(Almost) ‘America’s Team’

Don’t delude yourselves, Indiana Pacers. America hasn’t fallen in love with you. Roy Hibbert might be good, but Kris Humphries still has a lot more name recognition. Those cheers you’re hearing from across the land aren’t so much for you as they are against the Miami Heat.

LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh aren’t exactly living up to expectations in South Beach. (Wilfredo Lee / Associated Press)

No surprise, of course. Almost two years after LeBron made “The Decision”, it still stands alone as the most obnoxious, out-of-touch, self-aggrandizing event by an athlete ever. Well, except for the following night, when James and his new teammates, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh, starred in that grotesque lights-and-special effects stage production featuring the Big Three doing Jay Leno-style handshakes with the audience and LeBron declaring his intention to win at least a half dozen rings. Too bad it all came off so horribly, because ‘The Decision’ obscured LeBron’s actual decision, which at worst should’ve been a feel-good story about a superstar more concerned with winning than money and at best could’ve delivered a symbolic hero to the millions of Americans suffering because of decisions made by Wall Street.

As best you can, erase the specifics of “The Decision” from your mind. I know, I know — it’s tougher than getting the dog poop out of your favorite sneakers, but do your best. All set? Now, what if I told you there’s an NBA team whose stars represent the same basic ideals as the 99-percenters who’ve been occupying American cities over the past year? Sounds good? Then I’m pleased to present the Miami Heat.

I acknowledge the irony of comparing wildly wealthy NBA players with the average American, but in the NBA universe the players are the proletariat and the owners are the bourgeoisie. Players might be millionaires, but owners are billionaires. In other words, the players are the NBA’s working class. They might have enough influence to sell sneakers and energy drinks to the general public, but they don’t generally have much power when it comes to building an NBA roster.

Or at least they didn’t until July 8, 2010. That’s the day a high school-educated kid from Akron announced that he and two other league employees named Wade and Bosh had decided to circumvent the standard process of having owners, GMs and agents dictate the free-agency process by choosing to play together where they wanted under their own terms. They even took less money to do it. What’s not to love?

Make no mistake, LeBron isn’t without guilt — he was a grown man who should’ve known better than to participate in nonsense so profound as “The Decision” — but I blame his out-of-his-depth manager Maverick Carter and ESPN’s ratings-grabbing producers more for the cockamamie made-for-TV event that re-cast a formerly likable, charismatic guy into the lead villain of an elitist gang of sun-soaked prima donnas. And while I’m at it, shame on LeBron for getting so swept up in the process that he failed to tell his homestate fans in advance that he wouldn’t be returning to the Cavs. Maintain the suspense of his pseudo-gameshow notwithstanding, LeBron had no excuse for letting Clevelanders twist like that. The least he should’ve done — for his own sake, as well as theirs — was show them as much empathy as possible as he made off for beachier pastures.

Which brings me to the most loathsome aspect of “The Decision” … which, of course, was LeBron saying, “I’m taking my talents to South Beach.” He’s still gotta be waking up in a cold sweat of regret over that one. Arrogance, braggadocio and a misanthropic kiss-off to the place he’d spent the first quarter century of his life — all in one short sentence. Imagine how different our collective perception of LeBron if he’d instead said, “I’m going to occupy South Beach.”

Likewise, conservatives should get behind the Big Three. LeBron, Wade and Bosh were merely taking advantage of their individual freedoms provided by our Constitution, fighting to determine their own path instead of waiting for someone to hand it to them from on high. Matter of fact, the Heat are an experiment in the trickledown effect: the success of three top-tier players will theoretically trickle down to the nine lucky schlubs on the court with them.

But of course, it hasn’t worked out that way. Bosh is out, Wade is fuming, and LeBron is getting the lion’s share of the blame. The Heat appear to be on their way to a second straight playoff failure, at least as measured by their “win-or-bust” yardstick. And America couldn’t be happier about it.

Mascot fight club

I’m not sure if Tommy Hearns and Marvelous Marvin Hagler are regular viewers of ‘Mad Men’, but assuming they are, I imagine they both had a good, condescending laugh at the lack of pugilistic proficiency displayed by British dandy Lane Pryce and the weasely Pete Campbell during their too-proper conference-room scrape in last Sunday night’s episode. As for me, I was inspired.

