LOS ANGELES — The last year I was in Maine, I covered my high school, Thornton Academy, as it won its first-ever boys basketball Class A state championship. It was the greatest run for me both professionally and personally because of the team and individuals involved (I was a captain my senior year). Looking back, I feel like I wrote some of my best game stories and columns during that time, and while I might have had some extra motivation to be at my best, I relished in it the moment and tried to remain as objective as humanly possible.
Being there as the final seconds ticked and the celebration and the cutting down of the nets and talking to the kids and coaches afterwards is something I’ll never forget. I felt like I was a part of that team, and for no other reason than I spent a lot of time with them; at their games, at their practices, talking on and off the record to the coaches and players. Saco is a true community, and a giant local sports town, and I’m proud to forever be part of that community for my service there as a student athlete, teacher, and member of the media.
This past weekend, another of Thornton’s teams I have a strong affinity for, did something it hasn’t done in 24 years. The Golden Trojans football team reached the Class A State Championship game with a 20-13 victory over Cheverus in the Western Maine final to earn their first trip to the title game since 1988. We won the Gold Ball that year and if all goes to plan, we ‘ll take it home again on Saturday. I played 3 varsity season during my time as a Thornton Academy student, the last as its quarterback. I’ve known the head coach, Kevin Kezal, since he was my JV baseball coach in 1996. My first year out of college, he brought me in to be the Trojans wide receivers coach; it was one of the best times of my life. I’ve known all the coaches nearly as long and covered them for 5 years. To say I’m close to the program is an understatement.
The funny thing is, when I was home in May, I stopped by Thornton and talked to Kezal and another coach for nearly two hours. It was mostly just catching up, since I hadn’t been home or seen them in a while, but they noted how special this team could be; that they had a chance to finally be the one to end our Gold Ball drought. And now they’re 48 minutes away. It kills me not to be there. Good luck, boys.
We know who The Man is in Maine, let’s find out who’s The Man in the NFL this week.
32.) Kansas City Chiefs (1-8) (32) — The Chiefs took the lead on Monday night for the first time all season. And then lost. Then got a penalty for a sick dance on a play that technically didn’t happen. That tells you all you need to know. #FreeJamaal
31.) Jacksonville Jaguars (1-8) (31) — I’m glad we can put to bed all this “Alabama would beat the Chiefs or Jaguars” talk, with the Tide’s loss over the weekend to Texas A&M. But wouldn’t a game between them be fun?
30.) Carolina Panthers (2-7) (28) — OK, Cam Newton, I’m going to give you a mulligan for this season. I think you’re a good player. Really, I do. I called it two years ago when co-workers were trashing you, but please please please put the “Superman” dance away for the rest of 2012.
29.) Cleveland Browns (2-7) (30) — Not really much to say about the Browns so allow me to another opportunity to dial up a quickie Extra Butter for the new Bond flick “Skyfall”: I get the impression that in real life, Daniel Craig is a pretty big a-hole. I get it, he’s the biggest star in Europe. I’m sure I’d be one, too. But he’s an awesome Bond. Physical. Imposing. Vulnerable. Those piercing blue eyes. Quick-witted. I dig him. And I did this film. It’s an experience. Javier Bardem is an awesome villain and downright creepy, to be honest. An ex-MI6 agent, he’s seeking revenge for M selling him out to the Chinese years ago. Him battling wits with Bond makes for a riveting 143 minutes. Brockman Stamp of Approval: 4.25/5 shaken martinis.
28.) New York Jets (3-6) (22) — It’s tough to see how Mark Sanchez can continue to be the quarterback of this team. And while a lot of the blame has to be put on his shoulders for his very below average performance this season (9-of-22, 124 yards, INT vs. Seahawks), the coaching staff and management has not done a good job of playing to his strengths and surrounding him with players to bolster his weaknesses. I’m done talking about this team.
27.) Arizona Cardinals (4-5) (27) — Definitely giving up on this team, so allow me to tell how difficult it is to change a tire when all you have is one of those tiny rinky dink jacks. It’s really hard. And even harder when you try to change it on a public street. You have to angle your car so you have just enough room off the curb and on top of that, it’s was dark and the automatic sprinklers just went off for the 3 foot strip of grass. Then you’re car is low to the ground, so you have to lay on the pavement to spin the
26.) Buffalo Bills (3-6) (29) — Stevie Johnson is the most flamboyant player on the Bills. He wears really cool outfits and makes fun of Plaxico Burress after he scores touchdowns. However, he was not happy after Buffalo’s 37-31 loss to the Patriots.
