LOS ANGELES — With apologies to Don Draper and Walter White, an argument could be made the two most popular television programs in the country right now are anything involving the National Football League and “Game of Thrones.” So, logically, we here at The Chris Brockman Website decided to combine the two, matching our favorite backstabbers, schemers, and philanderers of Westeros with their respective NFL counterparts. You don’t need to be a loyal book reader of the George R.R. Martin series to appreciate these footballers are who we say they are.
TYWIN LANNISTER — Bill Belichick, Patriots: Leader of a dynasty and the self-proclaimed “smartest guy in the room,” the similarities between Belichick and the eldest Lannister are endless. Watching Tywin talk down to his Small Council, you can almost hear his Belichikian tone. All that’s missing is cutoff armor and hooded chainmail. There’s no question these two weathered veterans are winners, leaders, and probably not as smart as they or everyone thinks they are. But any time they’re on camera, you can’t look away.
TYRION LANNISTER — Steve Smith, Panthers: Both the undersized Carolina receiver and the Imp have been counted out their whole adult lives because of their physical stature, and while Tyrion has used his brain to get ahead, Smith has used his giant heart and fierce determination. The pair are extremely crafty despite being overlooked from most. Additionally, and this is a point we can’t harp on enough, each are equally despised by their own family as evidenced by Joffrey trying to have Tyrion killed at the Battle of Blackwater, and Smith getting in multiple fights with teammates and his alleged feud with Cam Newton.
BRONN — Aaron Rodgers, Packers: Money and winning are the only pure motivators for Bronn, who is fearless, reckless, and doesn’t play by anybody’s rules. Sounds a lot like the newly-minted, richest-man-in-the-NFL Rodgers if you ask me. Bronn is also funny – have you seen a Rodgers post-game press conference? – and petty – Rodgers got miffed at “60 Minutes” for suggesting he was short for a quarterback. Just not sure if the evil notions in Green Bay come free.
PODRICK PAYNE THE SQUIRE — Josh Scobee, Jaguars: Podrick has proved to have a way with the ladies, to the amazement of Tyrion and Bronn, and the same can be said for Scobee, who has one of the hotter wives in the NFL. Like the young squire, Scobee, as a kicker, knows his role on the team and when to speak up. And like Podrick saved his Lord’s life at the Battle of Blackwater, Scobee on occasion has lifted his teammates to victory in the closing seconds with a game-winning kick.
JAIME LANNISTER — Eli Manning, Giants: By virtue of being a Manning, Eli was automatically enshrined into NFL royalty, and like the one-handed Lannister, Eli has shown his prowess for taking what he wants. You could easily pass on the moniker “Kingslayer” to No. 10 for taking down the league’s Golden Boy not once, but twice in the Super Bowl, thusly denying Tom Brady championships 4 and 5.
BRIENNE OF TARTH — Joe Thomas, Browns: It takes someone lacking fear to defend a blindside, and no one does that better than Joe Thomas, even though whichever QB the Browns trot out any given Sunday is likely worthless. And like Brienne, a left tackle has to be big, bullheaded, and full of duty and honor. Often overlooked in the stat line, like the lady of Tarth, Thomas often has an impact when his master is unscathed.
DAENERYS TARGARYEN — Russell Wilson, Seahawks: Like the Mother of Dragons emerged from a hopeless girl to dominate across the Narrow Sea, Wilson came out of nowhere to be a real NFL power player after a breakout 2012 season. And while Khaleesi now has a trio of new weapons in her dragons, Wilson now has Percy Harvin’s plethora of talents at his disposal. Both are now major contenders to wear the crown after being unknowns when the season (and show) began.
JORAH MORMONT — Pete Carroll, Seahawks: Jorah was disgraced and booted out of Westeros, which is not unlike Carroll’s tail-between-his-legs exit from Southern Cal following the Reggie Bush scandal. Now, both are fortunate to have fallen into backing big-time winners. Loyal, slick, wise, and cheerleaders, Jorah and Carroll are cut from the same mold and seem to have positioned themselves for long-term success.
BARRISTAN SELMY — Dick LeBeau, Steelers: It’s not often that a battle-tested warrior lives to become an old man in the Seven Kingdoms, much like the NFL translates to “Not For Long.” So it makes sense that Barristan and LeBeau are counterparts. A pair of grizzly veterans of the game, they’ve seen it all, done it all, and have survived to pass on their defensive genius to a new crop of players.
