Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Results of "Lions' Share" Poll: McCarthy Gets Most Cred for Turnaround

Lions' Share: To whom do you give the most credit for the Packers' resurgance and 13-3 record last season?
Ted Thompson
3 (27%)
Mike McCarthy
6 (54%)
Ryan Grant
1 (9%)
Brett Favre
1 (9%)
Atari Bigby
0 (0%)
0 (0%)

I have to admit, I was pleasantly surprised by the results of this poll. So much of the in-house Packer Fan Angst the past few years has been between the pro-Favre crowd and the pro-Thompson crowd (as if the two could not peacefully co-exist). Forgotten in some of those "Less Filling, Tastes Great" discussions is the quiet addition of Mike McCarthy, whose ability to make adjustments with the talent and execution he has to work with is perhaps among the best I've seen among new coaches.

Certainly, despite basking in a 13-3 record this past year, I believe MM has more room to grow as a coach, especially as it deals with in-game adjustments. However, perhaps TT's best decision over his tenure was bring in a guy as head coach that no one wanted.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Jemele Hill

Continuing my rant against the self-promoting media types, Jemele Hill was suspended by ESPN (yes, ESPN) for making comments comparing the Boston Celtics to Adolf Hitler.

Part of the column read, "Rooting for the Celtics is like saying Hitler was a victim. It's like hoping Gorbachev would get to the blinking red button before Reagan."

"Jemele has been relieved of her writing and on-air responsibilities for a period of time to reflect on the impact of her words," an ESPN spokesperson said in a statement.

Interestingly enough, I did a little research and found my own comments about Hill just last year on Packerchatters. Seems like just yesterday I said:

It's the "Jim Rome-ification" of the media, especially ESPN. Listening to some of these announcers get assigned to "rant" is very, very tiring.

"Quick, go type up some negative article and rant on it. That's what our readers and fans have come to expect."

That's why I've never been a Rome fan. He lives on the rant. His AOL keyword is "rants". Why would you make that your keyword? I mean, that's his shtick? How can you find something to rant about every single day? You have to look and search and sometimes exaggerate (if not lie about) your true feelings...why? So you can keep the commericals coming.

This lady looks like she's just looking to be the next Stephen A Smith, another wanna-be if I ever saw one. Ignore her and maybe she'll go away.

But, she didn't go away, and she continued her shtick until it finally bit her in the butt. After getting on a soapbox and decrying Don Imus for some rather stereotypical comments about the Rutgers basketball team, she turned around and returned the favor with her own offensive remarks. If you read the rest of her article, it certainly puts the "Hitler" reference in a rather racial context:

Admittedly, to some degree it was about race. Detroit is 80 percent African-American, and as my colleague J.A. Adande stated in a fantastic piece on the Celtics earlier this season, the mostly white Celtics teams of the past had a tough time being accepted by black audiences. Boston was viewed by African-Americans as a racially intolerant city. Boston was the home of the infamous Charles Stuart case -- in which a white man murdered his pregnant wife and blamed it on a black suspect who didn't exist.
She goes on to then say it isn't about race then why mention it in the first place? And why mention one of the biggest white supremacists in the history of mankind to describe rooting for the Celtics?

On ESPN, she offered a quasi-repentant apology:
"I deeply regret the comment I made in a column Saturday. In expressing my passion for the NBA and my hometown of Detroit I showed very poor judgment in the words that I used. I pride myself on an understanding of, and appreciation for, diversity - and there is no excuse for the appalling lack of sensitivity in my comments. It in no way reflects the person I am. I apologize to all of my readers and I thank them for holding me accountable. This has been an important lesson for me and illustrates that, like many people, I still have a lot of growing and learning to do."

This is amusing for a couple of reasons. For one, on her own blog, instead of taking accountability for her words, she lashes out at those who criticized her, pulling the most low-brow of journalistic defenses: "you don't spell things right, so your entire opinion must be wrong".

Times like these, you know who has your back and who doesn't. I'm extremely grateful that I have a strong support network. I've gotten some great emails from people I really respect.

Everything else on this matter will be addressed at a later time.
But just a couple of things I'd like to point out before moving on to that Game 6 atrocity (for the Lakers). 1. It's H-Y-P-O-C-R-I-T-E. If you're going to call me that, just wanted to make sure you have the correct spelling. 2. If you're going to call me a racist and want your point to stick, it kind of levels the argument when you follow it up by calling me the n-word. Just a little bit.
No mention of the people that thought she might have been a hypocrite or a racist and didn't misspell anything or used the n-word. That's one of the most glaring straw man attacks I've seen for quite a while: attack the most ridiculous of the opposing points and have it somehow debase the entire argument.

