Tuesday, January 23, 2007

I should just stop talking about football altogether. I'm still in a euphoric stupor from last night's 38-34 thriller of a win at the RCA Dome by the Colts, but I can't help but think of all the things that I'm happy to be wrong about:

  • "Peyton Manning will manage to lose a playoff game to the New England Patriots"
    Manning, of course, advanced to his first Super Bowl.
  • "The Colts likely had their best chance to win a Super Bowl last year in a wide-open AFC."
    The Colts are now a near-lock to win their first Super Bowl in 36 years.
  • "I don't think Peyton Manning is central to the Colts' chances today...Manning has to play a prevent offense today, that's all."
    Manning threw for 349 yards and led the Colts to 38 points, 32 in the second half

  • Most egregious of all:
  • "This isn't even going to be that good of a game."
    I am not exaggerating when I say that this is the best playoff game that I have ever seen.

    To recap, the Colts, under immense pressure, were down 21-3 by the middle of the second quarter. I was about to turn off the TV and do some work, disgusted with Peyton Manning and wondering if there was an ounce of urgency in his body at this stage. He proved me wrong. He led the sputtering Colts to a field goal at the end of the half. Then, he led two quick scoring drives at the start of the second half to tie the game at 21, punctuated by a brilliant catch on a two-point conversion by Marvin Harrison. The Patriots' armour was starting to wear down, though I'm not sure why Phil Simms, Jim Nantz and myself (the only three present) were so impressed with the comeback. Manning isn't exactly your grandmother when it comes to playing quarterback. He won two MVPs throwing touchdown passes, not batting practice to the Triple-A Indianapolis Indians.

    The large, physical defense which perennially manhandled the Colts and all other teams dating back to Super Bowl XXXVI, won over a similar Rams team, can be worn down by a smaller, faster team. Typically, smaller teams don't get the opportunity. When the Colts were able to hang on to the ball for almost an entire quarter, at one point running 29 plays out of 30 in the game, they were able to take the sting out of the New England pass-rushers.

    From there, the drama started. Brady and Manning, both playing at their best, exchanged a touchdown and field goal apiece, tying the game at 31 with five minutes to go. When Stephen Gostkowski kicked a field goal to put the Patriots ahead with 3:49 to go, I thought that it was over for the second time (the first being in the second quarter). When the Colts gained six yards on the next drive, I thought the game was over. I didn't think that the Patriots would relinquish the ball; the Colts defense was good, but it wasn't that good. However, the Colts managed to get the ball back with just over two minutes to go.

    What followed was the drive that changed Manning's career and is one of the best that I have ever seen. From his own 20, Manning passed to Reggie Wayne for 11 yards and two plays later connected with little-used tight end Bryan Fletcher (18 catches all year) on a beautiful 32-yard pass over the middle. The next play nearly killed me. Manning hit Wayne, who caught the ball and turned to run but, as the Colts are wont to do, fumbled the ball. The ball went straight up and not only did Wayne, guided by the Lord Himself, managed to retrieve it, but the Colts gained another 15 yards on a personal foul against Manning. Now at the 11, nothing less than a touchdown would do against Tom Brady's Patriots. Two runs brought the Colts to the three-yard line and a third down. This was it, this was the play and the Colts had the temerity to call on Joseph Addai, who burst into the endzone to let my heart beat again.

    I let out a primal roar and jumped into the air, actually hurting my ankle. My God, that felt good. I haven't felt that good about a single play in a football game since Brett Favre's pass on 4th and 6 in Super Bowl XXXII was broken up, clinching a championship for the Broncos some nine years ago. That Brady was intercepted on the ensuing drive made it a little sweeter, I liked seeing him make a mistake, I probably liked it too much. What made this game so good was the stage, the AFC Championship game between the two best teams over the last several years, and the story of Peyton Manning's ineptitude in the playoffs and Bill Belichick's mastery. All that is now forgotten, all that matters now is that Manning is going to the Super Bowl. As for me, I really need to have a little more faith.
  • Sunday, January 21, 2007

    TheStar.com - News - `Every day is like a gift': "A photo shows her at the hospital a couple of days after the shooting. In it, she is smiling and giving the thumbs up, displaying a T-shirt her friends had given her. It reads: I got shot in the T-dot.

