Sunday, October 17, 2010

Cowboys-text retro diary

The Cowboys are mess. You know this, your friends know this and your dog has probably been rolling around on his back  and shaking lately because he knows this (or he's hungry/has to pee). The Rangers are tied 1-1 with the Yankees in the ALCS. So why on this green Earth am I writing my first post since Oct. 8 on the Cowboys and not the Rangers? Because I felt like reliving the game through me and my buddy Jeff's text conversation during the game. Jeff is the hardest of hardcore for the Cowboys. But he isn't a blatant homer - he calls it like it is, he just knows his football and knows the roster like his favorite iTunes playlist. So without further ado, we start just after Roy Williams scored the first TD for the Cowboys in the first quarter (sorry for the texting grammer in advance):

5:02 first quarter: Roy Williams TD gives Dallas 7-0 lead

Me: "So even if the Cowboys win, they're still 2-3. This sucks."

Jeff: "Josh this right here is why I hate you a little bit. Let me enjoy this one touchdown we get today before the Vikings dline eats out oline on their way to raping and then eating romo."

Me: (After a long "haha" stretch) "I'm sorry. By the way, is Roy Williams being good at football?"

(Note: legit question. For some reason this year Roy Williams is looking like someone who is good at football, as opposed to someone who is very bad at football)

Jeff: "I'll never believe it (I started wearing my Roy Williams jersey again)"

Me: "Haha. And if Romo gets raped let it at least be Allen or the Williams duo. Don't let that sh*t Edwards sack him 28 times." (As you can tell, I'm real classy when I text my buddies)

Doug Free then completely freezes as the ball is snapped, misses the snap, and Allen rolls over Romo for a sack

Me: "Wow Doug Free. Eat my *rhymes with "dock"*

Jeff: "Yeah f*ck that guy. And as you just saw it was Allen that got the raping."

Me: "BTW, I bet the Vikings/Cowboys are the best Madden teams ever."

Greg Camarillo scores a touchdown, beating Orlando Scandrick, which a paraplegic could do, to tie the game at 7-7 at the end of the first quarter.

Jeff: "I hate my life."

Jeff: (Getting to my Madden text since Camarillo's TD interrupted him) "Haha, btw I bought Madden yesterday. Finally fell off the wagon."

Me: "Hahaha. How is it? I still don't have it." (I'm very jovial in my texts. I enjoy laughing through texts.)

Jeff: "Only had time to play one game so far. It's weird. Going to take some getting used to. Good news is I played cowboys v. Vikings and we won. Big time."

Miles Austin breaks what would of been a 50+ yard TD

Me: (being snarky) "dude why did we pay Miles Austin? He's such a one hit wonder."

Austin is flagged for offensive pass interference


Me: "Dammnit"

Jeff: ":("

Jeff: "I waited to celebrate, they threw that flag so late!"

One of the many Cowboy screen attempts fails miserably thanks to a hapless offensive line

Me: "I know! It was a good call though. And can we try out for cowboys o line? I think we can help."

Jeff: "Harwood bteam oline was much better." (Harwood was our Jr. High. There was an A team and B team. Yep, we were B team offensive linemen.)

Some penalty occurs, lost track since there were 23982039

Me: "Alright. This is pissing me off"

Jeff: "F*ck every coach on this staff."

Me: "And f*ck Jerry a bit for hiring coaches with no spine." (Note: on second though, f*ck Jerry a lot)

Jeff: "Seriously man. F*ck this shit."

The Cowboys are driving to end the half thanks to some semblance of a running game. Romo has had two long runs out of scrambling. 

Me: "At least we're sorta running."

Jeff: "Romos running that's cool, we'll get to the two and buehler will miss the fg."

(Note: It's unbelievable how little faith the Cowboys or its fans have in David Buehler. It's about as much faith the kid in "Liar, Liar" has in Jim Carrey at the beginning of the movie)

Me: "Probably. I love when the o line celebrates a Romo run. Even though it's their fault he had to take off in the first place."

Jeff: "Yeah, they're just taking what they can get at this point."

Roy Williams scores his second TD on a beautiful throw on the slant route to put the Cowboys up 14-7 heading to the locker room. 



