Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Three-point stance

A couple of quicky thoughts in between naps . . .

For the first time since Eli Manning got the ball back with 83 yards to go and 2:42 on the damn clock, I'm feeling good about the Patriots. Randy Moss returning obviously has a little something to do with that, and while I was bordering on full-scale panic as he hit the free-agent market, in retrospect you have to give kudos to both the Patriots' front office and Moss for how they handled the situation. The Patriots were careful not to offend the, um, "quirky" receiver, negotiating a long-term deal in good faith rather than franchising him. And Moss deserves praise for realizing he has a good thing going in New England and signing for less than he likely would have received on the open market. While Moss's return is of course the biggest and best news, we should also be encouraged by the small but potentially significant gains the Pats have made in free agency. Tank Williams is a particularly intriguing addition; he was a helmet-cracking demon for those perennially tough defenses Jeff Fisher puts together in Tennessee, but a fractured knee cap halted his ascension to stardom. He's only 27, he's smart (he's a Stanford grad), he played well in a reserve role in Minnesota last season, and the hunch here is that he'll be regarded as a steal next season. Jason Webster and Lewis Sanders are depth signings, positioned to replace the departed Randall Gay, whom you might remember as this year's recipient of the Tebucky Jones Award, given every few seasons to the so-so Patriots defensive back who is comically overpaid by the Saints. Should the Belichick/Pioli braintrust bring in a useful linebacker or two - Adam Seward? Takeo Spikes, perhaps? - you have to feel very good about the state of this team heading into the draft . . . where, by the way, we're hoping they take, oh, a trio of defensive backs and another four linebackers, just to be safe.

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And somewhere (in Afghanistan, apparently), Peter King rips his Brett Favre Fathead off his bedroom wall and collapses into sobs. Seriously, we all knew the media fawning when the beloved Gritty Ol' Gunslinger Who Just Loves To Play He's Like A Kid Out There finally hung 'em up would fall somewhere between saccharine and insufferable. But that doesn't make the over-the-top coverage from the past few days any easier to endure. And I like Favre. He was fun as hell to watch, seems like a genuinely decent guy (though there surely is some calculation behind the lucrative aw-shucks persona), and the NFL is a little less interesting without him. But c'mon now . . . he was not a "national treasure," as one heartbroken ESPN hairdo called him this morning, to solemn nods from his mourning nitwit peers. What was he? In truth, this: An extremely gifted passer who often took his physical talents for granted, played recklessly right down to the bitter-cold end against the Giants, yet rarely got called out on his flaws because A) his ability and charisma were often enough to win the day, and B) he was accommodating and savvy enough to return the right phone calls and fill the right notebooks. Oh, and mark these words: He may not play another down in the NFL, but I guarantee there will be well-placed rumors next season that he would at least consider coming out of retirement in "the right situation." I once wrote these words about Roger Clemens: "If anyone has an ill-fated comeback in him, it's Rocket, the Human Ego Trip." That was, I believe, three retirements and one Congressional hearing ago for the future Leavenworth ace. The same goes for Favre, just you wait and see. He'll realize that bucolic Kiln, Miss., (cue the banjo) isn't all it's cracked up to be, especially when Peter King and the rest aren't quite ready to quit you . . . and vice versa.

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My favorite moment of the Celtics' season so far, and probably their defining moment as well: Rajon Rondo's fearless posterization of Jason Maxiell Wednesday night. I'm not a big YouTube guy - I tend to skip over clips when I see them posted other blogs - but I want to put this here just so I can watch it whenever I feel like it. (Watching him blow past Richard "Phantom of the Opera" Hamilton is almost as cool as the dunk itself.) Rondo blossoming into a tough, increasingly reliable and breathtakingly athletic point guard has been one of the many great joys of watching this team.

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As for today's Completely Random Baseball Card:

I imagine all the "he really should work for the Yankees" jokes are taken by now, right? Then I've got nothin'.