Monday, November 28, 2005

Most Likely to Not Be Read By Anyone

One piece of business to take care of before we get underway… I probably received more emails about my usage of “irregardless” two weeks ago than any other single item I’ve ever written in a column. I’m not sure how to take that, as in, do my opinions suck so bad that people don’t feel the need to write me about them? Or… are my friends just a bunch of grammar nazis?

Allow me to climb up on my high horse for a minute… okay, there we go. From the online version of the Merriam Webster dictionary (bold emphasis mine):

Irregardless originated in dialectal American speech in the early 20th century… The most frequently repeated remark about it is that "there is no such word." There is such a word, however. It is still used primarily in speech, although it can be found from time to time in edited prose. Its reputation has not risen over the years, and it is still a long way from general acceptance.

That’s right people. I’m a damn trendsetter! A visionary, even. You better recognize.

Irregardless… thanks for the emails. Now, moving on…


Most Likely to Not Be Read By Anyone

In honor of my high school reunion this past weekend, I’m presenting the Behind Enemy Lines College Basketball Preview in a special format:

College Basketball Superlatives!

I'm not going to lie--I'm way over my head with this one. It's not that I don't know a lot about college basketball, it's just that there are 326 teams in Division I Basketball, and about 250 of them are irrelevant—or at least until March, when schools with great names like “Sam Houston State,” “Austin Peay” and the “Derrick Zoolander School for Kids Who Don’t Read Good And Want to do Other Stuff Good” appear on the national radar after winning their conference tournaments. One man can’t cover them all—at least not a guy who’s receiving no financial compensation for this. (Well, excluding the fact I’m writing this at work, but that doesn’t count.)

So for the most part, I’m going to stick to the Big East, and sprinkle in some top players, and maybe a few Top 25 teams here and there. Hopefully, it doesn't leave a foul taste in your mouth, like that week old turkey you're still eating.

Irregardless, I’m going to try to do my best to give you a jump on the college basketball season.

(A side note: My class (New York Mills Jr./Sr. High School Class of 1995) was not permitted to have Senior Superlatives… I vaguely remember a family had actually sued a high school when their son wasn’t awarded “Most Likely to Succeed.” My school was afraid of the same thing, which was ridiculous, because it wasn’t cool to be “smart” or successful in my High School. They probably would have been sued for picking someone.)

So here we go:

Most Likely to Succeed (And Possibly Win It All)
It’s impossible to pick the winner of the NCAA tournament based upon preseason reviews and a few early season games. That would be like picking the winner of Survivor 10 minutes into the season premiere. So I’m going to go with this superlative literally, and pick a team I think will have the most “success”: Connecticut. They’ve got some questions—Guards Marcus Williams and A.J. Price apparently didn’t know that stealing laptops and trying to re-sell them has nothing to do with the “fencing” class they signed up for.

But Josh Boone can be a force, and they have a few top perimeter shooters (especially Hilton Armstrong). They’ll be tough without Williams and Price, but if they’re able to play, this team could be unstoppable. Of course, everything revolves around their superstar, a potential first overall NBA lottery pick, Rudy Gay. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Best Eyes
Marcus Williams of Connecticut led the nation in assists last season, with 8.1 per game. If the gansta doesn’t get locked up, look for him to do it again—It’s easy to average that many assists when you have so many options.

Team Least Likely to Get Any Good Press in this Column
Boston College. Fucking traitors.

Team Most Likely to Annoy the Hell Out of Everyone
West Virginia. I was in a bar last year when this team took on Wake in the tournament. My buddy Craig’s band was on stage during the OT periods—not that you would have known it. The entire bar was ignoring them and glued to the TVs. The game was so good, even the band was watching while they were playing. Maybe the most exciting college basketball game I’ve ever seen.

This team just has amazing chemistry, and a slew of guys who not only have similar games, but are hard to guard because they all look the same—not surprising, as they play in Blacksburg and are all probably related. I watched this team take Texas down to the wire last week with their energetic defense, a great running game and a spread offense where every man is dangerous and can shoot the trey. They’re like a talented, athletic Princeton. That’s a formula that will win you a lot of games, especially in March.

And no, I don’t care that they’ve already lost three games.

The Complete Stranger Award for Team Most Likely to be Punished By Last Year's Draft
North Carolina. They lost their Top 7 scorers to the Draft and Graduation. I'd feel bad for them, but they won a National Championship last year. So I don't. Besides, they're North Carolina. With the recruits they get, they'll still win 20 games. Just watch.

Most Likely to be a Columnist in the Future
I don’t know if he can write, but JamesOn Curry of Oklahoma State has the best name for it. Can you see it? This week: JamesOn the Cowboys Schedule. Classic.

Most Likely to Take—and Hit—the Last-Second Shot
He’s not in the Big East, but picking any guy other than J.J. Redick to hoist one with the game on the line is like picking the overweight girl to beat the two hot girls making out during a wet T-shirt contest.

The Wooderson Award for the Guy Who Still Hangs Around Even Though He Probably Graduated 10 Years Ago
Carl Krauser. The point guard and 6-2 “senior” is back at Pittsburgh this year. Again. He led the team in scoring and assists last year, despite the fact he might have the ugliest shot in college basketball. I think he’s been there about seven seasons now, but I can’t prove it.

"That's the thing I love about Karl Krauser. I keep getting older, and he stays the same age. Alright Alright."

The War of the Worlds Award for the Over-Hyped Team That Can’t Possibly Live Up To Expectations
I have to give this one to Villanova. They just lost a superstar, Curtis Sumpter, for the season due to injury. They’re returning all five starters. They nearly upset eventual National Champion North Carolina in the Regional Semi-final. They’re ranked 4th in the country. Is there anywhere for this team to go but down?

Just like “War of the Worlds.” Classic storyline, big names (Tom Cruise, Dakota Fanning), historic director (Spielberg). And it sucked. But it couldn’t have possibly lived up to expectations. Well, there’s that, the fact that Tom Cruise went nuts this year, and I had to listen to Dakota Fanning scream her Fanning off about 6,578 times during the movie. I’d rather be forced to listen to “I Will Always Love You” on repeat for two hours.

Irregardless, Nova gets tested early when #5 Oklahoma comes to town this weekend.

