Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Truth About the Steelers

By Artistry

A couple of games into this virtually unwatchable NFL season, we noted that the Steelers were one Ben Roethlisberger injury away from being Cleveland. Little did we know that we were a subsequent Byron Leftwich self-inflicted rib trauma away from agreeing with Cleveland.

But that shouldn't obscure a larger truth about this team: it's about as durable as the love of a Bachelorette.

Clean-up of JEF's heart on aisle 5.
The Steelers have averaged almost 10 players a week on the injury report. Mike Tomlin press conferences have turned into lengthy recitations of names and corresponding battered body parts.

"Antonio has an ankle. 'Shard has a heel. Ben has an aorta. Troy has a calf."
Lots of teams have long injury reports, you say. True, but usually they don't mean anything. Take the Baltimore Ravens in Week 12. They had 16 names on the injury report, and 13 of those players were listed as "probable."

Contrast that with Pittsburgh, where Ryan Clark, David Decastro, James Harrison, Rashard Mendenhall, Jonathan Dwyer, Troy Polamalu, Marcus Gilbert, Lamarr Wooley, Maurkice Pouncey, Isaac Redman, Stevenson Sylvester, Jason Worrlds, Antonio Brown, Byron Leftwich, Jericho Cotchery, Willie Colon, Mike Adams, and Ben Roethlisberger have all missed time. Most of the starting lineup has been out for multiple games.

Does any of this mean we won't make the playoffs? No. Even if we concede this week, Ben can come back reasonably healthy in week 14, we can win 3 of the last 4 against the Chargers, Cowboys, Bengals, and Browns, and the bet here is we get in. But will it be painful to watch? I'm afraid that as far as that question goes, the standard is the standard.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Ted Leonsis's Wizards Remain Winless; Experience Their Historic Futility with a Garbage-Time Live-Blog

By Finesse

For those who haven't been paying attention, the Washington Wizards are a team in the NBA.  They used to be called the Bullets but then-owner Abe Pollin decided that "Bullets" had too many violent overtones so he decided to let the fans submit alternative names.  According to Wikipedia, the five other finalists for a new name were Dragons, Express, Gingivitis, Stallions, or Sea Dogs.  Only one of those is fake.

Were the other proposed logos not phallic enough?
Pollin's decision to let the fans choose the name Wizards should be an asterisk on his plaque in the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.  (After all, Steely McBeam is what happens when you let fans pick names).  And just for the record, "Jewish" does not modify "Sports" in the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame -- you do not get inducted for being good at traditional "Jewish Sports" such as kibitzing, circumcising, or having terrible breath at the Yom Kippur morning service.

Guy on the right gives a lethal "Good Yom Tov"
The Wizards have been a heinous team since 1997, compiling a record of 97 wins and 4,786 losses.  It's conventional wisdom in Washington, DC that the Wizards reached rock bottom during the winter of the 2009-10 season when star guard Gilbert Arenas pointed a loaded gun at teammate Javaris Crittenton in the Verizon Center locker room during a dispute about a gambling debt, admitted to defecating in teammate Andray Blatche's shoe during practice, and then explained the defecation incident by pointing out that "nobody is going to ask what Andray did to deserve it."  That was rock bottom.

Until last night.

The 0-11 Wizards fell to 0-12 after getting walloped at the Verizon Center by the San Antonio Spurs, 118-92.  I started taking notes on the Comcast Sports Net Washington coverage with 2:23 left in the 4th quarter with the Spurs ahead 112-88.  Let's pick it up together after the jump and explore what happened.  (All times approximate).

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Big Ben's Barracks: Plax is Back!

By Artistry

Plaxico Burress is coming home to Pittsburgh.  For Ben Roethlisberger, the memories came flooding back on Tuesday when he heard the news.

"Remember that time Plax caught the ball over the middle, jumped up, and spiked the ball, not realizing the play was still live?"  Big Ben's eyes lit up as he reminisced about his old friend.  "And then, remember that time he shot himself in the leg?"

With Jericho Cotchery and Antonio Brown banged up heading into the Week 12 matchup in Cleveland, the Steelers are turning for help to their now 35-year-old former first-round draft pick.  Can Burress recapture his past glory?

"Plaxico is in very good physical condition, from what I saw today," Coach Mike Tomlin said after watching game tape of Plaxico Burress from 2004.

"It doesn't really matter," Roethlisberger observed.  "It's always better to have more of your Men than fewer of your Men. The more Men the better, I always say."

The Steelers also signed former Tom Brady back-up quarterback Brian Hoyer as insurance for when Charlie Batch breaks his hip this Sunday. Said Roethlisberger, "Hm? OK."

