Monday, November 22, 2010


OK, James Harrison sacking Bruce Gradkowski was a "tackling while James Harrison" call. We will start there. It's a reasonable call as a penalty, but I don't think it gets called as instantaneously as it was if Roger Goodell hadn't designated dude as the poster boy for excessive violence in NFL tackling. It cost the Steelers a touchdown which, thankfully, was a drop in the bucket in a rout, but that's not the point.

This isn't like a sketchy holding call or a vague case of pass interference, where the penalized act directly caused the touchdown. Gradkowski heard footsteps; it was Harrison running full speed at him that made him rush his throw and put the ball in Ike Taylor's hands. Whether Harrison tackles dude or not is beside the point. He could have hit some wormhole and jumped to an alternate universe like Jerry O'Connell right before contact and it still would have been a pick-six. As Steelers fans, me and GW9K have talked about this before: it's the sheer terror that dudes like Harrison (and, before him, Ray Lewis and Larry Csonka, to name a couple) evoke that make them great linebackers. It's psychological.

Old territory: the NFL is your average abusive American corporation treating its workers exactly as badly as they can get away with. And that sets the bar pretty low, because most of the employees are getting payed millions of dollars to play a game they love, and many come from what we will call modest means. The players themselves don't love the new caution, and we watched Hines Ward bitch about being pulled from last week's game with a concussion he insisted he would have soldiered on with two years ago.

Don't get me wrong, I'm happy to see this push for more safety. Football takes years off lives. The brain trauma can make you demented in your 60's. Junior Seau drives off a cliff and it's impossible to not wonder if this lapse in reasoning is related to his 15 years of running into shit for a living. But fining James Harrison once a week doesn't solve that problem. Former (occasional?) NFL-er Nate Jackson made all the crucial points in the NYT. We're a few traumatic injuries to marquee players away from the NFL even considering real change.

No, the Harrison witchhunt is a PR campaign to make Goodell look like his company cares about the safety of its players. And the target isn't football fans, who are basically going to keep watching no matter what happens. It's aimed at anyone who is turned off by the violence in the sport (and thus might be less likely to pay money for anything NFL related). We're talking queasy girlfriends and my brother.

And that's really fucked up! Because what that means is this is about is not the safety of the players as much as it's about the NFL seizing an a controversy to attract new fans by expressing grave concern that their violent sport is actually dangerous. It's the opposite of progress, some weird bizarro kayfabe where bad press and marketing affect the flow of the sport. It's the kind of conspiracy shit people point to when explaining how the NBA is rigged. It's the football equivalent of writing Kaitlin Olson's pregnancy into the plot of Always Sunny.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Things Casey Hampton Ate

Hi, I'm Casey Hampton, mayor of Casey Hampton, Pennsylvania. Why don't you come inside? Have you ever seen a pachinko machine with hush puppies instead of pinballs? This is my bathtub, it has three taps - hot, cold and ranch.

-Traditional (2000s, Pittsburgh, PA)
Today I received word of an "news" item, entitled "Steelers Player Destroys Ribs Before Game." Obviously, with the Steelers injury woes, I was curious as to who was a last minute scratch before yesterdays game, on account of a rib injury. Well it wasn't exactly a Pro Football Insider kind of story(see the above screen shot). The article read as follows-
The Pittsburgh Steelers aren't just hungry for a win tonight -- they're also hungry for BBQ ... and TMZ has learned three stars, including RB Rashard Mendenhall just inhaled a massive pregame meal at a Cincinnati rib joint ... and then left a stellar tip.
Mendenhall (left) -- along with backup QB Byron Leftwich (right) and nose tackle Casey Hampton stuffed their guts this afternoon at Montgomery Inn -- a famous rib joint less than two miles from Paul Brown Stadium in Cin city.
We're told the three NFLers threw back a rack of the restaurant's famous barbecued choice pork loin back ribs ... one order of the pork chops and one pulled pork sandwich.
The guys also tackled an assortment of sides including onion straws, sweet potatoes and potato chips.
Even though the guys were in enemy territory -- we're told they left an 80% tip on the bill ... and were extremely nice to the staff.
Such a hack article, I can't decide where to begin with this one. For starters, I've identified an obvious typo in the second paragraph, where the author identifies the players in the header photograph. It should read
Mendenhall (left) -- along with backup QB Byron Leftwich (right) and nose tackle Casey Hampton (center) stuffed their guts this afternoon at Montgomery Inn
I'm not sure whether this was sloppy editing on TMZ's part or maybe just a case of an ambulance chasing food writer caught up doing a sports story for which he wasn't prepared. Since Casey Hampton (pictured below) tends to alter the Earth's field of gravity, I gather the writer wasn't on the astrophysics beat.

Second, I should note that one of the related links on the page is "NFL Star Drops Hundreds on Chicken Wings." I can't help but think that TMZ has some sort of "Marginally Notable Person Makes Extravagant Purchase of Racially Stereotypical Foodstuffs" beat. I'm poking around TMZ for a "Photos: Gabe Kapler and Models Nude in a Hot Tub Full of Matzoh Ball Soup, Bubbe Kapler Reported Irate." No dice. I will also accept "Bobby Jindal Orders $11K Worth of Curry" as newsworthy, but only during an election cycle. This is probably why my friend Brendan refuses to let white people see him eating watermelon.

Clearly TMZ has made a commitment to reporting on the gastronomical exploits of sports "stars," so why did they neglect to focus on 5-time Pro Bowler Casey Hampton, who is listed at a laughably light 325 lbs. Why didn't they mention that three men, listed at a combined weight of 800 lbs, only ate one rack of ribs, one order of pork chops and one pork sandwich plus sides? I can eat a rack of ribs, I'm not impressed. The news here is that their grandmothers wouldn't have let them leave the table eating so little. Here is a brief list of things I've imagined Casey Hampton eating:
-A bathtub full of waffle batter
-The secret burger at In & Out where you can get infinite patties
-Smaller members of the Steelers, including Mendenhall
-A comically large lasagna (using Garfield's "down the hatch" move)
-A terducken inside of an eagle inside of an ostrich
-A coil of red licorice on one of those industrial cable coils (while reclining)
I've also imagined him publicly carrying a powder horn with condiments in it.

I'll fess up - I've spent a lot of time in bars or watching Steelers games with my buddies, voicing a caricature of Casey Hampton that we invented, describing outrageous feats of eating. This is my life right here and the inadvertent humor of that graphic alarmed me to the careful advance of the tabloid media into it. I'm pretty offended that they got this so wrong. Obviously, Mendenhall has a bright career in front of him, but his resume is only a season and a half. Leftwich has spent more than half his career as a back up. Neither of these dudes has a right to overshadow Casey Hampton in an article about ribs.

It's just not right.

I'm glad to know they were nice to the staff though.

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