem at 9 AM EST tomorrow to listen to best Cavaliers coverage. Also, look forward to the return of the Vegas Wise Guys featuring Vegas Vic and myself as we broadcast live from the Harry Buffalo in Painesville Township, OH at 3pm. The restaurant is located at 2119 Mentor Ave. So come out and see us!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Sportsology: NHL All-Star Game recap

By Rick Morris

Our good pal Russ Cohen from Sportsology attended the All-Star Game festivities this weekend and fed us updates that we posted on our Twitter feed (except for when the Internet in the Bell Centre was on the fritz Sunday night). Here's his great article from

The East Won The Game and The Fans Went Home Happy
By Russ Cohen

I had a chance to see the All-Star Game in Florida a few years back and this game had a similar feel to it.

Alex Kovalev is a real crowd pleaser in Montreal and during this weekend he really seized the moment. He had a great time heading into tonight’s game and that may have lead to his terrific All-Star game appearance. "It's a pretty amazing atmosphere, an amazing weekend, with a bunch of guys that you play against or have played with before, and being in the locker and laughs and doing crazy things on the ice,” Kovalev noted.

The game had a decent ebb and flow at the beginning but in the middle it was waning a bit until the game was tied in the third period, which also included a big-time penalty kill by the East. Boston goaltender Tim Thomas (who stopped 19 of 22 shots) stood on his head and he could have been the MVP as well. Vincent Lecavalier (who was a plus 4) still has a job in Tampa, although the hometown fans would love to see him play in their arena on a full-time basis. Who knows if that will ever happen but one thing is for sure, the Tampa captain really enjoyed himself this weekend.“I had a great time,” Lecavalier stated. “It’s going to be nice to get back to Tampa tomorrow and practice with the guys.”

New Jersey’s Zach Parise loved his new, temporary linemates. “I thought it was a great way to end the All-Star game,” Parise said with a smile. “I got to play on a pretty good line with Vinny and Marty. Oh my God, those guys are awesome.”

Evgeni Malkin got a pretty goal that he maneuvered between his legs and that ended up in the back of the net. “Yeah, it was different because the defenseman weren’t playing hard,” Malkin said candidly.

Habs defenseman Andrei Markov talked about winning a 12-11 "defensive struggle." “It was a fun game I think. Both teams deserved to win and we won the shootout,” said Markov.

The East used Kovalev, Lecavalier and Alexander Ovechkin but not Markov. Was the defenseman hoping that he would be called? “Yeah, if they would have told me,” the Canadiens blue liner admitted. “I love’s fun…we’ll see. Maybe in the future.”

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The NFL youth coaching bubble

By Rick Morris

Right about now, several Super Bowl rings are sitting on the fingers of coaches who are using said digits to scratch themselves on their couches while supremely young coordinators (and in some cases, position coaches) have been promoted to head coach. What gives?

Well, in a copycat league, teams are wildly overreacting to the success of young coaches (Mike Tomlin reaching the Super Bowl in just his second year in charge) and previously inexperienced NFL head coaches (Mike Smith and Tony Sparano finishing 1-2 in the AP Coach of the Year balloting with John Harbaugh as a strong candidate as well).

Now, this is not to say that all of the new hires are mistakes -- chances are that at least half of them, if not the majority of them, are not -- but merely that the methodology is suspect. Look at the Pittsburgh Steelers: they seemingly were not going to consider anybody not in his 30s because their egos needed to be sustained after having the whole world jock them for giving Chuck Noll and Bill Cowher their big breaks at that age and it's worked out for them. Sometimes you can make a decision for questionable reasons and still get away with it, so there's probably only a few of the teams giving in to this trend who will suffer for it. With the collapse on Wall Street in recent months, we have heard much about "bubble mentalities" and how they fuel trends like we saw with the rampant and asinine growth in the subprime mortgage industry. It would probably be appropriate to view this NFL trend as a bubble that is bound to burst at some point.

And it's true that there's a fine line between previously successful coaches and retreads. So a Brian Billick doesn't necessarily deserve the benefit of the doubt over these young guys just because he lifted the Lombardi Trophy as a head coach eight years ago. But when the league appears to be surrendering to groupthink in terms of who should and should not get an opportunity, then you've got to wonder a bit.

Take Tampa Bay for example. Weeks ago, the Bucs decided that Raheem Morris would be the perfect choice to fill the big shoes of Monte Kiffin as defensive coordinator. When some teams subsequently came sniffing around after Morris as a head coaching candidate, the Glazer family then panicked, weeks after the season had ended, and blew out Coach Chucky and GM Bruce Allen to start completely fresh with this youngster. Could it turn out to be a good move? Quite possibly. Do the Glazers deserve the benefit of the doubt, going back to when they prematurely got rid of Tony Dungy? Not at all.

I always believe firmly that teams should do exactly what is right for their own situation regardless of any wider trends in the league. For that reason, as a Browns fan, I am disappointed that the feeble Lerner ownership rushed to hire Eric Mangini as head coach before retaining a new GM (and after mistakenly firing Phil Savage, but that's a whole other rant). But hey, he fit the bill! Young guy in his 30s, albeit with some previous head coaching experience.

I do like the idea in theory of giving talented no-names a chance, because ultimately what matters in that equation is the talent as opposed to the Q rating of the name. But I fear that groupthink on the other extreme will prevail if enough of these young guys fall flat on their faces and that would be even worse. Not to diminish what they did before, but the world doesn't need to see Jerry Glanville or Sam Wyche polluting any NFL sidelines any time soon. Unfortunately, we could be headed for a world like that if NFL owners continue to cling to a youth fetish that would put Michael Jackson to shame.

RIP Dante Lavelli

By Rick Morris

One consequence of the modern age is that more and more old icons are passing away, leaving us with only the memories they brought us. Another such legend passed on this week as Hall of Fame Cleveland Browns wide receiver Dante "Gluefingers" Lavelli succumbed to illness Tuesday night at age 85.

The term "triplets" came into vogue in the 1990s to characterize the Aikman/Smith/Irvin trio in Dallas and later was used the same way to describe the franchise QB/franchise RB/franchise WR combo in Indianapolis. With all due respect to those groups or any others in recent decades, few if any would be better than the one Lavelli inhabited with Otto Graham and Marion Motley. More important on a human level is the fact that Lavelli was known as a man of class and great decency.

This story from legendary Cleveland sportswriter Bob Dolgan paints a very vivid account of his life. And longtime Cleveland broadcaster Les Levine shares his own thoughts here. RIP Dante Lavelli.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

FDH Fantasy Newsletter: Volume II, Issue IV

By Rick Morris

For the most part, we keep our fantasy content on our fantasy website and fantasy blog and keep this site for content on all subjects. It allows our readers to find specific content more easily that way. However, it has come to our attention that because our new fantasy sports newsletter is published on the older Blogger platform that our readers may be limited in their ability to subscribe to it. There does not appear to be a way to have content on the blog forwarded to an aggregate news reader -- however, we know that we have that ability here. So we will link to that newsletter each week right here when it is published. Here is this week's newsletter.