Monday, November 19, 2012

GTOG RECAP: Brett Keisel and James Harrison are already trying to get a running start at Brandon Weeden; Steelers lose to Ravens 13-10

By GTOG Staff

Subject to the possible premise-killing caveat that last night was the best game the Steelers' defense has played in over a year, let's explore the following premise: the Steelers' defense could have and should have won the game.  Joe Flacco was ripe for a strip-sack all night.  He was just a tall, over-confident, unibrowed statue standing in the pocket, unable to complete a pass downfield, just begging to have the ball swiped from him.  Unfortunately, it's not 2009.

The Good Ol' Days
The most glaringly obvious area of decline for the Steelers this year is wearing number 92.  Until his late "sack" of Joe Flacco (the result of great coverage and a good decision by Flacco to not risk an incomplete pass to stop the clock), the only indication that James Harrison was even playing was because Chris Collinsworth wouldn't stop talking about him.  Collinsworth was either watching a game tape from 2009 or hasn't watched a Steeler game since 2009, but what we saw from Harrison was an enormous amount of nothing.  Ditto for Brett "Key" Keisel, who committed yet another terrible late game offsides penalty (he did the same against Oakland).  If he doesn't go offsides, Baltimore punts coming out of the 2-minute warning.  But he did go offsides, Baltimore ran another play, Harrison got a sack that he's still over-celebrating, and the Steelers got the ball back with no timeouts, 65 seconds on the clock, and a quarterback throwing like the 40mph machine at the batting cages.  Players tend to try to cheat the snap count when they know they can't get to the QB otherwise.
Actual game photo of James Harrison from last night
While we're nitpicking the end of the 4th quarter, let's not let Tomlin's clock management off the hook. With the Ravens facing 3rd-and-7 with 2:09 left and the clock running, Tomlin decided to use his final timeout at 2:04.  Had he not called timeout, the clock hits the 2-minute warning and the Ravens have a tough decision: 1) run the ball and force the Steelers to use their final timeout, or 2) throw for the first down but risk an incomplete pass that would stop the clock and leave the Steelers with a timeout remaining.  By calling the timeout at 2:04, Tomlin allowed the Ravens to run a pass play without the downside of stopping the clock on an incomplete pass -- the clock had to stop anyway at the 2-minute warning, so of course they were going to throw for the first down.  It turned out to be somewhat moot because the Ravens chose Option 3: wait for Key to jump offsides to burn even more time.

The standard is the standard.
Of course, the Steelers' defense didn't cost the Steelers the game.  In fact, it's the only reason this was a game in the first place, yielding only 3 points (the other 10 were special teams and a gift from Mike Wallace).  It was the unit's best performance in a very long time, and maybe the best game Swaggin' U has played in ... ever?  We leave this game with unexpected confidence in the defense, and feeling thoroughly unimpressed with Baltimore.

So let's talk about Byron Leftwich after the jump...

Pro Bowl grimace.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

GTOG Podcast Live from Mercy Hospital: Ben Roethlisberger's Life Threatening Injury

We report live from Mercy hospital on the status of Ben Roethlisberger's life-threatening injury. This is an exclusive scoop that no one else has.*

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*We also discuss whether Game 4 in 1992 against the Blackhawks was Mario's most dominant performance, aesthetically.  The pass we discuss is around the 5:35 mark.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Big Ben Roethlisberger Makes Sure the World is Watching; Steelers Win 16-13

By Finesse

Ben Roethlisberger sustained what might be a very significant shoulder injury in last night's 13-10* overtime "win" over the Chiefs, a game so boring and so tedious that Artistry, for the first time in his life, fell asleep during the game.  He awoke with no regrets.

The highlight of the game, if not the highlight of the entire season, occurred after Ben went into the locker room to have his shoulder examined.  He stepped gingerly from the examination room into the bowels of Heinz Field.  He puffed out his chest.  He put on his serious face.  And then he did what only Seven can do: he turned and made sure the ESPN cameras were watching.

Seven being Seven.
If Ben misses any extended period of time, the Steelers are in big trouble.  And if our best defensive players are launching themselves at receivers with a technique more likely to cause concussions than if they had just smashed each other over the head with sledge-hammers, we may want to temporarily hold off on booking hotels for wild card weekend.

* I'm being told that the final score of the game was actually 16-13, but that would imply a scenario far too predictable to have actually happened: the Steelers' "Number One Against the Pass" defense gives up a 4th and 15 to Matt Cassel that leads to the tying field goal, but then capitalizes on an abominable interception from Cassel that essentially hands the Steelers the win.  That would be exactly how we would have predicted the final 2 minutes of this game to play out, but life never goes according to script.**

** Unless the Steelers' pass defense and Matt Cassel are prominently involved.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

GTOG EXCLUSIVE: JEF Holm's sudden departure deals serious blow to Green Beans' title hopes

By Finesse

CHARLOTTE -- When the Green Beans took the field last month for the first time since the highly publicized split between former Bachelorette star Emily Maynard and her beau JEF Holm, things immediately felt different.