ROBB STARK — Tom Brady, Patriots: Brady is the unquestioned leader of the North, untouchable, and received this tutelage from the best; very similar to Robb, who trained under his well-respected father, Ned. And like Robb, Brady has had moments of resounding brilliance (multiple Super Bowl championships & MVPs) and ones of shake-your-head foolishness (dancing in Brazil, water sliding, ridiculous haircuts). Brady’s big-game performance of late has also matched well with the eldest Stark son, whose actions have left his men wondering if he’s fit to be King.
TALISA STARK — Gisele Bundchen: Like Talisa, Gisele stole the heart of the King of the North, and an argument could be made both Robb Stark and Tom Brady haven’t won anything since. Brady has come up short in two Super Bowls since hooking up for the former Victoria’s Secret model. Stark, meanwhile, has upset his own men, soiled the faith of an ally, and been blundering away strategic position since shacking up with the battlefield Volantis nurse.
EDDARD STARK — Brett Favre: One of only two deceased GOT characters to make the list is a fitting match for Favre. Both Ned Stark and the Ole’ Gunslinger were honorable statesmen, loyal to their homeland for many, many years before abandoning what they knew for the perils of the Big City. Favre jettisoned Green Bay for New York and then Minnesota, figuring his built-up good faith would carry over into this new surroundings, not realizing he was out of his element. And while Ned showed he could hang briefly at King’s Landing – like Favre’s career year with the Vikings – he ultimately ended up backstabbed and without his head; Favre’s magical journey ended on the sideline, consecutive games-played streak history, and after he retired, he’s barely been heard from.
JON SNOW — Wes Welker, Broncos: You could say undrafted players are the bastard children of the NFL, which would make Welker much more than Jon Snow given his success. And whether it was by his own doing or not, Welker left the safe haven of the North and joined up with the enemy on the other side of The Wall, or on his case, the Rocky Mountains. If Welker is still working for his new team’s enemy or knows more than nothing, a la Snow, has yet to be seen.
BRAN STARK — Adrian Peterson, Vikings: Both heirs of the North, Bran was thrown from a tree and lost the use of his legs, while Peterson was chopped down and needed reconstructive knee surgery. Bran has since been running like the wind in his dreams, while Peterson went out and nearly broke the NFL single-season rushing record in 2012. You almost get the feeling that Bran is destined for great things and likewise Peterson is only scratching the surface of what he could accomplish, especially after his recent 2,500-yard pronouncement.
HODOR — Rob Gronkowski, Patriots: Could you imagine if Gronkowski had a press conference and just said, “Hodor, Hodor, Hodor” every time someone asked him a question? It would be the greatest YouTube moment in sports. Just a big, lovable galoof is what Hodor is, and you could make a serious argument that’s exactly what Gronk is, only with more alcohol. Now if we can just get GOT’s writers to work in “Yo Soy Fiesta” as a battle cry.
THEON GREYJOY — Mark Sanchez, Jets: No one has taken public abuse and been the brunt of more media scrutiny (warranted or otherwise) and sports radio rants than Sanchez, who like Theon, can’t seem to get out of his own way. Seemingly the toast of the New York only a few years ago when he had the Jets in the AFC Championship, Sanchez is practically in shackles after the drafting of Geno Smith. Theon tried to make a bold move in taking Winterfell only to have it backfire into this weird torture play that’s hashing out slowly in Season 3. Neither is a bad guy on the surface, and unfortunately not a winners either, and I suspect both will have an unhappy ending.
STANNIS BARATHEON — Jay Cutler, Bears: When coming up with words to describe Stannis a few immediately came to mind: dull, boring, and pussy-whipped. That led me to only one NFL counterpart: Jay Cutler. Who else embodies Stannis’ spirit of being at times awesome at his position while being an enormous d-bag? Stannis had his best friend, Davos, thrown in jail! Doesn’t that remind you of Cutler screaming at his offensive line for getting sacked all the time? Literally all that’s missing is a Smokin’ Stannis Baratheon Tumblr page and we have Internet perfection.
DAVOS — Ronde Barber, Buccaneers: Davos stood by his King, Stannis, until the bitter end at the Battle of Blackwater, and you could say the same for Ronde, who remained a faithful Buccaneer following their Super Bowl title in 2003, when he no doubt had opportunities to just ship and play for a contender. While he didn’t get made to walk the plank by ownership, he might have well been, as Tampa Bay went 69-91 over the next decade.
