Sunday, January 31, 2010

America's Sore Loser Syndrome and the NFL Overtime Rule


On the day of the 2010 Pro Bowl, perhaps the most boring and meaningless of all the professional all-star games (unless you count the NASCAR all-star race, which I don't), debate rages on about the fairness of the NFL's current sudden-death overtime rule. This debate was most recently spawned after the Vikings overtime loss to the New Orleans Saints in last week's NFC championship game.

The critics decry the abject unfairness of the current overtime rule, stating that it unfairly advantages the team that wins the coin toss and, almost always, elects to go on offense. The experts suggest that it would be much more fair if the NFL instituted a college style overtime rule, where each team has the opportunity to play offense and defense and the game continues until one team, to borrow a tennis term, breaks their opponents serve. There are also those who suggest a shortened overtime period played with regulation rules and/or an overtime period where kicking is not allowed. (Btw, statistics show that, in the NFL, both teams have an opportunity to play offense in the overtime period 70% of the time)

Besides bringing their secret hatred of all things kicker to the forefront, proponents of modifying the NFL's overtime rule are not doing a great job of hiding their inability to deal with being losers. As much as the prognosticators would like to have you believe that they are motivated by fairness and equality, the truth is that their horse in the race, the front-runner Brett Favre, threw two unforgettable and unforgiveable interceptions and played an integral part in ending what seemingly was destined to be a fairytale season.

Yes, the New Orleans Saints advancing to the first Super Bowl in the franchise's history is big news. Yes, seeing the citizens of New Orleans in the midst of jubilant celebration 4 years after Hurricane Katrina all but destroyed their city is a sight for sore eyes. No one can deny how provocatively ironic it is that the New Orleans Saints are traveling down to Miami to face Peyton Manning, the city's favorite son and the son of Saints legend Archie Manning, the first ever draft pick in the history of the Saints franchise.

All of this is well and good but none of it would've topped a meeting of epoch proportions between the legendary Brett Favre, the NFL's iron man and one whom many consider to be the greatest quarterback to ever take the field (if such a distinction could ever be made) and Peyton Manning, the modern embodiment of an era of quarterbacks long passed, who, when it's all said and done, will likely possess every meaningful passing record ever amassed in the history of the Colts franchise and the NFL as a whole.

Could you imagine these two juggernauts of the forward pass trading completions and touchdowns in the most watched event in human history? The Colts and the Vikings tied as the end of regulation approaches. As the clock ticks down to triple zeros, the clouds part and a bolt of lightening streams down from the heavens and engulfs the turf as these two demigods are raptured up into the heavens and seated at the right hand of Zeus, forever immortalized as the eternal guardians of football.

My characterization of a potential Manning/Favre meeting in the Super Bowl is fanciful and far-fetched at best but if you listened to the feracity with which many argue for a change in the NFL's overtime policy in the aftermath of our denial of such a possibility, you would think that this match-up promised to be synonymous with Moses parting the Red Sea or the gods descending Mt. Olympus to walk amongst men.

The NFL's current overtime rules, whether we like it or not, whether it supports our ideals of fairness or not, or whether it hampers our expectations of what constitutes a desirable outcome, is a fair and finite way to decide a game that could not be decided in the 60 minutes allotted in regulation in a game that is wrought with sometimes unbearable emotion and demands a definite outcome.

We have become so accustomed as a society to tailoring the rules to fit our desires, attitudes, and ability levels. This is evident in the little league rules that say that every kid should have an opportunity to play to promote healthy self-esteem to the restructuring or elimination of testing standards in police and fire academies to playcate those who can't make the grade and, rather than studying harder, petition the courts because there must be something inherently unfair about the exam if they can't pass it.

With the NFL's sudden-death over time rule we are reminded of the timeless words of the French chemist Louis Pasteur (famous for inventing the Pasteurization process by which microbes and bacteria are eliminated from dairy products amongst other things) and a favorite saying of the mother of Colts head coach Jim Caldwell - that "chance favors the prepard mind".

To paraphrase what the Golden Child says to Neo in The Matrix before he meets with the Oracle, it is not the advantage on the playing field that should be manipulated, but our own minds. The NFL should stand firmly in support of their current overtime policy. It will be a sturdy stand for competition and sportsmanship in the true spirit of the words.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Plight of the Second-Handers

There is one girl in my office, who is not worthy of recognition by name, that has recently gone out of her way to not just simply avoid speaking to me, but to make it a point to speak to everyone that I speak to. It's quite a sad charade.

In her mind she believes that she is affecting my reality by giving me the "silent treatment". If I am writing this post about her actions then I suppose she has succeeded in the slightest of ways.

However, what she doesn't realize is that by altering her behavior in a purposeful manner it is not me who is ultimately being affected by her actions, but herself.

What qualities do I possess that she envies so stridently?

What manner of insecurity must she be afflicted with internally to be moved to make such a metaphysical display?

The answers to these and many other questions are locked deep within her pysche but one thing is certain....

...the battle and the war is lost to he whose motive power comes not from within but from wothout.

