Favre unretires again, Vick is back on the field, UNC's basketball schedule is out, and football (both college and NFL) makes its triumphant return in the next couple weeks. Holy Hell, I take two weeks off from blogging and look what has happened to the world of sports. While extensive college and NFL season previews should be coming in the next week, I feel a megapost is called for to address the insanity of the past couple weeks. Since I just saw Inglourious Basterds this past week (extremely entertaining and even more violent) I'm going to organize this mega post into chapters.
Chapter 1: "Guess Who's Back, Back Again..."
Since the large majority of this "chapter" will be spent relentlessly bashing Mr. Favre, I wanted to say some good things about Mr Wrangler Jeans to start off. I remember back when I was getting Sports Illustrated for kids and Favre was on the cover more often than Lindsay Lohan is on the cover of Us Weekly (and no I don't read Us Weekly, but you tend to notice those things when you have worked in a grocery store). Favre was one of the best, if not THE best quarterbacks of the 90's and he still deserves recognition for his achievements (The three MVP's just slightly edge out his cameo in There's Something About Mary). But now time has passed and the man who was one of the faces of the NFL in the 90's has become a punchline by turning into the old uncle who overstays his welcome. Bill Simmons even suggested nicknaming Favre VD, since we just can't seem to get rid of him.
Look I really do respect the fact that Brett Favre still wants to play. I personally feel any team who signs him is making a mistake as he can't relate to most people in the locker room at this point and is not even a top 20 QB in the league at this point. Favre will play well enough to maybe give the team playoff or even championship hopes, then quickly destroy those hopes by throwing an interception at the perfectly wrong time. That said, he can't be much worse for the Vikings than Tavaris Jackson would be, so I really have no problem with him playing. Ultimately whether Favre is playing or not isn't what annoys myself and most sports fans. Its the fact that his indecisiveness has turned into a soap opera that no one wants to watch, yet seems to dominate ESPN. Luckily the Vikings play the Steelers this year, so hopefully I can get a vicarious measure of revenge on Favre by watching him get leveled by James Harrison.
Chapter 2: "Redemption Song in Philly"
I know the chapter name is unspectacular, but it was that or a verse from "Who Let the Dogs Out" and I try not to be cliche here at VFSS. Anyways the issue of Vick's dogfighting is in the past and he has received ample punishment for his crime (which was heinous). While much of the focus has been on Vick's remorse and retribution (e.g the 60 minutes episode), to me Vick is very interesting as a football player. When Vick left for jail two years ago, analysts were beginning to lose faith in him as a quarterback and his tremendous athleticism just didn't seem to fit into the typical mode of the NFL pocket passer (also in what I found some of the most interesting moments of the 60 minutes interview, Vick admitted to loafing during practice and not working that hard). Fast forward two years and Vick is returning to the NFL as the wildcat has come into vogue and his skill set makes many NFL coaches more excited than Jason Biggs with Shannon Elizabeth in American Pie. Vick saw limited action in his first appearance Thursday night but showed he still has the tools to be a dangerous player in the league. If the eagles can effectively line up Vick in a pseudo-wildcat for several plays a game, they could give teams a lot of problems. While Vick may never be Tom Brady, his ability to pass and run along with a new found hardworking attitude could make the eagles offense unique. Given how McNabb positively responded to being benched for Kolb in a game last season I think the Eagles could really make this crazy plan work. While Favre will probably be more valuable through the first part of the season, Vick may have a bigger positive impact than #4 (at least for his own team) come playoff time.
Chapter 3: "The Giant Arch Shaped Career-Reviving Machine"
It's been a while since baseball made an appearance on VFSS, but given how St. Louis has managed to turn their Gateway Arch into an MLB Career Revitalization Machine I figured a post is warranted. While I fully admit I am no expert concerning baseball it doesn't take an expert to look at what the Cardinals have done over the past couple months and realize that they may be the hottest team in baseball right now. Before adding Matt Holliday, who was wasting away in Oakland, the team was losing ground to the Cubs and looked like they may once again miss the playoffs due to poor play down the stretch. However Holliday may now have the hottest bat in the Cardinals lineup (no easy feat when one of the players is named Pujols). Then a couple weeks ago St Louis picked up Smoltz and so far joining the Cards appears to have done for his career what Pulp Fiction did for John Travolta's. While a case can certainly be made these statistical rejuvenations can be attributed to moving from the AL to NL (or maybe super steroids), it can't be ignored that the cardinals now have a great bullpen by adding Smoltz to Cy Young candidates Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter as well as a pretty heavy hitting lineup with Pujols, Carpenter and several other solid, if not totally consistent bats. The World Series could very well feature the two teams that have won it the most times (St. Louis and New York) this year.
Chapter 4: "The Showdown at Rupp and Other Marquee Meetings"
While the college basketball season will not tip off for another several months, several recent developments have maintained and even augmented my anticipation for the coming season and UNC's title defense. The first of which was the announcement of the UNC alumni game which members of both title teams of this decade as well as players such as Jamison, Carter, Stackhouse, Haywood and Wallace are expected to attend. While MJ has not been explicitly mentioned, the fact that UNC asked the announcer of the Chicago Bulls to announce the game strongly suggests his airness will make an appearance. Furthermore given Jordan's love of the game and loyalty to Carolina, would anyone actually expect him to miss out on such an event. The game tips off this Friday night and yours truly will be in the house. If I can get some good pictures or video from the game I will do my best to post it. The matchups in the game itself should be almost insane. Watching Felton and Lawson match up pits two cousy award winning point guards with blazing speed. Hansborough, May, and Jamison could get their chance to make a case as the best post scorers at UNC. Even better, Ellington, Carter, McCants, and perhaps even Jordan could be locked in a four-way battle to see who can fill up the basket the best.
In addition to the alumni game, the announcement of UNC's schedule should make any basketball fan excited for the year to come. In addition to the always exciting yearly battles with Duke and the yearly domination of State, UNC boasts one of the most challenging and exciting out of conference schedules of almost any team in recent memory. Right out of the gate the Tar Heels' first matchup has already generated press with Isaiah Thomas's FIU team "refusing" to play UNC in the first round of the Coaches vs Cancer Classic. The Tar Heels then go to Madison Square Garden to play Ohio State and either California or Syracuse, all three of which look to be Tournament teams this year. After a couple easier matchups the Tar Heels then face two of the top teams in the nation in a 5 day span. First the Michigan State Spartans come to the Dean Dome in a (probably more even) rematch of last year's National Championship game. Then the boys in powder blue travel to Rupp Arena in Lexington to face Kentucky and perhaps the most acclaimed recruiting class since the Fab Five. The two schools are 1 (Kentucky) and 2 (UNC) in total wins and match up probably the two most talented rosters (though I still consider Kansas the best team in the nation going into the season) in college basketball this year. Finally, less than two weeks later the Tar Heels play a promising Texas team in the new Cowboys stadium (lets hope the tip-off doesn't hit the giant scoreboard).
So there it is, over 1500 words of sports goodness. And once again don't worry, as there is much more to come. I have finished going through the picking all the games of the 2009 NFL schedule and now have all the teams projected records (just to whet your appetite, the playoffs could have some absolutely EPIC matchups). I still have to write up my picks and anaylsis of each division, but the full preview should appear a week from today. I plan on having my ACC college football preview (along with my BCS bowl game picks) completed by wednesday so check back for that soon. Until then try to survive through the last week of this NFL purgatory we call the preseason.