25.) Philadelphia Eagles (3-6) (25) — Holy shnikes this team sucks. I mean, what the hell? Can’t Michael Vick go one game without getting his ass kicked like he plays for that team Adam Sandler was the water boy for? I actually think I had a dream last night that Andy Reid shaved his walrus ‘stache. Do you think if he did, that would confuse Eagles fans, reporters and even his own Jeff Lurie into thinking that it was a new coach and therefore no one would get upset and Lurie wouldn’t come damn near close to firing him every Sunday night? That might work, right? Hell, it’s worth a shot. Andy doesn’t have many bullets left in the holster.
24.) Oakland Raiders (3-6) (24) — Literally the only player worth having on the Raiders for fantasy purposes in their tight end, Brandon Myers, who I actually never even heard of about 5 weeks ago, but has been killing it for me in that span. However, he suffered a concussion, along with half the league, this weekend and is questionable against the Saints, which forces me to start Jermichael Finley, who I have grown to loathe this season. He couldn’t catch herpes if he had a threeway with Paris Hilton and Linsday Lohan.*
23.) Washington Redskins (3-6) (20) — Did I see that right, the Redskins have the exact same record at this point in the season as they did last year with Rex Grossman as their quarterback? I’m not saying any more. My Good Friend Robert needs a win though. Pretty badly.
22.) Tennessee Titans (4-6) (26) — I’m conflicted here with the Titans. On one side, I’m happy for Jake Locker that he came back from his injury and won a big road game against an apparently fraudulent Dolphins and got Tennessee back in the playoff mix. On the other side, I’m sad for My Brother Matthew, who won’t get any more burn this season unless Locker goes down with an injury again. Conflicted. Oh, and that TD run by Chris Johnson is one of the plays of the year. Dang, homey.
21.) St. Louis Rams (3-5-1) (23) — See, I knew I wasn’t the only ones who felt indifferent about the Rams. The Football Gods deemed it necessary to have them play in a tie this season. A TIE!!?! It’s been 4 years since the last tie in the NFL and Donovan McNabb regrettably stated he didn’t know the game would end that way. Now, after that episode, you’d think that no NFLer would dare admit that again, but lo and behold, Danny Amendola went and did just that to Peter King afterwards. When are these guys gonna learn to KEEP. THEIR. MOUTHS. SHUT? I’m guessing never.
20.) San Diego Chargers (4-5) (18) — You may not see a worse pass this season than the one Philip Rivers threw that Leonard Johnson intercepted and ran back for a touchdown this week. I don’t get Rivers one bit. Sure, he throws it uglier than Tebow but man he can make plays one minute and then the most boneheaded the next.
19.) Cincinnati Bengals (4-5) (21) — It’s ridiculous how there are so many teams with basically the same record but who have very different feelings about their playoff chances. Such as the Bengals, who are 4-5 are in the same boat as the Chargers, but while San Diego might as well be walking the plank, Cincy is down below getting drunk on rum its huge win over the Giants. It’s all about trends and the Orange and Black is trending up.
18.) Detroit Lions (4-5) (17) — The Lions will never win anything until Matthew Stafford turns his hat around. No one ever won anything in a backwards cap. Not Ken Griffey Jr., not Tony Romo, no one.
17.) Miami Dolphins (4-5) (16) — The Dolphins had a chance to make as statement, get above .500 for the first time since who knows when and get into the AFC Playoff Picture and what did they do? Get absolutely boat raced at home by the Titans. Inexcusable. I’m so upset by this I need a new picture of Lauren Tannehill to cheer me up. Aaah, that’s better.
16.) Dallas Cowboys (4-5) (19) won — Does anyone stay alive quite like the Dallas Cowboys? They’re like that one last good run at the blackjack table as you’re nearing zeroes that keeps you around just long enough to lose your entire stake. Don’t trust them and never will. But that’s very noble of Jerry Jones to say he’d fire himself. So go ahead and do it, you dope.
15.) Minnesota Vikings (6-4) (15) — Definitely a must-win last weekend, in division against the Lions, for the Vikings. If it wasn’t for Peyton Manning, Adrian Peterson would be the MVP of the league right now. You could make an argument the two should share that award and Comeback Player of the Year, which is incredible. Here’s my buddy Jimmy’s take: “Going into the bye 6-4, gonna finish 10-6. You heard it here first.” Yes, we did.
14.) New Orleans Saints (4-5) (14) — One of those annoying Pepsi commercials featuring Drew Brees and some band called “One Direction,” which is why I’m going this route. But is anyone else kind of tired of/annoyed with/want to punch Brees in the face? He hasn’t been doing himself any favors in the last 6 months with the holdout, the Bounty stuff, the tired pregame chants and now these commercials. They’re terrible. Deplorable, even. And on those pregame chants; who takes those seriously? Seeing Brees stand there and be all, “come on, uh huh, yeah” and say things like, “real Saints have swag,” get real, Drew. Don’t care if you’re a Hall of Famer, you’re out.