Thus is the plight of the second-handers.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Objectivist Meaning of "Individual Rights"


I came across the following excerpt in Ayn Rand's 1963 paper entitled "Man's Rights" in which Rand expounds upon what an individual's "right to life" means in a rational and moral society. It immediately made me think of the conservative definition of a fundamental "right to life", which is predicated upon the assumption that an embryo having a heart beat at 8-9 weeks after gestation, is a human being and thus has a fundamental right to live. This supposition has been used to form legislation and foment social opinion around a woman's right to abort an undesired fetus.

From a liberal standpoint, "right to life" has come to be characterized by the correct belief that the products of one's body are and should be under the auspices of the individual and thus society, the courts and legislature being representatives thereof, should work to protect those individual rights but not play a part in how an individual, such as a pregnant woman, can execute the actions pertaining to their individual rights .

Liberals (and conservatives in a similar fashion) have used the courts and the legislature to not simply underpin the innate rights of the individual but rather to expand the role of government in the supervision and execution of individual rights (the creation of a distinction between "partial birth abortion" and "early term abortion" being one example.)

I believe that Rand clearly defines individual rights and their relation to society when she states:

"The United States held that man's life is his right (which means: by moral principle and by his nature), that a right is the property of an individual, that society as such has no rights, and that the only moral purpose of government is the protection of individual rights.

A "right" is a moral principle defining and sanctioning a man's freedom of action in a social context. There is only one fundamental right (all the others are its consequences or corollaries): a man's right to his own life. Life is a process of self-sustaining and self-generated action; the right to life means the right to engage in self-sustaining and self-generated action - which means: the freedom to take all the actions required by the nature of a rational being for the support, the furtherance, the fulfillment and the enjoyment of his own life. (Such is the meaning of the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.)

The concept of a "right" pertains only to action - specifically, to freedom of action. It means freedom from physical compulsion, coercion or interference by other men.

Thus, for every individual, a right is the moral sanction of a positive - of his freedom to act on his own judgement, for his own goals, by his own voluntary, uncoerced choice. As to his neighbors, his rights impose no obligations on them except of a negative kind: to abstain from violating his rights.

The right to life is the source of all rights - and the right to property is their only implementation. Without property rights, no other rights are possible. Since man has to sustain his life by his own effort, the man who has no right to the product of his effort has no means to sustain life. The man who produces while others dispose of his product, is a slave.

Bears DE Gaines Adams Dead at 26

Chicago Bears' defensive end Gaines Adams, the 4th overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft and the 2006 ACC Defensive Player of the Year at Clemson, died on Sunday shortly after going into cardiac arrest. Adams was only 26 years old. On October 19th, 2009, the Bears traded a 2nd round pick in the upcoming 2010 NFL draft to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the promising player. It was hoped that a reunion with former Buccaneers and current Bears defensive line coach Rod Marrinelli would help Adams return to his 2007-2008 form when he recorded a total of 12.5 sacks.

Now the Adams family must cope with the void left by Gaines. In a less important but certainly relevant way, the Chicago Bears must now cope with the vacuum created at defensive end with the untimely passing of Adams. With the return of free agent DE Adewale Ogunleye unlikely, the Bears hoped that Adams would compete with Mark Anderson, Alex Brown, and rookie Jarron Gilbert for one of the two defensive end positions. With heavy contractual obligations and without the benefit of a 1st and 2nd round pick in this year's draft, it will be difficult for the Bears to address all of their gaping offensive and defensive needs now made more expansive by the sudden death of Adams.

Preliminary medical examiners reports on Gaines Adams shows that the 2006 1st Team - All-American died of cardiac arrest stemming from an enlarged. Enlarged hearts are common in professional athletes and generally physically active people. The left ventricular heart valve is the heart muscle responsible for pumping blood into and out of the heart. Like any other muscle in the body, the left ventricular valve gets bigger as the heart's demand for blood increases. However, an increase in heart valve size can disrupt the natural electromagnetic field that governs the heart's rhythm. Althletes and physically active people should be aware of the symptoms of abnormal heart functioning such as shortness of breath, weakness, dizziness and tingling in the extremities. One should also pay special attention to these symptoms if there is a family history of heart conditions. Due to the passive nature of the symptoms of abnormal heart functioning, most cases go undiagnosed, especially in women.

People engaged in strenuous physical activities such as power lifting or running should monitor their heart health with periodic check-ups and stress tests.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Does The Rooney Rule Make A Mockery of Minority Hiring in the NFL?


University of Southern California head football coach Pete Carroll has tendered his letter of resignation to the school and will become the head coach of the NFL's Seattle Seahawks. The deal, reportedly worth $35 million over 5 years, was struck while the Seahawks were simultaneously interviewing Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier. This raised questions as to whether the Seahawks had fulfilled The Rooney Rule. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell stated that the league office was satisfied that the Seattle franchise had met their obligation to interview minority candidates for head coaching and front office positions.

The Rooney Rule, established in 2003, requires National Football League teams to interview minority candidates for head coaching and senior football operations opportunities. The rule is named for Dan Rooney, the owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers franchise and chairman of the NFL's diversity committee. The Rooney family is renowned for their long history of giving African-Americans opportunities in key team leadership positions. The Rooney Rule is widely considered as an example of Affirmative Action.

