Welcome to the Sports Hangover, the weekly Monday ritual of making sense of the wild week now fading into memory. Did we really watch the Colts come back from 28 down in the second half? Was Andy Reid suffering from the clock-management DTs or was the Chiefs playoff loss a twisted repeat of an Eagles Super Bowl defeat? Surely 105,000 hockey fanatics filling the Big House was part of a New Year’s Day Twilight Zone marathon? Let the Sports Hangover lift the fog and haze from the lost weekend.
Putting the ‘Wild’ in Wildcard Weekend
A few minutes into the 3rd quarter of Saturday’s Chiefs-Colts game, I experienced a sports déjà vu–one of those inexplicable moments that flashes back to some seemingly unconnected event. The moment that invaded my consciousness Saturday came from the 2006 AFC Championship game. Down 21-3 in the second quarter, Peyton Manning transmitted a vibe from the RCA Dome to the RCA in my living room. My ESP translated the message as, “If the Patriots don’t crush me now, I’m coming back and winning this thing.” The man was as good as his vibe.
His replacement proved as good as his vibe, or at least his name, too. Andrew Luck, despite completing passes far too often to the other team, nevertheless came across as confident down 38-10 with less than a half of football to play. If Chiefs fans didn’t divine the foreboding skies in the form of Luck’s bomb to T.Y. Hilton that would soon make it 38-17, then surely their sixth sense spoke to them when Luck recovered Donald Brown’s fumble for six. In one moment, the momentum swung from Indianapolis to KC back to Indianapolis. For the oblong spheroid to bounce straight to the quarterback’s breadbasket served as a sign to all believers that the football gods smiled upon Andrew Luck that day.
Philadelphians, watching the game as an afternoon appetizer to their evening main course, surely experienced sports déjà vu in the Chiefs’ tortoise-and-the-hair misuse of timeouts. The camera capturing Andy Reid lethargically discussing the next play with Alex Smith, after a bizarre timeout following the two-minute warning, evoked painful visions of Donovan McNabb gingerly running the hurry-up-offense in the waning minutes of Super Bowl 39. Fourth-and-eleven on the road with two minutes and no timeouts remaining isn’t a good place to be.
Look out. Andrew Luck has arrived. Despite tossing three interceptions, the second-year QB showed poise and guts–he throws a Flacco-like long ball when it matters–and has made believers of his teammates and Colts fans. Andrew Luck is starting to happen. Matt Drudge never posted a nude picture of Peyton Manning for the world to see, after all. We know more about 2012’s number one pick from this weekend than from all his previous weekends, and some of it–thanks a lot, Pat McAfee!–I wished that I had never known.
The surreal spectacle of 105,000 screaming hockey fans cheering on two original six franchises under falling snow ensured that the Winter Classic lived up to its billing. But scheduling six outdoor contests in one season risks turning a classic into something common. Like the NFL’s overextension of Thursday night games or the NBA’s overindulgence of gimmicky uniforms, more proves less. Enlisting the Kiss Army to sell tickets for this month’s Dodger Stadium match-up between the Kings and Mighty Ducks is a sign of this–or of the apocalypse.
Hit by Jefferson, Crushed by Jefferson
I almost fell off my chair watching the high school Army All-American Bowl on Saturday when the announcer matter-of-factly reported that Davidson, North Carolina’s Will Grier passed for 837 yards and 10 touchdowns during a game this season. In Tecmo Bowl?
Consulting with the Great God Google to determine the truth of this strange claim, I discovered more strangeness: a). Grier is only a junior; b). A case can be made that an opposing player boasted the more impressive stat line. Harrells Christian running back Russell Washington posted 699 yards and 7 touchdowns on Davidson High in defeat; c). Grier credited his defense for the 104-80 win. Whatcha talkin bout, Will?
To put the passing accomplishment into perspective, I again petitioned the Great God Google, this time for enlightenment on the kid whose single-game record Grier broke. Was it Dan Marino? Peyton Manning? Johnny Unitas? It turns out it wasn’t even Chris Redman. David Koral, who attended UCLA after setting the single-game high school passing mark, threw for 764 yards in a Palisades High School win over Grant High School of neighboring Van Nuys in 2000. Not since an intimidating Charles Jefferson of the Ridgemont High Wolves single-handedly defeated Lincoln back in ’82 as revenge for the damage inflicted on his sweet ’79 Camaro had a California high school football player turned in such an awesome, totally awesome performance.
