Ten free minutes for me, 10 free half-formed thoughts for you . . .
1. I know we're supposed to be focusing on football at this hour, but I can't help getting all jacked and pumped for baseball season when I read that Manny Ramirez has been working out at the legendary Athletes Performance Institute in Arizona for the better part of the winter. You know what? Screw that oh-no-he's-beginning-his-decline stuff. Manny's ticked, he's focused, he's probably a little embarrassed, and he's coming back, big-time. I'm thinking .320-36-133, conservatively.
2. Okay, one more Sox item before we swing over to the Pats: Geffner's gone! GEFFNER'S GONE!!! WHEEEEE-HOOOOOOOO!!! BREAK OUT THE ZIMA, SOX GAMES ARE LISTENABLE AGAIN! (Deep breath. Fist pump! Okay, calm. YESSS! Calm. Deep breath.) Beyond the fact that even Joe Castiglione must be thrilled that his media guide-spewing, ridiculously unqualified sidekick is departing for a job with the Marlins, it's curious that another perceived underling/lackey of Larry Lucchino is out the door, not long after Dr. Charles took his patented schmaltz to Los Angeles. Hmmm. Almost makes you think Theo's running the whole show now, doesn't it?
3. Here's a fun hypothetical for you: What devious scheme do you think Bill Belichick would come up with to stop - or should I say attempt to stop - this Patriots' offense? Obviously, his credentials need no rehash here, but it's still worth noting that he's the mastermind who thwarted both the K-Gun Bills and the Greatest Show on Turf Rams, two of the most prolific offenses of all time. Of course, the rules were different then - his defenses could knock the living snot out of the receivers, which brings us to a great point in this Washington Post article sent along by Official TATB Antagonist Donovan Burba. Namely, that the Patriots have taken advantage of a rule change that Bill Polian and the nefarious competition committee thought would ruin them:
"When the NFL rule-makers cracked down four years ago on clutching-and-grabbing tactics by defensive players to try to open up the passing game, the move widely was viewed as a response to the rugged way in which the New England Patriots had played defense on their way to their first two Super Bowl titles.
"That 2004 directive by the league's competition committee changed the way the game is played, perhaps forever. It has led to a rewriting of the record book. And, oddly enough, it set the stage for the Patriots to become arguably the most dominant team in league history this season as they chase an unbeaten season and their fourth Super Bowl championship with an offense orchestrated by Coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady.
"The very rule once thought to be more detrimental to the Patriots than to any other NFL club has become a crucial asset, yet another example of how the franchise has become a dynasty because Belichick and his front office are more adaptable than anyone else in the league."
If that isn't delicious irony, I don't know what is. Somewhere, Polian just punted his hairless cat, slapped his manservant, then fired his glass of scotch against the wall.
4. Just when I was beginning to wonder if Ray Allen was careening headlong into that Over-32 wall that seems to affect virtually every star shooting guard not named Jordan or Miller, he goes out and delivers a vintage 35-point performance against a very impressive Portland Trail Blazers team. So for the moment I'm convinced that Mr. Shuttlesworth is still capable of a major star turn when the moment calls for it, provided Doc Rivers has the common sense to give him the necessary rest the next few months. It would also be swell if Danny Ainge could find a suitable backup point guard so Allen doesn't have to expend energy with additional ballhandling duties. He's a shooter, still. Let that be his focus.
5. Let's put it this way: If Roger Clemens goes before Congress willingly, I'll eat his lawyer's hairpiece. In the biggest moments, he's always shriveled and tried to find the coward's way out. Why should that change now? I fully expect that if he does end up having to testify, he'll pull out his old standby and try to limp out of the proceedings halfway through with the trusty "tweaked" groin excuse. Desperate man, desperate measures. (And if you haven't seen this yet, Esquire absolutely destroys him with this point-by-point list of his all-time scumbag transgressions, appropriately titled, "The Wonderful, Despicable Life of Roger Clemens." You know I loved it.
6. Nice of Jason Garrett to let Wade Phillips stick around on his staff in Dallas, isn't it? Phillips doesn't strike me as the sharpest tool in the shed - I believe the past phrase I used to describe his coaching style was "Pete Carroll with man-boobs," and I'm sticking with it - but even he has to know he's a dead-man walking in Dallas. No one's admitting it, but Jerry Jones simply had to promise Garrett one of two things to get him to turn down head coaching gigs in Baltimore and Atlanta to stay as the Cowboys' offensive coordinator: That he'd be Phillips's eventual successor as head coach - and, shhh, don't tell Wade, but sooner rather than later - or that he'd could take Jessica Simpson to Cabo and give her the Romo treatment for the week. Probably the former, I suppose.
7. The Baltimore Orioles haven't done a whole hell of a lot right in recent seasons, but shipping Miguel Tejada to the Houston Astros the day before the Mitchell Report was made public was inspired. That's just the kind of sneaky I like.
8. Even though the dynamics weren't quite right this season, I'm still going through serious "The Office" withdrawal. Can't imagine there's any chance the season can be salvaged given how long the writers' strike is expected to last.
9. I was as annoyed by Rodney Harrison's unnecessary penalties against the Jaguars as anyone, but as far as I'm concerned he can keep on spearing that floppy-armed motormouth Philip Rivers until he has one of his bloody ribs dangling from his facemask. And that goes double if Rivers isn't actually playing in the game.
10. As for today's Completely Random Football Card:
I mentioned my boyhood adulation of J.J. and the rest of the Air Coryell Chargers before last year's San Diego-New England playoff showdown, and so the rules of superstition and jinxes dictate we mention them again this time around. Hey, at least I'm not tempting fate by comparing the Pats to the '86 Celts before they actually win the damn thing like some people. Sheesh.