The Rooney Rule was adopted to ensure that minority candidates were considered for head coaching and senior management positions. According to Wikipedia, until 1979 Fritz Pollard was the only minority head coach in NFL history. By the time the rule was established, only Tom Flores, Art Shell, Dennis Green, Ray Rhodes, Tony Dungy, and Herman Edwards had ever held head coaching jobs. Since the Rooney Rule was implemented in 2003, Lovie Smith (Chicago Bears), Mike Tomlin (Pittsburgh Steelers), Mike Singletary (San Francisco 49ers), and Raheem Morris (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) have become NFL head coaches.

Recently, the efficacy of the Rooney Rule has come into question with the hiring of Pete Carroll as the Seattle Seahawks head coach because it was reported that Seahawks officials had flown to Los Angeles early last week to interview Carroll. It was reported Saturday by an anonymous source that Carroll would be leaving the USC program to become the Seahawks head coach. At the same time, Seahawks officials were in Minneapolis, in the midst of a 4-hour long interview with Frazier.

To many, this gives the appearance that the Seahawks had no intention of seriously considering Leslie Frazier for the vacant coaching position and that they were simply using Frazier to fulfill the league's diversity policy.

The recent actions of the Seattle Seahawks, in addition to the NFL's $200,000 fine of the Detroit Lions in 2003 for failure to comply with the Rooney Rule for immediately hiring San Francisco 49ers head coach Steve Mariucci after firing Marty Mornhinweg without interviewing any other candidates, brings into serious question whether the Rooney Rule is serving its intended purpose of creating a pool of qualified minority candidates for upper-level positions.

The NFL and their member teams are attempting to walk a very narrow and delicate rope. On the one hand, many believe that teams should have the autonomy to spend their money as they please and hire the candidate that they feel best represents the team's philosophy and intended direction. On the other hand, in a league where 65% of the athletes are African-American, there has been a dearth of minorities ascending to head coaching and front office positions due to the "Good Ole Boys" networks in vogue around the league, which have served to deny minority candidates the opportunity to gain the requisite experience that many teams look for in a "qualified candidate".

One thing is certain. Despite the NFL's best intentions, franchises have made a mockery of the Rooney Rule, putting on peacock parades disguised as serious internal debate and business acumen in order to avoid the stiff fines levied for non-compliance.

We know that, without the rule, the likelihood of qualified minority candidates being considered for head coaching and senior football operations will revert back to the pre-Rooney Rule era, where the front offices of NFL teams were a mirror image of the mostly white, male dominated ownership.

However, with the Rooney Rule, minority coaches have been and will be skeptical when they receive a call from a NFL team offering high-level employment, wondering out loud or in the back of their minds whether they are being assessed on their qualifications and merits or whether they are being used to fulfill what amounts to The NFL's version of a quota system.

There is no easy answer forthcoming from the National Football League. Liberal civil rights activist will likely pressure the league into implementing stricter fines for non-compliance and more oversight of team's interview processes to ensure that candidates are being considered because the teams have a vested interest in their potential value. Conservatives will assert that the the NFL is impinging upon a franchise's ability to run their business independently and that the Rooney Rule already gives favoritism to protected groups by placing undue strictures on how a team conducts its hiring process.

All of these are valid points and I look forward to observing how NFL teams and commissioner Roger Goodell navigate these merky waters in the coming months and years.

What do you think the NFL could do to develop a policy that recognizes the historic dynamic surrounding the dearth of qualified minority candidates for head coaching and senior football operations opportunities in their league while also respecting and maintaining the autonomy of its member franchises?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

5 Things I Hate To Deal With When It Snows in Chicago


5. Businesses/residences that think it's not their responsibility to shovel/scrape/salt the sidewalks in front of their buildings. You're single-handedly responsible for slowing down my commute and I will pee on your premises one night or multiple nights as I stumble home beligerent and drunk.

4. People who wrap themselves from head to toe like a mummy. It's not cold you fucking nancies! Snow, although in a different form than your Twilightized little minds are used to, is only frozen rain. It's not going to burn through your Northface jacket or ruin your color job (which was horribly done anyway. You should get your money back. Seriously.).

3. Guys walking around with shovels. Instead of using your earnings to procure Natural Ice and Newports, why don't you invest in a snowblower. You can do twice as much work, make twice as much money, and avoid almost hitting me in the head with the shovel that's hanging precariously over your shoulder when I'm on the way to the train station.

2. CTA attendants standing around doing nothing. I don't know if you noticed but IT'S FUCKING SNOWING! People are almost sliding off the platform! I understand that, in this day and age, going to work to, I don't know, do actual work is a novel concept but how about, instead of screaming across the platform at your fellow lackies about how fresh your new fake Affliction hat is, grabbing a shovel and a bucket of sand (since the CTA is way over budget and can't afford salt or calcium chloride) and attempting to protect the safety of your customers with permanent retardation and inner ear infections from watching The Vampire Diaries on TiVo so that I don't have to make up for their loss by paying more for my 30-Day pass.

