The Blog Squad

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A Fan’s Lament

The football bounced free on the field. Fumble. Out of nowhere, Sean Taylor raced into the television screen and scooped up the ball. He ran 39 yards down the sidelines and launched himself into the end zone with his arms extended and his body parallel to the ground.

He was Superman.



He was murdered early this morning. Assassinated. Taken away from all of us because someone decided Taylor must die. And so it happened.

Regardless of his past, of the gangster elements in his life, of how he was probably fated for such an ending, Taylor’s death has left many of us sick and sobbing.

We miss him already.

We loved him dearly.

We don’t know him as a person. Others have said how much he adored his little daughter, how he was very smart and how people followed him because he was genuine. Taylor was just 24.

We only knew him as a player. His nickname was “Meast” for half man, half beast. No. 21 was someone who could knock the wind out of you with a stare. He was the Washington Redskins best player. A bully. Our bully. The guy we wanted beside us when the talking is done and there’s no other recourse.

They called him “Grim Reaper” because he put fear into opposing receivers crossing the middle. “Did you get the license plate of that man?” was a favorite saying of analyst Sonny Jurgensen when Taylor leveled another opponent.

Terrell Owens was scared of him. Randy Moss would run out of bounds. Countless others, professionals, men who if they walked into the room would make other men look to the ground, these guys bowed to Mr. Taylor.

He was a beautiful player—6-foot-2 and 220 pounds of raw athlete. He covered ground like no other player, had a knack of being around the ball and making a key play. Remember the playoff game in Tampa Bay two seasons ago?

Taylor was just beginning to reach his potential and it was wonderful to watch. The Redskins drafted LaRon Landry to free Taylor to roam the field and go after the ball, or anyone who entered his territory. He responded with a conference-leading five interceptions.

No. 30 Landry and No. 21 Taylor were known as Area 51. It was a pairing that should have lasted 10 years.

They say sports are insignificant when tragedy like this one happens. Life, or death, is bigger than the game. They say it feels wrong to think about how Taylor’s death will impact the team. But it’s OK. Football is our connection to Sean Taylor. It’s how we know him. How we grew to love him and root for him to overcome his troubles.

We spent almost every fall and winter Sunday for the past four years with him. He gave us so much joy. He hurt like we did after each defeat. That’s why his death feels so wrong.

We wonder when he flew through the air during the waning minutes of the Philadelphia Eagles game on New Year’s Day 2006, was there a silence? A stillness? A serenity that overcame him? Because at that very moment, he joined thousands of hearts and breaths. We were all one. And that kind of unity should bring a peaceful feeling.

We only can hope his death, which has brought many of us together again, can bring him the same free, soaring feeling he experienced in that brief moment as Superman.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Ernie McCracken and Bob Barker on the Same List?

I hope you’re having a great week.

I recently saw that TV Land and Entertainment Weekly compiled a list of the 50 greatest TV icons. The show airs tonight at 8. If you can’t wait and want to know who is the top choice, click here.

I will say only one sports-related person made the list. Howard Cosell, the voice for Monday Night Football and championship boxing events, placed No. 28 between John Ritter and Regis Philbin.

The list got me thinking about the greatest movie sports icons of all time. So in honor of fictional characters Homer Simpson, Lassie and Kermit the Frog, who all made the leap into film, here goes. And remember, this is not scientific nor is it as well researched as TV Land’s list. It’s just having some fun with two of my favorite things.

15. Ernie McCracken (Kingpin, 1996). Bill Murray at his best with the comb-over and the fist pump after each strike.

14. Morris Buttermaker (The Bad News Bears, 1976). Drunk and vulgar, the man was my hero. Can you remember the team’s sponsor?

13. Forrest Gump (Forrest Gump, 1994). How many times have you said, “Run Forrest, run?” Also, he is perhaps the only football hero turned ping-pong stud in the history of mankind. His run across the country featured a great Doobie Brothers song.

12. Jimmy Dugan (A League of Their Own, 1992). Back-to-back Tom Hanks? Why not? He did win two Oscars in a row. Apparently the crying line is still one of his favorites.

11. Bob Barker (Happy Gilmore, 1996). Who knew Barker had hands of stone? Body blow, right hook, eight jabs and a right cross put Happy into the water.

10. Wilbur “Shooter” Flatch (Hoosiers, 1986). “I know everything there is to know about the greatest game ever invented.” And “We’re gonna run the picket fence at ‘em!”

9. Herman Boone (Remember the Titans, 2000). Nobody plays a cop or coach like Denzel Washington. I’ve actually met the real Herman Boone. What an honor.

8. Annie Kinsella (Field of Dreams, 1989). Any woman who stands by her man’s weird visions and voice hauntings in the face of bankruptcy is the greatest wife ever. She believed in him.

7. Adrian Pennino (Rocky, 1976). The royal couple of sports films. I don’t think I cried more during a movie than I did the final scene of Rocky. Well, maybe when Barbara Hershey was dying Beaches.

6. Jake Taylor (Major League, 1989). We get to hear conversations between catcher and batter. Good stuff, especially, “How’s your wife and my kids?”

5. Roy McAvoy (Tin Cup, 1996). Never lay up. Always take dead aim and go for the green. “When was the last time you took a risk?”

4. Billy Hoyle (White Men Can’t Jump, 1992). He proved on the playground, it’s hard work making something this pretty look like a chump. I have the same problem.