Maybe it’s time we all embrace the lesson Pryce v. Campbell taught us: workplace conflicts need to be settled not with our mouths, but with our fists. Hey, it works on ‘Jersey Shore’ and in the Stanley Cup Playoffs – so why shouldn’t the rest of us give it a shot?

Take the NFL mascots. Let’s say next week at the draft, the Atlanta Falcon makes a snarky crack about Jon Cusack’s ‘The Raven’ looks worse than Joe Flacco in a playoff game, the Baltimore Raven could eschew giving the proverbial bird in favor of settling that wiseacre Falcon’s hash with his bare talons.

Below, I’ve provided my initial rankings* in case a battle royale between NFL mascots breaks out.

* Minus the Jet and Charger. Too tough to evaluate. Is the Jet a private plane used to fly around corporate muckity-mucks… or is it Fighter Jet, armed with state-of-art missiles? Big difference. Same goes for the Charger. If it’s some sort of divine lightning bolt, that’s scary. If it’s a cellphone charger, not as scary.

Anyhoo, let’s not get bogged down – here’s the list:

1. Titan (as in ‘Greek god’… which means he’s probably immortal and knows magic)
2. Giant
3. Buccaneer
4. Cowboy
5. Native American (it feels wrong to use D.C.’s less politically correct nomenclature here)
6. Chief (if he’s the chief, he’s probably an older fella)
7. (tie) Viking; Raider
8. (Buffalo) Bill
9. Bear
10. Lion
11. Bengal
12. Panther
13. Patriot
14. 49er (he’s probably packin’ a six-shooter to protect his gold)
15. Texan (he’s probably packin’ a six-shooter… just because)
16. Ram
17. Bronco
18. Jaguar
19. Colt
20. Steeler
21. Packer (a steel worker has to be tougher than a cardboard-box packer, right?)
22. Eagle
23. Falcon
24. Seahawk
25. Dolphin
26. (Paul) Brown
27. Raven
28. Cardinal
29. Saint (make all the ironic bounty jokes you want, but I’m relying that this Saint will respond to his better angels)

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LAND OF THE FOX SHOWDOWN – THE BAT PACK

(NFL.com Illustration)

In the entire Shek Republic, there is perhaps no more coveted real estate than the Land of the Fox. Unfortunately for most, money cannot buy residency in the LOTF; rather, entry is earned based one’s foxiness… and only the foxiest of foxes shall gain admittance.

With the release of “The Dark Knight Rises” trailer, we’re focusing on the foxiest women to have a romantic dalliance with the Caped Crusader in our first. Apologies to Eartha Kitt, Nicole Kidman, Anne Hathaway and Julie Newmar, the two finalists for our rumble are Michelle Pfeiffer (as Selena Kyle/Catwoman in ‘Batman Returns’) and Kim Basinger (as Vicki Vale in ‘Batman’).

Please cast your vote in the poll on the right-hand side of the page… but choose carefully: the winner gets a permanent home in the Land of the Fox, while the other is banned for eternity.

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Uniform Monitor

(Associated Press)

SUPER BOWL UNIFORM REMATCHUP OF THE WEEK: Raiders/Packers
Super Bowl II (aka Lombardi’s last game with Green Bay) wasn’t an especially compelling game aside from the terrific uniform matchup. Matter of fact, it might be the most underrated Super Bowl matchup ever. Sunday features the Packers in their home green and the Raiders in their white… but it still looks pretty sweet.

AFL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME REMATCHUP OF THE WEEK: Bills/Chargers
Sunday in San Diego offers a rematch of the 1964 and ’65 AFL title games. Too bad the modern-day Bolts no longer feature the black numbers on the hat, the best part of those glorious old unis.

(Associated Press)

THROWBACK WE NEED TO SEE ASA & P: the Bengals’ original getups
In honor the Cincy/Houston matchup (which for longtime AFC Central fans likely conjures names like Dan Pastorini, Ken Burroughs, Ken Riley and Jack ‘The Throwin’ Samoan’ Thompson) I’m hereby making the formal request – nay, demand – that the Bengals come out for at least one game in the simpler, better uniforms they sported when they debuted in the NFL. And we’re on the subject of AFC Central throwbacks, it’s time for the Steelers to dump the gold hats. Thanks to those eyesores, Roethlisberger’s ankle was only the second-most painful thing on Thursday night.

THE YULETIDE SPIRIT MATCHUP OF THE WEEK: Chiefs at Jets
‘Cause of the green and red, understand?

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Should the Packers play it safe, or perfect?

