Saturday, September 22, 2007

This week has provided a few candidates for this blog's Tool of Note segment. In fact, these candidates are so numerous and so outstanding in the realm of tooldom that it seems almost unfair to try to narrow them down and choose just one. So I'm not going to bother trying to pick a single tool, instead I will honor them all.

First, we have Donovan McNabb. My heart bled for him when he was assailed by Terrell Owens. But now, my heart bleeds for him no longer. Unless you live under a rock, you know by now that he has come out and stated that the media and fans place and undue amount of pressure on quarterbacks of African American descent. But for some strange reason, the entire world didn't come to an end.

If you have followed this blog for any length of time, it should be apparent that I have my reasons for disliking Donovan McNabb. I find him to be a whiner who is always ready with a reason for falling short rather than a plan to win the game. Those who would defend him can point to his statistics which are admirable, and the number of Pro Bowls he's been to, but those things aren't the object of the exercise in the NFL.

Even making the NFC championship game four consecutive seasons is a nice accomplishment, but not necessarily a passport to Canton. The thing about getting to the conference championship game a few times in a row is that only a very few people bother to remember it ten years down the road. For instance, from 1974-1979, the then Los Angeles Rams made it to four conference finals in five years. But they only made it to one Super Bowl, and who remembers them?

Perhaps I'm being unfair to Donovan McNabb. After all, he is the most universally reviled quarterback in the NFL at the moment, right? It's not like any other quarterback regardless of his level of success is taking any heat at all, right? Give me a break. Rex Grossman gets murdered in the press and among fans, and deservedly so. He doesn't play well enough to win big games in big situations, so he gets ripped. That's life.

If we look at other African American quarterbacks and how they are treated by the media, the most obvious example that comes to mind is Michael Vick. Before this past offseason and its damaging revelation about his extracurricular activities, Michael Vick was a lightning rod for media attention. For every commentator that praised his unique athletic talents, there was another who ripped him for a low completion percentage, critical turnovers in key moments, inferior pocket passing skills and inability to handle pressure. Never once, however, did I get the sense that they were ripping him because he was black.

Then there is the case of Vince Young. It's too early in his career to get the sense of how he will be perceived in the media. I get the sense that even more will be expected of him than of McNabb and Vick because he came into the league on the heels of a huge win in a national championship game. He is still in the honeymoon phase of his career, so he won't be killed for mistakes like that ill-advised lateral at the end of the Indianapolis game last week for the moment.

I think McNabb ought to add Terrell Owens and Rush Limbaugh to his Christmas card list. They have done more for him through the controversies they created with their comments than McNabb has done for himself with his play on the field. They have made it possible for him to wrap himself in the mantle of his race, which makes it very dangerous for people to criticize him objectively. They will always be afraid of seeming racist when they do.

I don't know what to make of the controversy at quarterback for the Eagles last season. I hate both McNabb and Garcia, and I hate the Eagles. It's hard to argue with the simple fact that the Eagles were 5-5 in games McNabb started, and they finished the season 10-6. I might not be the world's greatest mathematician, but it seems like that might be a little better without McNabb than with him. Is that racially motivated, or just a simple fact?

I also don't think it's racist to wonder whether a man who is supposed to be a world-class athlete should be able to lead a drive from his own five yard line into field goal range at the end of the biggest game of his career even with no timeouts and only a minute to play. Terrell Owens played the game six weeks removed from a broken leg and with a metal pin where his shin bones used to be. But we should give Donovan McNabb a break because his tummy ached?

But Donovan McNabb isn't the only tool in this sordid little affair. I would be remiss if I left the good folks at HBO's Real Sports out of this piece. If there were ever a time when Real Sports had real relevance, I don't remember it. I do admire Bryant Gumbel (and his brother Greg) for laboring on in obscurity even when an entire generation will only remember them from the Gumbel to Gumbel joke in that episode of Family Guy a few years back.

However, it seems highly unlikely that those heady days when Gumbel hosted the Today show and the lions in their den trembled at his approach will come back any time soon. No matter how many sensationalistic pieces that accuse the mainstream sports media and fans of racist tendencies, HBO's Real Sports is never going to be the arbiter of public opinion on any issue. Perhaps Bryant Gumbel and Keith Olberman can get together and start work on a Way Back machine so they can get back to the mid 1990s when they were as kings in the media.

I would also be remiss if I didn't honor Andrew Meyer, who, in getting himself tazed, has done more to deserve tool of note status than most who have been so honored to date.

