Spanning The Nation: Forget About Brey Edition
A new feature here on "Section 29" - a weekly roundup/commentary segment on the fortunes of all teams associated with the lineup. But before we begin, I want to confess something: I'm bad at fantasy football this year. How bad? Matt Millen would have a better chance putting the right personnel together than me this season. This week's new low: matched up against the juggernaut that is Brian Fallon and the 2-7 First Round Wideouts. I had seven position players, plus one kicker and a defense. All nine scored at lease one point. And I lost 75-24. To add further embarrassment: Fallon had not one, not two, but three players who didn't score anything. Fallon beat me with 66% of a team. Adding embarrassment on top of embarrassment: My team total of 24 points was three less than Fallon's San Diego defense earned all by themselves. Ultimately, I've dropped to 4-6 and ended pretty much any hope of reaching the playoffs. I wish my team played in the NFC. On with the roundup...
Angelo Suozzi - Hometown: Pittsford, NY
Par for the course, life has not been good to Buffalo sports this season. After steamrolling through the Eastern Conference and earning home-ice advantage in the playoffs last season, the Sabres fell on their sword vs. Ottawa, then got kicked square in the junk by losing Daniel Briere and Chris Drury on the first day of free agency to the divisional rival Flyers and Rangers, respectively. Lindy Ruff's crew has just 13 points in 16 games, tied with the Capitals and Oilers for worst in the NHL. Over at Ralph Wilson Stadium, things are "sort of" looking up for the Buffalo Bills. I mean, they are 5-4. On the other hand, they got beat by the Jason Elam Fire Drill in Week 1 (15-14) then managed to lose a game to Dallas after Tony Romo choked the ball over six times. I don't even think Notre Dame could lose a game with a +6 turnover margin. They should be 7-2. They're not. Always a Buffalo, never a bride.
Thomas McCall - Hometown: Lake Charles, LA
Who dat? Who dat? Who day say dey gonna beat dem Saints? Everybody, in September. Nobody in October. But November? The Rams. That's who say dey gonna beat dem Saints. For added shame, T-Mac, the Rams were 0-8. Zero for the season. And their quarterback was playing with cracked ribs. I think Sports Illustrated should be re-thinking that whole Saints-Chargers Super Bowl prediction. Meanwhile, LSU has surged back to the top of the rankings just four weeks after Gentleman Les finally got his comeuppance against Kentucky. In response to a recent query about who would be more welcome in Louisiana, Osama bin Laden or Nick Saban, Thomas replied, "Both. The reason: hunting season just started and both are wanted dead in...LOUISIANA!!!"
Pat Girouard/Joe Long - Hometown: Cretin Derham Hall, MN
Perpetual Good News/Bad News for this pair. Good news: Twins retained Joe Nathan. Bad news: still staring down the pike at free agency for Joe Mauer & Johan Santana, with trade rumors perpetually swirling around the latter (on the plus side though, if Santana eventually gets traded to the most commonly mentioned team, Pat would have even more reason to meet the Mets next season). Good news: The Vikings struck gold by taking Adrian Peterson in the NFL Draft. Bad news: he just tore a ligament in his knee. Good news: Wisconsin beat Michigan. Bad news: Big deal, so did Appalachian State. Good news: the Wild are off to a strong start at 9-6-2 (20 points). Bad news: key winger Pavol Demitra just went on injured reserve with a strained groin, while Marion Gaborik is day-to-day with a similar injury.
Brian Fallon - Hometown: Grand Rapids, MI
The Red Wings haven't missed a beat, with Henrik Zetterberg leading the league in scoring and vested vet Dominik Hasek, more like the Occasionally Effective-ator than the Dominator these days, but still good enough to pace the best team in the Western Conference. One pest remains though - that weird team just now surfacing on Chicagoland TV stations called the Blackhawks. The Wings are 0-3 versus this young crew but 13-1 against everybody else. Across town, Fallon's much beloved Detroit Tigers continue their offseason improvements by trading for Edgar Renteria, then promptly squander all potential by acquiring Jacque Jones from the Cubs. Pat, you've seen the Jacque Jones Story, tell Fallon how the movie ends. As for that other team...Roy Williams may have had a point. It has been stupid how close the Lions get to scoring 40 points, even on days when they only score 14 and lose to Kurt Warner and the Arizona Football Cardinals. Still, the Lions are 6-3 and in good shape to seize a playoff spot for the first time since Fallon hit puberty.
Kevin Braun - Hometown: Lancaster, PA
This is not the time or place to make judgments on Andy Reid...except that this season, his team stinks. Donovan McNabb is like that guy in Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade, you know, the one who chose "...poorly" and got old, withered, and died in about nine seconds. We are all watching Donovan get older with every snap. Eagle fans, if you would like to see your future at the QB position, please direct your view southeast to Baltimore & Steve McNair. Meanwhile, after cementing their place as the least-loveable losers in all of sport by reaching the 10,000 loss milestone this summer, the Phillies and their irrepressible leader J-Roll charged to the NL East title, with a handy assist from the New York Mets' phenomenally epic collapse...then promptly bowed out in a three-game sweep at the hands of the Rockies. The legend continues for Philadelphia, now the first city with a team in each of the "Big 4" North American sports to combine for over 100 years without a single championship.