Movie review: The Wrestler

By Rick Morris

Believe the hype. THE WRESTLER is every bit the epic movie that the early reviews had indicated. It stands apart as a completely unique film experience, something completely different from anything you have ever seen before or will ever see again. For that reason, it doesn't do justice to the movie to review it in a standard manner, moving from one aspect to another while utilizing segues, so these points will be listed separately.

^ The movie is shot in the style of a documentary (but not a mocumentary like NBC's "The Office" where the characters know that they are on camera), with a camera following around the protagonist Randy "The Ram" Robinson as he battles through daily life almost two decades removed from his fame as an '80s wrestling superstar. While the script is deliberately vague about certain areas (we are led to believe that his daughter, who he abandoned, turned lesbian and we are also led to believe that his career came off the rails in the '90s because his '80s hair metal persona was completely out of favor then), we know that his life has been a long, slow decline to the point where he has few friends or family around him, he works at a supermarket for a sneering, abusive twit of a boss and he is frequently locked out of his trailer home for falling behind on rent. His life is a sad one and would be even sadder were it not for the fact that his travails are self-induced -- for he refuses to put his prior life behind him. He still wrestles on weekends for independent promotions in the Northeast where rabid fans relive their childhoods by cheering him on. When he moves through the curtains and strides to the ring with his entrance music blaring, it's like time has stood still and he's not in a tiny auditorium with a few hundred fans; in his mind, he's back in the Garden with a sold-out crowd going wild for him. Those times are portrayed during the opening credits as a succession of old posters and wrestling magazine features (including, gloriously, several faked-up versions of the old Apter mark mags!) flash by one after another as a means of portraying Randy's prime years.

[This movie opened in the area where I live on January 23 and I saw it immediately. This turned out to be 25 years to the day that Hulk Hogan defeated the Iron Sheik for the WWF Championship at Madison Square Garden and helped kick off the 1980s wrestling boom in earnest. I found this to be an interesting coincidence. While some have wondered if Mickey Rourke's "Ram" character was based on Hogan in any way, it's only possibly true in terms of the respective characters in their heyday, because Hogan isn't living his present life in the same desperate manner. There are aspects of Lex Luger in the character (perhaps more so in the vein of "life after the big time") and some other old icons as well; you would do well to see Randy as a composite of several of them. The wrestling scenes were all shot at actual independent wrestling shows and I was a bit amused at the end to see Randy wrestling for Ring of Honor. This promotion, easily the biggest independent in the country, prides itself on cutting-edge "workrate" that would not be out of place in a Japanese pro ring and never features the kind of cheesy nostalgia that Randy's character embodies. So that was a bit of an inside joke, whether intended or not. Having said that, ROH is a great promotion and I hope that they can capitalize on some of the run they are getting from being featured in this movie.]

^ We may never again witness the blurring of a character and an actor as we do with Rourke and Robinson in this movie. Like "The Ram," Rourke was an '80s icon, only in Hollywood. Like "The Ram," bad luck and bad choices led Rourke to oblivion. Rourke clearly identifies with his character in this movie to an almost scary degree and he portrays him with a fervor that you could not begin to imagine with anyone else. I'm always entertained by Nicolas Cage, but this movie wouldn't be anywhere near what it is with anyone other than Rourke in the lead role. "The Ram's" quest for redemption in the movie parallels what Rourke has achieved in the film world since the screenplay has hit theatres. Every Oscar voter who doesn't cast a ballot for him for "Best Actor" deserves a staplegun shot to the head (speaking of which, props to Rourke for doing his own stunts, including a hardcore match with the insane Necro Butcher that featured staples being used as you've likely never seen before -- as well as some "blading" in a previous match). Additionally, Marisa Tomei puts a creative spin on the "stripper with a heart of gold" role as Randy's kind-of friend -- and you get to see her "performing" in that role. Bonus!

^ Never before has the behind-the-curtain side of pro wrestling been featured as truthfully in a drama. Some documentaries have explored aspects of this, but the viewer really feels present with Randy in the locker room with "the boys," with all the hilarious and mundane circumstances that are present. The fraternity of the workers is a tight-knit group and Randy is treated as almost a deity in any locker room he inhabits. To understand why this part is so accurate, you must understand the subculture of the independent wrestling scene. Pro grapplers in this world come from three groups: those who were once in the big time and are on their way back down (and big-time one-time stars like Randy are a tiny part of the scene), those who are young and hoping to reach the big time some day and those who are career journeymen who will never make it to the "big time." These wrestlers don't see Randy as a broken-down shell of a man who still tries to relive his glory days on the weekends; they see him as somebody who became one of the biggest superstars in the business, somebody who is a living-and-breathing representation of what can happen if you continue to chase your dreams of glory. The reverence that they show him is touching and accurate -- and especially hilarious in the case of his in-ring opponents. Speaking of the wrestlers, one amusing scene from backstage really made me laugh. Each pair of opponents was huddled together, devising a rough blueprint for the flow of their matches, as is often the case at the indy level (where the promoter only tells them who's winning the match -- in the "big time," promotion employees are actively involved in mapping out the matches). As one heel is suggesting to his opponent that he spend the bulk of the match "working the leg," an overly muscled fellow wrestler is standing watching them in amusement. "Don't work the leg," he chastises them. "Everybody does that. Try to mix it up a little bit. Maybe work the neck." Then he hears somebody calling to him from across the room. "What? Oh, OK." He turns back to the two wrestlers. "Never mind, HE'S working the neck!"

[I can attest to how the indy wrestling scene is portrayed from a brief experience as a ring announcer for a friend who was trying to start a promotion (here's a hint to anyone hoping to ever dabble in the biz: if you own your own tux, you are more likely to be sought after as a ring announcer!). His promotion utilized National Guard Armories and other small-time venues and the occasional former big-timer like Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka did pass through. I saw all aspects of life at that level -- from seeing the wrestlers map out their matches backstage to helping mega-heel "Diceman" Ronnie Vegas get some crowd heat by having him chase me around ringside to hearing an obese special education (apparently) youngster bellow (apropos of nothing) at a bad guy, "You're not the Macho Man! You'll never BE the Macho Man!" Ah memories ...]

^ Because the pro wrestling business is such a bizarre industry, this movie will evoke different reactions from different people. Those who don't understand the business will have greater knowledge, if not appreciation, for it. From my experience, I can say that for those of us who have derived entertainment from it over the years, certain moral questions may come into play. The epidemic of early deaths among wrestlers have long led me to wonder if the fans are enablers when it comes to subsidizing some of the difficult lives these performers often lead. Whether intentional or not, Randy's "doing it all for the fans" mantra was strikingly similar to that of Chris Benoit, a tightly-wound perfectionist who lived for the rabid appreciation of his fans -- and subsequently cracked under the strain of his life and murdered his wife and child before hanging himself. Any movie that evokes thoughts of wrestling's sad cases from over the decades is never going to be embraced by the industry's power structure -- which explains quite well why Vince McMahon found it distasteful, as anything that might cause him to look in the mirror is bound to do.