JOFFREY BARATHEON — Tim Tebow: The most hated man in the Seven Kingdoms easily could be the most talked about, over-hyped, and dare I say, hated man in the NFL in Tim Tebow. Both Joffrey and Tebow were unfairly placed in their position of power (one by his scheming mother, the other by the scheming media machine and Josh McDaniels) and seemingly have no idea what to do. Joffrey can’t lead his men at the Battle of Blackwater, and while leading seems to be only what Tebow can do, his elsewhere skills so limited at the pro level, as evidenced by his current ouster from the league all together. Joffrey, meanwhile, doesn’t seem likely to sit on the Iron Throne for much longer.
ROBERT BARATHEON — Rex Ryan, Jets: Robert was a terrible king, but by all accounts, a great guy to be around, and he was a helluva warrior. Rex really isn’t that great of a head coach, but he sure looks like he’d be a fun guy to go to the Old Country Buffet with, and he used to scheme a good defense. Robert really liked fathering bastards and Rex, well, he liked to, well, make weird videos with his wife. Both were blubbering idiots who were mostly all show and no go. We know what happened to Robert, so I’m guessing Rex’s days are numbered.
GENDRY — Andrew Luck, Colts: Whether he knows it or not, Gendry is the rightful heir to the Iron Throne, and by virtue of Peyton Manning’s bum neck, Luck is the future of NFL quarterbacking. The best prospect at the position since the man he replaced, Luck’s upside is exponential, especially after his record-breaking rookie campaign. And the best thing about him, is there’s no ego. Much like Gendry, who just wants to be a part of SOMEthing, Luck is happy to be here and help his team win. The future is bright for both these young, goofy men.
SANDOR CLEGANE — Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers: Natural counterparts, The Hound and Roethlisberger are both larger than life, fierce warriors, and survivors of life-altering facial injuries – Big Ben’s after his June 2006 motorcycle accident and The Hound’s after his brother shoved him in a fire. Both like to party (though Ben’s days appear to be over) and never back down from a challenge. Ben is known for always playing through pain and keeping plays alive by being nearly impossible to take down, and The Hound is lauded whooping serious ass and being loyal to those he has a soft spot for.
PETYR BAELISH — Jerry Jones, Cowboys: No other owner can truly stake claim to being the NFL’s Lord of Coin like Jerry Jones, who out of his own pocket practically built the world’s greatest sports stadium. Like Baelish, Jones is extremely crafty and always scheming (how else do you explain the multitude of Draft-day trades?), likens himself as the smartest guy in the room (what other owner is also his team’s General Manager?) and commands an audience. Though you get the feeling others in Westeros laugh at Littlefinger behind his back, as I suspect those across the NFL do as the Cowboys blunder away season after season.
VARYS — Mike Shanahan, Redskins: Not similar in stature but definitely in mind, Varys and Shanahan are without a doubt the ultimate backroom deviants who know who they are and are completely comfortable in their own skin. Varys waited his whole lifetime to get his revenge on the mad scientist who crippled him while Shanahan lived through all the Raiders madness before achieving success with the Broncos. Now, he has the ear of Robert Griffin III and knows good things are on the horizon.
BERIC DONDARRION — Peyton Manning, Broncos: Manning being able to come back and have the kind of MVP 2012 season that he did after four, count ‘em four, neck surgeries is damn near the equivalent of Beric coming back from the dead a half dozen times after suffering fatal battle wounds. You could also make the argument now Manning is closer to the Lord of Light given Denver’s mile-high altitude, but you’d need to check with Thoros first, since he’s the one who actually returns Beric from the other side, which we know is dark. Speaking of.
THOROS OF MYR — John Elway, Broncos: If it wasn’t for Elway and his belief in Manning returning to his Colts championship and MVP form, then the Broncos No. 18 jersey wouldn’t be flying off shelves at ludicrous speed in the 303 and 720. It’s well known The Duke likes to throw ‘em back, too, and that fits well with the Brotherhood Without Banners’ red priest’s mantra of getting drunk and searching for ways to swindle gold. Thoros was a renowned warrior who now is an adviser of sort to Beric, which fits well with Elway, who is arguably the greatest quarterback in NFL history and is doing a mighty fine job thus far as an executive.
