In case you were out getting a terrifying vote of confidence from an eccentric Russian oligarch, here's what you missed in sports last weekend:
A rough day for the Manning family saw the Dallas Cowboys all but eliminate the Giants' scant playoff hopes with a 24-21 win at the Meadowlands. "The bad news is, we're probably headed home in December," Giants quarterback Eli Manning said after the game as he stroked his weird red mustache. "The good news is, Cooper said I can finally go to Space Camp this offseason. So it's all good news, because Space Camp is gonna be so worth it!"
A punt misplayed by Denver's Tony Carter in overtime proved to be the difference, as the New England Patriots beat the Denver Broncos, 34-31, in an instant classic. "At least I'm not that guy. At least I'm not Tony Carter," said world's saddest man Gary Pittson while watching the game's highlights from a motel room in West Memphis, Arkansas. The Ultimate Clarity: A Life-Changing Life System information session he had attended at the Memphis Airport Marriott had been a bit of a bust, if Pittson was being honest with himself. Sure, the day's speaker, former Denver Broncos offensive lineman Tony Jones, was possessed of Ultimate Clarity, but he couldn't see how the principles of confidence and serenity that Jones was espousing could apply to his life. Jones was a millionaire, and he was famous, and he was a Super Bowl champion. Pittson was a nobody. Also, the session was expensive, so much so that after paying for his flight and the fees and the books, Pittson certainly couldn't afford to stay at the Marriott, but being so far away made it hard to participate in the more social aspects of the information session. Pittson shook his head, looked back up at his TV, and took a deep breath as the highlight repeated itself. "At least I'm not that guy," Pittson said to no one. "At least I'm not Tony Carter."
Forrest Gump’s mother has clearly never played fantasy football, because the only way life is like a box of chocolates for a fantasy player is if that box exclusively contains torn ACLs and first-round busts. I mean, even the good chocolates eventually succumb to fractured ankles, or something. The fantasy pitfalls can sometimes seem endless, which is why you need a comprehensive blog post to steer your team through the dangers that lie ahead. Luckily, that's exactly what you happen to be reading!
It’s pretty clear now that you cannot win a Super Bowl with Matt Schaub as your quarterback. Schaub just lacks that extra gear that sets him apart from the likes of Brady and Manning. The flip side, of course, is that he lacked the extra gear to inspire any real animus. Or so we thought. ntil proven otherwise, he would softly let you down, not break your heart. Schaub certainly wouldn’t cause the ostensibly sensible and grateful Texans fans to burn his uniform in the Reliant Stadium parking lot. Or confront the man at his home. Or cheer when he left a hopeless game against the Rams with a bum ankle. Oh, by the way, Eagles fans are off the hook now — at least they cheer when the other team’s guys get hurt.
If there really is salvation for Schaub, it’s not going to come in Houston. Not right now, at least, not when Case Keenum is living the broken dreams of Colt Brennan, Timmy Chang, Trevor Vittatoe, Graham Harrell, and every other gunslinging system quarterback by getting the big promotion from the practice squad for the hometown team. Plus, how would you feel if Willie D was going at your ass on Twitter with his best material since "We Can’t Be Stopped"?
In case you were busy keeping a drumroll sound going for 28 hours (and counting) in anticipation of the NCAA's announcement of its findings in the Nevin Shapiro investigation, here's what you missed in sports on Monday:
For some reason ESPN preempted coverage of the Monday Night Football game between the Giants and Vikings to show a blooper reel titled Monday Night High Passes and Soft Hits LIVE, a so-called Gaffe Battle in which The Jersey Boys outscored the Lake County Hornheads 23-7. In a particularly thrilling twist, after the Jersey Boys had scored big in the Fumblerooski-Off, surprise guest host Drew Carey emerged to tell both teams that the points they accrued didn't matter, and that Eli Manning and Josh Freeman would have to compete in a hoedown centered on the theme of "Weird First Dates" to determine the game's winner. While Manning was nervous, and turned in a lackluster performance in which he rhymed "wine" with "whine," he was bailed out by Freeman, who was unable to complete a single English word and found himself making guttural sounds and grunts for a soul-crushing 15 minutes.