The Packers survived a thriller with the Giants on Sunday and are now 12-0 with three of their final four games at Lambeau Field. With 16-0 a very real possibility, some wonder if Green Bay should even try to pursue it. Why? Look no further than the Packers’ biggest rival, Chicago, where the Bears have lost their starting quarterback and running back over the past three weeks. Should the Packers play for perfection, injury risks be damned, or throw it in cruise control once home-field advantage is locked up?

Check out the answers on NFL.com’s Instant Debate.

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Uniform Monitor: Let’s SEC who is best

(Associated Press/US Presswire)

Like anyone else, December means only one thing to me: Egg nog. After that, though, this month has become the season for complaining about the BCS. For the record, I’m not sure whether it oughta be Oklahoma State or Stanford who gets to play LSU for the title –- but I’m absolutely positive it shouldn’t be a team who already lost to the Hat’s fellas at home. But that’s coming from a purely football perspective.

When it comes to uniforms, the Southeastern Conference rules college football without question. So while others debate the validity of the BCS, today I’ll use this space to rank the best of the best. It’s time to figure out who’s got the number one uniform in the SEC.

SEC UNIFORM STANDINGS
(‘x’ denotes division winner; the number indicates the team’s overall rank in the conference)

EAST
X – GEORGIA
Like the Packers, only with a better color scheme
5. TENNESSEE
I like these, but the Vols are hurt by the fact that Texas does orange and white better.
7. FLORIDA
Get back to the orange pants, wouldya, Gators?
8. KENTUCKY
Hard to screw up the monochromatic look.
10. VANDERBILT
Another good uniform victimized the conference’s high caliber of getups.
11. SOUTH CAROLINA
They barely edge Mississippi State by a logo.

WEST
X – ALABAMA
The numbers on the hats make ‘Bama’s uniforms beyond reproach
3. AUBURN
Would be the best uni in some conferences, but they don’t even the title game in the SEC
4. LSU
Love the tradition of wearing white at home, but that purple jersey looks better.
6. OLE MISS
Good in the red, white or navy blue jerseys.
9. TEXAS A&M
Bringing more maroon coming to the SEC in 2012.
12. MISSISSIPI ST
Marooner.
13. ARKANSAS
Maroonist.

2011 SEC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME: Alabama vs. Georgia

The Dawgs’ red, black and gray is almost paralleled anywhere in the nation. Unfortunately, they’re in the same conference as the Tide.

NFL UNIFORM MATCHUP OF THE WEEK: None

Sorry, but I can’t in good conscience pay homage to any pro team this week. Not when the Redskins could’ve paired handsomely with the Jets if they’d worn their gold pants… but inexplicably opted for the white. Not when the Chiefs could’ve worn their red pants against the Bears… but inexplicably opted for their white. If you NFL teams plan to continue disregarding my advice, you leave me no choice but to slight you all. Believe me, it pains me to not give the award this week, but my integrity and respect for my position as Uniform Monitor prevent me from doing so.

THE “IT’S CHRISTMAS TIME, NOT EASTER” CONFUSING UNI MATCHUP OF THE WEEK: Panthers at Bucs

Is it early December or late April? Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing the Bucs’ creamsicle getups (if only for nostalgia’s sake), but maybe they should’ve saved ‘em for a game against a team that isn’t wearing eggshell blue. As it is, the color matchup evokes the flowery dresses and hats at the Kentucky Derby more than a football game in December.

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Uniform Monitor: Week 12

(Associated Press/US Presswire)

SHAMELESSY IGNORED COLLEGE TRADITION OF THE WEEK: UCLA

(Gary A. Vasquez/US Presswire)

As a young football fan/uniform admirer growing up in western Pennsylvania, I annually loved the sight of USC & UCLA getting it on in late November. I’d wonder, where is this exotic land where both teams wear their home jerseys –- and why does it look so sunny and warm there? Listen, I’ve got no beef with the aesthetically quality of the getups the Bruins wore on Saturday night, but you simply can’t thumb your nose at the uniquely glorious ritual that exists in the Victory Bell Game. C’mon, UCLA: save the all-white for Colorado or WASU –- I wanna see the powder blue vs. the cardinal & gold!

COLLEGE UNIFORM MATCHUP OF THE WEEK: Ohio State at Michigan

A few exposed tattoos notwithstanding, this was nice. Well played, fellas.

THE OCULAR ATTACK OF THE WEEK: Stanford

We’re not laughing with you, Cardinal – we’re laughing at you.