1. People complaining about how much snow there is. It's fucking Chicago in the middle of the Great Plains! What did you expect when you moved here(since there's practically no born and bred Chicagoans left in this town)? Did you think to look at an almanac before you decided to hitch your U-Haul trailer to your Nissan Maxima and hit the road? Even worse, if you've lived in Chicago all of your life and you're complaining, please do us all a favor and borrow a handgun from Gilbert Arenas and save us all some much needed ear room. Welcome to Chicago. It snows like hell in the winter and it's hot as fuck in the summer.

What do you guys hate to deal with when it snows in Chicago?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Why "The Hawk" Should Land in Cooperstown Today


Andre Dawson will find out at 1:00 P.M. CST whether he will be immortalized in Cooperstown, NY as a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame. Dawson received 65.9% of the votes of last year's ballots, falling shy of the 75% required for enshrinement. The Hawk's name will need to show up on roughly 41 additional ballots this year to receive the most prestigious honor that baseball can bestow.

I'm a firm believer that the stats, in their pure form, do not lie but they can be interpretted according to one's life perspective and biases. However, more influential and meaningful than statistics are the words describing one's character as intimated by one's friends, teammates, and peers.

I believe that Cubs Hall of Fame second baseman Ryne Sandberg echoed the sentiments of the entire Cubs nation when in 2005, during his own Hall of Fame induction speech ,he lobbied for Dawson's enshrinement in saying:

"No player in baseball history worked harder, suffered more or did it better than Andre Dawson. He's the best I've ever seen. I watched him win an MVP for a last-place team in 1987 [with the Cubs], and it was the most unbelievable thing I've ever seen in baseball. He did it the right way, the natural way, and he did it in the field and on the bases and in every way, and I hope he will stand up here someday."

Here is a recap of Andre Dawson's remarkable career:

Nicknamed "The Hawk", Andre Dawson played 21 seasons in the major leagues for the Montreal Expos, Chicago Cubs, Boston Red Sox, and Florida Marlins. In 2,627 career games The Hawk amassed 2,774 hits, 438 homeruns, and 1,591 runs batted in. In addition, Dawson stole 314 bases despite battling chronic knee problems (undoubtedly agitated by playing on the artificial surface in Montreal's Olympic Stadium). Dawson finished his career with a .279 batting average, a .323 on-base percentage, and a robust .482 slugging percentage. The Hawk finished in the top 10 in batting average 5-times and 8-times in slugging percentage.

An 8-time all-star and 4-time Silver Slugger Award winner, Dawson was the recepient of the 1977 Rookie of the Year award. 10 years later, in 1987, he won the National League Most Valuable Player award after batting .287 and leading the league with 49 homeruns and 137 runs batted in, a .568 slugging percentage, 341 total bases, and a respectable .328 on-base percentage. He accomplished all of this while playing for a last place Cubs team. He was the runner-up in MVP voting twice, after the 1981 and 1983 seasons. Dawson was also an outstanding defensive outfielder. He was an 8-time Gold Glove Award Winner, including 6 in a row from from the 1980-1985 seasons. Dawson finished his career with a .980 fielding percentage and 157 outfield assists.

In 1993, Dawson joined Hall of Famer Willie Mays as the second player in Major League Baseball history to hit 400 homeruns and steal 300 bases. In 1994, Dawson was awarded the Hutch Award, given to the active player that best exemplifies the fighting spirit and competitive desire to win.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Gilbert Arenas - A Model Idiot


Washington Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas along with forward Javaris Crittenton are under investigation by federal authorities, the District of Columbia Police Department, and the NBA after Arenas reportedly brought unloaded firearms to the Verizon Center for storage and then allegedly pulled a handgun on Crittenton in what was reported as a dispute over an unpaid gambling debt, but what Arenas characterized as a "misguided effort to play a joke" on teammate Crittenton.

Arenas was reportedly removing the guns from his residence due to the recent birth of a new child. At the Verizon Center, Arenas reportedly placed three handguns on a chair near Crittenton's locker and asked Crittenton to pick one. The teammates then drew the guns on each other.

"Joke or not, I now recognize that what I did was a mistake and was wrong," Arenas said. "I should not have brought the guns to D.C. in the first place, and I now realize that there's no such thing as joking around when it comes to guns - even if unloaded."

Arenas could face a $50,000 fine from the NBA and be suspended for an undetermined length of time.

Suspension or not, fine or not, Arenas' and Crittenton's boneheaded actions, as ESPN Radio 1000 in Chicago commentator Jonathan Hood asserted on a Saturday afternoon broadcast, has effectively set the NBA back 25 years. David Stern has been actively attempting to exorcise the NBA of its public persona as a league that is too young, too black, and full of hoodlums and thugs that have no respect for the rule of law. The implementation of a strict dress code policy was one step taken to makeover the aesthetic image of the NBA, shying away from the corn-rows and baggy clothing synonymous with early 90's stars such as Allen Iverson and Latrell Sprewell.

Arenas' use of what I like to call the "Dave Chappelle Excuse" where he, in so many words, said that he didn't know that he couldn't bring unloaded firearms to his place of employment for storage, is a slap in the face to any rational human being with an Intelligence Quotient over 90.