George Heidkamp - Hometown: Hinsdale, IL
It's been a good time to be a Packers fan behind enemy lines. The season's off to rabble-rousing start thanks to a rejuvenated Brett Favre still slinging the ball - and Ryan Grant (FROM?!? Notre Dame) toting it in the backfield. The Pack is 8-1 and in the meager NFC, to not make the playoffs at this point would be criminal. Not unlike White Sox GM Kenny Williams' decision to bring back Juan Uribe. I guess Kenny figures that slicing 25 points off your batting average every year for four years is a sign of greatness to come in year 5 - Charlie Weis said the same thing about Travis Thomas, I believe. The offseason didn't start on the right foot for the Sox. Meanwhile, the Blackhawks, last seen sometime in the mid-90s when ESPN accidentally picked up a game at the United Center, have been reborn thanks to rookies Jonathon Toews and Patrick Kane. (Full disclosure: it's tough to truthfully claim I'm a Blackhawks fan, but you can't necessarily fault me for it. The Hawks were Chicago's beacon of hope for many years of baseball futility and the days of the pre-Jordan Bulls and the post-Halas, pre-Ditka Bears. Chicago was, in all honesty, a hockey town. Then along came television and the billion-dollar industry we call sports, and Hawks owner Bill Wirtz voluntarily chose to stay behind. How could anybody under the age of 25 even get the chance to be a casual Blackhawks fan? Home games were practically never on TV, and the team seemed to tie increase in ticket prices with increasing levels of ineptitude on the ice. With Wirtz having passed away this fall and his son assuming ownership of the club, the Hawks have taken some baby steps out of the darkness. I figure the least I could do is throw them my support). And as for the Bulls? Unfortunately, they're an awful 1-5, and all that bad karma Joakim Noah cultivated throughout the NCAA is finally biting him and his team in the rear. Some even think it's time to dismantle the crew of Captain Kirk, Luol, Air Gordon, Big Ben, and Joe Smith in favor of becoming Team Kobe. Guess it's time for another 5-year rebuilding plan, Pax.
Paul Jacobs - Hometown: St. Louis, MO
Comings and goings in the home of the St. Louis Baseball Cardinals - first the GM went, then the manager stayed. No word on which one of them will be taking Kip Wells. I think Paul would concur that the less said about the Rams (1-8, though he keeps bragging rights over T-Mac) and Blues (14 points so far), the better.
Mike Devitt - Hometown: Marion, IN
Mike knows that I've made more than few loony predictions concerning the Colts in my day. But not even I, Carnac-wannabe that I am, would've ever predicted Peyton Manning would throw six picks in a game. Not in 10,000 computer simulations would I bet in favor of Peyton putting up a Six-Pick Pack. The last time Peyton threw four picks in a game, Jim Mora was coaching the Colts and wandered straight into the press room to deliver the world-famous "Playoffs?!?" rant. So Mike D's Colts have been pressed up against it, dropping two in a row after a 7-0 start. They'll bounce back. Even I can predict that one.
Meanwhile, Back at Headquarters...
The one team that brings us all together is 1-9, with a final chance to save a shred of dignity at home by defeating the equally inept Duke Blue Devils Saturday (more on this to come). Angelo has vowed to flunk out of Law School if the Dookies win. Pray for Mr. Suozzi, boys.
In a more positive vein, the Irish cagers tipped off the season against Strong Island University (those who know Joe McKenna and the love we all share for Long Island will understand the reference) on Monday night and did nothing to stem the quiet buzz building around the team. Just by a casual viewing of the stat sheet, I think this could be the most balanced team Mike Brey has had in his eight seasons. With a strong front line of Rob Kurz (opened with a double-double, 19 pts. & 10 boards), Luke Harangody (fought against early double teams to finish with 15 & 7), and Zach Hillesland (8 & 7) to go with a guard lineup seemingly brimming with potential, from vets Ryan Ayers and Kyle McAlarney down to super soph Tory Jackson and still-developing Jonathon Peoples, the Irish will move the ball, spread the floor, and even show up on defense occasionally. My favorite stat of the night: in beating LIU 82-50, the Irish knocked down 35 baskets (7 three-pointers) and racked up 28 assists. Getting assists on 80% of your shots in a game where you score 80+ is a pretty solid indicator of a team that moves the ball and avoids dependence on the crazy whims of one player (which the Irish could easily have been accused of not so long ago). So long as the hoopsters continue to Forget About Brey, all will be well and they have an excellent chance to set a new record for consecutive wins at the JACC due to, and this is bluntly honest, an embarrassingly lackluster non-conference schedule.