SHAMELESSLY IGNORED NFL TRADITION OF THE WEEK: Detroit Lions

I thought we all agreed that the Lions would wear their mid-20th-century, logo-less uniforms every Thanksgiving. Didn’t we, Detroit? Didn’t we?!

UGLY UNIFORM SUPER BOWL REMATCH OF THE WEEK: Patriots/Eagles

I know you won three Super Bowls –- including XXXIX against Philly -– with the Flying Elvis on your hat, but enough’s enough, New England: do us –- and yourselves –- a favor by returning to the Pat Patriot getups.

NFL PAST & PRESENT MATCHUP OF THE WEEK: Cardinals at Rams

(Courtesy of the Vintage Football Card Gallery)

Thirty years ago, this matchup would’ve meant St. Louis’s football Cardinals paying a visit the LA Coliseum. Now, it’s Phoenix’s redbirds traveling back to their old neck of the woods.

Under the southern California sun > under a dome
Cardinals’ simple white jerseys > Cardinals’ white jerseys with vertical piping
Rams’ Jack Youngblood gold > Rams’ metallic gold

(and speaking of the past, I love the old Topps cards with the logos whited out.)

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Uniform Monitor: Week 10

(US Presswire/Associated Press)

GREAT UNIFORM TRADITION SPOILED BY MARKETING OF THE WEEK: Notre Dame

Okay, Fighting Irish, just exactly what the hell is going on here? I expect this sort of grotesque behavior out of Maryland, but not you, Notre Dame. For shame. You’re Notre Dame. The hats were vomitous, but the truly shameful deed was breaking out the iconic green jerseys as a marketing gimmick. Those are supposed to be used against the likes of USC, not the schizophrenicly-outfitted Terps.

NFL UNIFORM MATCHUP OF THE WEEK (three-way tie): Lions at Bears; Giants at Niners; Saints at Falcons

(John Bazemore/Associated Press)


Sure, I could force myself to choose just one, but I prefer to bask in the visual glory on several pro gridirons this Sunday. In Chicago, a classic NFC North showdown (although Detroit really oughta dump the black trim); in the Bay, the NFL’s best road unis against the nifty Niners’ red-and-bronze; and under the dome in the ATL, those retro-sheik beauties against the Fleur de Lis. Winner? Our eyeballs.

SUPER BOWL REMATCH UNIFORM REGRESSION OF THE WEEK: Redskins/Dolphins

The Dolphins of ’72 looked sharp in all-white when they completed their undefeated season against the wonderful burgundy and gold Redskins in Super VII. In Week 10 of 2010, DC sees fit to go with

their white britches … a move the Uniform Monitor considers a big step backwards.

SUPER BOWL REMATCH IMPROVEMENT OF THE WEEK: Bills/Cowboys

(Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press)

Buffalo’s lousy performances in Super Bowls XXVII and XXVIII against Dallas were matched by the ugly arrangement of their red, white and blue. Thurman Thomas went so far as to put fashion over football when he delayed putting the red helmet on his head. The new/old-and-improved Bills’ getups make the Week 10 visit to Big D much more enjoyable to look at.

COLLEGE UNIFORM MATCHUP OF THE WEEK: Nebraska at Penn St.

Two teams, two colors. And not many more than two points scored. With both uniforms so clean, retro and simple, washed in that brilliant November sun, it almost seemed like 1965. Almost.

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Dameshek’s 11

In honor of 11/11/11, here’s my list of the 11 greatest No. 11s in NFL history (or at least No. 11s that I could think of off the top of my head) …

11. Jeff George
10. Sebastian Janikowski
9. Pat Haden
8. Jim Everett
7. Tony Eason
6. Danny White
5. Mark Rypien
4. Drew Bledsoe
3. Phil Simms
2. Norm Van Brocklin
1. Larry Fitzgerald

(Also receiving vote: Alex Smith, Roy Williams, Greg Landry, Jim Jenson, Mike Sims-Walker, Ed Luther)

(Not receiving vote: Akili Smith)

Welcome to Shekland.com

When we launched this blog page a month or two ago, the goal was to make it a place for the fans, by the fans. With that in mind, today marks the impromptu debut of Shekland.com, a place where the work of young scribes can be read. Here’s some real good Week 9 analysis from Alex Vigderman, an up-and-comer currently matriculating at UPenn. Good stuff, fella!

Here’s the link.

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