Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Cardinals have played on expectations…to a draw

Note: This column appears in the 11/1 issue of the Glendale Star, and the 11/2 issue of the Peoria Times

This Sunday marks the beginning of the second half of the season for the Arizona Cardinals. If I were asked to sum up the first half of the season, I would probably say, “Ehhh,” and then shrug my shoulders. The first seven games have provided a constant mix of good news and bad news for this team. Everything seems to be evening out -- the Cardinals are suddenly Jerry Seinfeld. In fact, let’s recap, shall we?

Bad news: Matt Leinart is playing like crap.
Good news: Here comes Kurt Warner!

- - - - - - - - - - -

Bad news: Here comes a quarterback controversy.
Good news: Leinart got hurt! Controversy over.

- - - - - - - - - - -

Bad news
: Warner is hurt.
Good news: Wait, no he’s not!

- - - - - - - - - - -

Bad news: We are 3-4, under .500.
Good news: Three of those four losses are by a combined eight points, and the 15-point loss to Carolina came with Tim Rattay at quarterback. This team is in every single game.

- - - - - - - - - - -

Bad news: I can’t believe we’re rolling with Tim Rattay! He wasn’t in the league two days ago!
Good news: I can’t believe they’re rolling with Vinny Testaverde! He wasn’t in the league two days ago!

- - - - - - - - - - -

Bad news: We are 1-3 on the road. We have a long way to go to earn respect.
Good news: We have shown amazing chutzpah on the road, making valiant comebacks against Baltimore and Washington, only to fall short at the end. We have earned everyone’s respect.

- - - - - - - - - - -

Bad news
: Levi Brown is out.
Good news: Elton Brown is in!

- - - - - - - - - - -

Bad news
: We lost to the 49ers.
Good news: We beat Seattle!

- - - - - - - - - - -

Now let’s reverse it…

- - - - - - - - - - -

Good news: We beat Pittsburgh!
Bad news: We lost to Vinny Testaverde.

- - - - - - - - - - -

Good news: Neil Rackers nailed a 50-yarder to win the game!
Bad news: Neil Rackers missed a 50-yarder to blow the game.

- - - - - - - - - - -

Good news: With a slate that included two of the first three games against 2006 playoff teams, and then an undefeated Steelers squad, the Cardinals should be thrilled to be sitting at 3-4 right now. Any sane person would have signed up for that on September 1st.
Bad news: That easy second-half schedule ain’t looking that easy anymore. Games at Tampa (4-4), at Cleveland (4-3), and against Detroit (5-2) don’t appear to be the cupcakes they once were on September 1st.

- - - - - - - - - - -

Good news: Ken Whisenhunt is a genius! His original insertion of Warner into the offense was brilliant, and his game plan against the Steelers was the stuff of legend. He should run for President!
Bad news: Ken Whisenhunt is an idiot! What is he thinking having Anquan Boldin throw a pass into traffic with the game on the line? He should be fired!

- - - - - - - - - - -

Good news: You go, Rod Hood! Your interception return for a touchdown against the Rams won us the game!
Bad news: Stupid Rod Hood! Your blown coverage of Steve Smith cost us the game!

- - - - - - - - - - -

Good news: We beat Matt Hasselbeck!
Bad news: We signed Tim Hasselbeck.

At this rate, the Arizona Cardinals are staring straight down the barrel of an 8-8 season, which wouldn’t be so bad, actually. Or would it?

I caught a fish!
I should throw it back.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Classic card of the week

Dennis Awtrey, 1973-74 something

With the start of the NBA season just around the corner, I figured now would be as good a time as any to take a look back, and acknowledge how the NBA has changed. Not much, I say! In fact, on almost any day of the week, you can spot current Chicago Bull Ben Gordon, happily dribbling a basketball in the carpeted hallway of United Airlines Arena, or, at his old high school, on career day. Why? Because what the hell else are you going to do when you’re dressed in full uniform, standing in a carpeted hallway, and someone hands you a basketball? Frown at it? Not likely. Sure, maybe Ben Gordon doesn’t wear his underwear as an actual uniform, and maybe he doesn’t rock the curly white-afro mullet combination. And yeah, he probably wouldn’t be caught dead looking like this under any possible circumstances. In fact, maybe Ben Gordon is bad example. But still, not much has changed! Seriously!