^ I won't ruin the ending of the movie by spelling it out, but suffice to say that it is grim in what it suggests (but does not completely spell out). Having recently suffered a heart attack, Randy decides as his life continues to crumble stronger than ever that he must defy his doctor's orders and wrestle a 20-year anniversary match with his old nemesis "The Ayatollah" (in real life, a talkative car salesman from Arizona!). Only in the ring can he find the respect and admiration that the outside world denies him at every opportunity. A great performance in this match could lead to much bigger things, he is told, and he places everything in life on this possibility. In Hollywood, it's expected to tie up the ending in a nice, neat, shiny, happy bow and this film refuses to do that. In that manner, it stays true to itself and its subject matter. In Randy "The Ram" Robinson's life, glory and ignominy, admiration and humiliation lived side-by-side at various times. The end of the movie represents that reality completely, as the viewer can either be horrified by Randy's recklessness or inspired by the dedication he feels to the business he has loved all his life (without that love being truly reciprocal). In the parlance of the wrestling business, this is a 5-star movie.

Here's the trailer with Bruce Springsteen's original tune that he wrote for the screenplay:

Closing Gitmo may sell out U.S. security

By Rick Morris

While I have been vocal about how Republicans should pick their spots in opposing a very popular new president -- especially in light of how little credibility they have with the American people after the last eight years -- some of those spots are already materializing.

New President Obama signaled that he would be as radically pro-abortion as some of us had feared when he wasted little time in re-overturning President Reagan's Mexico City policy which banned the United States from promoting abortion worldwide. The judiciary is going to be radically reshaped during Obama's term(s) in office, which provided somebody like me with all the justification I needed to vote against him. And realistically, there is little of a substantive nature that the GOP can do in this term, but at least they can focus the American people for the next election on what is at stake -- a task that proved impossible when voters were focused on everything else that George Bush had done or not done last time.

Regrettably, the Gitmo closure joins abortion on the list of early Obama decisions, although in all fairness everyone who was paying attention knew that these sops to Democrat interest groups were coming right off the bat. For a president who has decried fixation with ideology, he has proven immediately that he is willing to kiss up to the far left (his original base in the '08 primaries and caucuses) whenever it is deemed necessary.

Let us remember, for the sake of clarity, exactly who these radicals are. When terrorists committed suicide at Gitmo a few years back and Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld correctly proclaimed that they were trying to attain a propaganda victory, the commenters at Huffington Post went ballistic. To these anti-American Americans, the vile animals under lock and key at Gitmo are not killers trying to destroy us all, they are cuddly indigenous peoples scooped up off the street so that Dick Cheney's underlings can strap electrodes to their genitals while they play beer pong. Remind me again who the ideologues are?

Ever since Obama began scootching away from his more idiotic left-wing statements when he clinched the Democratic nomination, I have been able to truthfully maintain the optimistic position that he is smarter than the oafs around him. The Nation Magazine/Jesse Jackson permanent grievance crowd -- which has never set foot in the real world -- they may have been his original base (hello, Pastor Wright!), but they were used by him to get ahead. While he is in many ways your typical academic egghead with ivory tower inclinations, Obama is not completely out of touch with how the real world operates and I have taken some solace from that.

But all along, I knew the limitations of that and I knew that there would be some occasions when the rabid far left would cry "Jump!" and he would follow. My hope has been that these would be areas of limited harm to the future of our country.

And surely Obama knows that the halo that his followers in the American public and the media (especially the jokers at MSNBC) have placed so lovingly on his head will dissipate the moment that the United States suffers another severe terrorist attack. He is aware of this, and as president, he is finally privy to the daily briefings that tell him just how horrible the dangers are right now. So I don't understand the Gitmo move and the renunciation of waterboarding in this light.

For a president constantly preaching pragmatism, one would hope that he would understand that the ultimate pragmatism lies in whatever keeps us safe. I've said previously that I'm ambivalent about waterboarding because I don't feel that I know enough about it and if there was a viable alternative to Gitmo I'd be in favor of it. But you see, I'm PRAGMATIC that way.

On national security measures, in the end, I will only feel confidence if I know that our country's defenses are being constructed by military, national security and geopolitics experts surrounding President Obama -- not some pinko blogger with a domain name like

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

My Reaction to Inauguration 2009

By Tony Mazur

History was made today in America. Scratch that. Around the world. Change had occurred, and not just because a new administration is taking over. It seemed like patriotism had returned for the time being. While the day seemed like a joyous occasion, I have a couple of issues with the media and the American people.

On T-shirts, hats, and bumper stickers across Spencer's locations throughout the nation, we've seen the slogan "1/20/09: Bush's Last Day" prominently displayed. I understand that the citizens may be exhausted after eight years of the same president, but I was absolutely disgusted with what I heard on television. Instead of respecting the fact that this was George W. Bush's last hoorah, onlookers heckled the former president and the former first lady, along with Dick Cheney and his wife, with "boos" and other juvenile chants.

Another thing that annoyed me occurred all day. This phony patriotism has all of a sudden popped up. People who would usually stand silent during "The Star-Spangled Banner" were joining arms and belting out the National Anthem, with tears streaming down their faces. Why, out of nowhere, did you start to feel a sense of pride in our nation? You didn't before. What's the reason? Because your president is black? Because it's not a Republican?

My biggest issue of the day was the fact that I felt left out. As the rest of the country unites (or at least that's what the media would like you to think), I feel like an alien. I shouldn't feel this way, but I do. I have pride in my country and I hope for the best in each and every one of us, but I don't feel included with all of this "change" and "hope" that is going around.

I'm not sure if anyone caught this, but I was offended by the majority of Reverend Joseph Lowery's benediction. I found it to be incredibly racist and by no means acceptable for any inauguration. Listen in at 4:46. He may be representing race in a humorous light, but it was a completely irrelevant statement for 2009. At 5:03 in the video below, Lowery tells the "whites to embrace what's right". I found that to be racist because many white people do embrace what is right. I believe it was another shot at whitey for keeping the poor minorities down. What a scumbag.

By the way, did EVERY black person in America vote for Obama? By watching the newscasts, it seemed like the entire black population voted him in there. Judge not by the color of one's skin? Give me a break.

What has really touched a nerve with me is the amount of people calling ME unpatriotic. I received a message from a friend of mine who accused me of being hateful. I mentioned sarcastically via Facebook that I cannot wait for four more years of biased media coverage and speeches that lack substance. Here is the response verbatim:

"hey, quit complainin and have faith in this country, cant change whats happened so you need to support him, even if he isnt your guy and hope he helps change things around a lil"

I'll be honest. I have pride in the country itself, but I do not trust or respect both the government and the American people. I don't feel united. I feel secluded. I hope President Obama follows through with his promises, although I do not think it's going to happen.

