Wednesday, March 05, 2008

I guess it had to happen sooner or later, but I still wasn't ready for Brett Favre to retire. Obviously, no one plays in the NFL forever, and quarterbacks take a fair amount of punishment over the course of a season. But seeing Brett Favre go is like losing something I could always rely on.

I am 28, I remember a lot of NFL games before Favre broke into the league. So it's not like losing part of my childhood or my youth. It's just that Favre was the last of the great old style of NFL quarterback. Now we have the two Mannings, Brady and the rest who are sort of manufactured, prepackaged automatons on and off the field. Their play is pretty much the same, their sound bites are pretty much the same. They just aren't that interesting.

Sure Peyton Manning is in every third commercial for every fifth product and we get the rundown on all of Tom Brady's sordid off-field dalliances, but that doesn't make them stand out from the herd of celebrities that stalk the media landscape these days. And I think an NFL quarterback should stand out. Like Namath having the guts to rock pantyhose in that creepy ad campaign or sport a man fur on the sidelines. Or like Don Meredith (even though he was already retired and broadcasting at the time) who introduced MNF fans to a game in Denver saying: "Welcome to the Mile High City, and folks that's about how I feel right now."

Yeah, Favre had a recurring problem with the huge interception at the exact wrong time, but at least he had daring. A guy has to do a lot for his team just to get them into a position where he can kill them with a bad throw. And while Favre did make his share of mistakes, he did it with style. So now he leaves the NFL with Manning, Brady and their peers who talk like Junior Simple but cut a nice figure in a fancy suit. And I think we're all just a little bit the worse off for it.

Speaking of the NFL, I am enjoying the offseason moves for the Philadelphia Eagles. As one of TO's biggest fans, I still enjoy seeing the Eagles in the process of imploding. When all is said and done after this season, it will be the signing of Asante Samuel that draws the most attention, whether it works or fails. But as ludicrous as it was to give him a six year, $55 million contract, it isn't the worst decision the Eagles could have made, or did make for that matter.

That dubious honor has to go to the Eagles' front office brain trust who decided to slap the franchise tag on tight end LJ Smith. In case you don't know, the franchise tag forces the team to offer the player a one year deal equivalent to the average of the top three salaries at his position. So that means if you're franchising a guy, you probably ought to be damn sure that he is one of the three best players in his category in the league today.

There is no way LJ Smith is a top three tight end in the NFL. Perhaps he is as talented as draft gurus and Eagles execs have claimed, but I think if that were the case he'd have proved it by now. Hell, even Kellen Winslow II has had a breakout season, and he's been in the league half as long and missed almost two entire seasons to boot.

Out of curiosity, can you even tell me that LJ Smith is a top three tight end in the NFC East? Would you rank him ahead of Jason Witten, Chris Cooley and Jeremy Shockey? I don't think I would. And that's not even beginning to compare him to guys like Ben Watson or the likes of Gates and Gonzales.

Now, it may be that the Eagles franchised him in the hopes of trading him, but who the hell would give up anything of significance for LJ Smith, let alone two first round picks? I think if I were an NFL GM, I'd demand a late second day pick included in a package for LJ Smith where I had to send nothing back in return, or maybe a used kicking tee and worn out down and distance markers.

There are at times, other concerns when it comes to franchising or not franchising a player than simple statistical production. But is LJ Smith so important to the Eagles (who didn't even make the playoffs last season) that the entire football landscape in the City of Brotherly Love that the whole thing would collapse if he left town? This just might take the cake for dumbest decision made in the NFL this offseason, at least until the Eagles draft in April.

In other matters, Mountain Dew has come out with a new marketing campaign. It is called Green Label Art, and they are selling their product in limited edition aluminum bottles featuring six distinct designs from six of America's edgiest up and coming artists. I bet you James McNeil Whistler is shaking in his boots in the afterlife, fearing that his place at the pinnacle of artistic achievement in American history is about to come to an end.

When I saw this campaign, it reminded me of a scene from the classic film "The Third Man." The character played by Orson Wells delivers a famous line:

"Don't be so gloomy. After all it's not that awful. Like the fella says, in Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love - they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock. So long Holly."

If one were to modernize that quote to describe America today, I suppose one could say that we've had 220 years with a few ups and downs, but with unprecedented security, peace and prosperity and we produced six tools who adorned a soda that is little more than citrus flavored rat poison with six "works of art" that make a sane man want to weep for the future. I shudder to think that there will come a time when a person who owns unopened bottles with these images on them will make a fortune on eBay. What a world.

I think Jerry Garcia said it best when he said...

No comments: