The 2010 Sport You’re Most Thankful For Debate… Hope Springs Eternal in the NFL

November 24, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Sports Geek and Babe Ruthless.

Happy Thanksgiving!

This is without a doubt my favorite holiday (and that is only PARTLY because of the feasting)! Personally, I have been very blessed over the past year, and have much to be thankful for. The list of those things I am thankful for includes all the staples – family, friends, health, and the like… as well as some unique privileges that I am very grateful for, such as sharing this space each day with a group of people who are not only great writers, but who have also become great friends.

What can I say? Things are nice at Casa del Bleacher Fan!

So as I tuck in to a little lot of deep fried turkey (yes, it really is THAT good) with all the fixin’s, let me tell you why I am thankful for the NFL…

First, from a personal standpoint as a fan of Cleveland sports, this was a tough year for basketball and baseball. The Indians decided after about only 15 games that they were going to just mail in the 2010 seasons. And as for basketball, well, I’d rather not talk about it (although I must admit that there is something cathartic in the knowledge that LeBron James isn’t having any fun). But then the Cleveland Browns season started, and it became a wonderful distraction from all the other garbage.

It is not a distraction because the Browns are successful on the field. In fact, they are only 3-7 right now. The reason why the Browns are able to provide a distraction to Cleveland fans is the very same reason why fans across the country should be thankful for the NFL.

Unlike baseball or basketball, where seasons can essentially be scripted before the first actual play ever unfolds, the NFL is the one sport where “Worst-to-First” is not only possible, but it is actually PROBABLE. You see, every season in the NFL is a fresh start for every team. It doesn’t matter that your team only won four or five games last season because, in the NFL, last season is ancient history. THIS season, your team is just as good as last year’s Super Bowl champion.

Take a look at the NFL standings. Of the eight division leaders, four finished last season with losing records (Kansas City, Jacksonville, Seattle, and Chicago), and NONE of those teams that won the division last season are currently sitting atop the leader board.

Likewise, two of the pre-season favorites to contend for a Super Bowl bid, the Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Vikings, share a combined six wins, while last season’s worst team, the St. Louis Rams, are only one game out of first place.

Now, compare that parity to the NFL’s college counterpart. In the NCAA ranks, a team must not only win games to be successful, it has to also convince voters. So a team like Boise State, which has not been beaten since December of 2008, could still miss out not only on the national championship game, but may not even get a BCS invitation if TCU also continues to win games.

Or compare it to a sport like Major League Baseball, or the NBA, where championships can be bought and sold like commodities on the free agency market.

But as the countdown to the 2010 NFL season continued over the summer, who could have guessed that Michael Vick would be the most exciting quarterback in the league, that the Kansas City Chiefs and Seattle Seahawks would be leading divisions, or that the head coaches for two different pre-season Super Bowl contenders would be unemployed before Thanksgiving?

The NFL system provides a proving ground where all 32 teams enter the fray on truly equal ground. With each season comes the mystery of the unknown. As each season plays out we are treated to a rollercoaster of surprises, excitement, and drama that is unparalleled in the fan experience for any other sport. Every fan can enter a fresh season with legitimate hope that, “This will be the year.” There is no subjectivity, and wins are the only currency that can buy a team a shot at the championship.

So, from a jaded, beaten, and broken down Cleveland sports fan, I say “THANK YOU” to the NFL! With each new game and each new season you give every fan, regardless of the team they follow, a reason to tune in and watch. That is an accomplishment no other sport can duplicate.

Thank you, NFL, for giving me hope!

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The 2010 Mid-Season NFL Coach to Go First Debate… Fire Childress Chant Picks Up Steam

November 4, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Babe Ruthless and Loyal Homer.

It was not hard to hear. And it wasn’t one of those chants you hear from a crowd that is tough to figure out what is being chanted. It was abundantly clear to all those in attendance that the crowd on the Minnesota Vikings’ home turn was yelling “Fire Brad Childress… Fire Brad Childress!” The thing is, the crowd was spitting this refrain after a win over the Lions, the team’s first win of the 2010 season.

Many coaches are on finding their respective seats getting hotter and hotter. But, Brad Childress is the proud owner of the hottest seat around right now. No NFL team had higher expectations coming into the season, and no team has done a worse job of fulfilling those expectations.

Fans agree. There is a Fire Brad Childress Internet petition you can sign. If that is too much action for you, feel free and enjoy a video compilation or funny Childress poses that are clear proof he must be fired. Read reports of tiffs between Childress and the player his entire career is now tethered securely to… reports that pre-date game one of the season. Join the Fire Brad Childress Facebook group, retweet some pithy remarks from, or Twitter’s “firechildress,” or Here’s a picture of Childress with a bright red X over his face.

Usually when fans are getting this loud about firing a coach it is tougher for the front office to ignore. Childress has not delivered an NFC Championship or Super Bowl in his tenure, and he has made a host of questionable and dubious decisions, including enabling Brett Favre’s indecision and tying his team’s success dubiously to Favre’s right arm (and ankle, elbow, fingers, thumb, legs, etc.).

Just this week Childress decided to release his new prized receiver and offensive savior, Randy Moss, rather than listen to possible insights from a player who dressed in the opponents uniform a short week before playing them. Hmmm, it seems like a pretty bad idea to ignore the advice of a veteran, let alone one that can willingly help identify tendencies of an opponent.

Childress’ bad decisions really are too numerous to mention. First, the decision to beg Favre to come back and play for him is ridiculous and many levels. He let Favre skip camp and hold his entire team hostage. Then, as the season dawned, the group played predictably bad and unorganized. Second, Childress has not been effective at keeping talented players to stay in Minnesota. Center Matt Birk – who is one of the better players at his position in the league – loved playing in Minnesota, but not for Brad Childress. These are not small, insignificant decisions. These are decisions as a head coach that dramatically impact the talent of the team and the mental health of the locker room.

The consequences of these decisions – and many more- are now becoming very evident. A case for firing Childress is clear, but why fire Childress before the end of the season – and before coaches like Wade Phillips and Mike Singletary, who are being highlighted by my esteemed colleagues?

The Vikings stand only to lose more and more the longer Childress is coach. The team is not a playoff team this season, is far back in the standings, and is struggle to mesh the varying talents of a patchwork team after a desperation move to trade for Randy Moss… a decision for the present that has a cost for the future.

While some Childress apologists may be reading this and screaming at their computer screens right now that Brett Favre is the issue, consider that Favre is not the team’s running game. One of the primary issues with the lackluster Vikings offense – the side of the ball Childress professes to be a guru on – is the inconsistency of the running game. The real issues on the offensive side of the ball appear to be undetermined, and that responsibility can be laid at the feet of the self-professed offensive guru/head coach.

Listen, it’s a bad economy still. Jobs are tough to come by. But Childress probably has some pennies stocked away somewhere. And Vikings cans can’t wait for him to need them.

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The Ironman Record Debate Verdict

November 1, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Optimist Prime and Loyal Homer.

With each hit this NFL season, Brett Favre’s consecutive starts streak teeters more and more tenuously on the brink. That has provoked a great many in the sports world to compare the achievements of this unquestioned ironman with that of another icon legend, Cal Ripken, Jr.

Optimist Prime made a very direct and concise argument aimed at portraying football as vastly more violent sport than baseball. He explained that even though baseball players occasionally face brutal collisions, vicious and devastating hits are a reality in every game for a professional football player. Adding credence to his argument was the statistic that the average NFL player’s career is approximately three years.

A pivotal aspect of Optimist Prime’s argument was his focus on how some NFL teams and players actually plan to target specific players to take out. This is a sobering reality of a sport steeped in violence. Former players often reveal in tell all interviews or biographies that they actually planned to injure certain opponents. It is precisely this type of premeditated brutality that can prematurely end the career of even the toughest gridiron goliath. It would be naïve to believe that teams and players do not consider taking dirty or unnecessarily aggressive shots on game changing players like Favre.

