Author Archives: dameshek
Since the moment Marc Trestman was introduced as the new Bears coach 353 days ago, I’ve suffered sleepless nights plagued by gnawing anxiety. I knew – I knew - buried somewhere deep in my TV-addled brain Trestman had a spot-on cinematic doppelgänger. The only problem: who was it?
Then, just this morning, a wildcard weekend miracle! A face flashed through my mind. It was there but an instant, but long enough to make my heart soar – Trestman’s dead ringer is Bernie Lefkowitz’s wife, Rose!
You know… Rose! From ‘Cocoon’! I’m not sure if she actually spoke in the movie before missing her shot at eternal life because Bernie was too curmudgeonly to take her into Brian Dennehy’s ‘Swimming Pool of Youth’ (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, go watch ‘Cocoon’ or shame the devil), but I am sure I’ll finally be able to get a decent night’s rest for the first time in almost a year.
Meantime, it’s a neat coincidence I made this discovery on the very week it was announced Trestman and his spouse Jay Cutler will now be together for the rest of eternity (or at least seven years).
Thinking of you today, Chicago Bears and Wilfred Brimley…
Happy New Year, football fans…
Condolences if 2013 wasn’t the best year for your sports town (I at least hope it avoided making this list) - and congratulations if you’re lucky enough to be able to pencil your team’s upcoming playoff game into at least one of the 31 squares on the January page of your new calendar.
Speaking of pages, I’ve decided to take one from Andy Reid, who let his key players rest up in anticipation of the playoffs. I, too, am gonna take it easy today. Y’know, so my eyeballs and chip-scooping fingers are nice and fresh for this quartet of beauties the Commish has delivered for the first weekend of the year.
Like Reid and his peers, let’s spend some time watching tape (or, more accurately, streaming video). It’s been a long season, after all, so let’s take a stroll/drive down memory lane/the road that led us here. I’m speaking, of course, about the road(s) in Culver City, California, where I got to spend some preseason time in my “sports” car with a number of NFL players, several of whom you’ll be watching this weekend. If your team isn’t in the post-season, maybe watching one of these guys will sway you to root for his team over the next few weeks.
We’ll start off with Eagles WR DeSean Jackson:
Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles…
Bengals CB Terence Newman…
And Niners WR Michael Crabtree…
Swell fellas, no? Best wishes to them all this weekend. Speaking of which, let’s get to the games…
Warning: Do NOT continue reading if you don’t want to know the resuls of the Wildcard Round games.
(last week: 11-5; 165-93 on the season)
KC – J. Charles: 167 yds/scrimmage, TD
IND – A. Luck: 304 yds, 2 TDs, 2 INTs
NO – J. Graham: 128 yds, 2 TDs
PHI – L. McCoy: 114 yds, TD
SD – N. Novak: 2 FGs missed after illegal formation penalties
CIN – A. Dalton: 399 yds, 2 TDs
SF – F. Gore: 19 carries, 106 yds, TD
GB – E. Lacy: 19 carries, 53 yds
Enjoy the wildcard games, everybody! I hope your team wins…
1. Niners at Packers in subzero Lambeau
2. Derrick Harvey
3. Babyback ribs
4. ’Wolf of Wall Street’
5. Not being from Cleveland
2014 is already shaping up to be a good year for Seattle sports fans. The road to the Super Bowl runs through the rowdy-and-raw C-Link this month. The Mariners have already landed the off-season’s biggest free agent, Robinson Cano. Billionaire Chris Hansen continues his quest to catch the Predators – or any other NHL or NBA team – sooner rather than later. And the Huskies are on the cusp on exciting new era with innovative pigskin coach Chris Peterson.
How far away, then, 2008 must seem. That calendar year was arguably the most painful any sports town’s fanbase has ever had to endure. Every one of Seattle’s major teams – the Seahawks, Mariners, Sonics & Huskies – had losing seasons. Even worse, the Sonics put the sour cherry on top of the curdled sundae when they packed up reigning Rookie of the Year Kevin Durant and moved to Oklahoma City.
That apocalyptic 2008 inspired this empathetic sports fan to create the Sonic Award, which acknowledges – and pays tribute – to the citizens who’ve suffered the most over the past calendar year. Defining “suffering” isn’t necessarily as simple as identifying which town had the worst win percentage, though. Thanks to one last-second shot by Ray Allen in the Finals, San Antonio Spurs fans felt more pain in 2013 than anyone who roots for the Charlotte Bobcats (assuming anyone does, in fact, root for the Bobcats). In other words, it’s more just numbers: the Sonic Award is voted on by a blue-ribbon panel comprised of my head, heart, eyeballs and gut.
