Tuesday, October 13, 2009

My Dirty Little Secret

Shhh, I've got a secret.

I never shared this with anyone before. I'd rather not say, but we've been together for so long now. I feel like I can trust you. I think it's something you should know.

I hate power rankings.

I know I know…hate is such a strong word.

Power rankings are the biggest slap in the face to the sports fan. Power rankings declare your ineptitude. Power rankings take your mother out for a nice seafood dinner and never call her again. Power rankings erase your brain cells and leave you walking around your office building like Gabriel from Fences. Sans pants.

During the MLB and NBA seasons, power rankings get swept underneath the rug. Why? Because everyone's too busy, uh, watching the games. Who needs some self-touted "sports expert" telling them that the Bobcats stink. We know this, man. At the very least, that's why we'd put up with the Stu Scott's BOOYAHS! in the middle of a highlight package. And even that's pulling teeth.

But, hey it's the NFL! There's SO much time between games! Surely you, erudite plebian, would like to read a column detailing your team's abject failure! What fun!


Like I've said before, making a power poll is the sportswriter's Western Union. It's the fastest way to write columns worldwide. (Hey, look…a pun!) If overused, this list can (and will) slowly drag even the best writer down the treacherous road to perdition. It's our MMQ, our Simmons podcast, our way of manufacturing content juuuuust in time to make tee time at the country club. We know that 60% of the time, it works every time.

Why does it work? Well, that's easy. Power rankings create buzz. They generate controversy. They get your average American riled up and ready to talk smack by their first water break.

The bad part? Power polls divert your attention away from some great stories. Like Mike Sims-Walker – a guy who Jacksonville probably snagged for his hyphenated name – actually producing. Or Glen Coffee, whose name looks as fake as the fantasy-esque stats he's racking up for his least-coast NFC leaders. Or the implosion of the highly regarded Todd Haley, the Kansas City coach whose press conferences are bound to be Coors Light fodder by 2011.

Yeah, that's right, Arizona Cardinals! The talking heads and idiots I read in my local paper say you're only the 7th best team in the freaking NFC. You ain't playoff material! NOBODY CARES WHAT YOU THINK!

But now that that's off my chest, I have another admission to make. I'm going to write a power poll column. (Zoinks!) I've got a lot of random stuff to unleash after a month of dormancy, and this just seems like the best way to unravel without this boring you with an entire column. Maybe I'll defend my placements…maybe I won't. It's just a freaking list column anyways.

I just hope the guys over at KSK don't catch wind of this.

Mike's POWER Rankings

(Brought to you by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and VIEWERS LIKE YOU!)

10. San Diego Chargers (2-2): Because we recently switched over to FiOS at the house, the gents that run the company gave us the Home Box Office network for A LIMITED TIME ONLY. Of course, I was giddy with anticipation. To top it off, Verizon installed their fiber optic do-dad mere days before the season premiere of Entourage. Perfect timing.

Or so I thought. I got hosed.

Every summer, there's that one movie that EVERYONE is anticipating. The movie your co-workers gossip about at your internship's water cooler. The movie that you're not going to waste on a first-date scenario. The movie you spend all summer dreaming about the stirring drama, living and dying with every commercial, adrenaline escalating with every gripping trailer. The movie you buy your ticket for way in advance, and even consider taking the day off for.

And then you get to the theater. And sit down. And realize thirty minutes in that you're really just sitting in on a nicely disguised bowl of excrement. Yuck.

Entourage felt like that to me. Adrian Grenier hasn't begun to remotely develop as an actor (i.e., he's TERRIBLE), Kevin Dillon and Jerry Ferrera are trapped in limited character models, and everything revolves too much around the little man with the melodramatic life (E) instead of the head honcho and his variable personality (Ari).

Honestly, the show left me frustrated. Cameo appearances and Hollywood girls can only hold my attention but for so long.

This year's San Diego Chargers are like that too. People seem to think that this hodgepodge of characters led by a fragile front man with tremendous upside (LT) can realize their potential…but we've read this script before. This isn't the same team. This idea's been done already.

Really, there's only one way to save both Entourage and the 2009 San Diego Chargers. Kick it up a notch. Allow Philip Rivers (Jeremy Piven) to shoulder more of the offensive burden. Exercise Darren Sproles (Jamie-Lynn Sigler) as the explosive running option. Keep Vincent Jackson (Johnny Drama) and Chris Chambers (Turtle) hungry.

And even though it may be hard, don't be afraid to cut LDT (Vincent Chase) loose. You've already put his protection (Lorenzo Neal = Eric Murphy) out to pasture. He's no worse than a wet blanket girlfriend at this point. It's for the best.

Be risky. Be self-indulgent. Be dangerous. Be everything that Norv Turner isn't.

9. San Francisco 49ers (4-1): Am I listing the Niners here in a futile attempt to reverse jinx them for the rest of the season? Yup! You guys know me too well. Sorry Tillman.
(By the way, wasn't it great seeing Mike Singletary for the first time since the Vernon Davis incident? His Coors Light mock conference can't come fast enough.)


8. Pittsburgh Steelers (3-2): They're the defending champs. It's wayyyyyyyy too early to count them out.

(I'm embarrassed to say this, but I'll be honest: I caved and started listening to Christmas music last week. My first song? Wham's "Last Christmas".

"Laaaaaaaast Christmas, I gave you mah heart but the VERY NEXT DAYYYYY…you gave it ahhhwayyy (you gave it aw-hhayy). THIS YEAR, to SAVE ME FROM TEARS, I'll give it to sum-one spe-cialllllllllllllll (specialllllllllllll)."

How can you resist listening to this song? There's enough unintentional comedy here to keep Craig Kilborn relevant for years. Wait, he's not on TV anymore?)