13.) New York Giants (6-4) (9) — Even if their bye week wasn’t pre-determined for Week 11, I’m guessing Tom Coughlin would’ve most likely petitioned the league office to make it the Giants week off after the way they’ve played lately. Now with just a two-game lead over the Cowboys in the NFC East, Big Blue is reeling like it’s fly fishing season. Eli Manning has
12.) Indianapolis Colts (6-3) (13) –– It’s amazing what’s going on in Indianapolis. Truly. And if you think about it, the Colts are a Blaine Gabbert to Cecil Shorts 80-yd bomb in the final two minutes away from being 7-2. That’s one people are going to look back and shake their heads at, especially when the Jags are 1-15 and the Colts are 11-5.
11.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-4) (12) — I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: really like what’s going on in Tampa Bay. Sure, Greg Schiano is a little insane, but this team has offensive firepower coming out its ears. Mike Williams has a 3 TDs in the last 5 games
10.) Seattle Seahawks (6-4) (11) –– I still don’t believe in Russell Wilson, but each week he’s making me look dumber and dumber for saying that.
9.) Baltimore Ravens (7-2) (10) — Seems like this team only plays well and home. And could Ray Lewis really come back and play this season? He was spotted at practice this week. Hmmm.
8.) Pittsburgh Steelers (6-3) (8) — Remember a little over a month ago when I wondered if the Steelers were any good? Well, four straight wins later I think they’ve proved me wrong. However, with Big Ben nursing a dislocated rib with the possibility of puncturing an aorta (what the what?!), Pittsburgh has to turn to 73-year-old Byron Leftwich and his hand crank delivery. At least they don’t play the Ravens two of the next three weeks. What’s that you say, they do? Hmm…
7.) Denver Broncos (6-4) (7) — You know who’s awesome? Von Miller. Here’s why; the dude likes to have fun while playing football. Imagine that. I really like how he does other people’s celebrations when he sacks them or makes a play. He’s Tebow’d, did Aaron Rodgers’ belt celebration, Mile High Saluted, Cam’s Superman and countless others. Always reminding us that it is just a game, and game’s are supposed to be fun.
6.) San Francisco 49ers (6-2-1) (5) — It appears Alex Smith (concussion) will be ready for the Monday Night clash against Chicago, but don’t you kinda get the feeling that the 49ers would like Smith to be out so they could see what life could be like with the dangerous Colin Kaepernick behind center? No? Am I the only one who thinks that? Kaepernick is bigger (hands), has a stronger arm, is faster and can make something from nothing. Sure, Smith is Harbaugh’s guy (when he’s not courting Peyton Manning) but why not rest him and see what you have in the young kid?
5.) New England Patriots (6-3) (6) — The Patriots give up far too many points, yards and big plays (they lead the league in 20+ yard plays) yet somehow find a way to win. It’s why I can’t have them any higher despite their three-game winning streak. I’d also be lying to you if I said I was confident in the 4th Quarter against Buffalo and that I think this weekend’s game against the Colts is a cakewalk. Lying to you.
4.) Chicago Bears (7-2) (2) — How come it seems like every season Jay Cutler does something very Jay Cutler-like (aside from all the douchey stuff) such as getting hurt when his team has a legit shot to go deep in the playoffs? Oh, right, because he does. Last year it was the thumb and this year it’s the concussion thanks to a Tim Dobbins helmet-to-helmet hit when Cutler was scrambling and near the line of scrimmage on a throw. Allow me to the first to wish Jason Campbell congratulations on still being in the league and reminding everyone of that when he walked on the field, Sunday night.
3.) Green Bay Packers (6-3) (4) — Word out of Wisconsin is Aaron Rodgers recently proposed to his girlfriend, Destiny Newton. Could that explain is elevated play in recent weeks? I have no idea, but while you’re here, take a peek at Miss Newton.
2.) Atlanta Falcons (8-1) (1) — Matty Ice and Co. failed to remain unbeaten, falling to the Saints last weekend, but if we’re all honest with one another, I don’t think any of us expected Atlanta to go 16-0. This smells like a 13-3 team. Just not getting enough out of the running game. Not sure if it’s by design, but even when his number is being called, Michael Turner is struggling big time. That’s gotta get fixed for me to be serious about the Dirty Birds as legit contenders.
1.) Houston Texans (8-1) (3) — I have just one rule: when you go on the road and defeat a fellow once-beaten team, and on top of that, knock said once-beaten team’s quarterback out of the game, AND you have Arian Foster, you deserve the top spot in my weekly You’re The Man rankings.