Quarterbacks certainly make easy targets for such attacks, especially high profile signal callers like old number four. Look no further than Tom Brady’s 2008 ACL tear to understand the potential extreme impact an injury to a game changing quarterback can have on a team. While the Patriots did extremely well without Brady, they are the exception rather than the rule. Despite playing with a target on Favre’s ever aging back (and knees… and shoulder… and insert decrepit body part here), he has managed to avoid injury long enough to record 291 consecutive starts and counting. The simple fact that Favre survives from week to week without being crushed into a pile of aged dust and fossils simply amazes.

Although Optimist Prime’s argument expertly portrayed Brett Favre’s streak as one of extreme toughness, it was rather one dimensional. Loyal Homer on the other hand painted a well rounded picture of Cal Ripken, Jr.’s accomplishments in his rebuttal. He pointed out the immense skill necessary to adapt to new pitchers every night. The resilience to take get plunked by high and tight fastballs and continue to make plays in the field. He explored the genuine mental and physical toughness to make starts in hundreds of meaningless games in blisteringly brutal heat, when a star of his status could easily catch a break in an air-conditioned clubhouse without reprimand.

While Cal Ripken, Jr. may not have experienced the same jarring hits Favre did, his streak required incredible toughness and fortitude. To simply boil down this debate to a “which sport is more physical debate” would be a mistake. There is more to being an ironman than simply being able to absorb hits. If that’s all this debate were about then long tenured boxers and MMA fighters should be included as well. Instead the ironman ideal is represents more – the ability to endure and respond to the changes in their respective sport, the ability to contribute consistently and effectively, and the ability to achieve in a way that no one will ever be able to surpass. Loyal Homer made a compelling cause for Cal Ripken, Jr. and his 2,632 game streak. No contemporary player holds a candle to Cal, and I doubt anyone ever will.

While he may not have been crushed by the weight of a 300 pound lineman weekly for 18 seasons, he did endure the unforgiving grind of thousands and thousands of innings which I found to be simply more impressive than the mere physicality of Favre’s record. That’s why I’m awarding this debate victory to Loyal Homer.

May this win bring the start of an ironman streak of victories in TSD debates. That is until the next time we square off. Then I’m hoping to embarrass you as much as a leaked text from Brett Favre’s phone.

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The Ironman Record Debate

October 31, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Optimist Prime and Loyal Homer.

Participating in professional sports is obviously physically demanding. World class athletes earn our respect not only for keeping their bodies in tip top physical shape, but also for surviving the grueling toll a season takes on them. Even the best and most heroic athletes, however, prove their mortality when they break down physically with injuries

But, a few men seem to rise above the rest, defying the odds by playing through pain, never missing a game. These improbable few – these supermen – earn the title of Ironman.

Two men exemplify the Ironman ideal like no others – Brett Favre and Cal Ripken, Jr. Each is unquestionably among the most durable and dependable athletes in their respective sports. But which one boasts the more impressive record?

That is the question The Sports Debates takes on in today’s epic debate: Which iconic ironman holds the more impressive record, Brett Favre or Cal Ripken, Jr.?

Optimist Prime will argue that Brett Favre’s record of 291 consecutive starts over an 18-year career is far and away the more impressive record. Playing for 18 years is a feat in and of itself, but to never miss a start – in one of the most physical sports there is – is simply amazing.

Loyal Homer, on the other hand, believes that Ripken’s 2,632 consecutive games is more improbable. Baseball is a marathon sport where surviving one season of 162 games is impressive enough, but Ripken’s unmatched ability to adjust and change at the plate and on the field helped him to reach extreme heights.

These arguments need to be as solid and unshakable as the men they represent to be worthy of victory. May the endurance test of your collective intellect begin.

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The Time To Panic Debate Verdict

October 18, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Babe Ruthless and Loyal Homer.

The Dallas Cowboys are 1-4 and are a full two games back from even climbing out of the NFC East cellar, let alone contending for a playoff spot. They have a lousy rushing offense, averaging only 95 yards per game, and join Miami and Buffalo as the three teams in the NFL to score only one rushing touchdown on the season.

But at least they are not the Minnesota Vikings.

I can appreciate the fact that the Vikings have a better record than the Cowboys, and that the Vikings actually BEAT the Cowboys last Sunday. But if we are talking about identifying the team that is in most need of a panic-driven overhaul, I have to agree with Loyal Homer that it is indeed the Vikings.