So, what do you think are her real feelings: the apology, or the blog?

Second point: Jemele isn't exactly known for her acceptance of others' apologies.

Jock Apologies Are Really Sorry
Pettitte's apology was a joke
Apology to Duke lacrosse players not enough
We're not buying it, Roger

So, essentially, do we expect her apology to be sincere? Accepted? She keeps threatening to address the "rest of this issue" at a later time.

It's time to stop giving this lady so much attention. I'm not going to wait for "a later time" to see what else she has to say. ESPN has as much culpability in this situation as she did, because they approved the web article and posted it for all to see, likely because they, too, love that Jim Rome/Stephen A. Smith/Don Imus shock value that brings them ratings. (Indeed...I just made about ten hits on just to get links for this article)

But she is going to get as much faith in her sincere apology as she gives pretty much everyone else. She seems to expect a tremendous amount of penance for others' misdeeds. I wonder if she's really willing to live up to what she expects of them.

Three Layers of Favre and Golf

I was doing a little thinking about the "news" of Brett Favre's generally unexplained withdrawal from a celebrity golf tournament this week.

Brett Favre withdrew Wednesday from the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship at Lake Tahoe next month.

The former Green Bay Packers quarterback will miss the July 11-13 tournament at the Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course because of a scheduling conflict, tournament spokesman Steve Griffith said.

"We didn't get any reason for it. It is a scheduling conflict that we don't have details on," Griffith said during a conference call. "We are hopeful he can attend next year."

Now, there are a couple of ways that this news can be taken. Let's take them layer by layer.

Layer One: Favre is a Poopy Head

First instinct might be that Favre has decided that he is too good for the tournament, or perhaps he is still pondering whether or not to come out of retirement. In any case, he has elected to leave some nice folks trying to run a charity golf tournament in the lurch. When one of the headlining celebrities decides to cancel, it is destructive and selfish behavior.

Some of the Favre Critics may even interpret this as more attention-seeking behavior on his part, choosing to place himself above the "team", as he had done to the Packers for the last ten years or so. In other words, he has simply moved his "holding the team hostage" tactics up to "holding the golf course hostage".

No word yet on whether or not he demanded a private locker room and Randy Moss to be in his foursome. However, let's move on now to...

Layer Two: Favre Doesn't Want To Overshadow Rodgers

The USA Today article doesn't mention it, but included among the celebrities is none other than current Packer quarterback Aaron Rodgers (among 17 other present and former NFL quarterbacks).

Now, if you listen to folks like Mike Vandermause, beat writer at the Green Bay Press-Gazette, you would be under the impression that Favre, despite being retired, is still trying to do all he can to undermine Rodgers' efforts to replace him (see Layer One).

Vandermause, among others in both the media and in the blogosphere, would have you believe that any action (or inaction) on the part of Favre is detrimental to Rodgers' development. For example, Favre stating he is going to miss playing and would be tempted to come out of retirement in an emergency, according to Vandermause, was hurtful to the team, and he should just shut up.

Now, I don't buy for a second that a grown-up like Rodgers, being paid millions of dollars to perform professionally on the football field, is really that intimidated by all this. But, it does make good press, as Vandermause has discovered in the slow Packer news days of May and June.

But I do understand that media circus that would likely occur with Favre and Rodgers playing on the same course on this particular offseason. Endless repeats of the same questions to both quarterbacks as to whether or not Rodgers can ever replace Favre. Constant comparisons, both in golf and in football.

I think Favre decided to not give Vandermause more wet gunpowder to fire with, and elected to let Rodgers have the stage in this golf tournament...not that Rodgers is by any stretch of the imagination the biggest "celebrity" to be teeing off. But, Favre is at least giving him the opportunity to avoid the now-tiresome comparisons that the media seems to need to do.

So, I believe that Favre is electing to withdraw to allow Rodgers to take some of the positive spotlight without having his own spectre looming over him, at least in the eyes of the media, who are always looking to make it more of a story than it is.

Which takes us to...

Level Three: The Media's Pressure Is The Spectre, not Favre

Exactly how long will Favre need to duck any events where Rodgers is present without both the ravenous media fawning over him, or in Vandermause's case, villifying him?

Yes, there are many of us that are "sick of Brett Favre", and even I (a Favre Fan) am excited to see the Packers moving on. But so much of that extra attention and over-coverage wasn't something that Favre engineered. Favre never asked for ESPN to overdo their coverage. Favre never asked for Peter King or John Madden to sing his praises endlessly, or for Frank Caliendo to satire it.

The media are the ones who have built this up, made the Packers "all things Favre", because there was always an audience for it. Even the best Packer fans grew weary of it, thus creating the market for the media "backlash" against "all things Favre".

