Buffalo Bills rookie cornerback Ellis Lankster struggled a bit in a postgame interview earlier this preseason.
Like, um awkward.
But with great awkwardness comes great opportunity for great awesomeness. Or, like, um however that saying goes.
Like, um I want to get that on my iPod. Like, um now.
After an offseason of conditioning and film study, more than a month of grueling practices in the summer heat and four exhibition games, NFL players are now ready to start playing games for the benefit of fantasy football leagues.
"We know how seriously people take fantasy football and we want them to know that we take our role in it very seriously, too," said LaDainian Tomlinson, a highly-ranked fantasy running back.
Tomlinson and other players say making their fantasy owners happy motivates them all year.
"Every weight I lift, every drill I run it's all because I want to provide those who own me with as many points as possible. I try to grind out every extra yard for those leagues that use decimal point scoring," said running back Frank Gore. "If I make my owners happy and help them win their fantasy football league, then I've done my job. Team goals are secondary."
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell says the league's focus has shifted in recent years.
"Winning games and Super Bowls is nice," he said. "But we all know where our bread is buttered now. The amount of money that fantasy football brings in, the amount that fantasy football has expanded our fanbase and increased the interest of our existing fans fantasy is far more important to the NFL than reality."
That's why Goodell put in place many additional safety rules this season.
"We can't have fantasy stars like Tom Brady going down every year. It hurts one NFL team," he said, "but it affects thousands of fantasy teams. And that's bad for our brand."
Steelers running back Willie Parker says he knows firsthand how fantasy football trumps real football.
"I have been a major contributor to two Super Bowl teams," he said. "Only a handful of running backs in NFL history can make that claim. Yet most fans think of me more as a guy whose fantasy impact is limited by the fact that I don't get a lot of touches near the end zone. I can't tell you how much that hurts. I'd give up all of my championships to switch careers with a consistent fantasy performer like Steven Jackson."
September 10, 2009 Column
Stuff You Might Have Heard
Ralph Friedgen breaks his hot seat
Maryland head football coach Ralph Friedgen got off the hot seat today when it crushed beneath his enormous girth.“I don’t think I should have been on the hot seat in the first place,” said Friedgen. “But it's nice to be off of it. That is stressful for any coach." Friedgen's secretary, Terry McIntyre, said she wasn't able to explain to her boss that hot seats are not literal. "He was eating fresh pies this morning and accidentally sat on one of them and got a bit of a burn," she said.Now off the hot seat, Friedgen’s next goal will be to get off the ground.“Little help down here,” said the coach. “I’m a big guy and I have a bit of a trouble getting up once I sit down. Anyone. Well, any dozen or so. Fat man in need here, people. Help me out and I'll give you some pie.”
Pete Rose may hold baseball's all-time hits record with 4,256, but The Hit King does not hold the record for MOST IMPORTANT HITS in baseball history, as none of Rose's hits came with the New York Yankees. That record belongs to Lou Gehrig with 2,721. And now Derek Jeter, too.
Each of Gehrig and Jeter's hits came as members of the New York Yankees, thereby making all of their hits far more relevant than anybody else's hits.
"Jeter and Gehrig may only have 2,721, but each of their hits should really count double because they came on the big stage of Yankee Stadium. Imagine the pressure," said Yankees season ticket holder Bob Merloni. "And I don't know who Pete Rose played for, but I know it wasn't the New York Yankees the greatest sports franchise ever. So that kind of puts a black mark on his great career, you know?"
Merloni said that baseball should really cut Rose's hits by half and double the total by Gehrig and Jeter, putting them ahead of Rose by 3,600 hits instead of behind by 1,500.
"Do this, Bud Selig. Make it happen," he said. "Your credibility is at stake."
Mark Roth, a Yankees season ticket holder who says he has been going to games with his father since before he can remember, admits frustration in explaining the importance of Jeter's accomplishment to others.