MANCE RAYDER — Clay Matthews, Packers: Maniacs, defensive leaders who don’t play by anyone’s rules but their own, and strong men of the North, Matthews and Mance are quite the pair. While Mance doesn’t quite have Clay’s hair, they are both giant, rugged figures, who elicit loyalty from their men and fear in their opponents.
TORMUND GIANTSBANE — Brett Keisel, Steelers: The man with the best beard north of The Wall and the man with not only the best beard in the AFC North, but the entire NFL, are a match made in facial hair heaven.
— thanks to James Wright for his contributions to this column.
LOS ANGELES — Admit it, as you got ready for Monday Night Football this week and went through your normal routine of reading online articles, scrolling Twitter and watching pregame shoes you came across the nugget that it was 666th editing of MNF. And as you let that sink in, it also dawned on you that Monday’s game was to feature one Tim Tebow. And knowing what we know about Tim Tebow you thought to yourself: “hmm… something screwy might happen tonight.”
It was then, I came to the slow realization that I would not complete an epic fantasy football comeback (down 48 with Arian Foster and the Texans defense) and that yes, something screwy is DEFINITELY going to happen tonight. Well, we were all duped. Yes, the Jets were in the game, but it had nothing to do with anything Tim Tebow did, which sucks. Rex Ryan totally deprived us of a classic Tebow moment when, down 6 and with the ball with 3:28 to go Mark Sanchez trotted out under center and naturally he didn’t do jack and the Texans won.
Seriously, how great would that last drive have been if it was all Tebow? No doubt he would’ve found a way to win the game and implode Twitter all at the same time.
While God Blesses you, let’s find out who’s the man.
32.) Jacksonville Jaguars (1-4) (31) — Did you know in the last two games Maurice Jones-Drew has 25 total carries, while Blaine Gabbert has thrown it 77 times, with three of those landing into the hands of the Jaguars opponents? No, it’s true. I looked it up. That ratio seems kinda off kilter to me. Hopefully during the bye week Mike Mularkey can get that ironed out. #FreeMJD
31.) Tennessee Titans (1-4) (30) — Chris Johnson is proving to be that girl you grew up with who always talked the talked but never walked the walk when walking was required, if ya know what I mean. Either do something or shut the hell up. And I feel for my brother Matt Hasselbeck. He’s not getting ANY help out there. At he’s still handsome as f–k.
30.) Kansas City Chiefs (1-4) (28) — Eric Winston is my new favorite player in the NFL. Kudos for standing up for your quarterback and everyone in the NFL. Having said that, the fans still have a right to boo. Doesn’t make it right or make them tasteful for doing it.
29.) Cleveland Browns (0-5) (32) — You may be looking at this list and wondering how a winless team is not ranked as the worst team. If not, then you and I are on the same page. I think of it like this, at least the Browns CAN score and have proven they have the ability to put the ball in the end zone. After 5 games they have 100 points, which is more than the 1-win Chiefs (94), Titans (88) and Jaguars (65). Trent Richardson is proving he’s past the knee problems.
28.) Oakland Raiders (1-3) (29) — There’s a good chance I may only have the Raiders this high because I picked up Carson Palmer on my fantasy team for a bye-week replacement for Matt Ryan in Week 7. Maybe. #FreeDMC
27.) Carolina Panthers (1-4) (24) — I wasn’t buying the “What’s Wrong With Cam?” headlines after Week 2, but five weeks is a good enough sample size to start wondering what’s going on with him. Newton is 17th in the NFL in yards, 20th in Passer Rating, has just 4 TD passes and has been sacked 13 times. Not exactly Superman efforts.
26.) Buffalo Bills (2-3) (19) — I hope Matt Barkley owns some winter clothes, knows how to operate a wood stove and can drive in the snow, because those Buffalo winters are FRIGID!! Seriously, it’s time to set the Ryan Fitzpatrick (1,057yds, 12TD, 8INT) ship out to sea blazen with that green stuff from Game Of Thrones. All that’s missing is Braun launching the flaming arrow into Lake Erie.
25.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-3) (26) — The best thing that could’ve happened for the Bucs was that they were off last week, which means their coach couldn’t do something stupid and their players couldn’t poorly execute his stupid decisions. I want to like this Tampa Bay team. And with the Chiefs coming to town, it better get a win if it wants any shot at the postseason.
24.) Detroit Lions (1-3) (25) — Ya know, every year Maloney and I wonder who’s the first coach to get fired. It’s a fun little game we play and he always says it’s Lovie Smith and I try to really think about it. Well, the Bears are 4-1 so it won’t be him, but maybe it’s time to ask: is Jim Schwartz on the hot seat?
23.) New York Jets (2-3) (22) — I posted on Twitter during the game Monday how the Jets are who we thought and the Texans needed adjusting. Then someone said how I should give the Jets some credit. Credit for what? Showing up for a Monday Night Football game? So I should get credit for showing up to work today? It’s like that Chris Rock sketch about Ns and black people. Ns always trying to take credit for stuff they’re SUPPOSED to do. I would hope you’d come out and play during a nationally televised game. I would hope. God Bless.
22.) New Orleans Saints (1-4) (27) — Drew Brees throwing a touchdown pass Monday night was as likely to occur as me pulling up for 3 on a fast break in pickup basketball on Saturday. But, what made that record special was that it was caught by #19, since that was Johnny U’s number AND his son Joe being in attendance. However, this record doesn’t impress me that much given how advanced today’s passing games are and how easy it is for receivers. What’s more impressive in regards to Brees, is his longevity and consistency.
21.) Miami Dolphins (2-3) (23) — When watching “Hard Knocks” earlier this summer, I didn’t even think this Dolphins team would get to 2 wins for the season, let alone after 5 weeks of the NFL year. It’s clear that starting Lauren Tannehill’s husband and cutting Chad Johnson were the right moves. However, would like to see some more defense before they climb out of the 20s.
20.) Dallas Cowboys (2-2) (17) — Jerry Jones and I have nothing in common. He’s a billionaire. I’m a thousandaire. He owns Texas. I’ve been there once. He likes plastic surgery. I have still a scar on my back from falling out of an avocado tree earlier this spring. However, we both have this going for us: we’ll be on the Season 4 Premiere of the FX fantasy football comedy “The League” this Thursday at 10:30pm ET. Tune in.
19.) Washington Redskins (2-3) (16) — I’m not saying I saw the Robert Griffin injury coming, but when he rounded the corner I braced myself for a collision from my couch. And when he got hit, I knew he wouldn’t be getting up and returning to the game. You can’t keep playing with a reckless abandon and live to see the next week. There’s a reason Michael Vick has played just ONE full season in his 9-year career. Slide. Run out of bounds. Throw it away. Do something other than get KTFO.
18.) Indianapolis Colts (2-2) (21) — You wanna know why I love sports? For moments like what happened in the second half of the Colts/Packers game. Indy had no business being in that game on Sunday. Down 21-3 at halftime. That baby was over. But strange things happen when other forces are at work. You think the Raiders winning last year a couple days after Al Davis died as a coincidence? Brett Favre going ape balls the day after his dad passed away. Sports are crazy man. I love them. #ChuckStrong
17.) St. Louis Rams (3-2) (20) — Wow, that was some defensive performance last week. Now, I probably could’ve probably went all Reggie White against that Arizona offensive line but still, I was impressed. Tough break for Wes Welker Lite 2.0, Danny Amendola, who was killing it in PPR fantasy leagues. Some guys are just injury prone, that’s a cruel reality of football.
16.) Seattle Seahawks (3-2) (18) — I was about to call Sunday’s victory over the Panthers an “impressive road win” before I remembered they beat Carolina, which sucks. Seriously, it’s terrible. We’ll find out how good this team really is this weekend when the Patriots visit. In fact, did you know it’s Tom Brady’s first-ever game against the Seahawks? AND, I have a little wager on the line with the creator of the FX hit comedy “The League,” Jeff Schaffer, who’s a big Seattle fan. Fast forward to the 50:09 mark of this week’s Rich Eisen Podcast and take a listen.
15.) Philadelphia Eagles (3-2) (9) — I played quarterback in high school and my coach used always tell me the same thing over and over: make sure we come back to the huddle after each play with the ball. Meaning, don’t turn it over. He had to say this often, because, well, I had a knack for giving it away to the other team. This is the problem with Michael Vick. One week after saying he knows what to do with the ball, etc., he turns it over twice on fumbles, raising his giveaway total to 11 on the season. I guess, if there’s good news here, he hasn’t thrown an INT since Week 2. So he’s got that going for him, which is nice.