At UCLA, Koral backed up Drew Olsen and made the most of his few snaps, going 10 for 17 with two touchdowns and no interceptions over the 2004 and 2005 seasons. Whereas Olson sniffed around the NFL for a few years, Koral’s football dreams essentially ended at UCLA. But he can always look back on that surreal game against Grant. Koral essentially played in a dream. Who throws for 764 yards in a game? 837 yards? David Koral and Will Grier, that’s who.
Speaking of ’82
Another amazing performance from a high school quarterback, albeit a backup in Idaho, occurred back in ’82 when Rico Dynamite threw a football over a mountain. If I hadn’t heard of the feat from the man himself, I would have believed it as much as I had initially believed Will Grier’s 837 passing yards, which, added together in one throw, maybe gets a football over a large hill. But a mountain? Here’s hoping Grier’s future is brighter than Uncle Rico’s.
And while we’re on the subject of ’82, Air Supply’s “Making Love Out of Nothing at All” inexplicably invaded my ears after a welcome three-decade respite. Okay, so it’s from ’83. Those years coalesce into one after a while. Anyhow, for anyone doubting that early MTV featured worse acting than your local avant-garde community theater, I offer Air Supply’s video treatment of Jim Steinman’s most Jim Steinmanesque song as exhibit A. Watch the video and testify truthfully: The wooden acting is actually worse than the sappy song, isn’t it?
Player Pitcher Hating
Last week, I wrote about the Hall of Fame’s recent preference for honoring off-field contributions over the guys who actually contributed on the field. After the Baseball Writers’ Association of America inducted no players into the Hall of Fame last year, they’re poised to induct Greg Maddux, and perhaps even 300-game winner Tom Glavine, later this week. The Hall of Fame isn’t for everyone. But isn’t it for Frank Thomas and Jack Morris?
David Schoenfield makes the point that that Hall voters have been far too stingy in issuing passes to starting pitchers, barricading the doors to Curt Schilling and Mike Mussina for a Hall of Fame that let in Catfish Hunter and Ferguson Jenkins. “The Baseball Writers’ Association of America treats starting pitchers like they’re infected with the plague,” Schoenfield writes. “They’ve elected one in the past 14 years: Bert Blyleven in 2011. And Blyleven, despite winning 287 games and ranking 11th all-time in WAR among pitchers, took 14 years to finally get in. Meanwhile, the BBWAA has elected three relief pitchers in those 14 years, so it’s not an anti-pitcher bias; it’s an anti-starting pitcher bias.” It’s no malady that Greg Maddux, Pedro Martinez, and Randy Johnson can’t soon cure.
Road Teams Have It Covered
All four road playoff teams, even the Kansas City Chiefs–2-point underdogs–covered the spread this weekend. That’s no consolation for long-suffering Chiefs fans. Kansas City hadn’t covered in a playoff game since defeating the Houston Oilers in the divisional round after the 1993 regular season. Leaving aside the lingo of degenerate gamblers, the Chiefs have gone 0-8 in the postseason since that Joe Montana-led win twenty years ago. If your last playoff victory coming against a team that has been known by another name since Bill Clinton’s impeachment doesn’t scream “failure,” then perhaps setting the NFL record for most consecutive playoff losses, as the Chiefs managed to Saturday, does.
The Howard Hughes of the NBA
Kevin Durant dropped 48 points on the Timberwolves Saturday night. The Oklahoma City Thunder small forward’s 29.2 points per game puts him on track to claim his fourth scoring title in seven seasons. He’s the best player on the West’s best team, at least in terms of the standings. Meanwhile, Greg Oden, the center who edged Durant out for the top spot in the 2007 draft, plays for the East’s top team–only Greg Oden doesn’t play. Despite briefly appearing in the preseason, the Miami Heat center hasn’t entered a regular season game in four years. He’s like a pre-Chinese Democracy Axl Rose or a post-Two-Faced Woman Greta Garbo: an enigma conspicuous through absence. Since Portland drafted him with the number one pick in 2007, Oden has played in just 82 games–one full season. Portland fans knock the Trailblazers for drafting Sam Bowie before Michael Jordan. Fair enough. But Bowie (10.9 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 1.8 bpg) at least had a serviceable NBA career over ten seasons. Erik Spoelestra, if the laws of supply-and-demand don’t compel you to give the people what they want, then consider my plaintive plea: unleash the Oden.
Phil Everly, RIP
Phil Everly brought harmony into a discordant world. Whenever you want to escape to innocence, all you have to do is pres play. The ethereal quality of The Everly Brothers’ treatment of “All I Have to Do Is Dream,” the only song ever to hit number one on every Billboard singles chart, evokes a different time, a different place. It’s gone, and so is Phil Everly. But the timeless ode, and the sentiment behind it, lives foreverly.