"I have friends who aren't Yankee fans who don't get all the media coverage this is getting compared to the coverage of team records for other teams. They're like: 'He doesn't even have 3,000 hits,'" says Roth. "What can you say to that ignorance? All you can really say is: 'Umm, it's the Yankees, guy. So it's better. What are you not understanding?' I mean, this isn't a team record for the Cardinals or the Pirates or the Phillies or the Orioles or some team like that. What good players have those teams ever had?"
Merloni hopes the media attention Jeter is receiving paves the way for some of his current and former teammates to receive the recognition they are due, too.
"Do you see some of the people they are putting in the Hall of Fame nowadays?" he said. "How are these losers getting into Cooperstown and not all-time greats like Paul O'Neill, John Wetteland and Scott Brosius? It's a travesty."
As Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger tries to keep his focus on the field, the civil suit against him off the field continues to develop.
Today the Super Bowl-winning quarterback's attorney, David Cornwell, released a series of photos of Roethlisberger's accuser intended to cast additional doubt on the veracity of her claims.
"I'm not going to draw any conclusions for you about who the true identity of Ben's accuser might be," said Cornwell, toggling through more than a dozen images projected on a large screen at a press conference, stopping extra long on a shot of the woman leaving her attorney's office wearing a gray hoodie. "I think you can all see the certain resemblance. I'll let you draw the obvious conclusions yourselves."
Cornwell briefly took media questions about the civil case, but stuck to his talking points regardless of the question.
"My attention is on this case, but Ben's focus is strictly on football right now. And, interesting side note: the Steelers have won two Super Bowls since Bill Belichick's Patriots last won one," said the attorney, completely ignoring a question about whether the civil case might be dismissed by the judge.
He later said that Roethlisberger had indeed had encounters with his accuser, "but never in Lake Tahoe only in New England and Pittsburgh and usually at midfield after games."
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick was asked at his press conference today if he had any comment on the latest news from the Roethlisberger case.
"Oh, come on, guys. You know I can't and wouldn't comment on that. That's a civil case I know absolutely nothing about," he said. "And as you well know, I only answer questions about the New England Patriots. I will say, however, that Ben Roethlisberger's accuser appears to be a very handsome woman. I hope my beauty does not prevent people from taking these chargers very seriously."
Many sports fans also are active individuals who like to stay in shape themselves.
So SportsPickle asked that guy at the gym to provide some tips for getting those bulging biceps you've always wanted.
September 9, 2009 Column
Stuff You Might Have Heard
Mets hopeful they can maintain 15-game lead over Nationals for 4th place
After back-to-back Septembers that saw them choke away huge leads in the division, the New York Mets are growing confident that this September will be different. "I am proud to see how this team has put the past two years behind them," said manager Jerry Manuel. "We vowed before the season that we wouldn't let 2007 and 2008 happen again and we've been very successful in doing that." With just 24 games to play, the Mets have a 15-game cushion between themselves and last place and the Washington Nationals. Despite all the pressure and fan expectations, the Mets have played some of their best baseball of the season of late, winning four of their last 10 games. Even with that surge, Manuel thinks the NL East race won't be decided until the last week of the season. "We play the last three days of September in Washington," he said. "I have a feeling that's going to be for all the last place marbles. I'm confident we'll be ready."
AVOID: Brady Quinn, QB, Browns If you're looking for a backup quarterback in the late rounds of your draft, it may be tempting to draft Brady Quinn, the presumptive starter in Cleveland. But remember Quinn hasn't been officially announced as the Browns starter. Eric Mangini is keeping it a big secret. But this isn't the good kind of secret. This isn't your girlfriend or boyfriend keeping it a secret about where you are going for your anniversary. Or you not knowing exactly how big your year-end bonus will be. This is a bad secret. Like being told that someone played a prank outside your front door and you not knowing if it's a flaming poo bag on the welcome mat or a rotten fish shoved in your mail slot. Either way it's bad. So whatever you do, don't draft this poo bag. (Quinn is the poo bag, of course. Duh! Derek Anderson is totally a rotten fish.)
It has worked for the Ravens defense.
Now Baltimore offensive coordinator Cam Cameron hopes it will work for the Ravens offense.