I will agree with Babe Ruthless’ sentiment that coaching in Dallas is a real issue. As a head coach, Wade Phillips has never accomplished remarkable things, even though he has been blessed with remarkable talent. He has instead inherited great teams, and accomplished only the average with them.

He has coached players like John Elway, Shannon Sharpe, Steve Atwater, Bruce Smith, Thurman Thomas, Andre Reed, and most recently guys like Terrell Owens, and Tony Romo. He has led teams like the Denver Broncos, Buffalo Bills, and Dallas Cowboys on to a career record of 82-58 (VERY respectable) during the regular season, but his playoff record is a horrible 1-5.

For as much as Wade Phillips should be replaced in Dallas, though, there is a difference between needing a coaching change and needing an overhaul.

The Dallas Cowboys, struggling though they may be this season, are just a few mistakes and special teams plays away from being 4-1, or even 5-0.

They lost to the Redskins without giving up an offensive touchdown (a fumble returned for a touchdown was the difference for Washington). An excessive celebration penalty late in the game against the Tennessee Titans set up a game-winning score for Chris Johnson. If not for a 95 yard kickoff return by Percy Harvin the Cowboys would have potentially put away the Vikings.

Realistically, the Cowboys are still just a few plays away from finding themselves right back in contention. Felix Jones is getting better every week, and the combination of Tony Romo and Miles Austin is one of the most exciting and talented passing duos in the entire league. They are a potent offense that can put points on the board, and despite their record, have a defense that has allowed the fourth fewest yards per game.

That does not sound to me like a team in need of an overhaul.

By comparison, the Minnesota Vikings are in a very bad state right now. The main reason for that is because they have mortgaged their entire future on this one season. As Loyal Homer points out, there is no tomorrow for the Vikings. This is it.

In fairness, we knew they were going all-in this season before it even began when they sacrificed any value they could have realized from training camp by patiently waiting for Brett Favre to make a decision on whether or not he would return one more time. But then they lost their top receiver, Sidney Rice, to a hip injury (and are HOPING to get him back by mid-season) and Percy Harvin, has been battling migraines all season long.

Then, when Favre did make the decision to come back for one last chance at glory, it became evident very quickly that he was not going to repeat the magic of his 2009 campaign.

Last season he had a career best passer rating of 107.2. This season he is on course for a career worst with a rating of 72.1 (only his 1995 season in Green Bay was worse, at 70.9).

Last season marked the ninth time in his career that he was able to pass for more than 30 touchdowns. This season he has tossed only six touchdowns in five games, which could have him on pace to match his career low of only 18 touchdowns in a season.

Last season Favre set a career low with only seven interceptions all season. This season he already has seven interceptions and still has 11 games left to be played.

It just doesn’t seem like Favre wants to be on the field any more. Injuries are now clearly taking their toll, and the resurgent allegations of inappropriate texting provide nothing more than another distraction that the ailing Favre doesn’t need.

But as Loyal Homer brings up, the Vikings HAVE to stick with Favre, because after him is no one else. Tarvaris Jackson has instilled confidence in no one, and I didn’t even know who Joe Webb was until this debate came along.

Sure, the Vikings brought in Randy Moss, who still has big-play potential every time the ball is snapped. But let’s be honest, a Favre-to-Moss passing combination does not NEARLY have the punch it would have ten years ago. Even if Moss can capture some magic at the receiving end of Favre’s arm, the Vikings have made it clear that they have no immediate plans to keep Moss around after the season draws to a close.

Dallas still has a lot of young talent at the core of their roster. Dallas has proven that, despite a poor showing in the standings, they are capable of performing very well week in and week out. The Vikings, on the other hand, have cashed in all their chips for this last roll of the dice, and so far, the gamble has not paid off.

So panic, purple people. Today may seem bleak, but if this win over the Cowboys does not help to turn things around quickly, tomorrow can always be worse!

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The Time To Panic Debate

October 17, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Babe Ruthless and Loyal Homer.