In case you were busy investing heavily in Kyle Field grass futures, here's what you missed in sports on Thursday:
Justin Verlander threw a gem and Miguel Cabrera broke out of his slump with a two-run home run as the Detroit Tigers advanced to the ALCS with a 3-0 win over the Oakland Athletics. Earlier in the day things were not looking good. On a cartoon baseball field on a faraway planet, Mike Trout and a team of misfits made up of one male bunny, one attractive female bunny, a duck, a devil, a skunk, a hunter, a chicken, a pig, a cat, and Dan Aykroyd were down to their last at-bat in a baseball game with the fate of the world at stake. Their alien opponents, led by Pog, who had stolen Miguel Cabrera's essence, had surged to an early 66-run lead in the game. However, the plucky toons had battled back behind Trout's 16-for-16 game with 16 grand slams, along with an Aykroyd solo home run. The score was 66-65 with Trout at the plate, the bases loaded, Pog on the mound, a full count, and two outs. Trout called his shot to Pog, yelling, "I'm swinging for the fences," which caused the fences to briefly have cartoonishly bulging eyes. Pog smiled at Trout and reared back to throw; it was a looping breaking ball, exactly the pitch Trout had been sitting on. Trout winked and swung, but Pog had deviously thrown a spitball and it drooled all over his bat making him miss. "Strike three!" yelled the ump. Trout was crushed, the game was over, and Earth and Cabrera were doomed … Or were they?
Eli Manning's poor season continued as the quarterback threw three more interceptions and his New York Giants fell to 0-6 with a 27-21 loss to the Chicago Bears. "I don't ever lose confidence," Manning said after the game as his cell phone blared out "Rocky Top." "Sorry," he said as he muted it. "Someone's trying to get a hold of me. Asshole. Anyway, as I was saying, I don't ever lose confidence as—" but Manning was interrupted as his cell phone began to ring out "Rocky Top" again. "I'm so sorry guys," Manning said. "Some jerk set a personal ring on this phone, and I don't know how to change it." Manning then turned from the podium and saw a new incoming text message: "should I let the jags win? then you guys can be the best at being bad. pick up ur phone and let me kno brah. ciao, pey2kpounds."
This wasn't supposed to happen so quickly to the New York Giants. It was only 21 months ago that the Giants were celebrating under confetti in Indianapolis, Super Bowl champions for the second time in five seasons. For all their flaws, Big Blue's two title runs raised legitimate questions about whether the Eli Manning peak stretch could reasonably be considered a dynasty.
And now, less than two years later, they're the worst team in football that isn't actively trying to lose. The Giants have been outscored by exactly 20 points per game this season, which is tied for the 11th-worst figure through five games since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970. They're the first Giants team to start 0-5 since the 1987 team, which was also coming off recent success; that 0-5 run came directly after the 1986 team went 14-2 and won the Super Bowl. Those Giants finished 6-9 in the strike-shortened 1987 campaign, but quickly returned to their lofty heights: they went 35-13 over the next three years before winning the Super Bowl again in 1990. I'm not as confident these Giants will be able to turn things around so quickly.
On any given Sunday (or Monday, or Thursday), your NFL Run & Shootaround crew will be gathered around multiple televisions, making inappropriate jokes and generally regressing to the mean. Catch up on all the NFL action right here.
Sunday Dead-of-Night Football
Robert Mays: Of all the things to get used to about the West Coast, watching sports comes last. The first time you roll out of bed at 9 a.m. on a Sunday and kickoff is only an hour away, it’s hard to not wonder why everyone doesn’t live here. But six months later, when playoff basketball tips at 4:30 on a Wednesday afternoon, that question is answered pretty quickly. I’m not sure if that part will ever feel right. It hasn’t yet.
When the news came out that the Raiders and Chargers would be kicking off at 11:30 ET last night, part of me was a little disappointed that I’d get to watch it three hours earlier. We love novelty in our sports watching. Think of how many times an extra-inning baseball broadcast has flashed the shot of the clock hitting midnight. There’s something about staying up past our bedtime that will never go away, no matter how old we get. Watching live football until 3 a.m. is almost like playing hooky for Opening Day. Knowing you shouldn’t be doing it is most of the fun.
In case you were busy watching Senator Ted Cruz do his best Eli Manning impression, here's what you missed in sports on Monday:
The New Orleans Saints outclassed the previously unbeaten Miami Dolphins in a 38-17 win, sending a message to the rest of the NFL that they are prepared, after a down year, to return to the ranks of the league's elite. Fortunately we here at ALN got an exclusive leaked copy of the text of that message; here it is in its entirety:
Dear Denver, Seattle, New England, and San Francisco, um, Kansas City? Sure, why not. Kansas City,
Hey, guys, it's the Saints. How are you? We feel like we really lost touch with ya'll last year. And that's our fault. We hate to lay blame or make excuses, but in this case we really feel we must. So much was going on with us, and our coach, and Roger. It's always hard when you get hurt by the ones you love, especially when they aren't being paid to hurt you. But we've moved on, and we'd like to think you guys have too. I heard some of you are even still friends with Roger. That's fine. Seriously, it's fine. That's fine. It's all just fine. Fine. Whatever. You are the company you keep, is what we say down in New Orleans, but do what you must.
