Posts Tagged 'football'

Why I picked the Jags and Can’t Figure Out Bret Michaels…yet.

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I kicked off this blog with an entry touting the Jaguars, explaining how and why they would, without a doubt, crush the New England Patriots under their cleats. Wrong. Wrong again*. Though I take a little comfort in knowing that just about every sportswriter and the guys in Vegas were wrong about at least one game this weekend (I mean, come on, which Manning brother were you banking on playing next Sunday?) Tom Brady and the Patriots juggernaut rolled on, like everyone, myself humbly excluded, knew they would. Pulling for the underdog is not a unique trait, but it seems rare in the face of bandwagon powerhouses like the Patriots, the Shaq-era Lakers or the whenever Yankees, before the Pats and BoSox and Celtics, or Boston in general, became the fashionable team to root for.

Competitive reality shows are the same way, like my new favorite (as of last night) “Rock of Love 2”. These shows tend to provide their audiences with  clear favorites and clear, often more likeable longshots. I got in on the first season of “Rock of Love” late in the game, only seriously watching the final two episodes, and as far as I could tell, Heather, the raggedy washed-out stripper had the game locked down while Jes, her far younger, far more attractive opponent, was facing an inevitable elimination. Bret chose Jes and my world flipped upside down.

Unlike professional sports, reality television is controlled, edited to provide the viewing audience with certain ideas and feelings about the people involved, a sense of escalating (and often misleading) tension and inevitable conflict. It’s similar to the machinations of a whodunnit thriller. The outcome may not be fixed (and who cares anyway?) but the season’s narrative structure fixes our perceptions of the game as it plays out. 

With sports, I’m not always wrong. I picked the Pistons over the Lakers in 2004, and even predicted the series would go only five games (which it did). I picked the BoSox that same year, while the rest of America cheered the Yankees. But then I also picked the Jazz over the Bulls (and thus, Michael Jordan at his best) in ’97. You don’t bet against Jordan. Ever. And as far as I could tell, Heather, with her coarse and dried-out blonde hair, her puckering first-or-second-generation breast implants and haggard tan skin seemed like the Michael Jordan of “Rock of Love”. But in the finale it was anyone’s guess. One minute, Bret and Jes seemed absolutely in love, but the next, Heather looked too strong, too perfect-for-Bret to ever be denied.

I picked Heather. I was wrong. But being wrong about reality television, given the nature of the thing, is hard to take. Because the machinations, both those of the contestants and those in the editing room, are so apparent, it’s hard not to want to see them coming and figure them out. Where professional sports betting utilizes statistical probabilities, audiences appeal to their knowledge and experience of human behavior and dramatic structure. It’s armchair anthropology and, to a lesser extent, literary criticism.

The bigger question of why we (or at least I) watch is still impossible for me to figure out. When it comes to pro sports, I watch to marvel at the peak athleticism and the thrill of competition and, in many cases, the subtleties of the games: the perfectly executed play action pass or fast break, the broken tackle, the 5-4-3 double play. But the appeal of reality television, my motivation for watching, is elusive. The best explanation I have is that people love to watch people (and reality show contestants tend to be terribly fascinating) and, more than that, people love to be right about things.

I wanted to be right about the Jaguars. I wanted to believe that with the level of talent in the NFL, on any given week any team can beat any other and arguably the Chargers and Giants proved this. Yet the Pats remain undefeated. It just doesn’t seem natural. They are too dominant. Belechick is too untouchable. Brady, in just about every conceivable way, is too perfect. It feels scripted in the unscripted way of reality television. And yet I can’t figure the scripting out in either medium.

I was wrong time and time again last night during “Rock of Love”. When a particularly skanky contestant would throw herself at Bret, interrupt his conversation, shove some flesh in his face, I’d think, wow, how irritating. She’s gone. And yet, his reaction was always positive. When one of his VIPs (contestants he singled out in the beginning based soley on looks) opened up to him about her life, her career, her ambition, he seemed put off. This contestant was among the four to be eliminated. The thing is, she reminded me of Jes. Jes showed some genuineness, some heart, some focus in her life. And maybe that’s what turned Bret off, this time around. Didn’t want to make the same mistake twice. Or maybe Bret and the producers are simply throwing their audience a curve, trying to keep things interesting.

I’m not sure if interesting is the word. And yet I’ll be watching again next Sunday, trying to figure things out, to spot the budding favorites and, as early as possible, who will be eliminated that night, all the while wondering why I ever thought (or at least hoped) the Chargers had a chance, and whether or not the inevitable good versus evil Super Bowl matchup between New England and Green Bay is as fixed as a show like “Rock of Love”.

For the record, This Week: NE 38 – SD 17  and GB 31 – NY 21

*I did admit that Tom Brady has been earth-shatteringly impressive all season, and throwing 26/28 (92% percent) against Jax pretty much tells me I wasn’t generous enough.

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Jaguars Beat Patriots.

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This is headline news over at ESPN.com, and I’ve been saying it since the end of the regular season: the Patriots will not make it past the Jaguars. I know this is unfathomable to all the toady Patriots fans, as well as most of their true fans (the ones who remember a time before someone with the Raiders gave their kneecaps and two fourth round draft picks to Belichick for Moss, before Tom Brady and and three super bowls and running down the last eight minutes of a game to let Vinatieri kick the game winner, before those sleek new colors and unis, i.e. before they were fashionable and a safe bet to win) but it is nonetheless true.

 First let me start off by saying the Patriot’s regular season was not earth-shatteringly impressive*. Two wins over the Jets (one by just ten), two over the Bills, two over the miserable Miami Dolphins, and close calls with the underachieving Eagles and Ravens in back-to-back weeks, amount to half of this “perfect season”. Throw in another meeting with the Colts, or the average-at-best Giants (a team the Patriots needed a miracle to beat), and just one against the Jacksonville Jaguars, and we might see some etchings in the L column.

 Saturday should be the day. Jacksonville can run for days, and the Patriots’ aging linebackers can’t. Bruschi, Seau, not even Colvin can keep up with Jones-Drew, Taylor and the juggernaut-who-is Greg Jones. Not on their best day. Even though the Patriots have a stellar passing attack, and the Jaguars secondary is young and somewhat prone to screw their coverage, it’s also chock full of explosive talent. We’ll see some big plays. I still think Tom Brady will find the holes, and New England will score some points, but they won’t be alone in either regard, and they wont be able to run the ball. Not against Jax. And with the Jaguar’s phenomenal clock management, the passing game wont see enough of the field to inflict any fatal blows. 

Bottom line: The Patriots are the team to beat, and the Jaguars want it more than anyone else has all season. They want, and maybe deserve the recognition (hell, Fred Taylor only made the Pro Bowl this season because Willie Parker has to sit it out) and Saturday will be the day they get it. 

 I’ll go on the record now, final score: Jax 24 — NE 17

*Tom Brady and Randy Moss have been earth-shatteringly impressive.