If Favre is, as I believe, choosing to duck out of this tournament for Rodgers' sake (or perhaps, for his own, as he probably doesn't want to deal with the usual piranhas either), it is a sad commentary on the media, who hold the responsibility for being the eyes through which we sports fans can see all that is going on. The media is supposed to have the integriy to report the news and give us interesting features. With the advent of ESPN, though, sports reporting has become even more tabloid-esque, commercial, and glitzy.

I, for one, wouldn't mind watching Favre play in a golf tournament this summer. I wouldn't mind watching him on FOX and I wouldn't mind watching him re-host his softball tournament each summer. It's just too bad that the media continues to make him a lightning rod, and thus, a pariah in order to protect Aaron Rodgers' apparently fragile psyche.

I certainly don't mind him using his celebrity to help raise money for charities, such as the Brett Favre Fourward Foundation via his softball game, or the Lance Armstrong Foundation, via this American Century Golf Tournament

I will welcome the day when the Vandermause and the rest of the Favre Critics can find other things to grumble about, and Favre can be welcomed back into Wisconsin and celebrated by Packer fans like the other Lambeau Legends are.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Results of "End Around" Poll: Humphrey Projects as #2 TE.

End Around: Which backup tight end will nail the #2 spot on the roster?

Tory Humphrey
7 (87%)
Jermichael Finley
0 (0%)
A Free Agent Yet To Be Signed
1 (12%)

Despite all of the Thompson Draft Lovers who hyped up Jermichael Finley as a great athletic pick, it doesn't appear he's getting much love for this upcoming season. Frankly, I thought he was a bit of a reach and I think will end up being the disappointment of the 2008 draft. I think that Martellus Bennett, taken in the second round by Dallas, was the guy to take.

Humphrey has gotten a lot of positive hype in the past few weeks, so it is not unexpected that he would garner quite a number of votes. Whether or not he can escape the injuries that have plagued him thus far is less of a certainty.

TundraVision Prediction: Humphrey gets hurt, Finley is unable to do much this year in a developmental season. Packers go to the free agent wire to bring in more tight end talent.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Results of "Sam-I-Am" Poll: Chillar Projects as Strong-Side Linebacker

Sam-I-Am: Who will be our starting strong-side linebacker in 2008?
Brady Poppinga 4 (36%)
Brandon Chillar 7 (63%)

So, despite all the excitement about Brady Poppinga the past few seasons, it appears a rather mid-level free agent is projected to supplant him this season.

TundraVision Prediction #1: Chillar wins the strong-side spot.

TundraVision Prediction #2: Poppinga gets it back when an injury takes out Barnett or Hawk for a few games, and Chillar has the flexibility to play all linebacking positions.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Results of "Safety: Odd Man Out" Poll

Odd Man Out: We have three safeties competing for two starting positions. Which of the following players will be watching from the pine in 2008?

Nick Collins 5 (35%)
Atari Bigby 4 (28%)
Aaron Rouse 5 (35%)

Amazingly enough, the guy named after a video game console seems to have the surest hold on his safety job.

TundraVision Prediction 1: Rouse beats out Collins for the Free Safety position this season.

TundraVision Prediction 2: In twenty years, we will be watching Packer players with first names like "Gamecube" and "Wii".

Monday, June 2, 2008

Craig Newsome: We Belong

Confidence. Pride. Knowing you belong among the elite.

There are so many good stories to be told about the Packers of the 1990's, most of which center around names like Favre, White, Butler, or Howard. But the one name that still brings back the feelings of knowing your team is more than just a pretender is Craig Newsome.

The 1995 season was a watershed season for the Green Bay Packers. In the first three years of the Holmgren/Wolf regime, the Packers had compiled three consecutive 9-7 records, entering the last two years as wild-card playoff teams. This, of course, sent our rabid fanbase into a manic state, which isn't too difficult. A 10-6 team in 1989 recently rewarded the quarterback marred by injury and inconsistency with a Packer Hall of Fame bust.

However, the Packers still were a young, struggling team that seemed unable to get over the hump to join the true powers of the day, Dallas and San Francisco, as contenders. In 1993 and 1994, the Packers dreams were crushed in the second round of the playoffs by the Dallas Cowboys. The Packers were simply a good team, but boys playing among men when it came to the real teams battling it out for the Super Bowl.

The end of the 1994 season also brought the end of Sterling Sharpe's career to a neck injury. The feeling at the time was that the 1995 season would be a down year, as there were no established wide receivers on the roster that could fill his 90+ receptions-a-year shoes.

As the Packers started 5-4, the best many Packers fans were hoping for was another wild card berth, and likely, another early booting from the playoffs.

