Friday, October 19, 2007

An Open Letter to Terry McAulay

Packers 17 - Redskins 14

Dear Mr. McAulay,

I am writing to express my outrage at you and your officiating crew's deplorable conduct at the NFL competition between the Washington Redskins and the Green Bay Packers on October 14th, 2007.

Officially, the Packers won this game by only three points. Had you done your job correctly, the final score would have had the Packers winning by a margin of at least 15 points. You took two touchdowns -- TWO -- off the board.

First, with 4:03 left in the first half, Green Bay was 2nd-and-17 on the Washington 23 when Brett Favre threw a deep pass down the middle to James Jones for a touchdown. You nullified that play, however, by enforcing a totally perplexing offensive holding penalty called on Mark Tauscher. How could it be that you let the Redskins defenders absolutely shut Aaron Kampmann and Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila down -- at least once with a clear shot of Kampmann's jersey being stretched as he ran by -- without a penalty, and then, out of the blue and with zero visual evidence, call Tauscher for holding? Tauscher? Really? Check it again, Mr. Magoo... er, McAulay.

Second, with 10:06 left in the game, after the Packers recovered a fumble inside the Washington 10 yard line, Green Bay had a 2nd-and-goal on the 8 when Favre threw a strike to Bubba Franks in the back right corner of the end zone. Fred Smoot forced him out of bounds. Franks caught the ball and was shoved out -- shoved. The duo on your team on that part of the field didn't even need to focus on his second foot being down. His first foot went down in bounds after the shove. It is my understanding that it's now possible to enforce a penalty on such a play... I believe it's called a "force out." You need to look it up to be sure -- do some research -- but I'm fairly certain that type of play in the end zone is exactly what that penalty is meant to combat.

I am aware that football fans are always at the ready to blame officiating crews when their team loses. Most of the time, though (admit it), you get away with one bad call against a team by peppering 'make-up' calls in their favor as the game progresses. And it is incredibly rare that a dunderhead call (or no-call) costs a team points. In this case, however, you managed to change the score by at least six points for one team not just once, but twice. I'll allow for the possibility that the first call against Tauscher was a make-up call in Washington's favor for a play earlier in the second quarter -- you allowed Charles Woodson to steal a ball from Santana Moss in what could be argued was a simultaneous possession play (which by rule should go to the offense). Even if we allowed you that one, though, I scoured the tape (which of course I legally made with the express written consent of both the National Football League and the Green Bay Packers) and could not find anything remotely deserving of a second touchdown denial.

In fact, there was even more unjust officiating which harmed the Packers, above and beyond the confounding ones detailed earlier. Greg Jennings got bumped off his route way beyond the five-yard mark, a flag was thrown for what was sure to be a good 45- to 50-yard penalty on Washington... and then the flag was picked up and the penalty was waved off. And here's another conundrum: If a defender, like, say, Charles Woodson, has a legitimate play on an errantly-thrown ball and the offensive receiver interferes with the defender's opportunity to catch the ball, should you or should you not call the defender for illegal contact? Feel free to check the tape, but I'll give you a hint: You should not. (Yet you did.)

Thank you for giving this letter and the countless others I'm sure you've received in the past couple of weeks their due merit. Someday soon, as you're hopefully enjoying an early retirement, I hope you'll take a moment to pen your own letter to the Packers and the crew at Lambeau Field, thanking them for allowing you the opportunity to learn so much about the game of football that day. Perhaps you will enjoy watching football just that much more, knowing that there are much better officiating crews keeping a watchful eye on the fields all around the country.

Andy Stoffels
Oregon, Wisconsin

CC: Bruce Stritesky, Jim Mello, Mark Steinkerchner, Greg Gautreaux, Michael Banks, Steve Freeman, Roger Goodell

This game won't go down in history as a well-played match by both teams, of course. In fact, while the Pack had some absolutely phenomenal plays on both sides of the ball, the 'Skins easily had the most almost-plays in a game this season. Brett had his record-breaking interception in this game (so that wait is finally over), but if Washington's players could have actually caught a ball in this game, he might well have broken a different record -- for total interceptions in a game. In their defense, it was misting quite a bit, and they... oh, wait, they have an outdoor stadium. Never mind.

Going into the bye week, the Packers have a record of 5-1. This is the most fun I've had in a while. Next up: Monday Night Football from a mile up.

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Saturday, October 13, 2007

NOT Out-Coached

Packers 20 - Bears 27

I've heard more than once this week that we lost the game to the Bears because we were out-coached. I wholeheartedly disagree with that assertion because it presumes that we were coached.

The last time we played Chicago, it was a night game, airing on NBC. Same thing this time. The last time we played Chicago, we marched on to the field, then down it, scoring on our opening possession. Same thing this time. The last time we played Chicago, Rex Grossman sucked so bad, his QB rating was zero, and Brian Griese played. Same thing this time. Well, okay, Rex didn't even play. But that's 'cuz he sucks. And that means he had no QB rating. So same as last time.

But we won last time.

This time, Oblio stopped us from winning. Yes, yes, turnovers made a difference. Jimmy Jones lost two balls when we were marching and certain to score. The awesome first half (damn, it felt good!) would have been even awesomer if we'd have had the chance to keep those drives alive. We could have headed into halftime with 31 points instead of 17 (or 27 or, I suppose, 23). But in the second half, we went into a cocoon. Some of the most perplexedly conservative play calls were perpetrated for no good reason, and we only wound up scoring 3 more points while letting the Bears tally up 20. Worse yet, clock management became an issue, and it was incredibly poorly executed.