Team Most Likely To Walk Into A Crowded Shopping Mall and Open Fire Just to Get Attention
Name the four new teams in the Big East: Louisville, Cincinnati, Marquette… You can’t come up with the last one, right? Well, it’s DePaul. What? How did they get into the Big East? Did Louisville say, “We’ll come in, but not without DePaul. They’re with us.” This is like Harvey Keitel vouching for Tim Roth in Reservoir Dogs. “No, no, he’s cool. He’s with me.” It’s just going to end up badly for all parties involved.

Best Game of the Year
Yeah, I know this is a “preview” -- but it already happened. Gonzaga vs. MSU in the Maui Invitational. 3 OTs and more big shots than a Jenna Jameson movie. If not for a missed MSU layup with seconds remaining, this might have gone down as the best game in recent history. Still in the top 5 though. If you missed it, well, you’re probably better off, because every game from here on out can’t help but be a little disappointing.

Biggest Game Changer
Adam Morrison, Gonzaga. He scored 43 in the triple OT game, setting a Maui record. But he was unstoppable. Way outside, driving to the hoop, midrange, foul shots, didn’t matter. MSU had no solution for him, even with Mo Ager answering prayers like a Peruvian Shaman every trip downcourt. Plus, Morrison (who's white) is emulating Jim Morrison by sporting the long unkempt hair, and has added a 70s porn-style moustache, literally pushing his physical appearance to the comical limit.

The “Jason Did What?” Award for Most Likely to Hit a Cop
I think John Chaney has officially passed Bobby Knight on the Psychotic Scale. He's completely nuts -- he's threatened to kill an opposing coach, and the guy sent a "goon" in to intentionally hurt an opposing player last year. Who does that? How is this guy still employed? I don't care what his record is, and neither should Temple. (See observations for an explanation of this superlative.)

Most Likely to End Up Like Spicoli
Every class had a pothead, a guy who you all knew would never amount to anything. Just a dissapointment every step of the way. So for that, I'm picking Syracuse. My Orange were ranked 16th to start the season, and we’ve already fallen to 24th after losses to Florida and Bucknell. Unless they find a way to absolve G-Mac of his point guard duties (Wright or Devendorf?) then Syracuse is an early favorite… to exit in the first round again this year. Personally, I hope not, because it’s costly to buy a new Syracuse T-Shirt every year after I burn mine in the middle of the street.

The Syracuse season already going up in smoke.

Most Likely to Cover the Spread in the First Round of the NCAA Tourney
According to my friend Jon—a Vegas veteran for the Tourney—most top seeded teams don’t cover the spread in the first round because they’re so exorbitant, with one exception: Duke. They always cover. Now I don’t care if they barely beat Memphis last week (even though they should have lost). Coach K is ruthless. Proof: In the preseason NIT first-round game against Seton Hall, with Duke up 43-13 at the half and with the rest of the tournament still to play, J.J. Redick still played nearly 30 minutes. That’s just cruel.

That's all I've got for you. Now back to our regularly-scheduled brain dump.

Observations from the week:
· I’m sure you want to know how my reunion was. Right. Well, in a word, disappointing. For a class of 65 people—many of whom still live in central New York—we had fewer than 20 classmates show up. And everyone was easily recognizable. There was no “guy who gained 50 pounds” or “girl who definitely had a boob job” or “Who the hell is that? I don’t remember that person at all” which made it a lot less fun than anticipated.

However, we did have two fun topics: First, every single girl that showed up is now married or has at least one kid, but none of the married girls have kids—love the small-town irony there; and best of all, we did have the “Guy who couldn’t attend because he’s in jail” whose name I’ll keep to myself for my own personal safety, because he’s in there for beating up a cop. (BRILLIANT!)

We also reportedly have one guy out of the closet, but he wasn’t there, so we can’t confirm. But overall, you know it’s a sad reunion when the best part was the four hours of OPEN BAR—and the bartender says the 30-odd people there (due to spouses) drank more than a party of 100 they had earlier in the week. Guess some things never change.

I kept hoping a hit man would come through the door and I'd have to stab him to death with a monogrammed pen, and then dispose of his remains in the incinerator with my best friend from high school just so I could have a good story to tell.

· Apologies for not getting my picks posted last week. I was too busy traveling, eating, and/or getting drunk to deal with relatives and former classmates to worry about posting last week over the holiday. And as you’ve heard me say before in this space… I ain’t getting paid for this. Irregardless, judging by my record (which you’ll see later this week) you were much better off anyway. Stupid Cleveland…

· The Red Sox traded for Marlins pitcher Josh Becket, who went 15-8 with a 3.38 ERA last year. I think this is the best trade…for the Yankees. Why? Well, let’s look at a very comparable pickup from last year… Carl Pavano went 18-8 with a 3.00 ERA for Florida a year before the Yanks acquired him in free agency. That’s better than Beckett by all counts. And Pavano has been super for the Yankees.

And yes, I’m very aware Beckett was the guy who dominated the Yankees in the 2003 World Series. I’m also aware that was 3 years ago. I can’t wait for a repeat of the Matt Clement-type season, where Beckett comes out and gasses six or seven teams and all of Boston piles on to his bandwagon, and then he proceeds to go in the crapper during the playoff stretch run. In fact, I’m more excited about this than I am about Schilling’s inevitable sub .500 season next year, where he limps off into retirement obscurity having used up all of his good graces with the Boston fans because he can’t keep his mouth shut.

In the end, the best part of this deal might be Mike Lowell. Why? Four words: Gold Glove Third Baseman. Have you watched Bill Mueller play third base at all? Seriously.

· But speaking of Carl Pava-“No gonna pitch here anymore”, he said recently he’s “miserable” in NYC and wants out. Jim Rome of Rome is Burning (who I ordinarily can’t stand) went off on Pavano during one of his “burns”… I’m paraphrasing, but his burn went something like this: “He’s miserable? What about the fans who had to watch him? What about his teammates who had to watch their hard work go in the toilet every time he pitched? What about the opposing batters, who had to run all those bases when he was giving up runs? What about their bats, which had to hit all those balls out of the park? Pavano is the last guy who should be complaining.” Amen, Jim.

· Chad Johnson is setting a new standard for TD celebrations. His marriage proposal to a smoking hot Bengals cheerleader last week in the Indy game was classic, if only because it got a smoking hot cheerleader on TV without having a sponsor’s logo slapped over her “assets.” But he 1-upped himself this week by putting the football with the end-zone pylon after a score. I’ve decided to write his written note sympathizing with T.O. off as not-so-temporary insanity. (And yes, I have a soft spot for him because he and Alexander have been carrying my fantasy team. So there.)