As for Dennis Awtrey, if that name rings a bell, then you must be Dennis Awtrey a die-hard NBA fan! If it doesn’t, then you may be asking yourself questions like, “Was Dennis Awtrey aggressive under the boards? And if so, how would they capture that attribute of his game in cartoon form?” Well then, I think the back of the card can answer both questions for you:

Dennis Awtrey was so famous that he was portrayed by Sean Penn in the 1993 film “Carlito’s Way.” For identity’s sake, Awtrey’s name was changed to Dave Kleinfeld, and instead of playing center for the Chicago Bulls, Penn is a corrupt Jewish lawyer mixed up in gang activity. And he wears glasses. But everything else was pretty accurate, including the emotional scene where “Dave Kleinfeld” is dribbling a basketball in a carpeted hallway. Before being shot.

Did you know?

Dennis Awtrey was unable to attend VH1's recent "Hip Hop Honors" awards show, due to a prior engagement.

Thanks for the card, Bill!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Coyotes, you had me at "giant flying taco"

Note: This column appears in the 10/25 issue of the Glendale Star, and the 10/26 issue of the Peoria Times

I’m not going to lie -- I am not a big hockey fan. In fact, at the Coyotes game this past Saturday night, I went to get a beer with my friend Rashad at one point during the first period. When we tried to go back to our seats, there was a cluster of people waiting to do the same. Of course, I tried to push my way through the crowd with a bunch of “excuse mes” while Rashad waited behind me, pretending like he didn’t know me. Yep, I didn’t realize you had to wait for the whistle to go back to your seat. You know you’re not a hockey fan when one of the three black guys in the arena is telling you how to act.

So yeah, I don’t know much about hockey. But ya’ know what? If I’m going to have the type of time I had this past Saturday night, then there may be hope for me yet.

At the risk of having this come across as some type of corny, “Hey Glendale -- if you haven’t been to Jobing.com Arena, then what the heck are you waiting for?” column, I nevertheless have to say how impressed I was. One thing you have to remember here is that I’m from the East Coast. The only hockey games I’ve ever been to have been Rangers games at Madison Square Garden, where I paid $55 to sit, literally, in the very last row of that cavernous arena, and could only tell that something happened by the crowd’s reaction, because my chances of seeing the puck were as good as my chances of not sitting next to a drunk raving lunatic on the train ride home. (By the way, that would also account for my ignorance when it comes to waiting for the whistle -- there were never any ushers where I was used to sitting, because I never had to worry about blocking the ceiling’s view of the game.)

I honestly had no idea that Jobing.com Arena was more than just a hockey stadium. I didn’t realize it was contained within the Westgate City Center, which features a slew of restaurants, a fountain ( I love fountains!), a concert stage, and a bunch of happy people walking around everywhere. It was just like Madison Square Garden! Except the exact opposite. (However, another thing you wouldn’t see at MSG would be a surplus of people walking around wearing Red Wings jerseys with nary a concern about getting punched in the face. But we’ll get to that later.)

The arena itself was fantastic, and I really don’t think it features a bad seat. (My only complaint? Cup holders on the arm rest instead on the back of the seat in front of you. Weird, but I’ll let it slide.) So needless to say, we had a great time. I especially enjoyed the giant remote-controlled flying taco that drops tickets down to the crowd after the first period. (I love giant flying tacos!)

But most importantly, I was also able to peak inside the psyche of the average Arizona sports fan. I arrived at the game as an indifferent observer, but found myself pulling for the Coyotes amidst the sea of annoying Red Wings fans. I don’t know how the true locals here deal with that -- so many transplants rooting against the home team. That would drive me absolutely crazy. Of course, I’ll be doing the same thing whenever the Yankees play the Diamondbacks, or the Giants face the Cards, but I’m just saying -- I understand your pain.

Hey, that guy grabbed my taco tickets!