14.) Arizona Cardinals (4-1) (7) — How much do the Cardinals actually like Kevin Kolb? Based on how they tried to get him killed with their offensive line play last Thursday, I’d say not much. Kolb is the most-sacked QB in the league at 22 take downs, and with upcoming games against Buffalo, Minnesota and San Francisco coming up, that number doesn’t appear to be doing anything but going up. Good luck (Taken voice).
13.) Denver Broncos (2-3) (11) — Has there been a team with more white skill players than these Broncos? Seriously, Peyton Manning, Eric Decker, Joel Dreeson, Brandon Stokley. That’s half a fantasy team right there. They need to trade for Peyton Hillis and Danny Woodhead, pull Jason Sehorn away from retirement and living off Angie Harmon’s TNT money and make this official. They’re like the NFL’s BYU or Utah Jazz. And seriously, WTF is that red blotch on Manning’s head? He’s played football for the last 20 years and he still hasn’t found a helmet that fits him?
12.) Cincinnati Bengals (3-2) (5) — You know how on Wall St. there is such a thing as a Market Correction? Well, this was a Man Correction on the Bengals. What in the hell was that against the Dolphins? So maybe these cats aren’t as good as we think, but man, can A.J. Green play some football, huh? He’s the top-rated WR in my fantasy league and the guy who has him would rather start Donald Brown and Kendall Hunter at running back rather than trade me Green for MJD. That tells you all you need to know.
11.) New York Giants (3-2) (15) — Allow me to channel Chuck Klosterman for a minute: Victor Cruz has some above average football skills. He’s able to make plays that differentiate him from 95% of the receivers currently playing the game of football. But what are the chances the general public, not specific to the American Football viewing segment of the populous has vastly overrated the person Victor Cruz is due to his seductive salsa dancing?
10.) San Diego Chargers (3-2) (12) — Week 5 was one of those “weird forces are at work in the NFL” weeks with the Colts and then with the Saints. Though New Orleans might’ve been a league-influenced scenario. But did you really think Drew Brees WASN’T going to break Johnny Unitas’ record and they weren’t going to win with Sean Payton, Joe Vitt and Mickey Loomis in the house on special permission? And I still hate how Philip Rivers throws. Shot putting is not throwing.
9.) Green Bay Packers (2-3) (6) — The stories making the rounds this week are how the Packers offense is mediocre, a severely flawed version of the 2011 model, which lit the NFL on fire. Well, since numbers never lie, let’s see what the stats tell us: Total Offense – 21st (338 ypg); Passing – 15th (240.8 ypg); Rushing – 20th (95.6 ypg). Yup, that’s below average. For perspective, that’s less total yards per game than juggernauts Chiefs (4th), Dolphins (13th) and Bills (17th). Yikes.
8.) Pittsburgh Steelers (2-2) (14) — Rashard Mendenhall looked pretty good coming back from ACL surgery against the Eagles; 107 total yards and a TD. But does it seem like the Steelers are always bitten by the injury bug? And could this be it for Troy Polamalu?
7.) Minnesota Vikings (4-1) (13) — Christian Ponder is a good dude, but he’s like Ebbie Calvin Laloosh; he needs a nickname. That said, here’s what my Maine buddy Jimmy had to say about his Vikings this week: “4-1 baby, the machine rolls on!!” Wow, the Vikings are a machine now? And can anyone stop Percy Harvin? Dude seems to take a kick back every other week right now.
6.) Baltimore Ravens (4-1) (3) — If you can’t score more than 9 points against the Chiefs, then yes, I don’t care if you win, you are not worthy of being The Man and must drop in rankings of that name. Some teams want it, and some don’t. Right now the Ravens do not want it.
5.) Chicago Bears (4-1) (10) — Remember a couple weeks ago when everyone was skewering Jay Cutler like he was tailgate BBQ? Man, those were fun days, weren’t they? Well, now, ole smoking Jay has thrown for an average of 283 yards and 2 TDs in the last two games, the Bears are in first place and no one remembers how he screamed at his lineman in Week 2.
4.) New England Patriots (3-2) (8) — We all knew the Patriots offense has been on a different level since 2007 but when did they turn into Oregon? I was waiting in the second half for them to come out in matte red helmets with flaming muskets on their neon blue jerseys and fluorescent white cleats. They ran 80-something plays and got 35 first downs against the Broncos. That’s not even video game shh. When you’re No. 1 in total yards (439 ypg) and No. 1 in scoring (33 ppg), that’s like the level above All-Madden.