· Just as an aside, if anyone out there happens to know Randy Moss and could pass along the following message, I’d really appreciate it: RANDY! FANTASY FOOTBALL PLAYOFFS START NEXT WEEK! GET OFF YOUR F&^KING ASS AND PUT UP SOME NUMBERS! THIS “1 catch for 20 yards” CRAP AIN’T GONNA CUT IT. DON’T MAKE ME BENCH YOU! I’M GOING TO START SAMKON GADO OVER YOU IF YOU DON’T GET YOUR ACT TOGETHER. SERIOUSLY, SAMKON F^%KING GADO. AND DON’T BLAME IT ON KERRY COLLINS EITHER, YOU LAZY ASS! NOW GIT-R-DONE! Ahem. Thank you.

Bill Beard is an independent writer who couldn't possibly be happier that he is not married, doesn't have kids, didn't gain 50 pounds, has served no jail time, doesn't live in central New York, and still doesn't need a boob job. He can be reached for comments or commentary at wrbeard@hotmail.com

Friday, November 18, 2005

The Scarlet Letter

Roger Maris has the most famous one.

Paul Hamm has the most controversial one in the past few years.

Michelle Wie earned one a few months ago, which I wrote about here.

Raffy Palmerio, Mark McGuire, and Barry Bonds deserve one.

And someday, if there is a God out there, we'll discover that Curt Schilling is a cyborg, and he'll get one too.

Some, like Maris' are not deserved. Some, like Wie's, are unfair. Others, like McGuire, are shameful.

It is the Scarlet Letter of sports. It is the asterisk.

Most of you probably know Maris' story. When Maris hit his 61st home run in the year of the same number on the last game of the year, he broke Babe Ruth's previous record of 60. But in Ruth's time, the season was only 154 games. Maris accomplished his feat in the 162nd game of the season. New York Sportswriter Dick Young—who openly disliked Maris—joked that Maris didn't deserve the record, and an asterisk should be placed next to his accomplishment in the record book.

You've probably even seen Billy Crystal's phenomenal portrayal of this controversial season in the movie 61*.

But what you might not know the most famous asterisk of all doesn't exist. Major League Baseball has no official record book, and no record book carries that asterisk to this day.

The stress of the home run chase bothered the slugger so much, it even turned Maris into a Sinead O'Connor look-alike.

Amazing, how much we love to keep a man down.

Paul Hamm won't get one either, but that doesn't mean he doesn't deserve one. When the gymnast became the first U.S. man to win gold at the all-around competition at the 2004 Athens Olympic games, he became an American icon—as much as a man in tights can, anyway.

It was later discovered that a South Korean gymnast, Yang Te Young, who had won the bronze, had incorrectly been assessed a .10 deduction on his parallel bars routine. The .10 difference would have earned him the gold medal. However, the International Olympic Committee, the most powerful sports committee in the world, and the International Gymnastics Federation (appropriately called the “FIG”) agreed that Yang had been unfairly docked, but the Federation would not overturn the medal standings.


Hamm could keep his medal.

But others argued that Hamm should give up his Gold. He didn't win it fairly. Yang was cheated. But Hamm, with his good American values, refused to give up his gold.

I will not root for Mr. Hamm, I do not like Hamm, Sam I am.

He won't get an asterisk either. But unlike Maris, Hamm deserves one. And I hope every time he looks at it, he realizes what a jackass he is.

And as for those baseball players, I don't think I have to tell you why there's a slew of them that deserve the Scarlet Letter next to their names—even if we can't give them one, because we don't know what we don't know.

Now I don't claim to be on par with Maris or Hamm when it comes to physical ability or even importance, but I find myself debating if I deserve an asterisk after last week's football picks.

Here's why:
Washington over TAMPA BAY

A simple pick. Almost the right pick.

The pool I'm in has a website where we enter our picks every week. It's a good site, not confusing at all. You simply select the radio button next to the team you think will win.

Then, every team you pick gets entered into a table with everyone else's pick. If the team you picked wins, it turns to boldface. The more boldface teams in your row, the better week you had.

Simple.

So after I watched my Giants crap the bed against Minnesota last week—I'm not going to talk about that—I watched the Skins/Bucs game on Sunday. Heck of a game—turnovers, big plays, lots of scoring, even a huge day from Clinton Portis, which (thanks very much) I called.

And it even had a last second finish. The Bucs, scoring a last second touchdown to potentially tie the game, decided to take the Dick Vermeil route and go for two.

I didn't know what to think. Maybe this was a good thing. Momentum was in the Bucs favor. In overtime, the Skins might not survive. But if the Skins hold here, I get my pick.

Simms handed the ball to Allstot. He surged forward. Took a hit. Kept going. And using that massive fullback frame of his, he surged again.

And broke the plane. Game over. Bucs win.

I was okay with that—a skins loss was good for the Giants—but a little disappointed because I lost my pick.

So I was surprised when I checked my picks on Monday and saw this:

TB

Either subconsciously or—more likely—mistakenly, I clicked on the Bucs when making my selections that week.

That put me in the running for the pool. After Dallas' dramatic comeback, I ended up coming as close to winning it as you possibly can without actually winning. My final total score was 39. The actual final score was 41.

And some chump had 40.

I'm okay with that—I didn't want to face a Hamm-esque decision, because I'm pretty damn sure I would have gone the same route as he did. No way I would have given that $50 back. And you would have never read this column, because I wouldn't have told anybody.

As the saying goes, “I'd rather be lucky than good.” Well, maybe it was luck I picked the Bucs by accident. Or maybe I deserve an asterisk. I'll leave that up to you.

But for now, I'll take an 11-3 week and be happy about it.

Asterisk or not.

Quick observation before we get to this week's picks...

*So... A-Rod won the AL MVP this week. Allow me to address all my Red Sox friends in the most mature way possible: NANNY NANNY BOO BOO!!! HE BEAT PAAAAAPI... NANNY NANNY BOO BOO!!!
Seriously though, he deserved it. His numbers were just better. And he played the field. And yes, that matters.

*The Yankees resigned Hideki Matsui to a 4-year, $52 million contract which in my opinion is worth every penny. He was the best available player at his position, but even more importantly: He absolutely kills the Red Sox. Enough said.

*Apparently, my NASCAR column has struck a chord with some people. I've gotten some pretty serious feedback on it. That means:

1.It was good.
2.It was right on.

I'm thinking about posting some comments in the upcoming weeks. So if you have some on that column, send them in.