Me: "Can we not call him bad at football anymore? I'm scared. That was our fall back joke."

Jeff: "I'm so scared! This is just... NOOO"

Right before the second half starts

Me: "So are we winning this game or are we going to sh*t the bed?"

Jeff: "That bed will have copious amounts of sh*t in, on and around it."

Percy Harvin takes the opening kick off to the house, score tied at 14-14.

Jeff: "Told ya."

Me: "Time to change the sheets. It's stinky."

Jeff: "Putrid. I'm miserable."

Me: "There always has to be something in DFW sports-wise to make us miserable."

Jeff: "Yeah, and since the rangers are the team doing well it requires severe balancing with misery."

Cowboys get backed up inside their own five yard line towards the end of the third quarter

Me: (Sarcastically) "I feel really good about this drive. It's really going to go places."

Cowboys putter around for three plays and punt from their own end zone

Jeff: "Great places."

Cowboys head to the fourth quarter down 21-14. Start a drive and go for it on fourth and one in field goal range. Barber picks up the first down.

Me: "I'm glad we can at least get a first down since we have no faith in our FG kicker."

Jeff: "Haha seriously. Glad we have faith in him to not replace him but not enough to use him."

Romo throws his 99823972 swing pass to Felix Jones on the flank route

Jeff: "I think Jason Garrett got really into the song "swing swing" this week."

Same drive, Cowboys getting closer

Me: "Wait. WTF. Did Romo play-action that to nobody??"

(Note: He really did. Romo does a play action to no one in particular. The RB went on a route immediately and the FB set up to block. I have no idea what that was)

Jeff: "Yes. Didn't fool ya?"

Dez Bryant scores a 31-yd TD on a spectacular throw/catch. Romo puts the right to his hands but the Vikings corner catches up to get his hands in the way. Bryant takes it anyway and scores



Me: "BTW, screens don't work when A.) You run them every other play and B.) Your offensive linemen run like Vlad Guerrero."

Jeff: "Don't give them that. They're all bengie molinas and you know it."

Me: ":( at least that Ray Lewis Old Spice commercial was awesome."

Jeff: "These are the kinds of things you have to appreciate when you're a cowboy fan."

With the game tied and the clock under 10 minute mark, Minnesota runs a screen play on third down that goes absolutely no where

Me: "I'm glad Jason Garrett called that play for the Vikings."

Jeff: "Haha he walked over there and went 'celeb playcall?'"

Me: "And he nailed it."

Jeff: "Oh you know he fist pumped afterward."

Romo throws a back-breaking interception as he tries to go to Jason Whitten over the middle. Middle linebacker faked the blitz and then dropped back to pick it off. Romo never saw him

Me: "You know I love Romo. But these interceptions are really busting my balls."

Jeff: "I didn't see last game but as far as I'm concerned only 1 today is his fault."

Me: "I know. But that last one really steamed me."

(Note: Me and Jeff are pretty big Romo-Homos. Mainly because the Cowboys QB situation before him featured a crack head, some obscure white guy, a guy that used to be good for Michigan and then a 75 year old veteran. I count my blessings for Romo, because the Cowboys could be way, way worse)

Jeff: "Yeah, that one was a dagger. But come on man it was tied we had to do something to eff it all up."

Vikings take the short field after the INT, looking to drive home for a TD. Already in field goal range

Me: "Chances we old them to a field goal?"

Jeff: "-100000000000000%"

Me: "Field goal! and Alan Ball made a play! What next? Leonard Davis makes a good block on a screen?"

Jeff: "I'll tell ya what's next: cowboys drive to the 10, buehler misses tying field goal as time expires, Jerry immediately expresses support for buehler."

(Note: Man, you'd think we are Cleveland fans)

Me: "How about the 3,000 swing pass to Felix Jones?"

Jeff: "get ready for 3001"

Cowboys driving, need to convert a third down with about three minutes left to keep drive alive

Me: "Seriously? That's how it is going to end? Dez has hands bigger than the Seinfield man hands chick."

Jeff: "Okay were punting. We have 2 timeouts and they have Adrian Peterson. This game is over."