"I don't know," midfielder Maddy Ross, 7, of Quail Hollow told GTOG in an exclusive interview.  "Usually JEF makes me drink water.  There was no water this time."

Indeed, it will be a very thirsty playoffs for the Charlotte-area girls soccer team.  After JEF and Emily found their Forever during the spring season of ABC's The Bachelorette, Holm moved from his compound in Utah to live with Emily and her daughter Little Ricki, 7, the reigning Participation Award winning defender for the Green Beans, in Charlotte.  And when Brooke's Dad was caught texting pictures of his genitalia to his wife's yoga instructor, a coaching opportunity on Ricki's team opened up.  JEF eagerly volunteered.

"This is just like, you know, like something I just really felt, like, strongly about," Holm said in June.  "Little Ricki is just, like, magic.  And magic is, like, one of my favorite things.  My two favorite things to watch are probably magic and Little Ricki playing soccer."

But as the Green Beans head into the playoffs this weekend without Holm coaching the defense, there is serious concern among the parents that the team can continue its recent success.  "To be honest, I don't know or actually care how it will affect the team," Holly Wellington, mother of midfielder Kara, told GTOG.  "It's little girls soccer for Christ's sake.  But I know that JEF promised to return the jeans he borrowed from me at the game on Saturday and I have no idea whether he will show up.  They were Sevens, too."

JEF in Holly's Tory Burch blouse.
A Rocky Start

With the inexperienced Holm coaching the defense, the Green Beans got off to a rocky start, dropping their first game 4-0 to the Pumpkins, followed by an 8-1 humiliation at the hands of the Juice Boxes.  Holm was widely criticized by many parents for spending the first half-hour of every practice lecturing his defenders about why poor people need bottled water.  He was even called out by Randy, the usually mild-mannered head coach of  the Green Beans, who lamented, "It's difficult to coach when your assistant keeps walking onto the field in the middle of the games to show the kids dandelions."

Things turned around for Holm after the Green Beans' third game, a 3-2 loss to the Jelly Beans in the annual Bean Bowl.  The Green Beans' star defender, Lilly, was called for a foul with less than a minute remaining in a tie game, leading to the winning penalty kick for the Jelly Beans.  After Lilly stormed off the field screaming "I hate you! I hate you!," Holm openly questioned whether Lilly was "here for the right reasons."  His willingness to call out his star player resonated with the rest of the squad in a 4-1 drubbing of the Lollipops on the 4th of July.

Climbing the Mountain

The Green Beans stayed hot after their win over the Lollipops, winning their next four games by a combined score of 16-2 despite often playing without several players who were hospitalized for over-hydration.  "He's always so enthusiastic, whether it's looking at butterflies, forcing water upon the children, or making sure they're wearing sunscreen," said Kelsey's Step-Dad, Wyatt, shrugging his shoulders.  "I'm not sure he knows what sport he's coaching, or even what soccer is, but the kids are always laughing at him, so what are you gonna do?"

Despite gaining the trust of most of the team, Holm still had trouble connecting with Lilly, who was stung by JEF calling her out publicly. "I think he's a poopy face," Lilly said in early August before being interrupted by her mother screaming, "Lilly! I told you! That's enough poopy talk! Do you hear me? Enough!"  Holm, for his part, never stopped trying to get back into his star player's good graces.  "Lilly is kind of like a diva, but I love divas, so it's, like, I don't know, you know?  I mean, Mariah is a diva.  Whitney was a diva.  And those are two of my heroes, you know?"

Even Emily was impressed with JEF's coaching abilities before their highly publicized split.  "I'm really happy about what JEF is doing for Little Ricki.  I just think it's so great that they spend all day at the park together and don't need me to be here," Emily told GTOG in July shortly after she had dropped off Little Ricki and JEF four hours prior to the start of practice.  Emily, who has been criticized for not attending any of Little Ricki's games this season, also had a message for her critics. "To those criticizing me for not going to Ricki's games, you don't understand.  I have a full-time job: it's called being a mom," she said as she climbed into her Suburban.

Just as the Green Beans were rounding into form, however, rumors started swirling in the tabloids that JEF discovered scandalous text messages with another man on Emily's phone.  Tension was palpable at Green Beans practices, where fathers tried to console Holm while simultaneously trying to discover whether JEF and Emily were in an open relationship.  "I asked him if this was like a thing they were into and if maybe I could get involved," said Joe, Sandy's older brother.  "I don't know, I thought it was worth asking."

A Team Without a Leader

The Green Beans enter this week's playoff game against the Hush Puppies as heavy favorites, despite both teams (and, in fact, every team in the league) having identical 0-0-11 records.  "We feel that it's important to avoid having winners and losers," said league Commissioner Rod Stout. "We want our kids to come away understanding that everything in life is a tie.  The Green Beans are a fantastic team.  But so are the Hush Puppies.  Everyone is fantastic."