NFL Week 11 picks:

Last week: 11-3* (.786)
Season: 95-49 (.660)


(Home team in caps)

ST. LOUIS over Arizona
Arizona is bad, umkay?

Carolina over CHICAGO*
Carolina had the weakest first-half schedule in the NFL. But Chicago isn't quite there yet, for reasons beyond my comprehension. I don't think Chicago can stop the Steve Smith Show. This is also a new feature for Lines picks, my "Asterisk Game of the Week" meaning I could change my mind on it at the last minute.

I'm sure you saw Nathan Vasher's 108-yard return for a TD last week, but how crazy were those field goal attempts? Strangely enough, they reminded me of my tee shot. Except that my drives do that on calm days.

DALLAS over Detroit
Don't expect a repeat of Joey Harrington's game from last week. He's not that good.

Indianapolis over CINCINNATTI
Why is everyone hating on Indy’s chance for an undefeated season? The Indianapolis Colts are the A-Rod of the NFL. They’re damn good, they get respect, but no one really likes them. I’ve never been able to figure out why for either of them, but I’m guessing it could be that neither A-Rod or this core Colts team has won it all.

But put aside the fact the Colts have the NFL’s toughest remaining schedule (at CIN, PIT, at JAX, SD, at SEA among others) and they only played one team with a winning record so far. Forget that Peyton hasn’t had one of “those games” yet this year, the one where he looks like he walked into a dance club and realized it was a gay club. (Not that I know that feeling.)

I’m going to say it: I think the Colts will run the table. If Pitt has a healthy Big Ben, that might be the only game. Otherwise, I don’t think any of the other teams match up as well. The Bengals can’t stop the run, the Jaguars are too inconsistent, the Chargers secondary won’t stop Peyton and Marvin, and Seattle just isn’t on that level yet.

You heard me right: Colts 16-0.

Jacksonville over TENNESSEE
Guess what? Fred Taylor is out for this game too. At what point can the media start calling this guy a pussy? I think we passed this point years ago, and no one is doing it.

Miami over CLEVELAND
My buddy Kevin got on my case for picking Ronnie Brown over Cadillac Williams in our fantasy draft, and even worse after the Caddy rolled out to a big start, setting a record for rushing yards by a rookie over the first three games. Hey Kev, who's laughing now? (Actually, Kevin's still in first place in our league, so he probably is. But we go head to head this week for first place. Game of the Week baby!)

NEW ENGLAND over New Orleans
The Battle of the News won't be much of a battle at all.

WASHINGTON over Oakland
What the hell is wrong with Oakland's offense? What's up with Randy Moss? Is Norv Turner underachieving more than any other coach this year, given the weapons at his disposal?

NY GIANTS over Philadelphia
No one questions how much the Giants organization is committed to winning. I mean, their owners keep dying just to motivate the team. Look for another emotional environment in the Meadowlands similar to the one when the Eagles pounded the Redskins a few weeks back. Plus, the Giants were already fired up for this week after last week’s idiotic loss to the Vikings. And with McNabb and T.O. out, the Eagles won’t have a chance. The Eagles are going to be in the basement of the NFC East when the season is over this year, and yes I enjoyed writing that.

ATLANTA over Tampa Bay
Do I look like a bitch? Do I look like a bitch? Then why is Michael Vick trying to **** me like a bitch? (Name the movie!) Seriously. I finally get on board the “Michael Vick Just Wins” bandwagon and he falls to a “1 and Season” Packers team.

Sean Alexander over SAN FRANSISCO

SAN DIEGO over Buffalo
Too many weapons.

DENVER over NY Jets
I think this will be a close game. If Brooks Bollinger can .... hahahahah no okay, I'm sorry, I couldn't do that with a straight face.

Pittsburgh over BALTIMORE
Tommy Maddox is horrible. Just awful. He didn't come within 10 feet of a receiver last week, to the point where the crowd made a sarcastic cheer when he actually completed one. And Antwan Randle-el tossed a 51-yard TD pass to Hines Ward on his only throw. Why would you not start him? He can't be any WORSE than Maddox.

KC over Houston
Houston doesn't need Matt Leinhart. But they're probably going to get him.

GREEN BAY over Minnesota
I’m loving the “Samkon Gado Era.” The guy wasn’t even in the league three weeks ago. And not only does he have the coolest name in the NFL now, the potential for the cool nickname (“El Gado”) but he also carried my fantasy team with 29 points last week. Is there a better feeling in fantasy when you pick up the sleeper of the week and play him? I don’t think so.

But irregardless, are you betting against Brett Farve? In Lambeau? On a Monday Night? I don't think so.

Bill Beard is an independent writer.* He can be reached for comments at wrbeard@hotmail.com.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Back To Earth

No rant this week, but I would like to have my agent read the following statement:

“Last week, when Bill made his NFL picks, he was doing so in the best interest of his Readers. In no way, at any time, did he purposefully intend to harm or lead his Readers astray. In fact, I see last week’s football picks as an indication of how strongly Bill wants to compete, and give his Readers an edge in their own football pool. I mean, come on guys! You know he gives it his all. And if he writes something from time to time, that other people take out of context, it’s not his fault! He’s a good guy. I like B.B. You like B.B. You can’t question his ability. He’s a top writer. One of the best there is. He’s a solid guy, a good human being, and a performer. And I think you should put him right back in your lineup, and give him a chance with this week’s picks. I’ll now open the floor for questions.”

Reporter: “So why were Bill’s pick’s so bad last week?”

“NEXT QUESTION!”

***
NFL Week 10 Picks
Last Week: 8-6 (.571)
Season: 84-46 (.646)


People that know me know I have a tendency to get a little cocky. Hey look, I like me. In fact, I like me so much I often tell other people how much I like me. My self-esteem has been rated by others as anywhere from “confident” to words I won’t print here, but most of the time I like to think of my self-confidence as a healthy mix of confident and occasional cockiness.

And really, when it comes to sports, the bottom line is that I’m right most of the time. (In the words of the immortal Dizzy Dean, “It ain’t braggin if you really done it.”) I’m right a lot because I study a lot. I read ESPN.com about 10 times a day. I read sports magazines. I haven’t watched a CNN newscast in decades—SportsCenter always comes first.

Plus, I’m a Yankees fan living in Boston. I need to know more than everyone else—especially when it comes to the Sox and Yanks—so that I can earn people’s respect. When I walk into a bar at Fenway wearing my Rivera or Rodriguez shirt, I’m a step below the Really Drunk Guy Who Just Tried To Make Out With Your Girlfriend Right In Front Of You. I’m instantly at a serious disadvantage.

