Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Foofaraw in Phoenix

I heard a rumor there’s some football game going on this weekend. Is this true?

All eyes will be on the New England Patriots as they pursue the greatest season ever against the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII.

If you root for the Patriots (assuming you aren’t from New England), you probably also root for Microsoft, Rupert Murdoch and Darth Vader. As much as we all love to see a well-played game, it’s hard to like a juggernaut.

And it’s not hard to find a reason to not like the Patriots. It started with Spygate at the beginning of the season, when the team was caught cheating, paid a hefty fine and lost a draft pick (but somehow still get the seventh pick in this year’s draft!). Add to that a quarterback who appears to have never heard of Trojans (and not USC, either), a brilliant receiver with a history of playing when he feels like it, and a head coach who has unapologetically run up the score all season, and you wind up with a team that has replaced the Oakland Raiders as the league’s embodiment of evil.

As easy as it is to hate the Patriots, it’s hard to bet against them (straight up, anyway). Why? Because they’re just that good.

Tom Brady has always had a knack for short-passing opponents to death. With the addition of long-range target Randy Moss (who they got for a fourth-round draft pick, making the Pats the beneficiaries of the most one-sided trade since Peter Minuit), he can now beat you short or long. I could analyze each position, but suffice to say there isn’t a weak link on the team.

The Giants have momentum on their side, which can count for quite a bit under the right circumstances. Jamie posted an excellent blog entry on Eli Manning below. Since that post, the Giants’ win over the Packers has shown that the little brother has come of age. As the youngest of five kids, I can relate. They may not be as deep at every position as the Patriots, but they have already shown they can overcome adversity. Many pundits wrote them off after an 0-2 start, and didn’t give them much chance as the fifth playoff seed in the weaker of the two conferences. They are already the first team in NFL history to win 10 road games in a season, so what’s one more?

An upset is not out of the question. It would be big. Not Appalachian State or Buster Douglas big, but certainly comparable to the Jets in Super Bowl III.

Just don’t make any guarantees, Eli. It’s been done.

I asked the trusty random number generator on my calculator to make a Super Bowl prediction. First, I had it select a random number, 1 or 2—1 for Patriots, 2 for Giants. Then I selected two random numbers between 0 and 50. The higher is the winner’s score, the lower is the loser’s (or, as Ned Flanders would say, the team that does not win). So, here’s the wisdom of a few random microchips from our friends at Texas Instruments:

Patriots 41, Giants 28.

Read into it what you will. In the words of the great Myron Cope, if you bet the wrong way, then you made your own bed.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Little Brother Makes Good

I can imagine the thoughts going through Eli Manning’s head.

“Finally! I did something Peyton didn’t do!”

“Look Daddy! I’m in the playoffs!”

“I told ‘em I was just as good as HE was. Nobody believed me. Who’s in the conference championship now? Huh? Who? ME, that’s who.”

Maybe I’m projecting. But I’m sure Eli Manning felt a huge sense of relief at making the playoffs, and more than a little happy twinge at doing it when his illustrious big brother didn’t.

Let me share something here. I've never really been big on the Mannings. (Well, the Mannings Farm in PA, the fiber arts nirvana, I’m sure I’d be a fan, but that’s for another blog.) Archie Manning may have been a gifted quarterback, but he squandered his talents with clubs that didn’t live up to his potential. I have a theory that he liked it that way, but that’s just my pop-psychology take on it. His college career was unspectacular due to a mediocre team. Third place in the Heisman trophy voting wouldn’t even be a blip on the radar these days, never mind that the actual Heisman winner usually does little when moving on to the NFL. Ten losing seasons with the Saints, most of them spent on his rear end at the hands of Jack Youngblood. Two pro bowls. Two more losing seasons, one with Houston and one with the Mini-Vikes. His record among starters was the worst in NFL history (.263%! Really!) among QBs with 100 starts or more. So I’ve never really understood the adulation.

Peyton Manning was put in the catbird seat early on. He had a better college career than his dad, natch. He compiled some impressive stats and trophies, lots of plaques and an accusation of sexual harassment, but no Heisman for this Manning. (Charles Woodson beat him out, and actually went on to do something in the NFL.) No national championships either, and early indications of not responding well to teams that knew how to pressure him. Peyton moved on to an even better position with the Indianapolis Colts. He’s been the subject of much foaming at the mouth and outright hero-worship, second only to Tom Brady, from all the top analysts, reporters, pundits, and talking heads of American Sport. His noble profile, his sense of humor, his ability to coordinate the offense while ACTUALLY ON THE FIELD. Wow. IMAGINE. It took him nine years to finally win a Super Bowl, surrounded by some of the best players in the league and an intelligent and indulgent coaching staff who let him have free rein on the field. Some of his commercials are clever, but his adenoidal intonation annoys me beyond all reason, possibly because I used to have adenoid issues. In general, though, I think he’s treated like some sort of football demi-god in a way that is really mostly undeserved. Yes, he’s a good quarterback. But he needs to listen to his offensive coordinator more often and stop being so damn twitchy in the backfield. Also, he chokes.

Which brings us to Little Brother Eli. Eli went to Ole Miss like a good boy, his Dad’s alma mater. He had a decent college career and set some records, a bit more nondescript than Peyton’s, but good. He didn’t get into any (reported) trouble while there, unlike Peyton. He ran third in the Heisman, and never really contended for a national championship. The well-known kerfluffle around his draft day trade with Philip Rivers probably had less to do with the Chargers being bad for his career (LT anyone?) and more to do with not wanting to play in the AFC, where he’d be likely to face Peyton on a regular basis. Eli’s always struck me as someone who wanted to please his Dad and maybe someday PLEASE show up his big brother if possible.