Jeff: "I'm miserable."

Vikings take over, need to convert a first down to end game

Me: "But they have Brad Childress."

Jeff: "The Vikings are us in training. They're trying their best to underachieve and blow games, but they just can't outblow the masters."

On a third down with under three minutes to go, Michael Jenkins is called for pass interference 

Me: "There's the poop cherry on top of our sh*t sundae."


Vikings punt away to the Cowboys

Me: "We're fine. We only have 13 seconds to go 8 million yards."


Ballgame. Cowboys lose 24-21 to the Vikings

Jeff: "I want to die."

Me: "Would it make you feel any better if I took our entire convo this game and made it a blog post?"

Jeff: "It would probably be worth the loss."


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Friday, October 8, 2010

Five Things to Watch in Game 3

I've been doing this journalist thing since my junior year in high school. Since that time I've meet numerous colleagues, friends, co-workers, teachers, lovers (made you look!), professionals at countless schools, newsrooms, conventions and conferences. And there's one thing I always hear, no matter where I am or who I talk to:

Everyone likes lists!

I mean how can you not? Lists are great for me because I can mindlessly throw out a column without having to follow the typical story telling format. And you guys love them because you can mindlessly digest the information without having to try and figure out what I'm talking about or what my point is. It's a win-win (win).

Without further ado, here are five things you should watch for the Rangers on Saturday.

1.) Which Colby Lewis are we seeing?

Without a doubt, Lewis has been royally screwed by his own team over the course of the year. He finished the season 12-13 despite a 3.72 ERA and 196 strikeouts. Lewis had more strikeouts in 2010 than David Price, Cliff Lee, Zach Greinke, Matt Latos, Josh Johnson, Chris Carpenter and Roy Oswalt. But while Lewis' low win total has a lot to do with the Rangers offensive ineptitude in his starts, let's not suger coat it - Lewis contributed at times in those losses down the stretch in August and September. Lewis finished with an ERA north of four in those months. What makes me giddy though? Even with the "struggles," Lewis' post-All-Star batting average against was only .249, with the highest month average being .278. Also during August and September, he was still striking out a batter per inning. The key for Lewis is fastball command. We all know how deadly his breaking pitches (such as his slider) can be. But his fastball hovers around 90 mph and with bad control, he can give up the long ball as he's given up 21 home runs on the year. I looked it up and noticed Roy Halladay gave up 24 this year and figured Colby was alright in that number, but then realized Halladay had pitched 50 more innings.

2.) Rangers at max capacity 

For the first time in the playoffs, the Rangers will finally roll out with their most efficient and productive offensive lineup as David Murphy will step in and play left field. It's been a long time since the Rangers have had their number one lineup and they've obviously been fine so far mixing and matching with Julio Borbon and Jeff Francoeur. With 11 runs scored in two games, it's not much to expect the Rangers to try and keep that production up with their best offensive lineup.

3.) Then again, this Matt Garza guy is pretty good

My older brother played baseball since he was five, all the way through college at Texas A&M. I remember once talking to him while watching a Minnesota game and he told me how one of his buddies on his college team had played with Garza in the minor leagues.

"So, how is he?" I asked.

"He's good, but he's a big time prick," my brother said not-so-subtly.

There's a reason Minnesota shipped him away to Tampa, besides the fact that they felt they had enough arms in their system to replace him: Garza hasn't always rubbed himself the right way to his teammates. That said, that probably has absolutely nothing to do with what Garza is going to do against the Rangers tomorrow. Whatever. What I do know about Garza (that is actually relavent) is that Garza has a reputation as a "power pitcher." He certainly has a good mid-to-upper 90s fastball but I feel as if casual baseball fans assume he's a strikeout machine. He's not. His no-hitter on July 26th was a perfect example of Garza's game: attack with fastballs in the zone, induce weak contact early in the count, then finish off the batter with a slider late in the count. Garza only recorded six strikeouts in the game, a somewhat pedestrian number for a no-hitter. Garza also hasn't posted a 200+ strikeout season, with 189 being his highest total in 2009. In no way am I saying that Garza doesn't have swing and miss stuff. He does. He just induces more weak contact than he does strikeouts. The caveat to inducing more weak contact than strikeouts is sometimes the hitters put good swings on the ball. Garza has given up 28 home runs this year, and 25 last year and posted a .248 batting average against this year. That's good, but not number one dominant, especially compared to what the Rangers' playoff starters have done this year.