Before the presentation of the 2013 Sonic, here’s a look at the previous “winners”:
(Seahawks 4-12, head coach Mike Holmgren departs; Mariners 61-101, fire GM Bill Bavasi/manager John McLaren & release 1B Richie Sexson during the season; Sonics 20-62, depart for OKC with ROY Kevin Durant; U of Washington football 0-12; UW basketball 16-17)
(Browns 5-11; Cavaliers 66-16, get #1 seed in Eastern Conference, but lose to Orlando in Conference Finals; Indians 65-97; Ohio State basketball 22-11, #8 seed in NCAA tourney but lose to #9 Siena)
(Browns 5-11; Cavaliers 61-21, get #1 seed in Eastern Conference, but lose to Boston in 2nd-rd; LeBron James leaves Cavs for Miami; Indians 69-93; Ohio State football 12-1, but forced to vacate wins for NCAA violations; Ohio St basketball 29-8, #2 seed in NCAA tourney, but upset by #6 Tennessee)
2011 WASHINGTON, DC
(Skins 5-11; Nationals 80-81, Stephen Strasburg undergoes Tommy John surgery; Wizards 23-59; Capitals 107 pts, get #1 seed in Eastern Conference, but swept in 2nd-rd by Tampa Bay; Georgetown basketball 21-11, get #6 seed in NCAA tourney, upset by #11 VCU)
(Steelers 8-8, miss playoffs; Penguins 108 pts, humiliated in Rd One of Playoffs by arch rival Philadelphia; Pirates 79-83, collapse in second half of season – again, record 20th-straight losing season; Pitt basketball 22-17, misses NCAA tourney; Pitt football 6-7)
And to that ignominious list, we now add the 2013 Sonic Award winner…
New York City!!!
Wait. New York City?
But what about Atlanta? They had the disappointing Falcons and Georgia Bulldogs, another mediocre year from the Hawks, and another post-season flop by the Braves.
And what about Dallas? The Cowboys, Rangers, Mavs, and Stars all missed the post-season.
And Cleveland? What about Cleveland?! The Browns went 4-12, traded away the 2012 Draft’s 3rd overall pick, then fired head coach Rob Chudzinski after one season. The Tribe’s post-season lasted exactly nine innings thanks to Tampa Bay knocking them off in the wildcard game. The Cavs went 24-48, then re-hired Mike Brown. On purpose! The Buckeyes went 12-1, but blew a chance at the BCS title game with a loss to Michigan St in Big Ten Championship.
Yes, all worthy nominees… but ultimately, the choice here is based on the high quantity of mediocrity over those aforementioned quality-poor towns. NYC (and the tristate area) are represented by at least two teams in each of the four major sports. That means their citizens are mathematically twice as likely to root on a champion… and yet, none of their teams could even get past the second round of the playoffs. The Yankees’ best players were injured, suspended, retired, got fat(ter), or bailed via free agency. Meantime, the Yanks’ arch rival Red Sox won the World Series. Eli the Elite was outplayed by the pedestrian Geno Smith, who may or may not be replaced before the 2014 season starts. The Knicks and Nets had promising first halves in 2013, but let’s not Kidd ourselves: both are now abject embarrassments. The Blueshirts, Isles and Devils have settled into irrelevance. And speaking of irrelevant, there’s the St John’s basketball program. How is it possible, in the mecca for hoops, that no one can figure out how to recruit the area’s most talented kids to play for the Big East’s local representative?
In summation, NYC deserves this year’s Sonic:
2013 NEW YORK CITY
(Giants 7-9, Eli Manning throws 27 INTs; Jets 8-8; Yankees 85-77, lose 2B Robinson Cano/OF Curtis Granderson to free agency, Mariano Rivera retires, Alex Rodriguez suspended through ‘14; Mets 74-88, pitcher Johan Santana misses entire ’13 season with shoulder injury, pitcher Matt Harvey will miss ’14 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery; Knicks 54-28, lose in 2nd rd of playoffs to Indiana; Nets 49-33, lose in 1st rd to Chicago; two NBA teams a combined 19-42 in 2013-’14 season; Rangers 56 pts, lose in 2nd-rd of Stanley Cup Playoffs; Islanders 55 pts, lose in 1st-rd of Stanley Cup Playoffs; Devils 48 pts, miss playoffs; three NHL teams a combined 50-56-17 in 2013-’14; St Johns basketball17-16)
Better luck in 2014, Apple…
The first 16 weeks of the 2013 season have been pro football’s answer to ‘American Hustle’: long, confusing, and plum fantastic.
