Monday, September 11, 2006

It's been a long time, again, since my last post. But as I said earlier, it's hard to maintain the motivation to attack the Red Sox when they seem so snake bitten this season. I mentioned in one of the first few posts that I do hate the Patriots, but it's not a very strong emotion. They weren't very good when I was a kid, and I had the good manners not to join the press to jump on the bandwagon in the Parcells era. Yes, a lot of people have been going to games for years, but I still remember a lot of weeks where the Patriots were blacked out in the local TV market when I was a kid.

Patriots' fans can't be too thrilled about today's news. For those few who haven't heard 100 times, Deion Branch will not be joining us for the rest of his career. With the loss of David Givens to free agency, that means bad news for Tom Brady. Unless rookie Chad Jackson plays lights out, Troy Brown and Reche Caldwell will be the main outside receiving options. Of course, this might have been the scenario envisioned by the Pats personnel wizards when they drafted tight end after tight end in the last few years.

But what are we missing after all? Obviously, as a Pats hater, I'm not missing anything. But leaving that sentiment aside for a moment, what did the team lose? In four seasons, Deion Branch managed to score 14 TDs and caught 213 passes. Since practical skills like basic arithmetic seem to elude New England residents where their teams are concerned, let me put that in perspective. 50 catches and almost 4 TDs a season.

Think about that for a second, those of you who play fantasy football. Do those numbers scream "Draft Me!" to you. They don't to me. Deion Branch had one "big" game in the Super Bowl against Philly. Yes, he tied the Super Bowl record for receptions in a game, which he shares with Jerry Rice. However, Super Bowl records and career success sometimes run north and south. Just ask Timmy Smith, who set the single game rushing record in Super Bowl XXI. By 1990, he was out of football.

I realize, to paraphrase Douglas Adams, that fantasy is an illusion and fantasy football doubly so. It places so much emphasis on stats, at the expense of little things that receivers have to do to help a team win, like block downfield. But does Deion Branch have the reputation for doing the little things that don't show up in the stat sheets that Hines Ward and Keyshawn Johnson have earned? I would say no.

If your anticipated number one receiver put up half the numbers of Larry Fitzgerald, then you don't have a number one receiver. One can say that the Arizona receiver is not an apt comparison because of the respective offensive systems and the level of competitiveness of each team. Also, at 6'3" and 230 pounds, he's considerably bigger than Branch. However, Fitzgerald plays opposite Anquan Boldin, who would be the number one receiver on half the teams in the NFL.

So will Deion Branch be missed? Probably, but not as much as you might think. Don't dwell too much on that Super Bowl MVP award he won. Think back on the game. If you can tell me that Branch was the best WR on the field that day, then you're either a shameless homer or a moron. TO had a better game. Not as many catches to be sure, but pretty good for a guy on a broken leg with no running game to speak of and a quarterback with the walking pneumonia or whatever was wrong with him.

Of course, I like TO. Even with all of the foolishness from last season, I haven't given up on him yet. But more will be written about TO in the coming weeks. I still have to throw in my two cents on the disaster that was the US team's bronze medal "performance." Plus, I have a lot of things to say about college football. Since I grew up in a the only region without a major college football powerhouse, I am a Notre Dame fan. I suffered through the bad years, so I intend to enjoy the Charlie Weis era. And you're going to hear about it.

To leave on what I hope will be a more positive note, there may be a silver lining in the Branch trade. It's not the first round pick from next year's draft. It is that with the Branch situation resolved, the CHB will (knock on wood) stop referring to him as the "Receiver Who Must Not Be Named." There was a time when a sportswriter would think twice before making a hacky, hokey allusion to Harry Potter.

Yes. I know a bit about Harry Potter. What separates me from the CHB is that my references to pop culture are funnier and show more thought on the part of the writer. Plus I don't look like Harpo Marx with the wit and humor of Dr. Who (who wasn't funny). I don't want to keep criticizing him, but when he gives his "effort" on the Patriots this title: "Quarterback was receiver -- of hits" what can I do? He brings it on himself.

As a bonus, the Douglas Adams quote I paraphrased reads: "Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so." If I'm not mistaken it comes from The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, but I'm too lazy to track down my copy of The Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy series.

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