Oh, and the Coyotes lost, 5-2. They’re not very good. But keep in mind that’s coming from someone who, during the pre-game introductions, only recognized Chris Chelios because I remember him from NHL ’94 for Sega Genesis. And Wayne Gretzky. I have also heard of him.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Classic card of the week

Mike Lynn, 1991 Pro Set

This is probably my best card featuring the President and CEO of a defunct league. It is also, amazingly, the worst. Nevertheless, Mike Lynn was, as you can see, the President and CEO of the World League. “What the hell is the World League?” you may be asking yourself. Excellent question! The World League provided an alternative for the millions and trillions of people throughout the world who were sick and tired of the NFL. Around 1991, the general consensus was, “Yeah, the NFL is okaaaay, I guess. But what about some freakin’ helmet cams! And I don’t know about you, but I’d like to see some shorter kick-off tees! And let’s get some Asians involved in all of this, ya’ know?”

This is where the World League stepped in, headed by Mike Lynn, who left his post as director of cruise ship operations for the Minnesota Vikings in order to do so. The World League consisted of 10 teams, including the New York / New Jersey Knights (rolls right off the tongue!), the Tallahassee Flamerockets, the Sydney Bearblasters, the Icelandic Torturers, the Walla Walla Dragon Decapitators, and the Egyptian Pyramids, among several others. All of these teams were required to wear helmets. Occasionally, Mike Lynn would gather up all the helmets of his respective teams, and bathe with them, basking in the glory of the league he had given birth to.

Astonishingly, the World League did not become the most popular league ever. Apparently, other parts of the world do not enjoy being force-fed American culture. I know, weird. “Hey, who cares about Manchester United? The New York slash New Jersey Knights are coming to town!” Even America hated the World League, a reality made public when American icon John (Cougar) Mellencamp refused to sing a song about it for commercial truck ads.

Nevertheless, the World League did, in fact, leave its imprint on earth. Among the various things spawned by the World League were a) the XFL – an equally successful endeavor, b) the two-point conversion (seriously), c) chili cheese fries, d) the Internet, e) He Hate Me, f) a potential Super Bowl in London g) the second season of “According to Jim,” h) virtual shin guards, i) this guy, and j) Zubaz.

Did you know?

According to the back of this card, Mike Lynn was a “player” for “none years.” He was however, a playa, for life.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Cardinals versus Redskins: Tale of the Tape

Note: This column appears in the 10/18 issue of the Glendale Star, and the 10/19 issue of the Peoria Times

The Arizona Cardinals travel to Washington this week to face a surprising Washington Redskins team. The surprise is that they’re decent, though the same could be said of the Cards. Anyhoo, in leu of stringing together moderately coherent sentences, I’ve instead decided to do a “Tale of the Tape” featuring random words and choppy phrases that make no sense to anyone who is unfamiliar with either team. This is where my lack of a journalism degree really comes in handy! Hi mom!

Arizona Cardinals (3-3) versus Washington Redskins (3-2)

Nickname: (Cardinals) Inappropriate, needs to be changed

Protector of the desert

Nickname: (Redskins) Offensive, needs to be changed

Redskins: Taught the Pilgrims how to play trombone

Advantage: Arizona Cardinals Scorpions

Head Coach: (Cardinals) Young, seems to like football, defers to no one

Head Coach: (Redskins) Old, seems to like car racing, defers to assistant coaches, old

Advantage: Push

Quarterback: (Cardinals) Currently accepting applications

Quarterback: (Redskins) One of the most promising young QBs in the NFL

Advantage: Redskins

Running back: (Cardinals) Miami-bred, good-not-great, not really a threat to break one, gold teeth, ruined my fantasy team last year

Running back: (Redskins) Maimi-bred, good-not-great, weird, a threat to break one (if by "one" you mean "knee"), ruining my fantasy team this year

Advantage: Push

Wideouts: (Cardinals) Tall, strong, fast, good, lots

Wideouts: (Redskins) Diminutive, fast, injured, expensive

Advantage: Cardinals

Tight end: (Cardinals) What's that?

Tight end: (Redskins) Arguably the league's best

Advantage: Redskins

Defense: (Cardinals) On the rise, great against the run, the team's strength, safety Adrian Wilson is nuts, but in a good way

Defense: (Redskins) Solid, have only allowed five touchdowns in five games, safety Sean Taylor is nuts, but in a bad way

Advantage: Cardinals...just barely

Owner: (Cardinals) Not very popular, reputation for not throwing any money around

Owner: (Redskins) Not very popular, reputation for throwing too much money around

Advantage: Push

Fan Base: (Cardinals) Frustrated but optimistic, perpetually dealing with transplants from different parts of the country rooting for other team (and "covering" theirs...poorly)

Fan base: (Redskins) Dress like hogs, I don't get it, thank my lucky stars each and every day I'm not one of them

Advantage: Cardinals

Yeah, Ma?! Listen -- I forgot my pig nose again. I need you to send it with Jimmy...