Fantastic for myriad reasons too many for this lazy writer to count, but now just prelude to the climax of a season regular in name only. You already know it, but it’s worth repeating: 2013 will go out like a lion (not the Detroit Lions, thankfully) thanks to the game’s most historic rivalry. Packers and Bears, Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler in Soldier Field for the NFC North title. Professional talkers are already using phrases like “high risk, high reward!” and “professional legacy!” Here are the three words I prefer: ‘ooh’, ‘la’, and ‘la’.
Long, as in… how long ago does it seem Peyton opened the season with those seven TD passes against the defending champs? And will that long ago game – played in Denver instead of Baltimore (where it should been played) – be what keeps the Ravens from defending their crown? The home team has won 10 of the last 11 of those primetime midweek season openers, so it’s fair to assume the Ravens would have won theirs… which would mean Sunday’s game in Cincy would be for the division title, not a fight for survival.
Now, though, let’s focus on the confusing part. I mean, what do we really know with the season 94.1% complete? (Yes, I used a calculator to determine that percentage.)
Lots of people already consider the Packers and Eagles making the playoffs a foregone conclusion, but this season has made making such assumptions an ass of you… but not me. I’m assuming nothing. In fact, I have more questions than answers. Questions like:
What if Kyle Orton beats the Eagles?
It seems impossible, but I would’ve said the same about Amy Adams being foxier than Jennifer Lawrence ’til I saw ‘American Hustle’. Dallas obviously wants the win and the subsequent post-season visit (brief though it may be), but then what? Jerry will claim he’s confident the team would’ve dumped Philly with Romo under center, but we cynics will doubt the veracity of his words. If the team finally comes through in a big Week 17 game while Romo watches from his bed, Jerry won’t be able to simply dismiss the Romo questions from the media, fans or himself. Either way the Cowboys will be saddled with $20 million devoted to a 34-year-old QB with a bum back and still just one playoff win eight years into the starting gig. In other words, win or lose on Sunday, the off-season will once again be melodramatic in Big D.
What if Aaron Rodgers doesn’t beat the Bears?
Two seconds after Rodgers’ return was announced, lots of fans and media members immediately began contemplating whether the Packers can beat the Niners in the wildcard round. Don’t forget, though, the game’s being played on Jay Cutler’s home turf. And if Cutler wins it, he’ll likely get to keep calling Chicago home for a few more seasons so he and his sizable pals Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey can build on Marc Trestman’s promising first season. If the Bears lose, though, Cutler will more likely be wearing a Texans or Titans (or Bengals?) helmet come September ’14.
Are the Seahawks unbeatable in Seattle come January?
Short answer: no. Long answer: they’re still the team to beat, but they’re a little less daunting now that Russell Wilson & Co have been taken down on their home field by Arizona’s nasty D. Seems to me Pete Carroll should be rooting for the Saints to win and the Panthers to lose this Sunday. Why? ‘Cause if the home teams win both divisional round games, it’d be the NFC South champ/second seed who’d make the trip to Seattle for the title game. The Hawks already know they can handle New Orleans outside of the SuperDome, whereas Carolina – a team built around a playmaking QB and rugged D – would make for a grind-it-out, low-scoring prison fight between stylistic dopplegangers. Then again, a divisional round visit from Aaron Rodgers – who you may recall “almost” won a game in the C-Link in September ’12 - could render my thoughts on a title game in Seattle moot. Then again - again – the sixth-seeded Panthers would go to Seattle for the divisional round if they won at Philly or Dallas in the wildcard game. Like I say, confusing.
Who’ll represent the AFC in the Super Bowl?
Denver has been the best team over the last four months, but that’s not the question posed. A decent case can made for any of the top five seeds… and after the Chargers’ win in Denver a couple weeks ago, it’s not a long shot they could go on a deep run from the sixth spot. At the very least, the six-seed – whoever it is – will be good enough to have a realistic shot at going into Cincy or Indy in the wildcard round and coming out with a win.
Before all that, though, we still have one last glorious Sunday involving all 32 teams. We won’t have another one for eight long months, so let’s enjoy it…
Warning: do NOT continue reading if you don’t want to know the results of the Week 17 games.
(14-2 last week, 154-88 on the season)
G. Bernard: GW 30-yd TD rec on 4th-&-29
T. Gonzalez: 100 yds, 2 TDs
A. Verner: 54-yd INT TD
T.Y. Hilton: 114 yds, TD
NYJ D: 6 sacks
Seriously, who cares?
B. Roethlisberger: 250 yds, 2 TDs
J. Starks: 98 yds, TD
P. Manning: 230 yds, 4 TDs
D. Amendola: 121 yds, TD
J. Graham: 111 yds, TD
D. Dockett: 2 sacks (1 for safety)
M. Lynch: 102 yds, 2 TDs
K. Davis: 115 yds, TD
L. McCoy: 179 yds/scrimmage, 2 TDs
So… that means the playoff matchups will look as follows:
#5 CHIEFS at #4 COLTS
#6 STEELERS at #3 BENGALS
BYE: #1 BRONCOS, #2 PATS
#5 PANTHERS at #4 PACKERS
#6 NINERS at #3 EAGLES
BYE: #1 SEAHAWKS, #2 SAINTS
Enjoy Week 17, everybody! I hope your team wins (unless they’re playing my team… or they’re the Ravens, Dolphins or Chargers).