Now I grew up an only child. But I’ve watched my kids, and my aunts and uncles, my cousins, and I can see how Eli must feel, finally, achieving something Peyton didn’t, not this year, and having a decent chance to win the big game besides. I hope he’s not ruining the experience by worrying about when Peyton’s going to come up behind him and give him a wedgie.

Good on you, Eli. Brett Favre's probably going to eat you for lunch and laugh the whole time, but I wish you luck on the Frozen Tundra anyway.

Monday, January 14, 2008

OSU—What happened?

This year’s BCS Championship Game marked yet another moment of mourning from a lot of people in Ohio and a lot of people outside Ohio.

On paper, Ohio State was the dominant team in college football this season. They rolled through the first 10 games of their season, lost to Rose Bowl-bound Illinois by a touchdown, then beat archrival Michigan 14-3. Take nothing away from LSU, whose two losses were in overtime by a combined eight points.

The best thing that can be said about the Buckeyes’ performance Jan. 7 is that it wasn’t as embarrassing as last year’s 41-10 loss to Florida. Still, for the second year in a row, the Buckeyes of the regular season mysteriously disappeared. College football fans in general—not just Buckeye fans—have to be asking why.

One reason may be the gap between OSU’s last regular season game and the BCS game, and the gap in preparedness that goes with it. OSU played Michigan on Nov. 17—a break of over seven weeks. LSU’s came to the BCS game off a win in the SEC Championship on Dec. 1, giving them five weeks between games. OSU and Florida had a similar inequity the year before. Also note that this year’s Rose Bowl resulted in a USC blowout of Illinois. Illinois’ regular season ended Nov. 17, USC’s on Dec. 1. There are other factors at play, but it’s clear that Big Ten teams aren’t entering bowl games on the same conditional footing as their rivals.

This problem began several years ago, when most of the major collegiate conferences began extending their seasons (and generating more revenue) by holding a year-end championship game after the regular season. The SEC has a championship game. The Big Ten does not. I don’t think a championship game would work in the Big Ten, because, in most years, it would be a reprise of OSU-Michigan (although it would have been OSU-Illinois this year), and there aren’t enough couches in Columbus to burn for that to work.

So, like many other pundits, I am going to invoke the dreaded “p” word. To paraphrase Jim Mora: Playoffs? Playoffs? I’m going to talk to you about playoffs—but not for the reason that most people mention.

In addition to all the talk about determining a college football champion in a “fair” manner (whatever that means), a playoff would be desirable because it would remove the gap between the last regular season game and the BCS championship. If the first playoff game were played during, say, the third weekend in December, the seven-week hiatus would be a thing of the past. Each team would have played the same number games in a reasonable time span.

Let there be a playoff among the top eight or 16 teams in the BCS rankings, with the top bowls affixing their names to a given game in whatever way they can agree upon. There would still be plenty of room on ESPN’s schedule for all the Who Cares Bowls that pit the fourth-place team in the WAC against the third-place team from Conference USA.

When the NCAA rejects a Division I-A playoff, it usually does so by making some ridiculous statement about education (as if Divisions I-AA, II and III, which have playoffs, don’t care about education?). The pre-bowl conditioning gap between conferences should give some schools, such as those in the Big Ten, cause to reconsider.

Sunday, January 13, 2008


Welcome to the Fritz Blitz.

I'm Jamie Fritz. My husband Bob and I love sports. We talk about sports a lot. We often say what the announcers say before they say it.

We also have opinions. We like our opinions, and wish to share them with the world, in all their sparkly glory. Hence, this. As far as we can tell, this is the world's premier (and first) joint spousal sports blog.

A bit about me. I'm a big fan of pro hockey and pro football. I also like basketball, especially women's college and pro hoops. I'm an inveterate homer about the Steelers and the Penguins, but I'm not all that into the Buccos, at least not until they start winning. PNC park, however, is beautiful. I enjoy Olympic sports, (both winter and summer) and can take or leave college football. I like to watch drag racing (cars only please, the motorcycles scare the crap out of me) but I really don't get the appeal of NASCAR. Honestly, I can watch and appreciate almost any sporting event.

I'm also a feminist, a knitter, a spinner, a photographer, and an animal lover. I keep a knitting and general day-to-day stuff blog over at Buttercupia and tend to update that about once a week, if you're interested. If you're not, that's also fine.

Bob and I have been married since 2005. We don't have kids of our own, but I have two grown daughters (22 and 24) who have fully adopted Bob. We have two Welsh Corgis and three cats. We're both members of Mensa, and our interest in sports sets us apart somewhat. It's one of the things that brought us together. We also love movies and music, but no blogs on those subjects are in the works.

Here we go, Fritz Blitz, here we go!

Welcome to The Fritz Blitz! Jamie and I have created this blog to share with you our common interest in sports. We plan to bring you the constant variety of sport. The thrill of victory--and the agony of defeat. The human drama of athletic competition. And I have just really dated myself with that reference. We are slightly crazed Steelers and Penguins fans, but we will blog on other sports, too. We will also blog on the Pirates, Pitt, and, of course, the Ohio State Buckeyes. (Yeah, I know they aren't in Pittsburgh, but I am a Columbus native, yanno?) And I'll warn you in advance that I get really sentimental when Kentucky Derby time rolls around. We'll even blog on chess if we think anybody will care. And if there's a favorite of yours that you want us to blog on (Blog on! Apply directly to the website!), please let us know. We welcome any comments, as long as they aren't about Ron Paul.