Momentum: (Cardinals) Just lost to Vinny Testaverde at home, lost their starting quarterback, who was originally their backup quarterback

Momentum: (Redskins) Coming off of a loss at Lambeau Field to the resurgent Packers

Advantage: Redskins

Home City: (Cardinals) Awesome. Home of the Glendale Star! occasionally hot

Home City: (Redskins) Corrupt, home to lesser newspapers, sometimes referred to as the "Murder Capital of the World," cherry blossoms

Advantage: Cardinals

History: (Cardinals) Prefer not to talk about it

History: (Redskins) 3-time Super Bowl champions

Advantage: Redskins

Notable Leg Injury: (Cardinals) Kicker Bill Grammatica tears ACL after jumping up and down like an idiot while celebrating a first quarter field goal

Notable Leg Injury: (Redskins) Lawrence Taylor shatters Joe Thiesmann's leg on "Monday Night Football"

Advantage: Cardinals (for comedy)
Redskins (for grossness)

Fight Song: (Cardinals) Could use one; suggestion: "Kick in the Door," Notorious B.I.G.

Fight Song: (Redskins) "Hail to the Redskins"

Advantage: Redskins

This Sunday: (Cardinals) Jetlag, Tim Rattay, +6

This Sunday: (Redskins) Lest we have a Mark Brunnell sighting...

Advantage: Redskins

So, judging by the “Tale of the Tape,” it appears as though the Redskins have a slight advantage heading into this week’s matchup. Personally, I think the Cardinals have their work cut out for them, considering that they’re across the country, on the road, and pretty much without a healthy quarterback who knows all the plays. That could be a recipe for disaster. But, I’ve learned not to doubt Ken Whisenhunt and this Cardinals’ defense.

Either way, this team needs a fight song. Stat. And a quarterback. That would also help.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Classic card of the week

Steve Balboni, 1990 Bowman

For the seventh consecutive season, the New York Yankees are not going to win the World Series. Joe Torre’s reign as manager may be over, most of the fan favorites of the late 90’s teams have since retired, and many of the remaining veterans are at a crossroads. Also, A-Rod and blah, blah, blah.

I spent most of the past week or so feeling down and out about the Yanks, and wondering what the future holds. Then, while flipping through some old cards and trying to come up with a winner for “Classic Card,” I stumbled upon this.

Sometimes in life, a little perspective is all you really need. Here I am feeling sorry for myself about the current state of affairs for the Yankees, and it occurred to me that I had forgotten where I came from (New Jersey). For in the vast realm of history, it wasn’t too long ago that this guy was providing the bomb for the Bronx Bombers. Yikes.

I, along with many other like-minded kids of my age, I think, used to call Balboni “Steve Balboner.” I think this was mainly thought up as another excuse to throw the word “boner” out there, but also because most of Balboni’s at-bats ended with boners, which was another word for “strikeout,” but only in the context of Steve Balboni, if that makes sense. Anyhoo, Balboni also had a more popular nickname -- “Bye, Bye” Balboni -- which referenced his prodigious home run power, but was also what opposing pitchers would mutter to themselves as they watched Balboner walk back to the dugout after striking him out 166 times in 1985 (while with Kansas City, but you knew that).

So while I am wondering if our uber-athletic, pretty-boy cleanup hitter -- arguably the greatest player ever -- is going to opt out of his $252 million contract for a $400 million contract, it was not even 20 years ago when I was wondering why a guy who looked like an overweight version of the “Time to make the donuts!” guy was at the plate in a big spot. Seeing this card again made me realize how I’ve taken for granted the past 15 years of my Yankee fandom.