    On the night Deschamps was brought to St. Michael's, a camera crew from the Discovery Channel's Trauma: Life in the ER was at the hospital.

    While she lay naked on a hospital bed, nurses sticking their fingers into her wound to keep intestines from spilling out, a producer asked Deschamps if they could film her ordeal.

    'I figured I would see the humour in it afterwards,' she says, popping in a DVD of the operation that saved her life
    ."

    This isn't an act put on for the article, Cindy really is that tough. I've seen her deal, unperturbed, with octogenarians, Yorkville matrons, philandering executives, socialites and women who can't decide if the 8 or the 8.5 is the better fit, all in the same lunch-hour shift.

    Friday, January 19, 2007

    That last post was a nice diversion and now it's time to get back to what I write about every January: how Peyton Manning will manage to lose a playoff game to the New England Patriots. For the first time since 1971, the Colts will host the AFC Championship game. A victory that year over the Oakland Raiders propelled the Colts, then playing in Baltimore, to a victory in Super Bowl V over the Dallas Cowboys on Jim O'Brien's field goal. This will also be the third playoff game between the Colts and Patriots in the last four years, the first that the Colts will host.

    Unfortunately, as I've maintained for a year now, the Colts likely had their best chance to win a Super Bowl last year in a wide-open AFC. I have no legitimate reason to believe, as much as I would like to, that the Colts will win. This isn't even going to be that good of a game. The Colts aren't a very good team, unless you take two good games to negate the year-long misery of the league's 23rd-ranked defense.

    Of course, since I was wrong about every game this past weekend and predicted that the Ravens and Chargers would be meeting in this game, maybe my pessimism will guide the Colts to an upset at home.

    Thursday, January 18, 2007

    There are so many things wrong with this, but those of you seeking a Shah Rukh Khan fix can click here and here. It's very funny watching someone make light of things I know so well that their obvious absurdities are obscured. That someone in the first case is me, for those who retain my once blanket policy of not clicking on YouTube links.

    Sunday, January 14, 2007

    I can't say I'm surprised that the winner of today's game between the Indianapolis Colts and Baltimore Ravens allowed six points and produced four turnovers. I am absolutely surprised that it was the former and not the latter which produced this monumental performance. It seems that an accumulation of insults resulting from being 23rd-best in the league has spurred the Colts defense to two dominant victories. In two games, the Colts have allowed fourteen points, created seven turnovers and allowed just 370 yards of offense.

    As for the game, it was filled with the dull, constant tension last seen about seven years ago in the 1999 NFC championship game. The Rams hosted the Buccaneers in what was, similarly, the league's best offense taking on its best defense. The result was that offense won, just barely, in a score of 11-6. The Rams and Buccaneers are also significant to this story because when the Rams shut out the orange-clad Buccaneers 9-0 in the 1979 NFC championship, that was the last time, until today, that a playoff game featured no touchdowns.

    I don't know how to feel for Peyton Manning, for whom I've had a soft spot that grows with each brilliant regular season and each correspondingly pathetic playoff game. It's not that these two wins have been the result of Manning playing the sort of smart football that doesn't show in boxscores. In fact, Manning has been doing everything in his power to try and eliminate the Colts. His dramatic gestures at the line of scrimmage are, these days, nothing but dramatic irony. Everyone watching the game knows that throwing blindly into triple coverage off the back foot is moderately to severely disastrous. Manning, of course, is just playing a role, so give him a break.

    At any rate Peyton, please act like a Pro Bowl quarterback next week and not a scatterbrained liability.

    Tuesday, January 09, 2007

    The extra point in football is taken for granted, much like running water, electricity or many of the other background preconditions that enable our blissfully oblivious lives in North America. Case in point, two weeks ago: when the Cincinnati Bengals scored a late touchdown against my beloved Denver Broncos, I growled with frustration at what was now a tie game. The game, of course, was not tied as the Bengals had to kick the extra point to even the score at 24-24. Inexplicably, as though the ghost in the machine had taken over at long snapper, the snap was botched and the Broncos went on to win the game.

    Saturday night in the National Football League's playoffs featured a football game between two football teams, the Dallas Cowboys and the Seattle Seahawks. At the end of a close football game between two good football teams and their genius football coaches, Dallas, trailing by a single point, appeared to have a first down inside the Seattle five-yard line. With time running out, it was obvious that the football team from Dallas would win the football game. However, the referees presiding over this football game called for a review of where the football ball was spotted, ultimately negating the first down.