All in all, Inauguration Day 2009, for me, was boring. So was 2004, 2000, 1996, 1992, etc. Today was the icing on the Obama butt-kissing festival. But I'm not going to whine and complain like the liberals did for the last eight years. For the next four years, I will support the office of the president, but I will certainly not see eye-to-eye with Mr. Obama.

FDH Lounge Show #43: January 21, 2009

By Rick Morris

On the 43rd edition of THE FDH LOUNGE (Wednesday, 7-10 PM EST on, we will coincidentally comment on the departure from office of our 43rd president – but we’ll also do much more than that!

After the Opening Statements of The Dignitaries of The FDH Lounge, we welcome back our good friend The Scout Ken Becks from Gridiron Evaluations. Since we last chatted with Ken, NFL Draft positions have been set, juniors have had to decide on whether or not they were coming out and we have seen the East-West Shrine Game and the week of practice leading up to it. The Scout will help us take an overview of the process at this stage. Then, we will conduct a little “PWI Overtime” as FDH Managing Partner Rick Morris finishes unloading the Pro Wrestling Insider email inbox. Morris will be the special guest host of PRO WRESTLING INSIDER (5-6 PM EST on STN) and will read and discuss the emails that don’t get a chance to be read during the jam-packed Royal Rumble preview edition of PWI. Towards the end of Hour One and in the first part of Hour Two, we bring you The FDH Lounge Pigskin Report as we review Championship Sunday and take our first look ahead to Super Bowl 43, also known as the Cowher Succession Bowl.

Our remaining time in Hour Two will be devoted to a review of the Inaugural events of the past week, a brief retracing of how we got to this point, and a look ahead to the early days of the new administration.

As previously mentioned, Hour Three is given over to our two “show-within-a-show” segments. On THE FANTASYDRAFTHELP.COM INSIDER (9:00-9:30 PM EST), we unveil for the first time on the air our 2009 Fantasy NASCAR Ultimate Quantitative Baseline Power Rankings, telling you what to look for in terms of driver success on different kinds of tracks. Also, we’ll start breaking down some early fantasy football advice for 2009. Then, on THE GOON SQUAD (9:30-10:00 PM EST), we review the latest FDH NHL Power Rankings, then we preview this weekend’s NHL All-Star Game with particular attention to the two rosters.

In a week where talk of change has been all the rage, it’s comforting to know that some things never change. Death, taxes and the quality of The FDH Lounge will continue to endure through any number of presidential terms and we’ll keep proving it this Wednesday night.

A challenge to Obama supporters

By Rick Morris

As I have stated previously, I did not vote for Barack Obama for president. I differ with him on some core issues that would have procluded supporting him.

But I still found today's Inaugural events to be thrilling and inspiring. I have not missed viewing an Inaugural since 1981 and the sense of continuity for America that these events represent -- a peaceful transfer of power that occurs even when one side comes to power violently denouncing the other side and promising all measure of "change" -- proves why we are the greatest country in the world.

Even today, with economic destruction raining down everywhere and two wars underway to various degrees, today's events provided tangible proof that the U.S.A. does abide, to paraphrase The Dude from The Big Lebowski. Four years hence, we will see another Inauguration, either with the same president or a new one and the same will be true four years later, and so on.

This year's events saw an unprecedented level of interest and enthusiasm, at least in the modern media age. Everywhere you looked on TV, somebody was being interviewed and proclaiming that they were really into the spirit of the day like never before. Michelle Obama's campaign trail gaffe about "being proud of her country for the first time" resonated with more people than I could have ever imagined.

Those on the left are quick to throw down the "you're challenging my patriotism" card, so I'm sure that what I'm about to say will be taken in that light. I don't see it that way, but people can interpret statements however they like.

I have a challenge for Obama supporters who never cared about this day nearly as much as they did today: because this day, ultimately, is about America rather than any individual president, and the manner in which America endures changes in leadership that prove ephmeral through the prism of history, try to care and love America this much every Inauguration Day after this one. Even if Obama loses in four years (it doesn't seem possible at the moment, but go ask either George Bush how fleeting presidential popularity can be), love your country as much as I do and celebrate the country even when the candidate you didn't vote for is installed. It's easy to be a sunshine patriot and wave the flag when the candidate you worship is installed on the throne of our republic. It's much more difficult to suck it up and be as loyal to the country even when it ratifies a decision that goes against your grain.

Richard Nixon and George W. Bush were both met with varying degrees of hostility and even civil unrest on their big days and even though they were both anything but great presidents, nobody deserves that and most importantly, our country doesn't. Stay with this country no matter what, Obama supporters. Your candidate is part of the presidential lineage now and you'll be dishonoring him in part if you don't maintain this love of country.

FDH Fantasy Newsletter: Volume II, Issue III

By Rick Morris

For the most part, we keep our fantasy content on our fantasy website and fantasy blog and keep this site for content on all subjects. It allows our readers to find specific content more easily that way. However, it has come to our attention that because our new fantasy sports newsletter is published on the older Blogger platform that our readers may be limited in their ability to subscribe to it. There does not appear to be a way to have content on the blog forwarded to an aggregate news reader -- however, we know that we have that ability here. So we will link to that newsletter each week right here when it is published. Here is this week's newsletter.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Video Clips: Fun Timewasters

By Rick Morris

From time to time, we try to accommodate our Lounge content consumers who just want some fun, light entertainment. Hence this edition of our Video Clips series, entitled "Fun Timewasters." These are simply some video clips that you can enjoy and consume in the form of good, mindless entertainment. On with the show!

Here is the Coast Guard footage from last week's miracle crash landing in the Hudson River (nothing really happens until about the 2:00 mark on the tape). We want to join so many others in saluting pilot Chesley Sullenberger for his heroism.

Here we see the infamous Jim Rome/"Chris" Everett footage from back in the day:

Flava Flav doesn't like resetting his clock:

How fitting after yesterday's triumph: a Kurt Warner tribute:

Four words, one glorious reality: Dusty. Rhodes. Mello. Yellow:

Geopolitics roundup

By Rick Morris

We have long covered geopolitics at The FDH Lounge, both in terms of our own analysis and linking to great coverage elsewhere. Here’s our latest roundup of top news and analysis on the Internet.

^ From the Foreign Policy blog: How not to close the Gaza tunnels

^ Also from the Foreign Policy blog: An interesting approach of trying to deprogram jihadists with art therapy!