If any non-famous, non multi-millionare brought a handgun to work, loaded or unloaded, not only would they be terminated on the spot, they would be escorted from the premises by officers in pressed uniforms and badges and the offender would be wearing shiny new pieces of wrist jewelry.

What makes it worse is that Arenas performed this egregious action in Washington, D.C., a city known for many years as the murder capitol of the United States - a city with, mind you, some of the most strict gun laws in the nation.

In 1995, Washington Bullets owner, the late Abe Pollin, announced that he was changing the franchise's name from the Bullets because the moniker had acquired violent overtones that had made him increasingly uncomfortable over the years, particularly given the high homicide and crime rate in the early 1990s in Washington, D.C.

Arenas is either extremely ignorant of the history of the city in which he works and the franchise for which he plays or he doesn't give a damn because he gets paid ridiculous amounts of money to play a game and he isn't a citizen in the same world that the rest of us poor hacks live in.

Even worse is the fact that there are kids in Washington, D.C. walking around with this mentally retarded idiot's jersey on their backs. In a city and nation already devastated by black-on-black male violence that has reached epidemic levels, what lesson does Arenas' duncical actions provide for these impressionable youth, who are increasingly receiving their acculturation from the talking heads on the television? That it's ok to cap your buddy if he doesn't pay a debt? That it's alright to bust guns if you're losing a pick-up game?

Gilbert Arenas and Javaris Crittenton need to be suspended without pay for the remainder of this season and the NBA should convene a special disciplinary board to decide if Gilbert Arenas should be allowed to play professional basketball in the NBA ever again. If this body needs a little nudge in the right direction, here's a hint - he shouldn't! In addition, Arenas should face the same fate under the law that any normal person in Washington,D.C. (or any major crime ridden city) would face for walking around with and drawing a concealed handgun in public.

If Plaxico Burress was handed a 2-year term for shooting himself in the thigh in a crowded New York nightclub, Arenas should get equally as much time for potentially endangering himself and others at the Verizon Center while also causing irreconcilable harm to the NBA, Washington Wizards franchise, the city of Washington, D.C., and all African-Americans who go to work everyday, pay their taxes, and attempt to escape the stigma that they are some how developmentally challenged and incapable of adapting to life in civilized society.

Arenas' actions aren't reflective of all professional athletes and are certainly not reflective of African-American culture on the whole, but we live in a world governed more by stereotypes and homogeneous generalities than rational thought. There will be reveberations throughout society and, particularly as it relates to America's image of the NBA.

David Stern once again finds himself at the helm of the Negroes Behaving Arrogantly league and Gilbert Arenas is their new model idiot.

Monday, January 4, 2010

ESPN. The New Mafia?



ESPN did something that no other major media outlet has been able to do in the history of modern sports coverage -- they essentially fired a coach for a collegiate program.

On Wednesday, Texas Tech University fired head coach Mike Leach a day after suspending him for the Valero Alamo Bowl amidst rumors that he confined WR Adam James, the son of ESPN analyst Craig James, to a utility closet after Adam James was diagnosed with a concussion.

First of all, Leach's actions, if true, were shameful, irresponsible, and cruel and deserved to be repremanded strongly. No player should be subjected to such cruel, unusual and embarassing punishment, especially if such behavior was a form of punishment for being unwilling or unable to practice due to injury. Leach's actions warranted not only his dismissal from the program but also the dismissal of any coaches and players complicit in his dispicable actions.

The one question that I have is, if the student athlete in question was not Adam James, son of ESPN analyst Craig James, who was himself a star running back at Southern Methodist University and in the NFL, who has become fabulously rich as a college football analyst for arguably the largest and most powerful sports conglomerate in the world, would this story have received the air time that it has enjoyed over the past 5 or so days?

If Adam James was a kid from the ghettoes of Baltimore or Washington, D.C. or the slums of Virginia Beach or Compton without the benefit of a well-to-do parent that happens to work for a media magnate, would ESPN have bothered to recount the story on every new edition of Sportscenter and in every ESPN News update?

In fairness to ESPN, when the reports surrounding the allegations of verbal abuse by former Kansas football coach Mike Mangino towards some of his players emerged, ESPN pursued them with equal veracity.

There just seems to be something different about the way the whole Mike Leach/Adam James saga is being played out in the public arena - mostly on ESPN and the ESPN "family of networks". Even that self-characterization of ESPN affiliates paints the picture that the mega network is more than a conglomerate, it's a media mafioso and Mike Leach is being told in no uncertain terms that "if you mess with one of ours, we're gonna mess with you".

Leach cited in one of his recent interviews that he suspected that part of the reasoning behind the peculiar timing of his firing was the fact that he was owed an $800,000 bonus by the university if he was still the head coach on January 1st. The fact that Texas Tech had previously paid Leach several million dollars places this assertion firmly in the conjecture column.

However, I wonder how much Texas Tech would've stood to lose if there were any "complications" in the media contract between Texas Tech, Valero, and ESPN - the network that televised the Valero Alamo Bowl between Texas Tech and Michigan State? I'm guessing substantially more than the $800,000 that the university owed Leach and significantly more than the amount that Leach and Texas Tech will ultimately settle on when both parties come to terms on a buyout.