So I need to know my shit. Mostly to avoid getting my ass beat.

But there are times I’ve been wrong. I don’t mean wrong as in, “I referred to Aaron Boone as in Brett Boone,”-wrong, I mean really wrong. Flat out wrong. Foolishly wrong.

And my football picks last week were a prime example of that.

“But Bill,” you’re saying, “you went 8-6. That’s not bad.”

And you’re right. It’s not bad. Hell, against the spread, that would even be considered good. But I’m not using the spread.

But then you take into account this:

I’m in a football pool with 56 other people. I was one of SEVEN people to have fewer than 10 games picked correctly. That’s abysmal. Even worse when I consider I know some of the people in this pool. My Aunt is in there, for crissakes, and I’m pretty sure she swept the floor with me last week. Inexcusable. Needless to say, I plummeted out of the top five.

So I had to have my agent read that statement, T.O. style. Maybe I was trying too hard. Maybe I didn’t pick enough favorites. Went out on too many limbs.

Well, the cosmos sent me back to earth last week. After a spectacular Week 8, I got cocky with my Week 9 picks and paid for it. I’m back to earth this week. No wild guesses. No hunches. I’m going with what I know, not what I “feel.” I can’t say I’ll stay that way for the rest of the season, but I’m looking at this like a playoff-bound team looks at the game after the one where they get their asses handed to them. Essentially, I’m the Pats this week. I need a solid performance and a win. No funny stuff. No trick plays. Go back to the fundamentals, good old smash-mouth, and get it done.

So here you go. Picks for Week 10. GIT-R-DONE!

JACKSONVILLE over Baltimore
Guess what, Fred Taylor is out for this game. Shocker! Maybe this is the game where Del Rio figures out that Greg Jones is better than Taylor. And I'd say Jones is more reliable, but that would be as obvious as:

INDIANAPOLIS over Houston
If this game were a bar, the Colts would be the hot model chick that makes your jaw drop to the floor, and the Texans would be the girl who is apparently the primary stockholder of the Hostess Corporation. It's no contest.

DETROIT over Arizona
Because I have absolutely nothing to say about this game:

Is there a better show in recent history than "Rome" on HBO? The last two episodes I've watched On Demand not only had an epic battle, but have also featured the following: two naked chicks having a swordfight; a brothel lineup; a man stabbed in the throat; three sex scenes with naked women; underhanded, backstabbing politicians; more infidelity than a season's worth of Desperate Housewives; two Carolina Cheerleaders um, Roman noblewomen having sex; a shipwreck in a hurricane; and a man beheaded right in front of his family.

Now let's put aside that I was an Ancient History minor with a specialization in Roman Civilization and that this show's plot was apparently written by someone who thinks Marc Anthony is a pop star—I'm still burning through On Demand episodes faster than Tom Cruise is running out of friends.

Personally, I'm waiting for the video game. I haven’t heard any rumors or anything, but if they make it, I’m telling you, it will be the heir apparent to the GTA series.

Kansas City over BUFFALO
Priest Holmes is done for the season, and may announce his retirement soon. How many teams in the league could survive if someone this integral to their offense went down? Three? Four? Larry Johnson could start for about 28 different NFL teams. And now that he's got his second straight game in the #1 spot—with no one looking over his shoulder—he’s going to go off. This may be the only saving grace for my buddy Craig, who has T.O. and Johnson on his fantasy team. I feel worse for my buddy Breeze, who picked Holmes with his first pick and was already in last place before this happened. Plus, he's roommates with Craig, who once picked a kicker in the fourth round. I'm putting Breeze on "fantasy suicide watch" this week.

NY GIANTS over Minnesota
The Giants are 6-2. Will they win the NFC East? I think so. Will Eli meet his brother in the Super Bowl? Doubtful. But the Giants defense hasn't allowed a touchdown in two games. Sure, they give up more yards than just about anyone, but as they say, “Ain’t no yards on a scoreboard.” You’ve heard that one before, right? Sure you have. I think the no-TD streak ends this week, but the Vikes are no match for the G-men in the Medowlands.

New England over MIAMI
If Gus Frrrrerrrotte beats the Pats, I'll pick Miami for every single game for the rest of the... okay, no I won't, but you see what I'm getting at here.

CHICAGO over San Fransisco
Chicago's D is one of the best in the league and Thomas Jones has turned into one of the best backs in the league. But even if he can't go, Cedric Benson proved last week that he can get the job done (14 carries for 86 yards). And Kyle Orton is having a great rookie year, considering he's a rookie. What I can't figure out is how this team is as bad as it is... almost losing to Detroit and New Orleans in two weeks. Everyone is praising Lovie, but I'm wondering... what gives?

Washington over TAMPA BAY
Is there a bandwagon that emptied faster than the "Mark Brunell Comeback Season" bandwagon? Everyone seems to forget this guy was competing with Patrick Ramsey for the starting job. This is like being forced to make a decision between an OV Split and a Schlitz. Sure, they do the job, but it’s still the bottom of the barrel.

But these teams have two of the best defenses in the NFL. So when that happens, I have to give the nod to the team with the better RB. I think Portis makes the difference in this game. And no, I can't back that up.

Denver over OAKLAND
What happened to Randy Moss? Isn't he supposed to be the best receiver in the NFL? Does he know that he's the only reason my most important fantasy team isn't undefeated? He's given me crap for the last four weeks and I've still won them all. I was striving for fantasy perfection here, people. He better turn it around this week. But it still won't be enough if he does. Denver just has too many weapons.

CAROLINA over NY Jets
News stories like this come along once in a lifetime: Apparently two Carolina cheerleaders were arrested for having sex in a bathroom stall in a Tampa bar. Damn, I love football.

I'm going to Carolina in my mind... about four times a day.

ATLANTA over Green Bay
Okay already, Michael Vick just wins. I get it. But I’d still pick any of these guys over him as my QB: Either Manning, Big Ben, Favre, Hasslebeck, McNabb, Brady, Palmer, Delhomme, and Bulger, in no particular order. I think you need a traditional QB to win big in this league. A pure passer. And if he’s quick and can scramble, even better. But he has to be a able to throw the ball downfield consistently and accurately. Vick can’t. Plain and simple.