Then again, I kind of miss those days. Friggin’ Balboner, right?! Also on the 1989 and 1990 Yankees squad was Mel Hall, who infamously made a young Bernie Williams’ life miserable, and who is currently being brought up on sexual assault charges (though not by Bernie Williams). Good times! And managing by the end of the 1990 season was the 7,000 lb Stump Merrill. Man, if nostalgia isn’t dreaming of Balboner, Mel, and Stump, then call me insensitive. Which reminds me, where’s Buster Olney’s book on that dynasty?!

Oh, by the way, I mentioned that Balboni was a member of the 1985 Royals (a season in which he hit 36 home runs), who went on to win the World Series that year. In that series against the Cardinals, Balboni hit .320 with three RBI, and, according to his Wikipedia page, displayed uncharacteristic solid defense. So, in conclusion, Steve Balboni has one more World Series ring than Alex Rodriguez, and, as it stands, was infinitely more clutch. Hmmm, I smell a new nickname!


Did you know?

Steve Balboni played Mike Seaver’s best friend on “Growing Pains.”

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Classic card of the week

Bryan Clutterbuck, 1989 Topps

When Bryan Clutterbuck first met his Brewers’ teammate Robin Yount, he introduced himself by saying, “Hi! I’m Bryan Clutterbuck. That’s Bryan with a ‘y,’ and Clutterbuck with a ‘Clutterbuck.’” That happened in 1986, during Clutterbuck’s first stint with Milwaukee, where he immediately became a household name, except not really. He would rejoin the club in 1989, which is when his career really took off, and by “took off,” I mean came to a halt. States the back of the card:

He earned his 1st major league Win: 4-25-89.
He earned his 2nd major league Win: 5-25-89.

One could easily assume – because this is Bryan Clutterbuck we’re talking about here – that he simply chose to space out his victories in perfect month-long intervals, giving him six wins every season (which is, amazingly, exactly what a 44-year old Roger Clemens is worth!). But alas, Bryan Clutterbuck would never see the big leagues again after that elusive second win, a result of him tearing his groin muscle while playing Marco Polo at the semi-annual Clutterbuck Family Reunion.

Bryan Clutterbuck had the look of Brian Scalabrine, and the confidence of a man not named Clutterbuck. He sort of had a mustache. Also, he was a hit with the fans. Legend has it, if you handed Bryan Clutterbuck a Bryan Clutterbuck card, he would sign it. Sideways, and right across his friggin’ face. That was how he rolled. Kind of.

Did you know?
After causing a bench-clearing brawl with an errant fastball in 1989, a headline in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel read: “Clutterbuck causes cluster*uck.”

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

An Idiot’s Guide to the Cards’ 34-31 win over the Rams

Note: This column appears in the 10/11 issue of the Glendale Star, and the 10/12 issue of the Peoria Times

This past Sunday the Cardinals were the early game against the St. Louis Rams, and I decided to take notes on everything that occurred. Here’s what transpired…

9:52 AM: Okay, I’m at my friend Rashad’s house, who has Direct TV’s Sunday NFL Ticket. Of course, he set up a second TV so I could watch the Cardinals, because he didn’t want to waste his HD on a game featuring Gus Frerotte and Kurt Warner. Can’t really blame him.

10:01: The game hasn’t started yet, and Rams’ coach Scott Linehan is cursing on the sidelines. Good sign for the Cardinals.

10:02: Matt Leinart calls a play, throws an interception, claims he was misquoted.

10:08: Rams’ go up 3-0. Frerotte gets so pumped he bangs his head into the wall.

10:19: The camera pans to a shot of Matt Leinart’s hip, which looks like a plate of eggplant parm. I didn’t know you could get an STD on your hip!

10:24: My fantasy kicker, Neil Rackers, nails a 50-yarder to tie it. I get so pumped up that I bang my head into the wall.

10:30: Rutgers grad Brian Leonard busts for a 31-yard gain, which is followed by a 16-yard TD pass to Drew Bennett. It’s the Caucasian parade! The Cardinals were not prepared.

10:48: Jerheme Urban can’t handle a potential TD pass, foiling the Cards’ attempt to join the Caucasian parade. Rackers subsequently has a 39-yard field goal attempt blocked, ending the parade altogether.

10:58: Here comes Warner, who gets a huge ovation. Apparently, he used to play for St. Louis. Who knew?

11:01: Edgerrin James fumbles the ball into the endzone, and it’s seemingly recovered by St. Louis. It’s ruled a touchdown for the Cards. Apparently, you don’t need possession of the football in the endzone to score a touchdown anymore, giving me 17 touchdowns on the year.