One: With three-and-a-half minutes left in the game, tied up at 20, Chicago had a 3rd down with 4 to go. Kampman made a tackle damn close to the marker and it was ruled a 1st down. Oblio challenged the first down ruling instead of the spot of the ball. They changed the spot of the ball but still measured it across the 1st down marker, losing us timeout #1 and, three plays later, leading to a TD for Chicago.

Two: About thirty seconds to go, and we're marching. We get a first down at the Chicago 41, and Brett hits Morency with a short pass in the middle for 9. Brett was hurrying and telling Oblio not to call the timeout because he can, you know, spike the ball. Oblio called the timeout.

And after that, of course, we had to try the hail mary pass into the end zone. Favre had already given the ball directly to Urlacher "trying to make something out of nothing" in the 3rd quarter. (A play later, the Bears had moved up to within 3 and the turnaround had begun in ernest.) Now, on what would either be the penultimate or the ultimate play, he was throwing into triple coverage. Hope soared for a millisecond as Double-D had both of his mitts on the ball... but when the players landed, Brandon McGowan had mechanical advantage in his favor and was able to wrest the ball from Driver's arms. It left a sour taste in my mouth, to say the least. After all, it tied Favre with George Blanda's NFL record 277 career INTs. (At least Brett blew that out in record time -- he did it in ten fewer seasons than Blanda did!)

In the final analysis, I'm still thrilled we're 4-1. It just would have been much nicer to have had four games up on the Bears. Historically, that's been considered an insurmountable lead. I like the sound of that. Honestly, I like the sound of "the four and one Green Bay Packers," too.

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Sunday, October 07, 2007

Danny's in the Clear

I can't help loving Danny Bonaduce. Sure, he's flawed as hell, but damn if he isn't also consistently funny.

I became a fan of Bonaduce's in the '90s when he had a show on The Loop 97.9 in Chicago. That was also the peak of Kevin Matthews' career, and both his and Danny's shows stuck (although their time slots moved) even after The Loop moved over to the AM dial. As it happened, that was excellent news for me, since I could pull in AM 1000 all the way from Fucking Monroe, whereas previously I could only catch Kevin in syndication and Danny in carefully-timed trips through Chicago on my way to the cottage.

The glory days soon ended (I'll take a stab and assume it was somehow related to ClearChannel, but I have no evidence to back that up and it's too late to surf Wikipedia for the answer now), and Danny moved on. I discovered a while later that he was doing a morning show in L.A. -- Jamie & Danny on Star 98.7. I streamed that show at work some mornings, and after I started work in Madison and had the opportunity to fly out to Pasadena I actually woke up to him on my hotel room clock radio. That brought me back. It was pretty surreal.

He had a daytime talk show for a while somewhere in there -- I think it was filmed in Chicago, so it was probably before his tenure at The Loop came to an end (Lisa can confirm, as I believe she and her sister attended at least one taping) -- and then there was "The Other Half," which was contrived, but -- again -- consistently enjoyable.

"Breaking Bonaduce" was the first exposure a lot of people had to Danny since "The Partridge Family" and, in it, he played a character. He's always playing some character. Anyway, due to the way the producers chose to focus the "story" as they filmed (originally, the show was going to just be called "Being Danny" but the cranberry-and-vodka slamming and the subsequent stint in rehab was way better TV, so the rest of his life made it only as far as the cutting room floor), there was quite an adverse reaction to his existence. We true fans have stayed true, though, and when I first saw the video from the Really Awards on Jimmy Kimmel's show, I was A) laughing my ass off and B) absolutely positive that i) charges would be filed and ii) Danny would be exonerated.

And so it has come to pass. If the earth-shattering news (well, it certainly shattered Danny's world) of his divorce from Gretchen brought listeners to Adam Carolla's show in droves, I can imagine this will have about the same effect. And if you know Danny, you know that he is therefore thrilled to have done his job. It's all about whoring himself out wherever he can so he can mention 97.1 FREE FM and the Adam Carolla Show. We're listening, Danny, and we love you!

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Saturday, October 06, 2007


Packers 23 - Vikings 16

This may have been the first time I watched a game with the entire Weis clan since that great Monday night game against the Raiders near the magical end of the 2003 season. That was at our house. This one was at theirs -- in HD, baby.

What a way to watch Brett Favre set the record. #421 went to The Jennerator, who also caught #420. Late in the game, he threw another one to James Jones (his first in the NFL, and Brett's 43rd different TD receiver). The last six minutes of the game after that TD were still a little nerve-wracking. In four minutes, the Vikings, who are known more for not scoring touchdowns lately, pulled back up to within 7. For the second week in a row, though, Donald Driver caught the onside kick to preserve the lead. BUT WAIT! Two plays later, Ryan Grant missed the exchange on a running play and the Vikings recovered! After almost giving them another shot at the end zone, though, Atari Bigby -- whom I really enjoy watching -- picked off a deflected ball on the Packers' 24 to seal the win.

I've had my eye on Bigby since the preseason. Earlier in this game, he forced a fumble that Johnny Jolly picked up. That was the turnover that set Brett up for the 16-yard strike to Jennings. He actually left the game for a while after that with cramps (is that excusable in a dome?!), but came back with a vengeance to make sure the Pack left mini-noplace with a W.

Undefeated. =)

Way to go, Brett!

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