3. Jerry McGuire (Jerry McGuire, 1996). A great year for sports movies. “Have you ever gotten the feeling that you aren’t completely embarrassed yet, but you glimpse tomorrow’s embarrassment?” said the man who shoplifted the pootie.

2. Crash Davis (Bull Durham, 1988). This is a guy I’m sure we all wish we could be. Plus, he can hit for power. “Quit trying to strike everyone out — strikeouts are boring, besides that, they’re fascist.”

1. Roy Hobbs (The Natural, 1984). A film I can watch over and over because there’s something glorious about a home run that wins the game. Roy Hobbs is an example of someone everyone admires. We all have known such a person who awes us with talent and humility. And somehow, no matter what happens in life, they overcome and we root for them because we like them.

OUT AT HOME: Nothing like a ferocious stomach virus to remind you that your mundane life is actually pretty good. Can’t wait to return to it.

VIDEO OF THE WEEK: This is a sport, right? They have uniforms, helmets and goggles.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Giving Thanks For A Cooking Break

If the mere thought of cooking a big, involved Thanksgiving meal for your friends and family is making you crazy, why not let someone else do the work? Several restaurants in the Richmond area are open for Thanksgiving, giving you time to relax and mingle with your posse rather than bustling about the hot kitchen and burning the dang turkey.

Manakin Grill is one such place taking reservations for turkey day, and they’re doing it buffet style. The smorgasbord will include garlic mashed potatoes, green beans with garlic and shallots, herbed bread-crumb stuffing, turkey, honey and clove-glazed Virginia pitt ham and pumpkin pie. Call 784-0544 for reservations and more information.

Following last year’s success, Hidden Treasure in Jackson Ward is once again preparing full holiday meals for customer pick-up. Nearly 30 families bought full meals last season, but even more people stopped in for fixings and whatever else chef Norman Jordan had on hand. “We actually sold everything that was prepared in the entire restaurant,” Jordan says. No leftovers for him! Call 225-9048 at least a week in advance to order your Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year’s meal.

Bistro 104, The Glen Restaurant and Sam Miller’s are among the other dozen or so restaurants that pledge to be open on Thanksgiving — guaranteeing you get your fill of tryptophan and all the fixings.

Friday, November 09, 2007

It’s Family Time for Andy Reid

When my beloved Redskins play the Philadelphia Eagles in an important game this Sunday, it may be the last time Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb participate in the rivalry.

McNabb is likely out the door because of the Eagles’ investment in rookie quarterback Kevin Kolb, who was drafted in the second round. Also, shamefully, it seems the fans and local media have turned against the signal caller who has led the franchise to four NFC championship games.

Reid was an unknown head coach when he made McNabb his first draft choice in 1999. The decision was met with boos as fans believed that their team should have picked Texas running back Ricky Williams, who is currently suspended from the league because of numerous failed drug tests.

Reid now faces a rabid Philly sports community calling for his immediate exit, not for the team’s 3-5 record, but more because of the recent prison time imposed on his two sons for DUI and gun convictions.

The 24-year-old Garrett Reid and his 22-year-old brother, Britt, were sentenced Nov. 1 to up to 23 months. The brothers admitted in court that they are addicted to drugs.

County Judge Steven O’Neill described the Reid house as a “drug emporium” during the sentencing hearings. The judge also called the Reids a “family in crisis” and questioned whether the sons should be returned to Andy and Tammy Reid’s home after serving the jail time.

All of this has given experts and sports radio callers a forum to unleash some outrageous solutions — some of which, I have to admit, angers me as a parent and as a sports fan.

Here are a couple suggestions I’ve heard:

There’s a double standard in the NFL because the league is not taking action against Andy Reid but suspended Michael Vick indefinitely.

So what we’re comparing here is…

Vick who admitted to setting up a dogfighting ring where gambling and other illegal activity such as gun or drug dealing allegedly took place versus …

Reid who perhaps enabled his sons’ drug habits and bad behavior by spending more time with other 20-somethings as a football coach rather than being with his family as a father.

How people can make one jump to the other is beyond me. Reid may be a bad parent, but he did not break any laws. He is not a criminal, despite what the judge charges.

The NFL and/or Eagles ownership should do something to help Reid.

Actually, NBC’s Keith Olbermann offered this brilliant idea during the pregame show last Sunday night.

Olbermann theorized that since the NFL preaches “with justifiable pride about its symbolic family” that commissioner Roger Goodell or team owner Jeffrey Lurie should intervene because they “may be the only individuals with the power to steer the lives of as many as seven people back out of this nightmarish skid. Because this time it’s no metaphor: Those seven people literally are the NFL family.”

Of course, Olbermann does not suggest what the NFL or the Eagles owner can do. Give the family money? Offer the Reids counseling? Maybe plan an intervention like that show.

Truth is there’s really nothing the league or others can do except provide encouragement and offer support if the Reids ever ask for it.

Reid has deflected questions about his imminent departure saying he’s going nowhere. But that probably will change in the offseason. There’s no doubt this is a family in crisis and the best solution is for the talented coach to spend the time at home instead of 18 hours a day at the office. Just maybe, when his sons are released early for good behavior, the family can start the healing process and two young lives can be saved.

Only then, if the mending happens, the NFL and team owners can help the Reids by welcoming Big Andy back with another head coaching job.

OUT AT HOME: I turn 38 next week. I look forward to a couple dozen grilled cherrystone clams with ginger flavored Vietnamese fish sauce. Enough said.

VIDEO OF THE WEEK: This kid thinks he’s good at video games. He’s not so hot. I can beat him.