It's not entirely Eli Manning's fault, but do you see what's happening so far this year? He's thrown eight interceptions through three games, his team is 0-3, they just got blown out by 38 points, and after the game Sunday one of his wide receivers said, "You've got to control what you can control. I can't throw it to myself."
"Not a smart thing to say," Tom Coughlin grumbled at the next day's press conference.
Meanwhile, Hall of Fame linebacker and announcer Carl Banks popped up to chime in with his own takes. "They don’t like themselves," he said about the offensive line. "That’s what it really comes down to. They don’t like each other. They’re not willing to fight for each other. When you have a premier quarterback in this league, and you don’t have enough self-respect — not for him, but for yourself — to protect him to do your job, I think it speaks volumes. I think these guys really do need to all stand in [front of] the mirror, and it’s gut-check time."
Banks added: "I don’t think I’ve seen a collective group just line up and get punched in the face and stand up and do it again and again and again."
Again and again and again and again and again. That's the Giants through three weeks.
In case you were busy clapping politely when you lost the best featured actress in a miniseries Emmy, here's what you missed in sports last weekend:
Trent Richardson scored on his first touch in a Colts uniform, and the San Francisco 49ers' early-season woes continued, as they fell 27-7 to Indianapolis at home. "So the master has become the teacher," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said to his former quarterback Andrew Luck after the game, before realizing his mistake and sputtering out, "I mean, shit, wait, no, let me try that again." But Luck was too embarrassed for his former coach and instead backed away from Harbaugh awkwardly, before exchanging an extended secret handshake with Colts head coach Chuck Pagano while Harbaugh looked on, fuming.
Despite giving up 30 straight points through the second and third quarters, Cincinnati's defense came up big late, returning a fumble for a touchdown and disrupting Green Bay's passing game as the Bengals came from behind to grab a 34-30 win over the Packers. When asked if he'd do anything differently were he to have the chance, Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said, "well, I told the guys at halftime, whoever gets to thirty first wins this game." McCarthy shook his head and added, "I thought it was clear that I wasn't suggesting the rules of the game would change, but for some reason people seem to take what I say quite literally." McCarthy then looked directly at the media with an expressionless face and asked, "Am I not fun? I think of myself as being a fun guy. I enjoy fun things like pencils and reference books. I wish people saw me as I saw myself: a barrel of pencils."
We live in the age of the sports apology. Thanks to Twitter, iPhone pics, and hidden mics, it’s easier than ever for an athlete to screw up in broad daylight.
But the apology itself — “I’m sorry if anyone was offended” — has also become a thing. It is unleashed after any act, from a harmless end zone dance to a legitimately awful 9/11 tribute. When the apologies became as entertaining as the screw-ups, we decided it was time to do the Month in Sports Apologies. (Hat tip to Adam Hanft.)
I’m Sorry My End Zone Dance Included Both "Show Me the Money" and a Throat Slash
“I want to apologize to everyone for my selfish actions on Saturday ... ” Crimson Tide running back T.J. Yeldon wrote. “That is not the way we do things at Alabama.”
In case you were busy reinventing the kneel-down, much to your own detriment, here's what you missed in sports last weekend:
In a battle of the league's best defenses, the Seattle Seahawks leveraged a record-setting home-field advantage to pull away from the San Francisco 49ers and stake an early-season claim as NFC West favorites with a 29-3 win. "LET ME ANSWER YOUR QUESTION WITH A QUESTION," Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll shouted in his postgame press conference, before being asked a question. "THAT WAS A FUN WAY TO WIN A GAME." After a reporter told him that wasn't a question, Carroll yelled his signature catchphrase, "PETE CARROLL PETE CARROLL PETE CARROLL," before doing a set of jumping jacks so vigorously that he disappeared into the fabric of space-time itself.
In a Manning family battle, Peyton's Denver Broncos put together a big second half en route to a 41-23 win over Eli's New York Giants. "It's a good win, but it's just a win. I don't take any extra pleasure in beating my brother," Peyton said after the game while sitting on Eli's chest. Peyton then added, "We're 2-0 now, and our ultimate goal is getting to New York and winning a Super Bowl," as he licked his index finger and stuck it into Eli's ear. Peyton concluded his statement by saying "proud of my teammates today, proud of the coaching staff and their game plan, go Broncos," before grabbing his younger brother's wrist and making him hit himself, while cruelly asking Eli, who had already suffered through a four-interception game, why he was hitting himself.