As NFL training camps opened a few months ago, and people were looking ahead at the regular season schedule, many pegged yesterday’s matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Vikings as one of the more important games of the season.

Both teams were returning after having won division championships in 2009, and both came into the 2010 season expecting not only a shot at the playoffs, but each team had legitimate Super Bowl aspirations.

Now that week six is in the books, it appears that we could not have been more wrong.

Rather than battling in a race for the Lombardi Trophy these teams are instead battling for the first pick in the 2011 draft. Today, the Dallas Cowboys sit at a pathetic 1-4, while the Minnesota Vikings are at a not much more impressive 2-3, by virtue only of a victory over Cowboys yesterday afternoon.

Here is the most frustrating thing for fans of both franchises – both teams have a great deal of talent on their rosters.

Minnesota’s offense features the NFL’s top running back in Adrian Peterson, and his talents are complemented with two future Hall of Famers in Randy Moss and Brett Favre, as well as younger superstars like Visanthe Shiancoe, and Percy Harvin.

Meanwhile, Dallas’ Tony Romo, Marion Barber, Felix Jones, and Miles Austin have had no problems in moving the ball this season, despite the team’s record, as they had the second highest yards per game average in the NFL (421.5) entering yesterday’s game, behind only the San Diego Chargers.

On the defensive side, both teams came into the matchup boasting one of the ten stingiest squads in terms of yards allowed each weekend, and Minnesota’s 16.8 points allowed per game average was the seventh best in the league.

Consider the pre-season aspirations and talent levels on each roster, then look at the current state of their franchises. Now let’s debate: Which team has more reason to panic, the Minnesota Vikings or the Dallas Cowboys?

As a side note to Babe Ruthless and Loyal Homer, who will be arguing today for the Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Vikings, respectively, I have used the word “panic” in my debate topic for today. I don’t just want to know which team has been the most disappointing, or has the least chance at still making a playoff run. I am talking about a full-on, “women and children first,” “the sky is falling,” “Armageddon is upon us” type panic.

The little red emergency phone in Roger Goodell’s office is ringing, is it Jerry Jones or Zygi Wilf in hysterical tears on the other end?

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The Best Game of THIS Weekend Debate… Winning Is a Choice One Team Must Make

October 14, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Loyal Homer and Bleacher Fan.

It’s now or never.

In fact, it may very well be never or never for the Dallas Cowboys and the Minnesota Vikings. Both teams sit at 1-3 and both teams have more questions than answers. Both teams were expected to be the elite teams of the NFC and contenders for an appearance in the Super Bowl. Oh, and both teams are desperate.

Both teams have (had?) major expectations and have crumpled beneath them, but for starkly different reasons.

The Vikings lost the receiving corps to injury – despite the team’s latest desperate measures to secure the services of Randy “Every Down” Moss. Now Brett Favre’s elbow hurts, which sounds a lot like a built in excuse for failure. The once vaunted run defense with the Williams’ brothers in the middle is now a middle of the pack group that allows over 100 yards per game on the ground routinely. The team is full of weak spots and led by a desperate coach.

Speaking of teams with weak spots and desperate coaches, the Dallas Cowboys are also playing in this game. Jerry Jones has recently stated that he is not going to fire Wade Phillips until the end of the season, which is something I think few folks actually believe. Here is another situation where the receivers are decimated by injury, running backs are underperforming, and the defense is only two positions better than the Vikings – giving up 102.3 yards per game.

The football basics that make up the best teams are the very traits that appear to have vacated both teams. This game, however, is the perfect opportunity for one of the two teams to reclaim the ground they’ve lost to this point in the season. Neither team is playing to the level most fans and pundits expected, but neither team is dead in the water, yet.

The choice – and yes, it is a CHOICE for these two teams and their collective players – is between 2-3 and a faint glimmer of hope, and 1-4 and certain death this season. It’s a choice because playing well starts in the film room on Monday, it continues in the walk throughs mid-week, it governs thoughts and extra study on travel day, and that choice is made when lacing up cleats pre-game. The team with the most players to make winning choices wins the game and life in the season. The stakes don’t get much higher for an earlier season game, even if it does reek of desperation.

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