Maybe I'm out of touch with the youth of America, maybe I'm old fashioned, maybe I'm just a jerk, but I have absolutely no sympathy for this young man. I wonder what gave him the notion to go to a talk by a US Senator and try to pull a prank. It was certainly a terrible idea, but it seems like it will work out better than he could possibly have hoped.

Also deserving this dubious honor are the people who have leaped to this young man's defense. The University of Florida police officers who tazed this tool did not overreact. It is very difficult to conceive of a situation where officers of the law providing security for a once and maybe future candidate for the nation's highest office can overreact to a disturbance that may threaten said individual's safety on a public stage.

With the heightened emphasis on security following the 9-11 attacks and the justified paranoia surrounding security of high-profile elected officials, only a complete moron goes into an event like the one in Florida and acts up at all. And any one who thinks that this kid deserved better treatment should ask themselves what if he had meant Kerry harm and the police didn't act the way they acted. How would that have worked?

What presents the kick in the ass in this whole mess is that this tool is now basically freed from the compulsion of earning a living. The University of Florida will likely settle this case by writing a check to shut his mouth. He will also probably get a show or at least a gig on a show to do stunts like this full-time. And the officers who tazed him are probably going to face severe consequences.

The tool's attorney maintains that the officers tazed the kid after he had been cuffed. Ordinarily, I would find that, if true, to be exceedingly beat. In this case, because Andrew Meyer went into a heightened security environment with the intent to be a dick and because he said "Don't taze me, bro" to the officers, I think summary execution would have been within the realm of acceptable punishment.

In other matters, recently, I have taken to listening to Nights with Alice Cooper. A good friend of mine suggested it almost a year ago, now, and being the stubborn man I am, it has taken me this long to act on the recommendation. I must say, I am pleasantly surprised by his humor, his ability to articulate and his taste in music.

I must confess that I came to the show with preconceived notions because I hate heavy metal music as a rule. And the stage antics for which he is well known did not inspire me to accept Alice Cooper. I guess it was the inclusion of No More Mr. Nice Guy on the soundtrack for School for Scoundrels that started the turn of events that led me to change my mind on Alice Cooper.

This week, Alice answered an email from a high school girl who had questions about growing up when he did versus growing up today. Cooper said the world in which he grew up was better than what we live with now. Even though I am only 27, I found myself agreeing with him.

Some of the reasons he gave were very compelling. Families were closer back then, kids were afraid of their teachers, there were fewer drugs available to kids and schools were much less violent. Alice also said that it was a good thing that people weren't connected to the computer the way they are now. I found that ironic, as he was answering an email at the time. It's also ironic for me to approve of the sentiment as I blog about it.

As with anything else, Alice Cooper and his show are not perfect. I am not a huge fan of Alice's Closet Covers. From what I've gathered he takes obscure songs by obscure artists and plays even more obscure covers by even more obscure artists once a night. Perhaps they will grow on me in time.

A much more ominous sign came this week when Alice intimated that he didn't play enough John Cougar Mellencamp (Alice was polite enough to drop the Cougar, but I'm not). Now if he'd meant that he plays too much Mellencamp by that statement, I'd agree with him. However, he meant that he played too little Mellencamp, and I just don't think that's possible.

I would also be remiss if I neglected to answer the two comments on my last post. To the Kobra Kommander, I have this to say. First, I remember the hype surrounding the release of the Beatles' Anthology. Can you honestly tell me that it was worse than the recent concert tour with a headliner who has been deceased since the heady days of the Carter Administration?

But I spoke too soon in praise of the Beatles. I only assume that my friend the Beatles fan was too busy devoting his attention to the Cubs chase for the NL Central title to inform me that Paul McCartney became first artist on the new Starbucks record label. If it hadn't been for John Cougar Mellencamp, that would have made McCartney the sellout of the year.

And as for my silence on the late season woes of the Boston Red Sox, I seem to recall saying after the last Yankees series that I wasn't going to talk too much about the Sox since the last few times I celebrated their poor play seemed to trigger a depressing run of wins for the Olde Towne Team.

And to the anonymous commentator, how am I going to take your opinion on Elizabeth Vargas seriously? First you undermine your own statement since you didn't watch the show. Much like Donnie from the Big Lebowski, you're like a child who has wandered into a movie in the middle and wants to know what's going on even though you have no frame of reference.

As for my relentless negativity, would you rather I took all the negativity I put forth in this blog and unburdened it on people in my day to day life. I feel somewhat reluctant to tell you exactly what you can do with the prayers you offered me. But perhaps you might want to say them for the people who would encounter me if I didn't let my negativity loose in this form.

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