7. Baltimore Ravens (3-2): Last weekend, I went to one of those sanctioned LSAC law school fairs thingies in Manhattan. (By the way, it’s so weird to hunt for information about college after graduating. I’m officially the awkward old guy at the frat party. Ewww.)

Anyway, I saw a friend of mine strolling the corridors for university brochures. Of course, it was a young lady (a shrty in the vernacular, so to speak). We had a brief conversation, one of those “How’s school now that I’M not there?” (polite chuckle) dialogues, and I found myself just STARING at her face. I was absolutely mystified by how beautiful and intelligent she was.

It only took six months, but I totally forgot how mesmerizing a Howard Woman can be. Yeah, there are oodles of fine women out there…but I’m not talking from the perspective of a slobbering buffoon. (You know that’s not my style.) Howard women (and the rare, stable New York girl that I HAVEN’T FOUND YET) just have this intrinsic quality that insulates them from outside ignorance. They have such unique perspective on their world and the global community. This aura surrounding them seems kind of majestic, almost regal.

I was blown away. I felt like one of the mechanics from “Uptown Girl”.

(In other words, I need to find a wife like THAT. Period.)

6. Cincinnati Bengals (4-1)

Wowwe-wow-wow! I can't wait to see their epic road victory this week on NFL Network. Who knew that a team from Ohio could actually be GOOD? Of course, that means they're a historic collapse away from becoming a Jay Leno punch line:

"Did you hear about the Cincinnati Bengals collapse last week? Yeah, they were 4 and 1 early on and fell rrrrr-right outta contention.

(Makes sweeping gesture with right hand)

That's a darn shame. A DAMN shame. Fell faster than Conan's numbers after I moved my (expletive) to ten o'clock!"


5. Denver Broncos (5-0): I'm gonna stick them here. I refuse to believe that the Broncos are this good. I almost fainted when I heard Bob Costas say that Kyle Orton was better than Tom Brady.

Wait, WHAT? It's Kyle Orton! From Perdue! With the neck-beard! He's killing fantasy teams left and right! He's this generation's Trent Dilfer!

(Wait, Dilfer retired two years ago? Oops. My bad.)

4. Indianapolis Colts (5-0): Is it possible that after all this time, Peyton Manning's having his first eff-you season? Think about it. He's coming off one of his worst years. His long-time coach handed over the reins to a rook. His favorite target (Marvin Harrison) is cracking chrome domes in Philly, and his replacement receiver (Gonzo) is done indefinitely. They barely beat a very bad Jaguars team. Everyone writes them off. Enter 2009 football season.

Four weeks later, the elder Manning is seen polishing off his Offensive Player of the Month trophy. Coincidence? I think not. This team is GOOD.

3. New Orleans Saints (4-0)
They're the first team to make my boy Mark ("Ohmygodohmygodohmygod, did YOU know that Mark Sanchez is considered to be physically attractive? OOOOooooo!!!") Sanchez look human. Of course in the NFC, that makes you legit.

(Since I started writing these "notes" (which eventually found solace in my blog), I've gotten immense respect from you guys in regards to my writing talent. I am so humbled. Trust me, I appreciate the encouragement and appreciation. But one of the realest sentences I've ever read came from my dude Jarrett Freeman, who put together this masterpiece in his Facebook status:

"I remember when getting high meant swinging at the playgrounds, the worst thing you could get from a girl were cooties, race issues were who could run the fastest, life was so simple and carefree, but the thing I remember most was wanting to grow up."

Wow. Thaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat's great. Remember when (insert sentimental moment)?

Time moves FAST.

2. Minnesota Vikings (5-0) This has got to be the worse time to be a Packers fan. I mean, after Brett's egregious display of fist-pumping with a total disregard for human life, there's no love lost now. I'd feel like Michael Corleone from Godfather II:

"I know it was you Brett. You broke my heart. You broke my heart."
In related news, Vlad Masters has agreed in principle to buy the Green Bay Packers from the state of Wisconsin.

(Wait, this just in…yup, it's confirmed. That last joke just went over everyone's head. Awwwwwwesommmme.)

1. New York Giants (5-0):
Everything rests on Elisha's heels. Literally.

(By the way…I've heard the belly-aching from the twelve Twins fans and the eighteen zillion Yankee haters over the last few days, so it's time for clear the air right quick.

Sure, I'll admit it: The Minnesota Twins got totally jobbed on Friday night. The ump completely missed the call even though it was inside the foul line by a CLEAR TWO FEET, and that fissure derailed the Twins hopes of winning the series. It's the Jeffrey Maier incident all over again.

However, I can't justify a single call dashing a team's dreams. I mean, Joe Nathan (easily one of the best closers this decade not named Mariano Rivera) allowed the anti-clutch A-Roid to yam a homer after Nick Blackburn (WHO?) held us to one-run ball. Carlos Gomez overran second and got thrown out. Plus, Jason Kubel, the man who filled in for injured slugger Justin Mourneau, went 1-14 for the series – striking out eleven times in total.

Yes, you read that correctly. ELEVEN TIMES.

When your cleanup hitter's is batting a beautiful .071 with eleven K's, you're not winning the series. Just ask A-Rod. He knows what I'm talking about.

(Yes, I refuse to mention that Alex Rodriguez has gotten ultra clutch over the last three games. I'd rather keep being surprised by his awesomeness. This way, I won't get my heart broken (if/when?) he chokes in a big spot. Again.)
So, there you go. With over 2,000 words in the books, I think I'll shut up now.

Well, actually there's one more thing.

Barack Obama!

(Remember, it's not an article written by a black guy until he's mentioned.)

Got to LOVE post-racial America.

Michael Benjamin, II

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