^ From Jane’s: Tribal tribulations - The Pakistani Taliban in Waziristan

^ From Michael Yon Online: A report from General Barry McCaffrey about the status of Mexico

^ From Wired: An American general reaching out to troops via blogging and chats

^ From Newsweek: James Baker on the return of realism to American foreign policy

^ From the Washington Post: Peter Beinart on the success of the surge in Iraq

^ From the London Times: How British politics has become like an American sitcom

^ From Japan Times: The long-term security threat Hamas poses to moderate Arab states

^ From the Counterterrorism Blog: A discussion about the feasibility of a Gaza demilitarization

^ From The Long War Journal: Osama bin Laden’s son coordinating relations between al Qaeda and Iranian Qods force

^ From the International Herald Tribune: Threats from the north put South Korea on edge

2009 MLB projected records Version 1.0

By Rick Morris

X-Boston 95-67
Y-New York Yankees 92-70
Tampa Bay 90-72
Baltimore 74-88
Toronto 72-90

X-Cleveland 84-78
Minnesota 83-79
Chicago White Sox 82-80
Detroit 80-82
Kansas City 79-83

X-Los Angeles Angels 90-72
Oakland 83-79
Texas 82-80
Seattle 70-92

X-Philadelphia 89-73
Y-New York Mets 87-75
Florida 82-80
Atlanta 76-86
Washington 69-93

X-Chicago Cubs 90-72
St. Louis 85-77
Milwaukee 80-82
Houston 78-84
Cincinnati 77-85
Pittsburgh 73-89

X-Arizona 87-75
Los Angeles Dodgers 84-78
Colorado 75-87
San Francisco 74-88
San Diego 68-94

Boston over Cleveland in 3
Los Angeles Angels over New York Yankees in 5
Chicago Cubs over New York Mets in 4
Arizona over Philadelphia in 5

Boston over Los Angeles Angels in 6
Arizona over Chicago Cubs in 6

Boston over Arizona in 6

What a Championship Sunday!!

By Sean Trench

It seemed as if these games would never start. The first game started at about 3:15, and the second one a little after 6:30. The four teams that were in the games today were the Arizona Cardinals, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens. If you are wondering how these teams got to this point, here is a summary.

The Arizona Cardinals won the NFC West with a record of 9-7. It wasn't a very strong division. In fact they were the only team with a winning record. After giving up 56 points to the Jets, 47 points to the Patriots, and 48 points to the Eagles, no one thought that this defense could stop anybody. Nobody was giving them a chance in the postseason. They beat the Falcons at home in the wild-card round 30-24 and the defense started to make plays in that game. Next, they had to play the Carolina Panthers. Nobody gave them a chance in that game. The final score was 33-13 in favor of Arizona. The defense came up with 5 takeaways, all interceptions by Jake Delhomme.

The Philadelphia Eagles were a similar story. They finished the season with a record of 9-6-1. That's right, they tied a game with the Cincinnati Bengals. Donovan McNabb didn't know that a tie was possible! At that time their record was 5-4-1. But the Eagles won four out their next six games to make it into the postseason. They were arguably the most dangerous team in the NFC. Nobody wanted to play the Eagles. They beat the Vikings on the road in the wild-card round 26-14. Then they traveled to New York to face the defending champions. Thanks to their defense and clutch plays by McNabb, they won 23-11.

The Pittsburgh Steelers were a team that finished the season 12-4. Their defense was #1 in most of the categories. They had home field advantage. They had a bye in the wild-card round. Then, they dominated the San Diego Chargers at home, 35-24. Nobody thought that anybody could score on their defense. The Chargers scored three touchdowns on them. So that gave Baltimore some confidence coming into the AFC championship game.

The Baltimore Ravens were a team that had the best story coming into the postseason. They have a rookie head coach, John Harbaugh, and a rookie quarterback in Joe Flacco. The Ravens finished the season with an 11-5 record. The defense was just getting started, however, in the postseason. The Miami Dolphins came into the wild-card game with the lowest turnover margin in the NFL. Baltimore forced Chad Pennington to throw four interceptions, one returned by Ed Reed for a touchdown. They also forced a fumble to give them five takeaways. The final score was 27-9. Next, they went to Tennessee to face the #1 seed Titans. The Titans were second in the NFL in turnover margin. The Ravens forced three turnovers including, two in the red zone. This game came down to a field goal by Matt Stover with 53 seconds left to lead the Ravens to the AFC Championship.

So now that leads to the championship games in both the AFC and NFC. The NFC championship game featured the Arizona Cardinals and the Philadelphia Eagles. This game was played in Arizona. The Cardinal fans sold out the game in just six minutes! This game started off with Arizona driving 9 plays and 80 yards finishing the drive with a touchdown by Larry Fitzgerald. Then the Eagles drove 8 plays and 33 yards, but they finished the drive with a field goal by David Akers. This would be a theme in the first half: the Cardinals finishing drives with touchdowns and the Eagles settling for field goals. Kurt Warner was on fire in the 1st half. He threw three touchdown passes, all to Fitzgerald. The Eagles defense had no answer for Larry, as he pretty much had whatever he wanted on the field. One of the touchdowns featured a great call by offensive coordinator Todd Haley. It was a flea flicker from Arrington to Warner, who threw a 62 yard bomb to Fitzgerald for touchdown #2.

So at the end of the first half, Arizona was in control 24-6. What a change from the previous game between these two teams, which Philadelphia dominated 48-20. But this Cardinals team is vastly different from that team back in week 13. The Cardinals defense was much better than they were back in the regular season. But the 2nd half of this contest was much different than the 1st half. The Eagles put a lot more pressure on Kurt Warner, and McNabb started to make some plays with the offense. The Eagles came roaring back into the game with 19 unanswered points to give them a 25-24 lead to start the 4th quarter. Then came the drive of the game and the answer of that high-powered Cardinals offense. After shutting down Arizona in the 3rd quarter, Kurt Warner was masterful on this particular drive. The drive was 14 plays and gained 72 yards. It took 7:52 off the clock. It featured four crucial and backbreaking third down conversions, two to Fitzgerald.

The final play in the drive on third and goal was a well designed screen pass to Tim Hightower. Hightower bullied his way for eight yards into the end zone to give them a 30-24 lead. The next play was crucial as well because it would have given them a 7 point lead. Another great decision by Warner finding his backup tight end, Ben Patrick for the two-point conversion. So that left McNabb with just 2:23 left to try and tie the game. He was constantly pressured on that final drive and missed his target four times from midfield, and then on 4th down he threw a pass to Kevin Curtis, but thanks to former Eagle Roderick Hood, no dice. The play resulted in an incomplete pass and a trip to Super Bowl 43 for Arizona.

What a story this Cardinals team is, but now they had to play either Pittsburgh or Baltimore in the Super Bowl. They will again probably be the underdog, which they have been used to all year round. So this is nothing new for Arizona. Ken Whisenhunt, who is in his second year as head coach has lead this team to the Super Bowl. Their 61 year drought from the Super Bowl is the 2nd longest in history. They have been in three different cities though; Chicago, St.Louis, and Arizona. The Chicago Cubs have the longest drought, which is 100 years since they have been to the World Series. Interestingly enough, the Cleveland Indians have the 3rd longest drought, which is 60 years since they won in 1948.