SEATTLE over St. Louis
Probably the best game on the docket. St. Louis beat Seattle three times last year (2x regular season, 1x playoffs) so Seattle has the revenge motif locked up. Plus, St. Louis is banged up, even if they return Bruce, Holt, and Bulger for this game. This is one of the NFL’s best rivalries and no one talks about it… probably because it doesn’t involve any East Coast teams. The Rams are essentially a West Coast team, right? I mean, there’s the fact that they moved from L.A. and that I really don’t have a sense of where St. Louis is in relation to, well, anything. (Someday, someone needs to explain to me why people bother to live in the Midwest. Seriously.) Though I can’t get too down on a city that is one of the world’s leading producers of beer. In fact, now that I think about it, I fucking LOVE St. Louis. Seriously. Best. City. Ever. And I mean that, even though I’ve never been there.

PITTSBURGH over Cleveland
Aren’t you just a little disappointed in the Romeo Crennel era so far? Just a little? Me too. I can’t help thinking Cleveland should be 5-3 instead of 3-5. They lost to Houston and Detroit. Still too soon to start printing the “Romeo Must Die” signs, but I’m just saying. Why is this game the Sunday night game? I can picture myself falling asleep on the couch already.

Dallas over PHILADELPHIA
Tiebreaker points: 39
I only have one gambling rule that I never go against: NEVER, under ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, bet against The Tuna on Monday Night. Never. Of course, with T.O. out, Philly’s lack of a running game and D, it just makes this pick a gimmie. If someone can explain to me how the hell Philly is favored by 3 in this game, I’d love to hear it. I know it’s in Philly, but did anyone see the 33-10 thrashing Dallas gave them earlier this year with T.O.? I’m not saying it will be that bad, but Philly should not be favored in this game. I might have to place a real bet on this one…

Bill Beard is an independent writer who is Back To Earth this week. He can be reached if you know a bookie so he can bet on that MNF game at wrbeard@hotmail.com.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

So Long, Theo

This week, Red Sox General Manager Theo Epstein accepted a three-year, 4.5 million contract to remain as Red Sox GM.

Then, within hours of that announcement, Theo Epstein resigned as General Manger of the Red Sox. Sending shockwaves through the organization and the city of Boston.

(Do you hear the champagne bottles popping in the Bronx?)

There are currently three or four different theories as to why Theo is abdicating his throne as GM and as the most eligible bachelor in Boston (other than Tom Brady), and if you’re curious I’ll let the expert on obnoxious conspiracies tell you what they are.

To be honest, I’ve had mixed feelings on Theo during his tenure. Actually, I still do—I’ve rewritten this column three times since Monday. (So if this column is wishy-washy on the guy, don’t be surprised.)

I’m not sure if the guy was good, lucky, or even worse, both.

Of course, I wanted to hate him from the start, for several reasons:

1. He works for the Red Sox and is a lifelong Red Sox fan, which for me is reason enough.

2. He was the youngest GM in baseball history (After you turn about 18 and realize that you’ll never actually play professional sports, this is your next dream job. So don’t tell me that doesn’t make you a bit jealous.)

3. The guy is nearly flawless. He’s smart, good-looking, rich (even before he got the job), humble, patient, not a glory hound, etc. As much as you like the guy, you dislike him for all that too, right? Isn’t this like that old cosmetics commercial where the girl says, “Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful?” Every woman hates that woman but wants to be her, and every guy wants her. Theo is her male counterpart.

Of course, the fact that the guy brought the Red Sox their first World Series Championship nailed the lid in the coffin for me. I may not like him, but I respect him.

But now that Theo’s tenure is being dragged through the media mud, it really begs a question: is Theo as good as his rep?

A popular rumor over the past few weeks stated that the Red Sox didn’t think so. And in many ways, it’s justified. If you think about it, Wonderboy has failed at his job as much as he’s been successful. Bill Simmons nails it on the head in this week’s column, which I’m going to partially reproduce here without express written consent:

Many of the blockbuster moves [Theo] wanted to make over that time (Jose Contreras before 2003, Javy Vazquez and the Manny/A-Rod and Nomar/Magglio Ordonez trades before 2004, Carl Pavano and Adrian Beltre before 2005) would have worked out poorly in the end. In each case, his Plan B or C (keeping Manny, getting Curt Schilling and Orlando Cabrera) ended up being a better move than his original intention. Is that skill, is that luck, or is it a little of both? You tell me.

So you can’t deny he was lucky. But he was also good. And here’s my proof for that. I give you the lineup for the Most Important Game in Red Sox Postseason History. That is, of course, Game Four of the 2004 ALCS, and I just threw up on my keyboard thinking about it.

Take a look at it. It’s every Sox player who was on the field that night Boston stole the momentum and pretty much ruined my life for all of 2005 (until the sox were swept—that’s right, swept—this fall, thank God).

Every player, the year they were signed, and who signed them:

Batters Year Responsible
Damon (CF) 2002 Duquette
Cabrera (SS) 2004 Epstein
Ramirez (LF) 2001 Duquette
Ortiz (DH) 2003 Epstein
Varitek (C) 1997 Duquette
Nixon (RF) 1996 Boston Farmhand
Millar (1B) 2003 Epstein
(PR Roberts) 2004 Epstein
Mueller (3B) 2003 Epstein
Reese (2B) 2004 Epstein
Bellhorn (2B) 2004 Epstein
Mientkiewicz (1B) 2004 Epstein

Pitchers (in order)
Lowe (SP) 1998 Duquette
Timlin (BS) 2003 Epstein
Foulke 2004 Epstein
Embree 2003 Epstein
Myers 2004 Epstein
Leskanic (W)2004 Epstein


So Epstein and his management team were responsible for putting in place 13 of the 17 of the Red Sox players who took the field in that historical game.

Without Theo, there’s no Kevin Millar to get the big hit off Rivera, no Brian Roberts to steal second, no Bill Mueller to drive him in, no David Ortiz to win it three innings later, and no upending of my world as I knew it.

(And no fucking bloody sock enshrined forever in Cooperstown either.)

So you can't deny he was good.

But regardless of who or what Theo was, the fact that he’s bolting Boston is great news for the Yankees—especially after resigning GM Brian Cashman last week.

But one thing that a couple of people have asked me… Why weren’t the Sox willing to give Theo whatever he wants in order to keep him?

Great question.

This is the guy who brought Boston a World Series, right? The first one in 86 years? Who almost ruined the aforementioned conspiracist’s career when he put the team in place that ultimately broke “the curse”? The guy who had the balls to trade the face of Boston, Nomar, for two lesser players who turned out to be exactly what the Sox needed, singlehandedly turning the season around and going down as potentially the best mid-season trade of all time? And to top it all off, he’s only 31 and was the youngest GM in history when he was hired? The native Bostonian who should have been the GM for the next 30 years?