I've written all of this to say that it is amazing how much power major media outlets wield - power that allows them to not only create, manipulate, and direct public opinion on any given subject (essentially creating culture) but also potentially affect institutions financially by pulling sponsorship dollars or choosing not to run certain advertisements in their lucrative television and radio spots. No one has accused ESPN of such actions in the case of Texas Tech and Mike Leach but they have the means and the potential is there if they chose to exercise it.

Mike Leach will land on his feet. He has plenty of money in the bank and, more importantly, coaching capital under his belt that should land him at another up-and-coming football program, if not at a major program.

I just wonder if the God Fathers at ESPN, having caught wind of a major program courting Mike Leach, would make an offer to said program that they couldn't possibly refuse.

I guess we'll have to tune in to ESPN and the ESPN family of networks to see how this made-for-tv drama plays out.

Bears Need to Skip Winter Hibernation


Mercifully, the 2009-2010 Chicago Bears season has finally ended.

The Bears wrapped up what was by most accounts a disappointing season with a 37-23 victory over the lowly Detroit Lions. It was the Bears second victory in as many weeks against a divisional foe.

Now the second season begins. No, not the playoffs. A return trip to Miami is not in the cards for this year's version of the Monsters of the Midway. The Bears' post-season activities will likely include a massive overhaul of the coaching staff, especially on the offensive side of the ball, and significant changes to a roster that could not stay healthy and did not come close to meeting the expectations of their coaching staff, the fans, the media or themselves.

In spite of his detractors, embattled head coach Lovie Smith will likely return for his 6th season at the helm. The 2 years and $11 million left on his contract in concert with the cost of buying out his coaching staff's contracts, hiring new coaches and the uncertain labor agreement for 2011 make it highly unlikely that the McCaskey family will eat that much dough to have Lovie pack his bags and hop the next flight back to Texas.

Even with significant changes to the coaching staff and management, the fact of the matter is that the NFL is still a player's league. Having impact players on your roster is not a sure fire guarantee that your franchise will win a Lombardi trophy but it is a step in the right direction (just ask our neighbors to the north in Green Bay and Minneapolis).

Here is where I think the Bears need to Bear Down in order to return to prominence in 2010-2011.

OFFENSE

Better play from the quaretrback position

Much like the point guard in basketball and the goalie in hockey, improvement on a professional football team begins and ends at the quarterback position. Jay Cutler finished with the most completions (336) and interceptions (27) by any quarterback in the long and storied history of the Bears franchise. No team in the NFL can win with dualities that severe at arguably the most important position on the field.

It will be the job of the offensive staff (whomever they may be) to put Jay Cutler in schemes that accentuate his strengths (tremendous arm strength, big body, mobility). That means moving the pocket with designed roll-outs, screens, and draws. Ron Turner and his staff used these tactics in the final 3 games of the season but by then it was too little too late.

Some Aroma(shodu) Therapy

It took until Week 15 to get him on the field but when Devin Aromashodu finally stepped between the white lines he did not disappoint. Aromashodu finished with 24 receptions for 298 yards and 4 touchdowns. All 4 touchdowns came in the final 2 games of the season. If there is one indictment on Lovie Smith, Ron Turner, and Jerry Angelo (and there is more than one BTW), it's that they waited until the season was practically over to fulfill Jay Cutler's wish to see the big, physical receiver Aromashodu play a more significant role in the offense. He's no Brandon Marshall but his size and intelligence at the position will provide a sustained threat for Cutler and the Bears in 2010.

It will also be incumbent upon rookie wideout Johnny Knox (45 REC, 527 yards, 5 TDs) and veteran Devin Hester (57 REC, 757 yards, 3 TDs) to improve their skill sets in the off season to provide a sustained deep threat for Cutler. Earl Bennett (54 REC, 717 yards, 2 TDs) has finally learned the playbook and is now the reliable possession receiver that Jay Cutler knew from their collegiate days at Vanderbilt. During Sunday's Bears/Lions telecast, former NFL quarterback Trent Green talked about how rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford and star wide receiver Calvin Johnson were already discussing their plan of action for off-season workouts. It would be privy for Aromashodu, Knox, Hester, and Bennett to invest in air mattresses for overnight stays at the Cutler compound.

Building Blocks Up Front

A contributing factor to Jay Cutler's dismal turnover ratio was the fact that he had a defensive lineman covering him like a blanket on most of his dropbacks this season. Cutler was sacked 35 times with 9 fumbles (1 lost fumble), due in part to receivers that were unable to get open down field and mostly to a porous offensive line that was unable to sustain blocks in pass protection.

It became exceedingly clear early in the season that off-season acquisition LT Orlando Pace, a 10-time Pro Bowler who the Bears' brass thought had something left in the tank when they singed him to a 3- year, $30 million contract, was running on empty.

It will be important for the health of Jay Cutler, the return of RB Matt Forte to form as a significant rusher in the NFL and, not unrelated, the future success of the franchise, that the Bears' offensive line get more athletic and physical up front. This means entrenching 1st round pick Chris Williams at LT, beginning to develop a replacement for aging center Olin Kreutz, and promoting competition at RG and RT through the draft and free agency. It doesn't appear that Kevin Schaeffer and particularly Frank Omiyale are cut out to be starters in the NFL.