So now we had another game to watch, the AFC Championship game between the Steelers and the Ravens. This game was another one that did not disappoint. This game featured the two best defenses in the NFL. So you figured that this would be a low-scoring game right, well, sort of. Overall, Pittsburgh dominated this game, but Baltimore would not let this one go down without a fight. The 1st quarter was one that Pittsburgh led just 6-0. But Ben Roethlisburger threw a touchdown pass, or so he thought, to Santonio Holmes. Harbaugh challenged the catch, and sure enough Holmes couldn't hang on so the call was overturned. That led to a field goal instead of a touchdown. What a challenge by Baltimore!

The 2nd quarter featured another unbelievable play by Ben Roethlisberger. Baltimore sent a house blitz on third down, and Ben scrambled out of a sack and threw a pass off his back foot that just got over the defender, and into the arms of Santonio Holmes. Holmes then made a series of moves and took it the distance for a 65-yard touchdown. Then on the next drive, Mitch Berger punted to Jim Leonhard, who returned it 45 yards all the way inside the Pittsburgh 17 yard line. Then Baltimore went to an unbalanced offensive line with a jumbo formation with Haloti Ngata, and Willis McGahee ran it in for the touchdown. Baltimore was right back in it at 13-7. That was the score at the half thanks to poor clock management by Mike Tomlin and Roethlisberger.

The 3rd quarter was a defensive battle. Pittsburgh did put points on the board by kicking a field goal. The score was now 16-7. The 4th quarter was a nail-biter at first, but then Pittsburgh made the plays that they needed to make to come out with a victory. The Ravens got right back into it after Joe Flacco threw a long pass intended for Derrick Mason in the end zone. The play resulted in a flag for pass interference on Ike Taylor. The next play, McGahee with the same unbalanced line ran it in for another touchdown. The score was now 16-14. Then, on a huge third down play, Terrell Suggs sacked Roethlisberger and gave Baltimore the ball back. After a couple of costly penalties, Flacco made another mistake. There was pressure coming on Joe from his blindside and he lofted a pass intended for Mason, but intercepted by Troy Polamalu, who in return took it back for a touchdown to "put the nail in the coffin" for the Ravens. The final score was 23-14 in favor of the Steelers. Pittsburgh's defense just proved to be too tough for Joe Flacco to handle. It came down to the quarterbacks, and Roethlisberger just made more plays to win the game.

Super Bowl 43 will be between the Arizona Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Pittsburgh is making its seventh appearance in their history, and second in four years. Arizona is making its first ever appearance. The game features two second year head coaches in Mike Tomlin and Ken Whisenhunt. Mike Tomlin is now the youngest head coach to lead his team to the Super Bowl. He is just 36 years old. The Cardinals are the first team with nine wins or fewer in the regular season to reach the Super Bowl in a non-strike season since the 1979 Los Angeles Rams. Kurt Warner improved to 3-0 all time in NFC Championship games; while the Eagles fell to 1-4 under Andy Reid. Ben Roethlisberger improved to 7-2 all time in the playoffs to pass Troy Aikman for the second-most playoff wins by a quarterback in his first five NFL seasons.

Larry Fitzgerald became the fourth man in NFL history to record three consecutive 100-yard receiving games and the first to do it in the same postseason. So now Super Bowl 43 will have Whisenhunt facing his former team, The Pittsburgh Steelers. What a story that these two teams have been this year, and they will continue to be the story in this game. It comes down to a great offense against a great defense. This should be another great game to watch. Vegas is favoring the Steelers early for the Super Bowl. So the Cardinals as it looks will be the underdog yet again. Do you think that they would want it any other way? This team has thrived on being just that throughout the playoffs, and don't be surprised if they come out as Super Bowl Champions. In two weeks we will find out.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Championship Sunday preview

By Rick Morris

For a true football fan, Championship Sunday is one of the greatest days of the year. Super Bowl Sunday is a day for the casual fan to rule, with MTV-approved pregame and halftime entertainment and a host of dumbed-down content meant to appeal to folks who really don’t enjoy watching that much football. Championship Sunday is a day for the purists to gather to watch the greatest doubleheader in sports (with all due respect to the NCAA hoops national semifinals). I know this because I’ve been having a Championship Sunday party for years and I will do so again today as my friends and I chow down, enjoy one another’s sublime company and take in the gridiron goodness.

Let’s start with a little Championship Sunday trivia to mark these AFC and NFC Title Games:

^ It’s the first time since 2002-2003 there is no coach in the final four with a Super Bowl ring as head coach (although Andy Reid has been to a Super Bowl and in 2002-2003, Jeff Fisher had been as a head coach also).

^ It’s the first time since 1997-1998 that two of the final four teams (Pittsburgh and Baltimore) have won a Super Bowl in the last decade – and Philadelphia has also been to a Super Bowl in that span. In ’97-98, Green Bay and San Francisco were each bearing Super Bowl rings from the past few years and Denver was poised on the other side with the most recent of the Elway 1980s failures in the Super Bowl having come within the past decade. In 2004-2005, 3 of the teams had made Super Bowls in the last decade (New England, Pittsburgh, Atlanta), but only the Pats had won. In 2001-2002, New England, Pittsburgh and St. Louis had made it within the last decade but only the Rams had won.

^ Mike Tomlin and John Harbaugh (a rookie) have a combined three years of head coaching between them. It’s the first time since the AFL-NFL merger that two such inexperienced coaches have met on Championship Sunday.

^ There have been eight different AFC teams playing on Championship Sunday in the ’00 decade: New England (five times), Pittsburgh (four times, counting today), Baltimore (twice, counting today), Oakland (twice – seems like another lifetime ago!), Indianapolis (twice) and Tennessee, Denver and San Diego once. But in the NFC, there have been 12 different teams! They are: Philadelphia (five times, counting today), New York Giants (twice), Carolina (twice) and Minnesota, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, Atlanta, Seattle, Chicago, New Orleans, Green Bay and Arizona (counting today) once. When you scan that list, you see that the only “parity” in recent years has come from the NFC – not coincidentally, the weaker conference this decade with only two Super Bowl wins since 2000-01.

These playoffs have shown my crystal ball to be quite clouded, indeed, with a 1-3 record a week ago and a mediocre 2-2 the previous week. Arizona is a common denominator here, as I had them losing both weeks thus far.

On to the games:

Philadelphia at Arizona: Much has been made of the improbable nature of this championship game clash. As previously mentioned, I predicted Arizona to lose both of their first two playoff games (although in all fairness, I noted that the Arizona-Atlanta game to be the toughest to figure of the wild card round). A team that staggered into the playoffs with a poor road record – a defense that never resembled the sum of its parts – a team that won the weakest division this side of the AFC West – this team inspired very little confidence coming into the playoffs, but they have addressed all three of those concerns en route to traveling the rare path of playing a home playoff game, then one on the road, then one at home again.

But with a #4 seed playing a #6 seed for the NFC Title, you know that two hot, late-blooming squads are squaring off, because they’ve had to win tough games against teams with better regular seasons to get to this point. However, it’s a bit misleading merely to label the Eagles the lowest seed, because they competed in football’s toughest division and they would have easily bettered their 9-6-1 record against lesser competition. Interestingly, Philly mirrored Arizona as a bad road team during the regular season, but wins at Minnesota and the Meadowlands in the playoffs have rendered sour autumn memories away from home very distant to say the least.

