Ranking Alex Smith amongst his peers

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Ranking Alex Smith amongst his peers

The matter of WGIBTU Whos Got It Better Than Us? has taken on an interesting form, when you consider the case of Alexander D. Smith, the Lazarus of quarterbacks.Given up for dead by the wishful thinking crowd, Smiths resurgence as a credible NFL quarterback has been much hailed, though mostly in that What did Jim Harbaugh do to clear up his leprous sores and make him a fully self-actualized human being? kind of way.But there is another factor here, brought home with stark force by the San Diego-Kansas City game Monday night, and that is this:The field has backed up to Smith just as much as he has risen to meet it.Many of these situations are temporary good quarterbacks having bad years, or injuries, or the curse of the howling short-arm, but lets break it down to show you what we mean:ARIZONA
Kevin Kolb has done little to revive the Cardinals, and since he was one of those quarterbacks people demanded be brought in to rid the fan base of the turbulent Smith, his struggles are particularly gratifying. According to the Alex Metric, he is dramatically worse. He may be better in the future, but the futures not ours to know, so for the moment, yes. WGIBTU? Not the Cardinals.ATLANTA
After a scruffy start, Matt Ryan is finding his stride again, but eight picks and 18 sacks have undermined his supremacy. WGIBTU? Ryan will have some better games down the stretch, while Smith is exactly as good as he can be now, so with a wince, the Falcons do.BALTIMORE
They hate Joe Flacco these days in Charm City, absolutely loathe him. And for good reason his completion percentage is under 54, his inefficiencies have gone from oh-well to oh, hell, and the comparisons to Trent Dilfer are flattering to neither man. WGIBTU? Not the Ravens.BUFFALO
Ryan Fitzpatrick just got a 59 million contract extension from Ralph Wilson. I dont know how much better that can be explained. WGIBTU? The Bills, for sure.CAROLINA
The Panthers have so little that Cam Newton stands out all the more, but the truth is on a more representative team, he would be an MVP candidate. WGIBTU? The Panthers, for sure.CHICAGO
Jay Cutler lives as well off Matt Forte as Smith does off Frank Gore, but his own stats are largely Smiths superior. That said, he hasnt made the Bears an indomitable team because theyre not so WGIBTU? Not the Bears.CINCINNATI
Andy Daltons red hair made Carson palmers expendable well, that and the draft choices from Oakland but he relies of safety-first passes as much as Smith does, and the Bengals are still not fully believable. WGIBTU? Not the Bengals.CLEVELAND
The Browns have been to the Bay Area twice in three weeks. Weve all seen Colt McCoy working with no discernible players. WGIBTU? Not the Browns, and not by a long shot.DALLAS
Tony Romo is embracing his new role as NFL tease, and all of his numbers save the interceptions are better than Smiths. But he is also considered the guy the Cowboys have until they get someone good, so this is a tough one. WGIBTU? The Cowboys, though too often that seems not to be true.DENVER
Do we really need to bother here? Quite possibly the worst situation in the league, not only because Tim Tebow is still too raw and inefficient, but because his rally over Miami probably took the Broncos out of the Andy Luck sweepstakes. WGUIBTU? Definitely not these guys.DETROIT
Matthew Stafford when upright is a damned sight better than most. Matthews Stafford on one leg and without a running game to protect him, not so much. Until he gets better, WGIBTU does not include the Lions, but that will change the moment his leg gets better.
GREEN BAY
Please.HOUSTON
Matt Schaub is simply better, and you cant argue it even with Houstons odd collection of results. WGIBTU? Definitely the Texans.INDIANAPOLIS
Peyton Manning begat Curtis Painter who may beget Andrew Luck. Until that moment, though, WGIBTU? Not the Colts.JACKSONVILLE
Blaine Gabbert is injured, but even at 100 percent, the Jaguars so much come out on the short end of WGIBTU it isnt worth serious analysis.KANSAS CITY
Matt Cassel looked pretty brutal last night, and his team won. In fact, his team has won four in a row to move into a tie for first in the AFC West. All that said, Matt Cassel. WGIBTU? Not the Chiefs.MIAMI
Horrifying. WGIBTU doesnt have the words to show how much not the Dolphins it is.MINNESOTA
Donovan McNabb is now Christian Ponder. Another win for WGIBTU.NEW ENGLAND
Sorry, no.NEW ORLEANS
No again.NEW YORK GIANTS
Eli Manning is having an exemplary year in an up-and-down career. This could change, but the Giants win WGIBTU pretty handily here.NEW YORK JETS
Mark Sanchez is more maddening than soothing, which makes him A.D. Smith 1.0. WGIBTU? Not the Jets.OAKLAND
Not even discussable at this point. WGIBTU? Not the Raiders.PHILADELPHIA
Michael Vick is catching hell, but not nearly as much hell as Andy Reid, which means that the fans are okay with him, and his numbers are indisputably better. WGIBTU? The Eagles, eventually.PITTSBURGH
After a feh start, Ben Roethlisberger is quietly but demonstrably having a big year. WGIBTU? The Steelers, and Mike Tomlin could absolutely pull Jim Harbaughs arm off in a handshake.SAINT LOUIS
A.J. Feeley has taken Sam Bradfords job while Bradfords ankle cant do its job, on a team with only Steven Jackson. Need we say more? WGIBTU? Not the Rams.SAN DIEGO
Whatever magic Philip Rivers had, he aint got no more. A snap? He fumbled a snap with the game in the bag? Right now, WGIBTU has it for the 49ers, though Id make a straight-up- trade right now and feel very good about it.SEATTLE
Tarvaris Jackson or Charlie Whitehurst. Move on, citizens. Nothing to see here.TAMPA BAY
Its hard to put the 48-3 loss out of our heads, and Josh Freeman has thrown more picks than scores. That is not a statistic the local fella need concern himself with right now. WGIBTU? Not the Bucs.TENNESSEE
Matt Hasselbecks numbers are comparable, but the Titans win when they defend, not when they attack. WGIBTU? Not the Titans.WASHINGTON
Rex Grossman? John Beck? I think I just threw up on my shoe. WGIBTU? Definitely not the Redskins.In short, Alex Smith, whom you all knew was the worst quarterback ever, is having a better time right now than 20 other starters, easily his best placement against his peers since he began his career. So whos got it better than them? A lot fewer than there used to be.