11:12: Rams’ coach Scott Linehan seems satisfied with the refs explanation of the touchdown. In related news, Scott Linehan is not a good coach.

11:15: Leinart is back in. So wait, Leinart runs the two-minute offense, but Warner runs the no-huddle? I’m confused. Which guy runs the offense that involves touchdown passes?

11:17: Leinart gets absolutely drilled by Will Witherspoon. That can’t be good.

11:22: Adrian Wilson knocks down a Rams player for no reason, giving St. Louis excellent field position. Field goal. Put those three points on Adrian Wilson’s tab, thank you.

: The Cardinals luck out because the Rams pull an Adrian Wilson and kick the ball after an Edgerrin James rush as the clock expires. Kurt Warner gets his first rushing touchdown in 36 years. 17-13 Cardinals at the half.

11:53: St. Louis begins the second half with a TD to Torry Holt. Cards’ D ain’t looking too good.

12:03: Warner starts the second half, as the Cardinals claim that Leinart’s “hip has fallen off.” Not sure if I believe that, but whatever.

12:05: First play? Fumble. Now THAT’S the Warner we all know and love!

12:12: We find out that the Cardinals placed actual traps in the locker room to remind them that this is a trap game. Is that really necessary? I mean, these are grown men we’re talking about here, not fourth-graders. I’m just saying.

12:14: I take that back. Rod Hood has visions of traps in his mind as he picks off Frerotte. Kurt Warner takes advantage of this by throwing an interception in the endzone. Rashad screams for them to “put Leinart back in!” but Leinart is caught inside of a trap inside the locker room.

12:20: Actually, Leinart is now on the sidelines wearing a sling. It doesn’t look like he’s coming back. No word on whether Warner has signed his cast yet.

12:29: Warner is now hitting Rams players in the head with passes. Awesome. Rackers makes it a 20-20 game.

12:45: Rod Hood may have just won this game for the Cards. He returns his second interception for a touchdown.

12:53: Field goal Rams. 27-23.

1:07: Adrian Wilson picks off Frerotte. Gus Frerotte threw a costly interception? Weird.

: Warner to Fitzgerald! Game over. The Arizona Cardinals are in 1st place in the NFC West. They may have just earned HD status for Week 6. Sweet.

Timeout! My shoes are untied!

Well, that sucked

To Chien Ming Wang: Maybe you need a new pitch. Dick.

To Derek Jeter: You’re officially on notice.

To Roger Clemens: Go away.

To Andy Pettitte: Whatever.

To Jorge Posada: A hit would have been nice. But hey, you call a great game.

To Joe Torre: Thanks for staying awake.

To Johnny Damon: That thing down the first base line is called “first base.” You should go there sometime.

To Mike Mussina: Thanks for sucking so bad this season that the team had to ask a cigarette-smoking sinker-baller to pitch on three days rest.

To Alex Rodriguez: I don’t care what you do.

To Jason Giambi: You still here?

To John Sterling: Don’t worry, it was the bugs’ fault.

Joe, wake up! You're fired.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Classic card of the week

Greg Screpenak, 1992 Collector’s Edge

Greg Screpenak played rookie guard for the Los Angeles Raiders in 1992. Because the Raiders were the only team in the NFL to define their offensive line by seniority and not positional placement, Screpenak was ineligible to play the position the following year, or for the rest of his life. Nevertheless, Screpenak was also the first player in modern football history to have the left arm of an African American man, the face of a young Tony Siragusa, and the IQ of an oriental rug, paving the way for others of his ilk. According to the back of the card, “the L.A. coaching staff is impressed with his use of his size and long arms to overwhelm defenders.” So there was that, also.