You might want to sit down, Broncos & Patriots fans. I’ve got some tough news.
Neither Peyton Manning nor Tom Brady will win the Super Bowl this season. I’m sorry. I know this isn’t easy to hear.
To be fair, though, it shouldn’t come as too big a shock if you’ve been paying attention. This year’s Patriots are football’s answer to LeBron’s Cavaliers, a thoroughly mediocre team whose deficiencies are obscured by their sublime star. Come January, though, there will be nowhere to hide said shortcomings when the Pats go up against the NFL’s giants. (Wait, not those Giants… but the result will be the same as it was in two Super Bowls against those Giants.) There’s been lots of talk this week about whether New England can overcome the loss of Gronk – but the fact is, the team has been doomed since Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo went down. The run defense is now second-from-last in the NFL and has been gashed three straight weeks by the Broncos, Texans & Browns. Brady and Belichick give the Pats a puncher’s chance against any foe… but against three (or maybe even four) high-quality foes on the other side of the holidays? Ho-ho-no.
And then there’s Peyton.
He’s instructed us to stick the narrative about his cold-weather struggles where the sun don’t shine… but – as discussed on this week’s Shek Report - that narrative isn’t a work of fiction. It’s an autobiography penned by the guy who’s now 9-13 when it’s under 40 degrees outside (empirically bad for someone who’s won seven out of every ten games he’s played over 16 seasons).
In other words, saying Peyton isn’t as good when the weather goes south isn’t reckless speculation; it’s a statement of fact. Sorry if it rubs you the wrong way, but the nuanced reality is this: some wildly successful players and teams aren’t built for the post-season. That’s not to say they’re “chokers” – rather, their particular styles aren’t practically conducive to winning against the highest level of competition. For all their dominance in the National League over a decade-and-a-half, Atlanta Braves pitchers Greg Maddux & Tom Glavine came up short in the NL playoffs. Why? Because while a finesse-based approach was more than enough against the Padres in July, it was exposed by the powerful lineups that populate October baseball. Same goes for the University of Pittsburgh’s basketball team (albeit for the opposite reason). First under Ben Howland and now with Jamie Dixon, Pitt has been a consistent regular-season beast even against some of college basketball’s stiffest competition because of their brawny, grind-it-out style. Every March, though, the highly-seeded Panthers are outmoded by more athletic teams with whom they simply can’t keep pace.
And so it goes for Peyton, destined to run away with this year’s MVP, considered by some to be the best to ever play the position, but rendered pedestrian when the temperature drops and the competition rises. A wobbling pass thrown into tight coverage might find its mark on a warm September afternoon against the overmatched Raiders secondary, but it’s a recipe for a pick-six against a playoff-worthy defense on a chilly, raw evening in January.
So like I say, neither Tom Brady nor Peyton Manning will win this year’s Super Bowl. And now I’ll say this: Peyton Manning isn’t ever going to win another Super Bowl. At 37 and playing with a gaggle of offensive stars, this season is his last, best shot… but let’s say he survives the AFC bracket and somehow gets to New Jersey… in February… where it’ll be cold and windy and maybe even snowy. And let’s say that nasty defense from Seattle is there to meet him. You takin’ Peyton? Well, then – I wish you good luck and some warm headwear this holiday season… because just like another Peyton Manning-led playoff team – you’re gonna be left out in the cold.
In the meantime, let’s get to Week 15…
Warning: do not continue reading if you don’t want to know the outcome of this weekend’s games.
(0-1 this week, 9-7 last week, 133-77 on the season)
S. Jackson: 128 yds, TD
J. Cutler: 340 yds, 2 TDs
A. Luck: 402 yds, 3 TDs
M. Lewis: 47-yd TD rec.
S. Vereen: 161 yds/scrimmage, 2 TDs
D. Jackson: 133 yds, 2 TDs
G. Tate: 92 yds, TD
V. Davis: 62 yds, TD
CAR D: 5 safeties
D. Bowe: 119 yds, TD
D. Murray: 104 yds, 2 TDs
P. Thomas: 80 yds, TD
K. Wright: 126 yds, TD
L. Bell: 120 yds/scrimmage, 2 TDs
C. Johnson: 203 yds, 3 TDs
Enjoy Week 15, everybody! I hope your team wins (unless they’re playing my team).