Author Archives: dameshek

Spoiler Alert: Divisional Round

two-cakes1

I’ve got two cakes in the fridge for the games this weekend. One cake’s for eating, the other’s just to have. Figured that’d be fitting, because I’m rooting for both sides in every game.

I know, I know… I’m being Pollyanna. Or maybe I’m subconsciously trying to ingratiate myself to that fan who took my pick against his team in Week Seven so personally he tracked me down on Twitter to accuse me of “hating” his city.

I choose to believe my heart is pure. As a fan myself, I’m equally excited and empathetic towards those who’ve got a nerve-wracking three-and-a-half hours upcoming on Saturday or Sunday. As a diehard, I know the reflected glory and relief when your team wins, and bitter pain when your team loses.

Like I say, some fans accuse me of hating their team. The supposition is – because I don’t hide the fact I grew up a Steelers fan – I therefore root against everyone else. I get it, but it’s just plain incorrect. As a grownup, I’m able to successfully distinguish what I think from what I want. The intellectual aspect aside, though, my personal allegiance to one team is precisely why I’m rooting for everyone this weekend. Silly as it seems to those unknowing, unlucky souls who don’t understand the sports fan’s devotion, I know the visceral emotion post-season football evokes.

For 16 days each fall, we live vicariously through the deeds of large human beings wearing the right logo. A lucky few get to keep on rooting when the calendar flips to January. As a Steelers fan, my pain is done for the season (unlike at least one other supporter of the black-and-gold) but I still know what winning can do. Winning makes the frigid winter feel shorter. It gives us something to look forward to while chipping the ice off the windshield or waiting at the train stop in the rain or maybe even rebuilding a city.

I was in New Orleans shooting a Mardi Gras bit for Jimmy Kimmel’s late-night show just a few days after the Saints won the Super Bowl in 2010 – and just a few years after Hurricane Katrina. It was as joyous a place as I’ve ever been. I don’t want to slip into some maudlin hyperbole by overstating the significance of that Saints’ season, but it’d be vapidly cynical to ignore the boost the team gave those fleur de lis-festooned people literally dancing in the streets stretched in front of their still-tattered homes.

Is fandom delusional? Yes. Does a collection of high-paid athletes gathered from far-flung origins winning a game actually fix anything in your life? No. But like the Marx Brothers do for Woody Allen at the end of ‘Hannah and Her Sisters’, a playoff game – even one our team loses – gives us a distraction, and at best makes us part of something larger, something shared, something fun. Like Woody asks, “Don’t you want to be a part of the experience?” Yes, Woody, I do. And that’s why I’m eating just one cake this weekend.

spoiler-alert

Warning: do NOT continue reading this if you don’t want to know the scores of the divisional round games.

(1-3 last week, 166-96 on the season)

SAINTS 16

SEAHAWKS 24

NO – D. Brees: 299 yds, TD, 2 INTs

SEA – M. Lynch: 133 yds, TD

COLTS 24

PATS 35

IND – T.Y. Hilton: 52 yds

NE – S. Vereen: 142 yds/scrimmage, 2 TDs

NINERS 23

PANTHERS 10

SF – A. Boldin: 86 yds, TD

CAR – D. Williams: 41 yds

CHARGERS 24

BRONCOS 37

SD – M. Ingram: 2 sacks

DEN – D. Thomas: 114 yds, 2 TDs

Enjoy the divisional round, everybody! I hope your team wins…

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Stuff (for the week of 1/6/14)

1. 75 & sunny in Los Angeles

2. Kaepernick’s wheels

3. Amy Adams in ‘American Hustle’

4. Bolo ties

5. Navy bean soup

 

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Inside Out: McGinest & Sharper on Cold Weather Games

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Inside Out: McGinest & Sharper on Playoff Prep

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On The Marc!

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!

mt

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…

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Spoiler Alert: Wildcard Weekend

1388519897000-AP-Chiefs-Chargers-Football

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…

spoiler-alert

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)

CHIEFS 23

COLTS 20

KC – J. Charles: 167 yds/scrimmage, TD

IND – A. Luck: 304 yds, 2 TDs, 2 INTs

SAINTS 21

EAGLES 28

NO – J. Graham: 128 yds, 2 TDs

PHI – L. McCoy: 114 yds, TD

CHARGERS 13

BENGALS 22

SD – N. Novak: 2 FGs missed after illegal formation penalties

CIN – A. Dalton: 399 yds, 2 TDs

NINERS 27

PACKERS 24

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…

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Shame/Shek Report: Week 17

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Stuff (for the Week of 12/30/13)

1. Niners at Packers in subzero Lambeau

2. Derrick Harvey

3. Babyback ribs

4.  ‘Wolf of Wall Street’

5. Not being from Cleveland

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The 2013 Sonic Award

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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”:

2008 SEATTLE

(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)

2009 CLEVELAND

(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)

2010 CLEVELAND

(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)

2012 PITTSBURGH

(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!!!

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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…

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Spoiler Alert: Week 17

american-hustle

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…

spoiler-alert

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)

RAVENS 24

BENGALS 28

G. Bernard: GW 30-yd TD rec on 4th-&-29

PANTHERS 19

FALCONS 20

T. Gonzalez: 100 yds, 2 TDs

TEXANS 16

TITANS 23

A. Verner: 54-yd INT TD

JAGS 13

COLTS 30

T.Y. Hilton: 114 yds, TD

JETS 19

DOLPHINS 17

NYJ D: 6 sacks

LIONS 41

VIKINGS 34

Who cares?

SKINS 34

GIANTS 38

Seriously, who cares?

BROWNS 13

STEELERS 20

B. Roethlisberger: 250 yds, 2 TDs

PACKERS 31

BEARS 30

J. Starks: 98 yds, TD

BRONCOS 35

RAIDERS 24

P. Manning: 230 yds, 4 TDs

BILLS 21

PATS 26

D. Amendola: 121 yds, TD

BUCS 19

SAINTS 29

J. Graham: 111 yds, TD

NINERS 7

CARDS 9

D. Dockett: 2 sacks (1 for safety)

RAMS 10

SEAHAWKS 22

M. Lynch: 102 yds, 2 TDs

CHIEFS 23

CHARGERS 21

K. Davis: 115 yds, TD

EAGLES 37

COWBOYS 28

L. McCoy: 179 yds/scrimmage, 2 TDs

So… that means the playoff matchups will look as follows:

AFC

#5 CHIEFS at #4 COLTS

#6 STEELERS at #3 BENGALS

BYE: #1 BRONCOS, #2 PATS

NFC

#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).

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