The edge that the Eagles have carried into this game – aside from the aforementioned chance to get sharp against much better competition – is the fact that their defense is not a Johnny-come-lately like Arizona’s. Year in and year out, Jim Johnson has the Philly unit performing at a high level and his genius play-calling befuddles many a great team. Kurt Warner and Company haven’t seen anything like what’s coming their way today.

Having said that, it’s worth noting that Larry Fitzgerald has had a huge breakout in these playoffs, going from legitimate franchise player to one of the very best big-time performers today. He terrorized a good Panther D without benefit of Anquan Boldin last week and Leapin’ Larry is about to get his partner in crime back. But a greater surprise has been the resurrection of the Cardinal rushing game thus far in the playoffs. Coming into the postseason, one would have pegged Philly as much better at both running the ball and stopping the run, but the Cards’ recent play negates this notion as an automatic reality.

The health of Brian Westbrook will be of paramount importance for the Eagles, as he has held the mantle for a few years as the key weapon of the offense. He can play hurt with decent effectiveness, which will be critical, because Philadelphia has little or no chance of keeping up with Arizona without him.

The sub-plots of this game from a media perspective (the Eagles going up against the team who they pummeled on Thanksgiving night to start the process of salvaging their season, two proud and experienced veteran survivors at quarterback in Warner and Donovan McNabb) don’t tell us much about what to expect. This would surely be the case for either of these teams going forward also (an all-Pennsylvania Super Bowl, which would have broad popular appeal all the way from Scranton to State College, would not justify the media attention it would get, nor would a Ken Whisenhunt/Russ Grimm vs. the Steelers Super Bowl, nor would the Eagles facing the team that put them at rock bottom late in the year in the Ravens). But media storylines aside, this game will come down to which offense is able to operate most effectively – and given the choice between siding with a hot defense or a hot and proven defense, I’ll take the hot and proven one. In a game that feels like a coin flip in many ways, I see the team with fewer offensive weapons finding a way to get it done on the road. Philadelphia 23, Arizona 16.

Baltimore at Pittsburgh: I will note in passing that as a lifelong Clevelander I view this matchup on this stage with complete and total revulsion. However, notwithstanding my personal lack of a rooting interest, it’s quite apparent that this is a compelling mirror-image showdown between two teams predominantly noted for their bruising defenses.

Both teams persevered through tough schedules to make it to this point. But like the Eagles, both are very battle-tested by this point in time. Neither team was especially likely to make it this far – Baltimore because they are in their first year under a new head coach with a rookie QB and a stout, though aging defense and Pittsburgh because their offensive line isn’t what it used to be, QB Ben Roethlisberger took quite a pounding and the run game was up-and-down with Willie Parker at less than 100% most of the year (and the preseason loss of rookie stud Rashard Mendenhall). However, both ended up making it to this point through physical and opportunistic defense and with multi-headed running attacks that took the pressure off of the vertical game.

For the Steelers, Mewelde Moore came off of the scrap heap and provided the boost that Pittsburgh needed when Parker was down. For the Ravens, big Le’Ron McClain augmented incumbent Willis McGahee and rookie scatback Ray Rice to produce an all-around ground approach that few in the league could match.

Health among those in the trenches will figure big into this outcome. McClain is really feeling the effects of his straight-up rushing style right now, while Parker finally appears to be in decent shape. Plus, Troy Polamalu has a hurt calf, so the Pittsburgh run defense could suffer from that – although that reality is obscured by the larger problem for Baltimore of Terrell Suggs’ injured shoulder.

In the end, most of the key indicators in this game to point to the Steel City:

^ Home AFC Championship Games were kryptonite for Bill Cowher, but he’s not the coach anymore.

^ An away game of this magnitude is a lot to ask of any rookie quarterback, even one as poised as Joe Flacco.

^ Pittsburgh’s receiving corps is deeper – although ballhawking safety Ed Reed is one heck of an equalizer.

^ Due to the hurricane-postponed game that the Ravens had with Houston back in September, they have played the overwhelming majority of their season without a bye week in between. Plus, they had the “car crash” effect of a physical battle with Tennessee last week while Pittsburgh overwhelmed a very soft San Diego team. Additionally, factor in the fact that the Steelers had a bye week during the first round of the playoffs.

^ Baltimore’s defense is older and has been reliant, perhaps disproportionately, on turnovers to keep their run going.

Field position will dictate this battle in brutal cold and snow conditions. The challenging Heinz Field kicking circumstances could well come into play, as every point should be at a premium. Pittsburgh 20, Baltimore 13.

Bonus early Super Bowl pick: Pittsburgh 16, Philadelphia 13.

NBA power rankings for mid-January

By Rick Morris

NOTE: Last month’s ranking for each team is in parentheses.

1. Cleveland (3)
2. Los Angeles Lakers (1)
3. Boston (2)
4. Orlando (4)

5. Denver (7)
6. San Antonio (9)
7. New Orleans (5)
8. Houston (6)
9. Utah (10)
10. Atlanta (11)
11. Portland (8)
12. Phoenix (13)
13. Dallas (14)
14. Detroit (12)
15. Miami (15)
16. Philadelphia (18)
17. New Jersey (16)
18. Milwaukee (21)
19. Chicago (17)

20. Toronto (20)
21. New York (19)
22. Charlotte (24)
23. Indiana (23)

24. Memphis (25)
25. Minnesota (29)
26. Golden State (22)
27. Sacramento (26)
28. Los Angeles Clippers (28)
29. Washington (27)
30. Oklahoma City (30)

Biggest risers: Minnesota (4 spots), Milwaukee and San Antonio (3 spots)

Biggest fallers: Golden State (4 spots), Portland (3 spots)

NHL power rankings for mid-January

By Rick Morris

NOTE: Last month’s ranking for each team is in parentheses.

1. Detroit (2)
2. San Jose (1)
3. Boston (3)

4. Washington (5)
5. Montreal (7)
6. Chicago (11)
7. New Jersey (12)
8. Calgary (10)
9. New York Rangers (4)
10. Philadelphia (6)

11. Buffalo (14)
12. Pittsburgh (8)
13. Vancouver (13)
14. Minnesota (18)
15. Anaheim (9)
16. Columbus (25)
17. Edmonton (19)
18. Phoenix (16)
19. Florida (22)
20. Nashville (15)
21. Carolina (17)
22. Dallas (24)
23. Colorado (23)

24. Los Angeles (21)
25. Toronto (20)
26. Ottawa (26)
27. St. Louis (27)
28. Tampa Bay (30)
29. Atlanta (28)
30. New York Islanders (29)

Biggest risers: Columbus (9 spots), Chicago and New Jersey (5 spots), Minnesota (4 spots), Buffalo and Florida (3 spots)

Biggest fallers: Anaheim (6 spots), Nashville, New York Rangers and Toronto (5 spots), Carolina, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh (4 spots), Buffalo and Los Angeles (3 spots)

White House change of power: the old and the new

By Rick Morris

Assessing the Bush years: It’s true that this country hasn’t been hit on its own soil since 9/11 and that fact doesn’t deserve to be brushed aside lightly. Plus, many judges and two Supreme Court justices with an appreciation for innocent human life, the traditional definition of marriage and respect for private property rights have been appointed. George Bush did manage to strengthen key relations in Asia, perhaps most importantly with India. In his second term, when he marginalized some of the neocon creeps around him, he did manage to rebuild some international alliances. Additionally, the fact that some resistance was shown to global warming fanatics has allowed real science to catch up in the form of new questions to be asked, such as whether we’re actually at the dawn of a new Ice Age.