Bounties, that is.
"I'm tired of this team being so imbalanced between our great defense and punchless offense," said Cameron. "The Ravens have been in this town for 13 years and their offense has sucked every one of those years. Maybe these guys need some extra impetus to score."
So just as the Ravens defense has posted bounties on the heads of certain opposing offensive players in the past, Cameron is posting bounties of his own this year. On the end zone.
"Get in the end zone, score a touchdown, I will personally give you $2,000," said Cameron. "It's pretty simple. I hope I'm out a lot of money at the end of this year. But with these guys' track record, I'm afraid I won't be. I am more than willing to be surprised, though. It's on them."
Cameron's end zone bounty offer isn't as simple as he makes it sound.
"Yeah, there is some fine print," he said. "Well, basically it's just one thing. These have to be legitimate offensive touchdowns that we create all by ourselves as an offensive unit. Like, an actual drive like you see good teams have. I'm not giving anyone any money if Ed Reed picks off a pass and runs it back 60 yards to the 2-yard line and then we punch it in. That doesn't count. That's pretty much how we score all of our offensive touchdowns. I'm sick of it. It's embarrassing."
Under those narrowed terms, Cameron estimates he would have been out $4,000 last year.
"Two drives. Two real, NFL-quality drives. All season," says Cameron. "That's pathetic. And I think both of them came against the Browns. I don't know if I would pay out for touchdowns against the Browns. Those are cheaper than the ones set up by Ed Reed."
Portuguese deep-sea diver Poreto smashed the world record for unaided deep-sea diving today, diving over 600 feet down into the Pacific Ocean, despite numerous pleas from his boat crew to return to the surface with fresh lobsters for all.
Poreto broke his own personal best record of 595 feet with the dive, surviving underwater for nearly 30 minutes without the aid of supplemental oxygen.While underwater, Poreto slowed his heart rate to an incredible 50 beats per minute, and never once considered foraging around for shrimp, clams, oysters, or any other kind of delicious seafood that would make for a fabulous clambake.
“I don’t get it,” said boat captain Mike Durant. “He’s down in that water for nearly half an hour while we wait. The least he can do is grab us something to eat.”
“I heard there are squid down there too,” Durant added. “Mmm… calamari.”
Poreto dismissed any complaints from his crew about returning to the boat empty handed.
“Deep sea diving is not about hunting. It’s a communion between man and the sea," he said. "When I am down there, I have to keep my body disciplined. There cannot be a wasted movement, not even a stray glance. To do so would break the harmony that the ocean and I share at such depths.”
Durant remained unfazed.
“He’s always pulling that New Agey crap. Sometimes, he’ll stay down in that water for 30, even 45 minutes. We get hungry up here. I think he comes back without lobster just to be a dick about it, frankly. He knows damn well he could grab a couple five-pounders while he’s down there. You got a couple five-pounders, you got yourself a feast.”Durant added: “Imagine if we had some fries to go with it. Jesus, that would be good. Too bad potatoes don't grow underwater.”
Deep sea diving is regarded as one of the riskiest sports in the world. Just last year, three professional deep sea divers drowned when their zip lines failed to return them to the ocean surface in time, killing them, and leaving their crews bereft of any juicy, tender lobsters that could be boiled alive right in the boat galley and served with drawn butter and lemon.
“People die more often in this sport than you think,” says Dr. Mikhael Levin, of Harvard University. “You’re talking about people deliberately cutting off the oxygen supply to their brains, and subjecting themselves to any number of decompression sicknesses at such extreme depths. And they do it with no intention of ever finding a nice piece of halibut to enjoy later on with a glass of Chablis. It'ssenseless, when you think about it.”
For his part, Poreto plans to keep on diving, and to further break his own records.
“This is about pushing the limits of what the human body can withstand. It’s the ultimate gauge of our evolution. And I will keep doing this until the day I die, whenever that may come," he said. "Regardless, if Mike Durant wants fresh octopus tonight, he can jolly well go buy some at the fishmonger before we set out to sea.”