DEFENSE

End the Musical Chairs on the Defensive Line

The hallmark of the Cover-2 defense is having a sustained pass rush up front to create turnovers in the pocket and in the secondary. It's nearly impossible to create the continuity necessary for a defensive line to be successful if the pieces are consistently in flux.

The Bears need Tommie Harris to stay healthy and cause havoc on the interior line for 16 games if they have any plans to be a playoff caliber team. Anthony Adams and Marcus Harrison have both emerged as nice compliments to and, at times, replacements for Tommie Harris. It is unlikely that unrestricted free agent DE Adewale Ogunleye (38tackles, 6.5sacks) will return next year to the Bears. That means that Alex Brown (48tackles, 6.0 sacks) and Mark Anderson (28 tackles, 3.5 sacks) will be expected to step up their play.

Expect late season acquisition DE Gaines Adams, who the Bears forfeited a 2nd round pick for now valued at selection 10 or 11 pending the result of a coin flip with Jacksonville, to be in the mix for a starting job come traing camp. 2009 3rd round pick Jerron Gilbert is also expected to add depth and versatility on the defensive line, possessing the size and strength to play defensive tackle with the speed and burst to take some snaps at defensive end.

A Healthy Brian Urlacher

Arguably the biggest loss for the Bears in 2009 was that of 6-time Pro Bowler and defensive captain MLB Brian Urlacher. Urlacher was placed on injured reserve and lost for the season in Week 1 against Green Bay with a dislocated right wrist. Hunter Hillenmayer performed a better than average job filling in for Urlacher, amassing 90 tackles and 2.5 sacks in addition to his duties as the captain of the defense. Lance Briggs had yet another stellar season, becoming the Bears' lone 2009-2010 Pro Bowl representative. Briggs led the team with 118 tackles while also becoming the team's vocal and emotional leader in Urlacher's absence. Nick Roach, the Northwestern product, took over for an injured Pisa Tinoisamoa after 2 games and went on to amass 74 tackles, good for 5th on the team and 3rd amongst Bears' linebackers.

If there is any one strength on this Bears team moving forward it is the depth and experience that the team possesses at the linebacker position. In addition to Urlacher, Hillenmayer, and Roach, Jamar Williams, Tim Shaw (the special teams leader in tackles), and Darrell McClover are all likely to compete for significant playing time in with the Bears or another team in 2009-2010.

The Secondary is Primary

If you look at the good defenses around the National Football League, they all have cornerbacks and safeties that can be left to defend on an island, are capable of playing man-to-man coverage - allowing their defensive linemen and linebackers to focus on stopping the run and rushing the passer instead of dropping back to fortify the coverage - while also showing up as factors in run defense. Look at Charles Woodson in Green Bay, Antoine Winfield in Minnesota, Daryl Revis in New York, and Ed Reed in Baltimore to name a few.

The Bears ranked 13th in the league in pass defense, giving up 211.4 yards per game. Nathan Vasher looks to have played his final game in a Bears uniform. Vasher was relegated to nickel duty and as a back-up at free safety after a disappointing training camp and pre-season. Charles Tillman was once again Old Reliable at corner, amassing 77 tackles and 2 interceptions in 15 games before being lost for the season after sustaining broken ribs late in the game against the Vikings. Zack Bowman was the unsung hero at corner this year. The 2nd year player out of Nebraska played in all 16 games, icluding 12 starts, and had 66 total tackles and a team high 6 interceptions. Bowman and rookie D.J. Moore, who did not record a tackle in the 4 game sin which he played, will look provide depth a corner next season for the Bears.

The safety position is one of the most important in the Cover-2 defensive scheme that Lovie runs and was the most volatile for the Bears in 2009. With the Bears choosing to part ways with veteran SS Mike Brown, veteran DB Daniel Manning had to step up along with 5th year player Josh Bullocks, 3rd year man Kevin Payne, 2nd year player Craig Steltz, and rookie Al Afalava to fill the void left by Brown's departure. Daniel Manning was Mr. Everything in the secondary, spliting time at corner, safety, and in the nickel and dime packages in addition to his duties as a kick returner and coverage man on special teams. Manning led the secondary with 92 tackles, 1.0 sacks, and 2 fumbles, which included a sack of Packers' quarterback Aaron Rodgers for a safety in Week 1. Manning became a restricted free agent after Sunday's game. It would be nice to see the Bears bring an explosive and versatile player like Manning back in 2010.

Afalava and Payne combined for 99 tackles and 2 sacks and provide speed and hard hitting in the secondary. Their inexperience was evident as they were a bit of a liability in pass defense. I think that can be improved with more reps in practice and coaching up of their technique and recognition. Bullocks played in 12 games for the Bears, including 4 starts, where he amassed 23 tackles. He was sidelined for most of the year with injury. Craig Steltz played in 12 games ,with 2 starts, and had only 11 tackles. Steltz appears to have below average speed and recognition. His biggest hit of the season may have been the one that ended Charles Tillman's season where he fractured several of Tillman's ribs in a spat of "friendly fire".