And … the list of pluses seems to end there. Weighed against the wreckage of a war in Iraq that was disastrously waged until the last two years (and turned out to be questionable altogether in retrospect), a worsening situation in Afghanistan, the remnants of a reputation for competence last seen floating away with the stormwater of Hurricane Katrina, the biggest federal spending binge in history with the bills being passed to our children and grandchildren, propaganda victories for our enemies from Abu Ghraib (I’m not listing Gitmo here out of fairness since there have been no atrocities performed there), ineptitude in the face of a gathering anti-American world alliance between bad actors like Russia, Venezuela and Iran, the sellout of poor children by further empowering the Department of Education bureaucrats at the expense of fighting for school vouchers, the inflation of bubbles on his watch that exploded to cause the worst financial meltdown since the Great Depression and a public communications department so poor that Jimmy Carter laughs at it, those pluses aren’t nearly sufficient to earn “redemption in the eyes of history.”

The final point might be the most damning of them all. It’s sobering to consider that Carter left office at about twice the approval rate of Bush; that’s how permanently down on the 43rd president that this public is and probably always will be. Aside from Tony Snow’s tenure at the podium, this White House had the worst-managed public message machine of the modern age. When even your successes aren’t able to be celebrated in some measure by the public, you’re in deep trouble. In some ways, the public’s wholesale discrediting of all things Bush hurts the country worse in terms of what he got right – because the lesson people took away from his tenure is that we need to change everything he ever did in all areas.

Bush’s remaining defenders, from his permanent shoeshine boy Sean Hannity to the eternal shill Mike Gallagher, blame his woes on the media. You’ll never hear any of these in-the-tank bozos tell you that Bush had a gazillion more weapons at his disposal in the New Media and talk radio than Ronald Reagan ever did and he did nothing with them. Reagan persevered past a hostile media and got his message across to the American people. Winners win, losers whine. In this way, Bush must accept responsibility for creating Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader Reid and President Obama – because none of them could have attained their victories without his “pull the goalie from the net” style of political defense. His “new tone in Washington” garbage early on set the stage for his naïve unilateral personal disarmament in the face of a left-wing political/media alliance determined to torpedo his presidency. We’re supposed to sympathize with him because of that?

Now, fortunately, Obama seems smarter than most of the Democrat leaders in Congress put together. But inevitably, he will join up with them to implement some policies in the next few years that will have bad outcomes – whether they be the stripping of secret ballots for union organizing, the appointment of “culture of death” judges and justices or overly pacifist impulses in foreign policy that embolden our enemies and cause innocent blood to ultimately be shed. Whatever harm they cause together, some of the blame will have to accrue to Bush for making their rise possible by bizarrely choosing to transform himself into our nation’s foremost political piñata.

The start of the Obama era: The always on-point Tigerhawk makes the point that all Americans, even those like me on the right, should be hoping that Obama is successful I his presidency – or at least successful enough not to do permanent harm to the country. Now, this doesn’t mean unprincipled support of all policies, even ruinous ones or endorsing the kind of ACLU crazies Barack Obama is likely to put on the bench. But it does mean appreciating when his successes genuinely benefit the country and not being in an ineffective permanent attack mode.

Let’s examine that last point for a moment. If Bush’s biggest crime was political ineptitude, then the GOP should be firmly focused on erasing that germ from its DNA pronto. The tin ear that the Republican Party has always had (save for the sainted eight years o’Reagan) grew to true elephantine (pardon the pun) proportions during Bush’s two terms. Attacking Obama non-stop, from Day One, with any issue or pseudo-issue at hand, at a time when the public generally wants him to succeed, is a recipe for permanent marginalization. The notion of picking one’s spots has never been more important, especially since Obama has several times the credibility with the public as the dopes who lead the Republicans in Congress.

This very relevant fact needs to be kept in mind in terms of the defining battle of Obama’s early administration – the proposed federal stimulus package. The Republicans will no doubt deploy many arguments against it in the coming months, but the least effective by far will be the one that states that our roads and bridges aren’t in crisis. They are. Now, I’m a bigger fiscal libertarian than most people I know personally, but denying the obvious is not a means for a political party to avoid oblivion. If GOP leaders intend to accomplish anything beyond asinine posturing, they should challenge Obama to work with them to find offsets in the federal budget to make up for the short-term increases in infrastructure spending.

An approach like the one I’m advocating might seem strange inasmuch as I am a vocal opponent of all things considered moderate. I consider moderation an unprincipled, self-congratulatory path which treats all differences as ones to be split equally regardless of specific circumstances. So the notion of urging the GOP to work with Obama where it can do so might seem contradictory – but it’s not.

Realistically, Obama has the votes to get almost anything done that he can. With the Northeast RINO sellouts in the Senate, the notion of needing 60 Democrat votes to break filibusters is hilarious, because the Republicans won’t be able to sustain even one successfully. If he wants to govern hard left, he can – but he’s too smart for that. He used the left to get elected, but has wisely been backing away from it in a number of areas, not least of which the outstanding (for a Democrat) Cabinet that he has assembled.

If Republicans try to use their feeble power to try to stop Obama on everything 24/7, they’ll be crushed, only make him more popular in the short and medium term, and necessitate a move left for the country that will devastate us in the long term – after he’s been reelected by crusading against “obstructionist Republicans signing from the George W. Bush hymnal.” The GOP has a great chance in the next couple of years to work with Obama on implementing some real reforms and opposing him on principle in the areas where they must – thereby setting up lines of distinction to run on in 2012.

It is imperative that Republicans make a real effort to investigate what can be accomplished in conjunction with Obama, because his challenge to reexamine all assumptions can be can be called on him with great success if indeed it is a bluff. Think about it: which political party is the one wedded to top-down decision-making in D.C., control by rotted-out interest groups like Big Labor and federal spending as a form of religion? It is the Democrats who are the party of status quo in terms of the federal direction, which is an ever-expanding Big Government. By taking Obama at his word to take a fresh look at the necessity of every function of government, the Republicans will either help radically transform this country for the better or it will expose empty words by the chief executive and begin the process of his political downfall. Win-win.