Without Holm patrolling the sidelines and coordinating the disposal of all carbonated beverages, the Hush Puppies will look to exploit holes in the Green Beans' defense that have only recently been shored up.  Hush Puppy forward Brittany Lomax, the league's leading scorer, should be able to use her intimidating style to slice through what she hopes is a terrified defense.

Brittany Lomax
"JEF spent weeks convincing our team that everyone was beautiful, even Brittany Lomax," Coach Randy said.  "Personally, I'm horrified by Brittany and if her parents let her off her medication I will not hesitate to pull my girls of the field."  Several parents from other teams have refused to let their kids play against Lomax, and some have even been brought to tears by the thought of it.

Looking Ahead

While Holm's plans for the future are murky, he knows that girls youth soccer will play a big part in his life going forward.  "Since the first time I laid eyes on Ricki, gawking at her like she was a zoo animal, I've been dedicated to her.  One-hundred percent devoted.  I will support her in whatever she does, whether her mommy wants me there or not.  If she wants to play youth soccer, I will be there for her.  If she doesn't want to play youth soccer, I will play for her."

The future of the Green Beans is less certain.  Coach Randy said his focus now is on getting his players prepared for the playoffs.  "Whether we tie or tie isn't what matters," he said.  "What's important is that the kids take the lessons JEF taught them, such as wearing androgynous pants, and forget them immediately.  We've got soccer to play."  Coach Randy said he has not started looking for a new defensive assistant, although the guy who hangs out at the park but doesn't have kids has expressed an interest.

Little Ricki, who declined to be interviewed for this story, released a statement through her agent.  "My mom dropped me off at the field six hours ago.  I really need a ride home."

Monday, November 5, 2012

GTOG Podcast: We talk the Steelers' big win, plus election analysis and NHL Lockout watch

It's a power-packed podcast on Election Eve.  Find out our state-by-state prediction, plus Steelers and NHL talk.  It's the GTOG Podcast.

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Friday, November 2, 2012

Updating the Rules of Writing a Ron Cook Column

By GTOG Staff

Our very first post here in June 2010 set forth 14 separate rules for writing a Ron Cook column, and an example of those rules in action:  It took only 25 minutes, total, to write a full "Ron Cook column."

So much free time.
Over the course of the past two years, we've slacked off on updating the rules despite some novel rhetorical devices debuted by Cook (including the use of a bullet point to declare: "• Sandusky never will get back his good name.").

Today Cook gave us no choice but to update our list because of the following sequence in this morning's column about the Steelers' decision to not cut alleged drunk-driver, Alameda Ta'amu.
It's hard to believe Ta'amu will get behind the wheel of a vehicle and drive drunk again.
Or is it hard to believe?
In light of this sequence, we adopt the following rule as Rule 15:
15. [Insert statement]. Or is [insert statement]?
Or do we adopt it?

Here is the complete set of Rules for Writing a Ron Cook Column

1. Ask as many rhetorical questions as you want
2. Answer your own rhetorical questions, preferably with as few words as possible
3. Use more one-sentence (or one-word) paragraphs than multiple-sentence paragraphs
4. Add/Subtract/Multiply/Divide things that aren't numbers. Ex. "Marc-Andre Fleury + Evgeni Malkin + Sidney Crosby + Jordan Staal = Stanley Cup"
5. End as many sentences as possible with the following words: though, right, really, you say, I say, too, actually
6. Have a consistent "theme" that occasionally appears throughout the article in italics
7. Start all non-controversial, universally agreed upon points with an affirmative (ex. Yes, Yep, Sure, Of course, Certainly, No doubt)
8. String together consecutive sentences that are 4 words or less. Ex. "Accumulate high draft choices. Make smart selections. Have a little luck."
9. Write sentences without a subject. Ex. "Be bad for a long time."
10. Ask/demand the reader to do the following:
  • Tell you something. Ex. "Tell me something."
  • Ask himself something. Ex.  "Ask yourself something."
  • Think about something. Ex. "Think about this."
  • Remember something. Ex. "Remember?"
  • Not mention something. Ex. "Don't mention ___."
  • Not tell you something. Ex. "You can't tell me that isn't the Big Ten's No. 1 goal." 
  • Not get you started. Ex. "Don't get me started." 
  • Not get you wrong. Ex. "Don't get me wrong." 
11. End one out of every four columns with the phrase, "You don't have to _____ to understand _____."
12. Start three or more consecutive sentences with the same word. Ex. "So smart. So steady. So serviceable." [Note the overlap between rules].
13. Tell the readers something that you just told them that they don't have to tell you. Ex. "I don't have to tell you whom they're laughing at now."
14. Ask yourself for your own opinion. Ex. "Me?"
15. [Insert statement]. Or is [insert statement]?