They’re not willing to give this guy whatever he wants?

Apparently… not.

I can’t say why definitively, and don’t hold your breath waiting for the Sox too, either.

But I’m not surprised by it, for two simple reasons:

This is what the Red Sox do. They have a set price or contract in mind, and when they hit that limit, that’s it. New Ownership, Old Ownership, doesn’t matter. Most notable example: A-Rod, and no, it wasn’t visionary not to sign him, it was idiocy at the time and remains that way, regardless if they lucked out on the outcome. This would be like picking U2 over Bon Jovi in the late 80s. Two superstar bands, two top albums (Joshua Tree, 1987; Slippery When Wet, 1986) and both potential long-term players in the field. But Bon Jovi was just astronomical at the time, and big hair was hot. So what if you got lucky and went with U2—now the biggest band in the world, playing the largest arenas, while Bon Jovi plays small rooms packed with single horny women in their late 30s, still with big hair—you still would have been wrong at the time.

The other reason is that Tom Henry (the Owner) and Larry Lucchino (minority owner/CEO) are very good friends. If Theo and Lucchino are butting heads as rumored, Tom is going with Larry, even despite the worst acting performance by an owner in press-conference history.

Theo’s out, and after his "White House Press Secretary During Every Presidential Scandal in the Past Thirty Years" -style press conference, it's clear he's keeping the reasons to himself.

But really, all we can do now is look at how he’s leaving. Some people are saying Theo’s exit is on his terms, and they’re admiring him for it.

Not me. I don’t buy the crap about “he accomplished his goal and knows it was time to move on.”

Really? His goal was one World Series? Just one? Maybe he wasn’t that smart or driven after all.

There are only two teams that set their GMs up with a chance to put together a World Series team every year:

The Yankees and the Red Sox. That’s it.

Outside of those two, you've got small markets, small payrolls, fan disinterest, poor attendance, years of playoff droughts, penny-pinching ownership, etc etc etc.

And he thought the job in Boston would be too much for him to take?

Theo is in for a world of hurt. Seriously. He’s going to go away to another job, lured by the unlimited money and the unlimited power a guy like Frank McCourt of the Dodgers is going to toss at him, and he’s going to find out the hard way that the grass was greener where he was.

Not only that, but who was the last guy to walk away from the dream life? That's right... Theo is a nappy beard and a half-completed acupuncture degree away from becoming the next Ricky Williams.

I think Theo would look cool with dreds and a hobo beard.

So to Theo, I’d say this…

On behalf of Yanks fans everywhere, thanks for leaving your hometown team and abandoning the city you claimed to love. I don’t care if it’s the right decision for you or not—you’re still running away for personal reasons, and in my book, that’s something we call “selfish.”

But thanks for getting the hell out of dodge and letting the Sox replace you with someone inferior. There's no way the next guy will be as good and/or lucky as you. Thanks for giving up potential superstardom and hometown hero status for the rest of your life. (Brilliant!) And a special thanks to Sox Ownership for once again refusing to go the extra mile, or to reward a guy for extraordinary service.

Theo, I wish you the best of luck…

…as long as you sign with a National League team.


Observations from the past week:

AL Gold Gloves were announced this week. Among the first time winners was Jason Varitek, which makes no sense, considering how he’s not even the best defensive catcher on his own team. How can you justify a Gold Glove for a guy who gets replaced every five days because he can’t catch Wakefield’s knuckleball? … Jeter also won his second straight at Shortstop, and he promptly thanked A-Rod for switching to third … Kenny Rogers also won, even though I had no idea he was a good defensive pitcher. I thought he was only good at getting his hands on cameramen.

Poker-gate! A-Rod was reportedly warned by the Yankees not to play poker in illegal poker joints. I never figured A-Rod for a gambler. But I think A-Rod should take the Yankees advice—a guy who just put forth the worst postseason performance after an MVP season should avoid ALL connections to gambling. And yes, I’m implying what you think I’m implying.

The most shocking news item of the past week by far: Manny wants a trade! Hey, didn’t see that coming.

The first news item on ‘Cuse basketball this year was a little unexpected… Head Coach Jimmy Beoheim was thrown out of the game for arguing foul calls during an exhibition. It's Beoheim's 30th year as head coach, and I'm not certain of this, but I'm pretty sure that's the first time he's ever been ejected from a game. (I'm going to start diving into college basketball over the next few weeks, so get ready.)

One thing about writing this column every week is how much deeper I've been letting myself dive into the sports world. I'm even tempted to start following the NBA, which tipped off it's regular season this week. Unless Kobe goes to Colorado for some fun, I'm going to do my best not to write about the NBA at all.

Last week in my football picks, with the return of Bruschi to the Pats, I asked if one NFL columnist would mention that the Bills are just a bad team. Well, of the 2,000 articles that appeared on the game, no one did, but Michael Smith came closest in his last few paragraphs. And by the way, if we saw a “revitalized” Pats team in Foxboro last week, New England is in serious trouble. They gave up 394 yards. Against Kelly Holcombe. Seriously.

Had enought yet? Well, on to this week’s NFL picks…

NFL picks for Week 9

Last week: 12-2 (.857)
Season: 76-40 (.655)


Had a hell of a gambling week last week, as you can see. I was 9 points away from winning my weekly pool, but lost thanks to an out-of-the-blue performance by the Ravens on Monday night, which was the most unexpected thing I’ve seen during a primetime football game since Janet Jackson’s nipple. (More on the Ravens later.) I’m also tied for fifth place in for the season in that pool, three picks off the lead. Plenty of time to make that up (or fall apart). I’ll also point out I correctly picked Houston to get its first win of the season, thanks very much.

And both my fantasy teams won handily. I’ll file that under “like you care.”

But I digress. To the picks! (Home team in CAPS)

Atlanta over MIAMI
You can say whatever you want about Michael Vick’s record as a starter. You can say whatever you want about his athletic ability. You can say whatever you want about how he’s the most exciting player in the game. You can say it all, and it’s all true. But he’s still a crappy quarterback who makes way too many mistakes. He’s never going to win a Super Bowl if he doesn’t learn that a quarterback’s primary job is to pass the ball. He’s like an athletic Brett Favre… all “shock and awe” … shock, as in, “I DON’T BELIEVE HE MADE THAT PLAY!” and awe, as in, “AW SHIT I CAN’T BELIEVE HE TURNED IT OVER AGAIN!” (I broke a cardinal rule here, and had Miami in this game. Then I changed it. Which of course guarantees a Miami victory. So I'm changing it again:)

MIAMI over Atlanta
So you know what this means, right?