SPECIAL TEAMS

Give Superman His Cape Back

Two things are for certain after watching Devin Hester playout his first full season as a wide receiver. 1. He will never be a "Number 1" receiver like Steve Smith in Carolina, Steve Smith in New York, Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin in Arizona, or Brandon Marshall in Denver(to name a few) and, 2. Hester is more of a help to the Bears and more of a hinderance to Bears' opponents as a full-time kick/punt returner.

Hester was prodded back into duty on Sunday in Detroit in part because his brother pointed out that Browns KR/PR/WR/RB/QB/Equipment Manager Joshua Cribbs is not-so-quietly becoming the best special teams player in NFL history and an all around threat on the field. While Hester's return against Detroit was far short of stellar, the prospects of Hester returning to full-time active duty should give Bears' 2010 opponents something to rue over during the long off-season.

Still as Good as Gould

Place kicker Robbie Gould was 24 of 28 in field goal attempts including a career long 52 yard field goal and a perfect 33 for 33 on extra points. Gould is by far the most consistent and reliable player on the Bears' roster.

Punter Brad Maynard punted the ball 77 times for an average of 41.4 yards. 26 of those punts landed inside the 20 yard line, a staggering number for an NFL punter. Maynards accuracy and expertise at directional kicking consistently gives the Bears the advantage in the field position game.

The kicking game will be solid going into the 2010 season.

SUMMARY

Overall, the Bears' 7-9 record can be attributed to failures at all levels of the organization - bad management, worse coaching, inconsistent play, injury, and underachievement by key players.

There is no doubt that the offensive coaching staff has to be overhauled, if not for the lack of creativeness inherent in their schemes, certainly for their inability to adapt to the strengths and weaknesses of the personnel that they were given by general manager Jerry Angelo in a timely fashion. Who knows how the season would've turned out if Devin Aromashodu had been placed in the lineup in Week 4 instead of Week 14 and if Ron Turner had decided to roll Jay Cutler out of the pocket after the first 15 interceptions.

Lovie Smith will also have to surrender his defensive play calling duties so that the Bears can bring in a defensive coordinator with more bullets in his arsenal than the Cover-2/Tampa-2 defense. The Bears just do not have the personnel to run Lovie's favorite scheme at an optimal level anymore. In addition, NFL teams are sophisticated enough to find holes in any one system and game plan to exploit those deficiencies from week to week. As Jerry Angelo is fond of saying, there has to be some ice cream with a swirl or some sprinkles on it.

Jerry Angelo will have to (creatively) make moves to fill glaring gaps in the roster with players that fit the prototype for character and style of play as dictated by the direction that the franchise chooses to move in. There also has to be competition created and encouraged at positions that are crucial to the function and success of the team.

In the end, however, managers manage, coaches coach, and players play. The Bears' players have to perform better on a consistent basis in order to compete in a NFL and, particularly, a NFC North that is brimming with talent and becoming more competitive year after year.

That better, more consistent and competitive play must necessarily start with Jay Cutler and the quarterback position. It is nearly impossible for any team to win with the quarterback making costly mistakes, especially mistakes in the red zone. Cutler will have to take better care of the ball, throwing the ball away or running when plays break down, and curtailing his desire to show coaches, teammates, fans, and the other team how strong of an arm he has by throwing passes into double and triple coverage.

The burden should not be placed solely on jay's shoulders. The big nasties up front on the offensive line have to be more physical, moving their feet and using their athleticism and massive paws to sustain blocks up front.

The wide receivers have to work with Cutler in the off-season to develop timing and repore in addition to learning the playbook so that they are where Jay expects them to be when he expects them to be there. When plays break down in the secondary, the wide receivers have to possess the awareness to run to open windows and extend the play.

The imperative for the Bears defense is to stay healthy. A good Tommie Harris is a healthy Tommie Harris and a healthy Tommie Harris runs rough shot over offensive linemen. It will be an absolute necessity that Anderson, Adams, and Gilbert get better faster so that they can shoulder the pass rush load along with Alex Brown.

The same goes for the linebacking core. If Brian Urlacher is healthy, there is no better linebacking tandem than the one created between himself and Lance Briggs.

There is talent in the secondary but they need to learn to read coverage and be in the right place at the right time. If you're in a two- deep zone with coverage over the top and a receiver stops short, your corner that has underneath coverage is going to stop and drive on the short receiver. The safety needs to be over the top of his cornerback to cover the free running receiver. I know that and I've never played organized football at any level. The Bears' safeties need to know that in and out, awake and in their sleep.

Re-signing Daniel Manning and allowing him to play a full season at free safety will improve the secondary immensely. In addition, the Bears' corners need to be more physical with opposing wide receivers at the line of scrimmage. This will take some pressure off of the safeties in pass coverage while also allowing their defensive lineman time to attack the quarterback. The Bears' cornerbacks will also be more of a factor in helping to stop the opponents running game.

If the Bears' management is unable to manage, coaches do not coach up their players, and players are unable to perform any of these critical functions in 2010, their record will not be any better than the dismal 7 wins that they posted this season and it will be highly unlikely that any of personnel will be around to mull over the 2010-2011 off season.

It's time to Bear Down Chicago Bears!