3.) Houston Texans (5-0) (2) — Had Houston lost on Monday, it would have dropped further than just one slot. But the Texans inability to put away an inferior Jets team slightly discouraged me. They’re still undefeated though, and as long as they have Arian Foster (532 yds, 5 TD) bowing and not knowing who random Dolphins are, they’re going to be near the top of these rankings.
2.) San Francisco 49ers (4-1) (4) — So, lemme get this straight: the game management, Alex Smith led 49ers offense has outscored its last two opponents 79-3? That’s right, right? No big deal, Smith just leads the NFL in Passer Rating (108.7).
1.) Atlanta Falcons (5-0) (1) — Remember when everyone said the Falcons were going to be pass first, pass second, pass third, run fourth? Well, that hasn’t been entirely untrue five games into the season. Sure, Matty Ice (sorry @richeisen, I’m riding with the original nickname over The Mattural) is 3rd in attempts (199) but Michael Turner has run for 250 yards in the last three games. I’m guessing it’ll be another high-flying offensive game for the Falcons this weekend the Raiders.
LOS ANGELES — Late Spring is arguably the best time for sports. With the unpredictability of the NBA and NHL Playoffs, interleague baseball, the randomness of big boxing matches, tennis and golf Grand Slam tournaments, and even horse racing; if the sports planets all align there’s the chance for something special. So when the Devils beat the Kings last Wednesday to avoid a sweep in the Stanley Cup Finals, and then the Heat beat the Celtics to avoid elimination in the NBA Playoffs the next day, the intergalactic sports Gods set up a potentially epic day like Saturday, June 9.
As it turned out, there wasn’t just two or three of the previously mentioned events planned, but all six. I mean, why wouldn’t there be. It isn’t often you get a horse going for the Triple Crown, a tennis great trying to complete the career Grand Slam, your favorite baseball team playing against the best young player since Junior Griffey, a potential Stanley Cup deciding game, an NBA Playoffs Game 7 and a big-time prize fight featuring who many consider the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. All in one day!!?! A sports guy’s dream.
However, when I’ll Have Another’s trainer Doug O’Neill pulled the horse, who already had a pair of stunning come-from-behind wins in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, on Friday morning after noticing signs of arthritis/tendinitis in its leg, the Gods proved they had other plans. We now know those were nightmarish ones, especially for those with northeast rooting interests, like myself.
We’ll start with the Red Sox, who are on the precipice of a disaster .500 season (seriously, Adrian Gonzalez, you suck). They got things going in the southern directional with a 4-2 loss to the hotshots from Washington (who would later sweep Boston after Sunday’s win). While I failed to watch a single inning of this contest, I didn’t have high hopes after Stephen Strasburg (6 innings, 2 runs, 13 Ks) and Bryce Harper (3-for-5, 3 RBIs and a HR) dominated the squad the day before. You know it’s a bad sign when I just expect a disastrous performance before a pitch is ever thrown; 2004 and 2007 seem soooo long ago.
Shortly there after Boston’s “L,” the rest of the field that would’ve been an asterisk to I’ll Have Another’s historic Triple Crown (he was going off at 4-5 odds as late as last Thursday) took to the track at Belmont Park before a less-than optimally hyped crowd of over 85,000 (who bet over $15M). There was a group of us watching at The Daily Pint in Santa Monica for our friend Joe’s birthday or perhaps I would’ve skipped the race entirely. Back in the day, I wouldn’t have missed a big race. There was a harness racing track near my house in Maine and my buddies and I would roll over and lay some action down; always made it more interesting. Alas, I had zero interest, but the historic mile-and-a-half jaunt ended up being a dramatic race despite the favorite’s absence. Union Rags came from behind to claim the victory but will be a distant memory to what might have been. Legendary trainer Bob Baffert once again had his horse Place, as Paynter came up just short.
Now, I’m not a hockey fan, but the hometown Kings being a game away from clinching the first Stanley Cup in the franchise’s history, and with the puck dropping on Game 5 a half hour before Heat/Celtics Game 7, was enough to garner at least 30 minutes of my viewing time. Our now 5-man crew shifted over to Busby’s where we’d be able to watch both events and then possibly the Bradley/Pacquiao fight later on. The move proved to be a smart one as we posted up right in front of a TV with the basketball game on, with the hockey on directly behind us for easy viewing. I turned my head every now and again to check the score; we were updated on what was happening by the groans/cheers from the other patrons. There were mostly groans as the Devils extended the series with a 2-1 win.