Carolina over TAMPA BAY
Tampa Bay got SHUT DOWN by San Fran last week. One of the two games I got wrong. Which begs the question… is San Fran not as bad as we thought, or are the Bucs not as good as we thought? Well, when the Giants beat the Niners by about 30 this weekend, and you see the final score in this game, you’ll have your answer.

Chicago over BATON ROUGE
They’re not in New Orleans anymore, and they’re not going back after this season. And after this season, the people in New Orleans will probably thank them. And also in the news this week, Saints owner Tom Benson won his first Gold Glove.

BALTIMORE over Cincinnati
Do you see what I’m doing here? Do you see it? Do you know why? Let me refresh your memory… from last week’s pick against the Steelers:

”If Baltimore scores more than 9 points, I’ll pick them for every game for the rest of the year regardless of the opponent. I’m not kidding, I’ll really do it. I'll screw my entire pool for the rest of the year.”

Of course, true to my luck, Baltimore had 10 points midway through the second quarter. I’m going to make this pick, and screw myself for this week, but that’s as far as I’m going to let it go. I’m in contention here for over $500, so that should teach everyone a lesson: never listen to a guy who has a chance to win money. He’s probably lying.

But how about that game? I'm glad I bought cans of beer instead of bottles, because I would have broken them and tried to gouge my eyes out during this game. I had 30 points as the tiebreaker, and no one was lower than me. So all I needed was for the game to be 30 points or lower. With the state of the Ravens O, that was a given, right?

But I underestimated Brian Billick. Think about it. You're the head coach of a 2-5 team, you're playing on the road without your starting QB, without two of the best defensive players in the league, and your starting running back is averaging 2.9 yards per carry. Not a single expert is picking you to win this game. Not one. So you basically say “fuck it” and turn your backup QB loose, letting him throw the ball anywhere he wants, deep as he wants. The Ravens caught the Steelers completely off guard, and if Matt Stover doesn’t miss a field goal in the second quarter, this could have been Ravens victory.

Who knows? Maybe the freakin Ravens can win this…. Okay, nevermind.

MINNESOTA over Detroit
What else is on?

JACKSONVILLE over Houston
Here are some teams on the remainder of Jacksonville’s schedule: Houston Junior High, Tennessee A&M, Vancouver Argonauts, Mexico City Cardinals, San Francisco Giants, etc. With the exception of a game at Indy, there is no reason Fred Taylor’s Groin Squad can’t win out.

Oakland over KANSAS CITY
I’m like Charlie Sheen in a brothel on this one: just can’t make up my mind. Probably the toughest game to gauge on the schedule. Too bad I can’t just pick the “over” and be done with it.

I wonder who Charlie would take in this game?

San Diego over NEW YORK JETS
Not even close. Seriously.

Tennessee over CLEVELAND
Is this week’s schedule a piece of crap or what?

New York Giants over SAN FRAN
Ditto. And I’m not willing to give the Giants the NFC East (or the NFC Championship as some NFL “experts” like Michael Wilbon on PTI are) but that was the second most impressive win I’ve ever seen by a Giants squad. Just absolute domination. I kept repeating myself while watching it… “I don’t think I’ve ever seen them play like this.” And this is the first time I’ve ever watched a DVRed football game in its entirety. So you know it had to be good. (The first most impressive win by the G-men I’ve seen was the NFC title game in 2000 when Collins went off and they beat Minnesota 40-0, in case you were wondering. Of course, they went on to get beat by Trent Dilfer in the Super Bowl, which is all the reminder you need not to trust the Giants at all.)

The most inspirational tactic Wellington Mara ever employed: dying.

Seattle over ARIZONA
When the major plotline is, “How many touchdowns will Sean Alexander score?” you might be in trouble.

Pittsburgh over GREEN BAY
I’m willing to pull for Brett Favre this year, as long as he promises to hang it up at the end of the season. But even with Roethlisberger on the sidelines, Pitt only has to ask Charlie Batch not to screw up on his 15 pass attempts to win this game. He can do that, right? Despite the fact he's got the second-longest losing streak (10 games) among active quarterbacks? I think Cowher learned his lesson after the Maddox incident in Jacksonville, and I'm sure he'll avoid putting Batch in a position to influence the outcome of the game--for better or worse.

Philadelphia over WASHINGTON
Congratulations if you had Week 8 on “The wheels will come off the Brunell-Moss combo.” You’re the big winner here. And how about those Eagles? Say it with me… “You can’t win in this league if you can’t run the ball.” I think TO is going to play in this game. And I think Philly is still a better team than Washington, despite that Deer Hunter-esqe performance we saw in Denver last week.

I'm not going to comment on T.O.'s comments this morning, when he said he agreed with Michael Irvin's assesment that if Brett Favre were the Eagles quarterback, the Eagles would be undefeated right now. Okay, I take that back, I am going to comment: First, no one doubts Favre is a better QB than McNabb. Second, no one doubts that Favre is tougher than McNabb. Third, there's no way the Eagles would be undefeated with Favre, because Green Bay certainly isn't, and McNabb didn't give up 49 points to Denver last week. And fourth, T.O. is an idiot, as if you needed me to tell you that. Why's he got to go hating on my boy McNabb like that? Does he have any concept of "team" at all? To quote Leon, "There ain't no 'we' in team, either" right T.O.? Can they ship this guy back out to a non-contender on the West Coast so we don't have to hear from him anymore?

NEW ENGLAND vs. Indy
This is the year, right? The year Peyton gets off the schnide? The year Dungee has it figured out? The year the Pats look weak and are so depleated with injuries they finally crack? The year we see that Crennel was the defensive mastermind who shut down Peyton? The year that Indy is the better team even though they've only played one team with a winning record and the Pats have played seven teams that averaged 11 wins last year?

So this is year that the Colts finally emerge from Foxboro with a victory?

Nope. NEW ENGLAND over Indy

I could talk about all the pieces of this game, and easily make this its own column. But it doesn't need to be. Because really, it's obvious:

Until I see it happen, I will not believe it. And I'm certainly not picking it.

Bill Beard is an independent writer who thinks twenty years from now, we could be looking back and talking about Eli instead of Peyton. He can be reached for offers to take the Red Sox GM job at wrbeard@hotmail.com.