Oh, and Greg Screpenak’s name was not Greg Screpenak, a little-known fact I discovered while Googling Greg Screpenak. To this, Google replied, “Do you mean ‘Greg Skrepenak?’” And I was all like, “Shit, I don’t know what I mean anymore when it comes to Greg Screpenak!” Frustrated but determined, and now presented with two conflicting pieces of information, I used my investigative abilities to delve further into the matter. Amazingly, it turns out that this card is an absolute fraud, as anyone who has stumbled upon Greg Skrepenak’s scintillating Wikipedia page already knows, it’s Skrepenak with a “K.” In performing this exhaustive research, I also discovered an inspirational Greg Skrepenak quotes page, which include such gems as, “This is the first time I’m seeing these actually. Our staff did a pretty intensive search for these and I believe he was the only one who showed any interest.” (Funny, I always thought that was Aristotle.) It appears as though the misunderstood Greg Skrepenak is no longer toiling away as a rookie guard for the Los Angles Raiders, but is rather using his long arms to overwhelm skeptics with his powerful thoughts.

Did you know?
Opposing defenders in 1992 could often be heard screaming, “Aaaarrrggghhhhh! I’m being overwhelmed by Greg Skrepenak’s long arms!” before dying.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Whisenhunt discovers defense, shows it to team

Note: This column appears in the 10/4 issue of the Glendale Star, and 10/5 issue of the Peoria Times

If someone were to say to me, “Hey Mike, what have you learned since you moved to Arizona?” I would first tell them that I didn’t come here to learn -- I came here to get a better tan. Then I would explain that I’ve learned two main things since arriving in Arizona.

First and foremost I’ve learned that -- and I hope this doesn’t come across as a vast generalization -- everyone in this state drives like an absolute maniac. I’ve honestly never experienced anything like this in my life. It’s comical to me that the NY/NJ area gets a bad rep for their drivers, when the locals here would make a New York City cab driver fear for his life. Everybody here drives 50 miles over the speed limit and tailgates like a mo' fo', which is made even more intimidating when you consider that 99% of the vehicles on the road here are pick-up trucks with tires the size of Ferris wheels. I’m not even entirely sure if any of the vehicles in Arizona come with turn signals, because I’ve never seen anybody use one. The second I pull out of my driveway in the morning, a monster-sized pick-up truck is riding my bumper, and I end up hunched over the steering wheel like an 80-year old woman, praying for the street to turn into two lanes. I’m thinking of building a giant steel cage around my car, just to be safe.

Secondly -- and probably more importantly when it comes to the purpose of this column -- I’ve learned that Ken Wisenhunt can coach his butt off.

If there was any lingering skepticism as to the offseason hiring of Whisenhunt heading into this past Sunday’s game against Pittsburgh, it is officially gone at this point. I used to hear that having Bill Parcells as your head coach was good for at least three wins on its own (and at least 16 condescending post game press conferences to boot!), and I don’t know if that’s true. But one thing’s for sure -- Ken Whisenhunt is the reason the Cardinals beat the Steelers.

On Sunday, Whisenhunt exposed the offensive deficiencies of the offense he once coached, and outcoached the man who was hired in his stead. Not only that, but through the first four games of the 2007 season, Ken Whisenhunt has given the Arizona Cardinals an identity, and it’s one that has much less to do with Matt Leinart than it does with Darnell Dockett.

A team that was perceived by many (see: me) to be above average offensively and nonexistent defensively has redefined their mission (former mission: 4-12), and somehow managed to make a moot point of the fact that a confused and underachieving kid is battling the shell of a former MVP for snaps. Or that the teams’ best offensive weapon is wearing street clothes.

None of that matters. Not when Ken Whisenhunt has magically turned the Cardinals into a defense that opposing teams can simply not run on. Not when the Cardinals’ special teams -- the Cardinals have special teams? Who knew?! -- are making Devin Hester take notice. Not when the Cardinals are sustaining drives by running the ball. And if this identity of a great defense, solid special teams play, and a smash mouth offense sounds familiar, it’s probably because 99.9% of the teams who embrace it and execute it are successful. I know, weird. And it all starts with the head coach.

What the hell is on my leg? I thought we were playing the Cardinals?

By the way, funny that on the same day the underdog Cardinals moved to 2-2, the supremely talented Chargers fell to 1-3. I wonder what the difference was…

Wait, I stopped wondering. It’s this guy. So as you watch the Chargers self-destruct, and enjoy the Dennis Green Coors Light commercials, thank your lucky stars that Ken Whisenhunt is here. He has given Cardinals fans reason to come to the stadium.

In fact, I may even go myself, as soon as my cage is finished.

Arizona's version? "Tailgating: Because five car lengths is for bitches."