Of course, my focus was solely on the Celtics, who were seeking their 3rd NBA Finals appearance in the five years of the Big Three Era and a revenge victory over Miami, which took out Boston in 5 games in last year’s Eastern Conference semis. It was a torridly-close affair but the Celtics managed to have a not-so comfortable 7-point lead at halftime, however, with just 12 minutes left to play it was dead even. The way Miami came back didn’t leave a good feeling in my gut, and as the time on the game clock dwindled it became apparent that the new golden era in Boston was coming to an unceremonious end. The Heat finished off the 101-88 win to advance to the NBA Finals against the youthfully athletic Oklahoma City Thunder and their dynamic and questionably fashionable duo Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. What made the loss even more obnoxious, was that suddenly we were surrounded by Heat fans, fans who were noticeably silent for the previous 36 game minutes. All that was left for me to do was lick my wounds, and devour my turkey burger, and prepare for the pugilistic showdown.
I suppose we should have taken this has a sign of weird things to come, but the fight’s start was delayed by nearly an hour as 1) Manny Pacquaio, apparently a huge Celtics fan (finally, something to like about him) refused to get ready until the basketball game was over, and 2) Pacquiao, after getting ready, had to walk on the treadmill for a lengthy period of time to loosen up his calves, which he’s had problems with tightness in throughout his training camp. Meanwhile, the HBO announcing team was running out of things to talk about as everyone waited. It was beyond bizarre. Meanwhile, Bradley was gloved up and ready to go, pacing around backstage while Pacquaio went on with his shenanigans. The whole scene was bizarre, to say the least.
Finally, just after 9pm pacific time — only an hour or so after it was supposed to get underway — the boxers made their way to the ring, Michael Buffer did this overpriced thing (did you know he gets close to $5 million to be a boxing announcer for big fights?) and the dance began. It was clear from the get-go that Pacquiao was there to fight and quell the thoughts his 12-round triumph over Juan Manuel Marquez some months back wasn’t earned. The WBO champ was aggressive and closed rounds strongly, while Bradley tried to fight off Pacquiao’s his flurries. The challenger didn’t do a good job of it. Midway through the fight I tweeted out that a knockout was looming in the coming rounds. It never came.
Bradley, who we later found out broke his foot in the fourth round, fought admirably to close the bout, but by then most assumed it was a forgone conclusion he was the big loser. When it was finally over and Bradley’s cornermen lifted him up, Jim Lampley commented on the irony, since it appeared he was soundly defeated. It was even reported Bradley told promoter Bob Arum that he gave all he could but even then couldn’t defeat Pacquiao. It wasn’t until Buffer read the first score of 115-113 that I knew something was up. And even though the round went to Pacquiao, that someone could even think the fight was that close was ludicrous was not a good sign if he hoped to continue his 7-year unbeaten streak.
Then Buffer said the second judges scores; “115-113 for Bradley” and you knew right then Bradley was going to win. The final judge’s score of 115-113 for Bradley didn’t even need to be read but when it was there was a good 15-20 seconds of silence inside Busby’s while we all soaked in what we just heard and what that meant for Pacquiao, a sitting-in-jail Floyd Mayweather and the sport of boxing. What it meant for Bradley was a rematch (one that was already predetermined, ironically) and a bigger payday and a still unblemished record. Twitter was aghast with notions of a fix and it was tough to argue. Inside Busby’s, some clown in a LeBron James jersey was running around yelling his outrage to any one would listen. Many did not. On my drive home, I wondered what Mayweather’s reaction must have been when learning of the outcome. Surely a smirk was involved.
In the end, only Maria Sharapova was able to come through to win the French Open and complete her career Grand Slam. Still, she’s getting married to former Lakers guard Sasha Vujacic so a complete victory is not awarded in my book. On top of all the sports brokenheartedness, it was the first weekend in nearly three months without “Game of Thrones,” and it was the last for probably a year with a Mad Men episode.
So much hope, so much promise when the sun rose that day all for not. Sometimes stars shine bright but their alignment is a little off. Maybe next time.