    It being fourth down, the Cowboys lined up to kick a 19-yard field goal, shorter than an extra point attempt. No kick in field goal is easier, though this particular instantiation of the subset of 19-yard field goal would actually never come to be in support or opposition of this claim. Quarterback Tony Romo had rescued Dallas' season and he had positioned them to win this game. As the former backup quarterback, he was also the holder for this field goal attempt. After doing all that he had done for his team, Romo tragically failed to do the simplest and most unnoticed of the things he does: catch a ball, place it on the ground and put a finger on top. This asinine, instantaneous miscue was sufficient to negate months of triumph for both Romo and the Cowboys, the former being indelibly marked as something of a goat.

    Elsewhere, namely Foxboro, Massach--MA, months of consummate preparation and cerebral gamesmanship collided. Eric Mangini's Jets used no defensive linemen, five defensive linemen, no-huddle offenses and slow-huddling offenses to try and befuddle his mentor's New England Patriots. If only Mangini had better players, he would have prevailed. The Patriot offensive line was brilliant at neutralizing the Jet blitzes, the free-form defense made blocking assignments impossible since there often was no one to block.

    The telling moment of the game came at the end of the first half, proving that the Patriots were both smarter and luckier than the Jets. New England lined up on a third-and-one about 40 inches from the endzone. The context was that though there were fourteen seconds left in the half, New England had no timeouts, meaning that a pass play was a virtual certainty. The calculus, apparently, was not obvious to the Jets, who bit on a play fake and then let tight end Ben Graham travel about fifteen yards unimpeded through the endzone as though he were in his own living room.

    Tuesday, January 02, 2007

    There's an episode of Family Guy in which the ubiquity of fruit carts in chase scenes is parodied as a dispatcher directs dozens of fruit carts to the site of a high-speed chase. Today's 27th annual Hair of the Dog, a nine-kilometre race partly on the boardwalk in Toronto's Beaches, brought this cliche into real life. The same unusually balmy temperatures that let me run in a T-shirt and shorts induced an inordinate number of dogwalkers, slow-moving geriatrics, fast-moving toddlers and everyone in between to amble along the boardwalk. The race, of course, had to wind through this crowd thanks to a generous noon-hour start.

    I was the quarry for this chase, having gone from seventh to second in the middle stages of the race. I was a minute behind the eventual winner but had just moved into second-place ahead of an inebriated, shirtless jock who later told me that he wasn't wearing a shirt because he simply didn't have one. There were maybe a couple of kilometres to go when we gave up the paved trail, mostly free of walkers, for the boardwalk, full of walkers, because that's how this race is supposed to be run and that's that. It was actually right here that I passed him. However, every time I built up a gap, I would run into, literally, someone or their slow-witted dog who would, in better times, cheerfully pursue me like a squeeze toy. I fell behind when, like Ron Dayne, I failed to see a running lane and ran into some parka-clad lollygagger. Eventually, though, I guess I must have put enough dogs, toddlers, wagons and kalkalash vendors between myself and my pursuer that I was able to gain ten seconds and scamper through the finish line in second place, four spots better than last year. I was also able to turn a profit on my $20 entry and $4.20 in tokens thanks to the shirt that I won.

    If only the vaunted "integrated mesh inlet/outlet ventilation to channel airflow" could somehow be reproduced for our feverish planet.

    Monday, January 01, 2007

    Here, then, are the things that happened this year that you may not have heard about or, alternatively, you simply need to hear again:

  • I went to the Grand Canyon, Pennsylvania Amish country and downtown Detroit, three of the quietest, most pristine places in all of America.
  • I modeled a wetsuit and a sports bra, and I'm actually wearing a suit as I write this.
  • I started giving out Timbits to strangers in the lobby of the Sid Smith building at the University of Toronto on Wednesday nights.
  • I had a goatee for the first eleven months of the year.
  • In July, I lost a 5k race to a 75-year old man.
  • In January, I voted expressly to keep Olivia Chow out of office, but received a hug from her in August.
  • I walked into a bomb threat on Bloor Street and I was accused of being a john and a terrorist by a gas station attendant and a waitress.
  • I ate a cake bearing my likeness.
  •