A sports-related pie-fixing scandal? Hell never felt so fun

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AP

A sports-related pie-fixing scandal? Hell never felt so fun

I’m liking this 2017 so far. Then again, after 2016, nearly any year would be an improvement.

Just this last weekend we got a flat-earth scandal that turned into a mock-up about media self-importance and fake news (yay Kyrie Irving and his impish sense of satire!).

We got the overblown Russell-Hates-Kevin narrative, and the faux Russell-Secretly-Loves-Kevin counternarrative, all because we are stunningly attracted to meaningless and utterly contrived drama (yay our ability to B.S. ourselves!).

We got the NBA All-Star Game ripped for having no defense even though last year’s game was, if anything, worse (yay short attention span!).

We got the Boogie Cousins trade and the national revulsion of all the thought processes the Sacramento Kings put into this perpetually rolling disaster (yay making Boogie and Vivek Ranadive household names!).

And now we got the Great Sutton United Pie-Fixing Scandal. Yeah, pie-fixing. Hell never felt so fun.

So here’s the deal. Sutton United, a very small fry in English soccer, got to the fifth round of the FA Cup, a competition in which all the clubs in England are commingled and play each other until one team remains. The big clubs almost always win, so any time a small club goes deep, it’s a big deal.

Anyway, Sutton went deeper in the competition than nearly anyone in the last century, a charming development given that it is such a small club that it had a stadium caretaker, goalie coach and backup goalie all in one massive fellow, a 46-year-old guy named Wayne Shaw. Shaw became the globular embodiment of the entire Sutton Experience, a jolly lark for everyone involved and especially when he ate a pie on the bench in the final minutes of Sutton’s Cup-exiting loss to Arsenal.

And now he’s been eased into resigning his jobs with the club, because – and this is so very British – there were betting shops taking action on whether he would in fact eat a pie on the bench, and he either did or did not tip off his pals that he was going to chow down on television.

He did eat the pie. His pals collected on their bets. The sport’s governing body opened an investigation into market manipulation by gambling – which is hilarious given that no fewer than 10 gambling establishments have advertising deals with English soccer clubs. Shaw was invited to quit to kill the story, and he took the hint.

Hey, dreams die all the time. But it’s still pie-fixing. Let that rattle around your head for a minute. Pie-fixing. Not match-fixing. Not point-shaving. Pie-fixing.

Now how can you not love this year?

Sure, it sucks for Shaw, but it serves as a series of cautionary tales for athletes around the world.

* Gambling is everywhere, and every time you inch toward it, you dance on the third rail.

* If you want to help your friends, give them cash.

* This is a horribly delicious way to lose your gig.

* And finally, fun in the 21st century isn’t ever truly fun because someone in a suit and a snugly-placed stick is going to make sure you pay full retail for that fun.

But it is nice to know that something that has never happened before is now part of our year. Pie-fixing is a thing now, as silly in its way as Irving’s flat-earth narrative was. And as we steer away from normal games as being too run-of-the-mill-fuddy-duddy entertainment, we have replaced them with sideshows.