But the Packers found their groove after November, finishing 6-1 and taking their first outright Division crown since 1972.

But the doubt still lingered. Even though Favre had the first of his MVP seasons, Robert Brooks adequately filled the shoes of Sharpe with a less-selfish 102 receptions, and a defense that ranked 4th in points allowed, deja vu struck. There was still the sickening feeling that following an easy first-round win over the Atlanta Falcons, that the Packers would be facing elimination facing one of the "big boys" on the block, in this case, the defending Super Bowl Champion 49ers, on their home field.

The 49ers were heavily favored and most Packer fans, though optimistic, knew this would be another trial by fire against a far more proven opponent.

What happened in the first half of the first quarter of that game on January 6, 1996, changed how the Packers would be viewed by the nation, the media, their opponents, their fans, but most of all, themselves.

On their first possession, the Packers had their drive stalled, and watched as Chris Jacke had his field-goal attempt blocked. "This is not how we wanted this game to start," we thought, "giving them an emotional advantage right off the bat." A sinking feeling hit many of us at that point, despite there being a lot of game left. We'd seen this game before, we thought.

As the 49ers came back from commercial, however, and took their first snap, the Play Of Confidence unfolded for all of us to behold.

Head Coach Mike Holmgren, very cognizant of the 49er mystique after his years there as an offensive coordinator, told his team before the game to not give the 49ers or their fans any reason to light a fire under themselves. Just do your job, make plays, and act like you've been there before.


On the 49ers first play, Steve Young, the all-everything quarterback for several seasons, swung a screen pass out to fullback Adam Walker. Wayne Simmons, the fiery linebacker for the Packers, crunched him like beetle three yards behind the line of scrimmage, and sent the ball out onto the turf.

Cornerback Craig Newsome then made the two most important plays of that game, plays that brought a level of pride among all in Packer Nation that day. First of all, he picked up the ball and ran 31 yards into the end zone, putting the Packers up 7-0 in a hostile environment.

But, perhaps just as important is what he did afterwards, something that doesn't show up in any box score: Craig Newsome slowed to a halt in the endzone, put his hands on his hips, and looked up at the crowd and the scoreboard. He didn't dance. He didn't taunt. He didn't even strut around or do some hand jive with his teammates.

He stood proud, tough, strong in the end zone, then made his way back to the sideline.

At that moment, Packer fans, who had moments before been fretting about whether or not the Packers were going to be able to come back in this game, felt the swell of pride and confidence. This was not the same team that had bent to the greater powers as in past years, content to beat the poorer teams but unable to beat the elite.

Craig Newsome made a loud, clear statement, and the entire NFL took note: The Green Bay Packers BELONG now. This isn't a quirk or an accident, this isn't a charmed team or a string of good luck. The Packers had the swagger to go with the glitter, the confidence to go with the excitement.

From this point forward, if you slap us in the face, we will bust you in the chops.

The rest of the game was a battle of heavyweights, with the Packers seemingly making every play that they needed to along the way, harassing Young, memorably pancaking tight end Brent Jones repeatedly, and holding the 49ers to but a field goal in the first half.

The Packers dominated that game against the defending champs, with only a late TD by the 49ers making the score look as close as 27-17 can. True, the Packers did travel to Dallas the next week and lost the NFC Championship game in another epic battle, 38-27, in which the Packers actually led going into the fourth quarter. All that was proved was that the Cowboys merely outlasted the Packers, instead of purely beating them, and the Packers were now equals.

The Packers were no longer awed by the team across the line of scrimmage. When that game was over, even Troy Aikman admitted that the better team didn't win that day.

The end result is that the Green Bay Packers believed that they were among the elite that day, starting with a fumble return by a corner who made the play and acted like that's exactly what he expected to happen.

As the present-day Packers enter their fourth year under the Ted Thompson regime (and the third under head coach Mike McCarthy), there are a lot of parallels that can be made between that 1994 team and the team that went deep into the playoffs last year. 1995 and 2008 are both watershed years, with both teams losing a cornerstone player that many don't believe can be replaced. Both teams come in with as many doubts as they do hopes for infamy.

This is the year that we need to see another Newsome make a play and tell the Giants, Patriots, Steelers, Chargers, and yes, the Cowboys, that the Packers are more than a one-year wonder or a team riding on the coattails of a now-departed superstar.

No, it doesn't mean we need a "Playmaker". We need more guys like Craig Newsome, a "Player that makes Plays", especially when going against the elite competition in the league. Let's hope that the fade-outs we witnessed when playing teams like the Cowboys and the Giants, in must-win situations, are replaced by well-executed plays by men who believe that they, too, BELONG.