Or do you forget how many people complained Saturday and Sunday that the dunk contest wasn’t interesting enough? How stupid is that?

Lots. Lots of stupid. But against pie-tin-shaped planets and pies turned into betting coups, how can it possibly compare?

We chase a lot of idiotic narratives in our sporting lives. The great What Will The Patriots Do To Roger Goodell story died like the old dog it was. We still try to flog Warriors-Thunder as a rivalry in search of better TV ratings when all the obvious evidence is that it is no such thing unless you think a couple that broke up nine months ago is still a solid story. We have Bachelor fantasy leagues, for God’s sake.

This would leave most normal folks in despair, thus matching their everyday experiences, but yin meets yang, and every time it looks like we are all barrel-rolling into the sun, we get Irving, and then we get Wayne Shaw.

In short, 2017 is going to be fun of grand surprises for us all. I look forward to the day President Trump tries to fete the Patriots and only gets to Skype with Bob Kraft and the equipment guys who midwifed DeflateGate, and Mark Davis in Las Vegas, just to see if he can get a P.F. Chang’s into the Bellagio.

Why not? This is sport’s year-long tribute to sketch comedy, and evidently everyone is signing on enthusiastically to replace lessons of morality and honor and equality and dignity and sportsmanship with slackened jaws and belly laughs.

So yay sports! Or as it is clearly becoming, A Night At The Improv.
 

Patriots win one for the ages, but where does it rank?

Patriots win one for the ages, but where does it rank?

The price of watching Roger Goodell being booed back to the Bronze Age is a subtle but real one, and one that people will feel very dearly soon enough.

The last great cathartic Super Bowl is now done, with the New England Patriots winning the brilliant and decisive battle to be sports’ new evil empire. In doing so, it rendered Goodell a permanent and risible punch line in National Football League history, the mall cop who wanted the death penalty for littering, and in the words of the song “got what he wanted but he lost what he had.”

True, $40 million a year can make the dissolution of your public persona a reasonably decent tradeoff, but we lost the argument about who won his windmill tilt with the Patriots. It’s done, and he is now permanently and irrevocably a figure of ridicule.

But that’s not the only debating point America lost Sunday night, and while you wouldn’t think it given how much time we are willing to shouting at each other, quality arguments are not easily replaced.

We have almost surely lost the mindless debate about the best quarterback ever, because there is nothing anyone can bring up that the words “Tom Brady” cannot rebut except calling his own plays, and since that is no longer allowed in football, it is a silly asterisk to apply.

We have almost surely lost the equally silly shouter about the best coach ever. Bill Belichick is defiantly not fun, but he has built, improved and bronzed an organizational model that is slowly swallowing the rest of the sport. That and five trophies makes him the equal if not better of the short list of Paul Brown, George Halas, Vince Lombardi, Bill Walsh and Tom Landry.

Plus, Belichick locked up the most absurd response to a question in coaching history Monday when he said, “As great as today feels . . . we're five weeks behind the other teams for the 2017 season.” Even allowing for Gregg Popovich in-game interviews, the so-grim-he-could-make-a-robot-cry worship-the-process response has now become a cliché. If 2017 prep was so important, he should have skipped yesterday’s game, and he definitely should have chosen not to waste so much time on the trophy stand after the game when training camp drills needed to be scheduled.

Oh, and DeflateGate died. Dead. No zombie possibilities here.

We do have a meatheaded argument ahead of us about which championship in the last year is the best, which can be settled here.

1. Leicester City, because 5,000-1 is 5,000-1, and the whole world understands that. Plus, there was invaluable three-month buildup that engaged non-soccer fans.

2. Chicago Cubs, because 108 years is 108 years.

3. New England Patriots, because . . . well, I don’t have to explain it unless you have no useful memory span. “Down 25 In The Third Quarter” is the new “Down 3-1.”

4. Cleveland Cavaliers, because they slayed the first unbeatable Warrior team by coming from 3-1 down, and even as a silver medalist, it will always be an internet meme, which is what passes for memorable in our decrepit culture.

5. (tie) Villanova basketball and Clemson football in a tie, because they were essentially the same great game.

7. The Pittsburgh Penguins, because the Stanley Cup Final was devoid of drama or high moments, and only 14:53 of overtime. Feh.

But everything else is settled, and this Super Bowl will not be topped for a long time. Our current cycle of absurd championships is almost surely going to end soon, because “Down 3-1” has happened twice in eight months (three times, if you count Warriors over Thunder), and the bar has now been placed well beyond reasonable clearing.

Indeed, the only thing left is for a championship team to spontaneously combust on the award stand. But if they do so and ignite Roger Goodell along the way, that would be an ending America would cheerfully endorse.

But that also isn’t an argument any more, and yes, that includes Gary Bettman.