To wrap up this extremely lengthy point, Garza has completely owned the Rangers over his career and especially this year (12.2 IP, 2.84 ERA, 14 K's, 4 BB). He's only struck out one other team more in his career than the Rangers. Ouch.

4.) Have the Rays 100 percent mentally checked out of this series?

The Rays have done everything they weren't in the regular season: sloppy baseball and total discomposure when the heat is on. They've committed three errors in the series (two more than the Rangers). They've suffered two back-breaking calls and let the moment slip away (fail to score after the Carlos Pena "foul tip" with bases loaded and one out in Game 1 and Michael Young's three run home run after a disputed strike three check-swing). Both games the Rays have been visibly upset with themselves and the umpires and the team has imploded in the latter innings of both games. Joe Maddon now looks like an arrogant (or desperate) manager with his lineup moves and pitching rotations. Check the first couple of innings to see if this Rays' team is ready to bring the series back to Tampa or if they've already booked their off-season vacations.

5.) Is Arlington (or North Texas for that matter) a baseball town/area?

Bill Simmons proposed this question during San Francisco's exhilarating 1-0 win over the Braves on Thursday. And while tomorrow's game will technically be played during daylight hours, I'm inclined to think The Ballpark in Arlington (it will always be known as that to me) could crack number three or four. I know an outrageous amount of people from all over Texas that will be attending the game, from Bedford to Denton to Tyler. The ballpark is sold out with no standing room left and will be filled with fans preparing to clinch it's first baseball playoff series win, ever. I can only imagine how jacked tomorrow will be. I'll be there.

Let's do this.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

This Just In: Expect Nothing

As I stayed awake for what seemed like an eternity last night, I pondered my Ranger post-season predictions through my head:

-Nelson Cruz would have a 2004 Carlos Beltran-like postseason.

-Cliff Lee would be a Will Smith action-comedy - satisfying but not memorable.

-The Rangers catching situation would not only produce fruitless outs, but let the Rays run wild. (Granted that falls a lot on Ranger pitchers) I really had no faith in Bengie Molina.

-Ian Kinsler would be the 2009 Ian Kinsler without the home runs. So pretty much a lousy player.

-Rays win the series 3-1 with the Rangers dropping the first two at the Trop (HEY THOSE INITIALS LOOK FAMILIAR), Rangers win Game 3 then drop Game 4. 

After today's 5-1 win in dominant fashion, I couldn't of been more wrong. Cliff Lee looked like a combination between Fregie Jenkins and Jesus (see what I did there?), Bengie Molina looked like the greatest hitter in the world and the Rangers dominated the Rays in their own dome. At least I was right, for now, of Nelson Cruz. His 440'+ monster took the noise out of Tropicana Field (like there were enough fans to make noise anyway, ZING.) 

It was a surreal feeling for sure. I'm used to high-fiving complete strangers in the moment of an intense sporting event...but for the Rangers? Unreal. One of the funnest moments of my life and yes, I lead a very plain life. Sue me.

But back to the game. Lee was masterful, working both sides of the plate with a variety of pitches. After a rough first inning (admit, you thought "here we go again") he retired 14 of the next 15 batters, allowed only one run to a solo home run to Ben Zobrist and then left, like he always does, sprinting off the mound and heading to the dugout, job well done after finishing the seventh. The thing I love about Lee the most today was he never fell in love with one pitch (Note: which was the opposite of David Price. I think he threw 99.9% fastballs. Yeah, no wonder Cruz crushed him. Did Price have a secret sponsorship with Ferrari or something to throw that many fastballs? "Here's the 15th fastball from Price. And remember, if you get a Ferrari you can go 100 mph fast like Price in 0-15 seconds!") Whenever the Rays seemed to get comfortable, if you can call it that, with Lee's fastball he'd drop the curveball. Or a cutter. Or the change up. It was a masterful performance that I should of never doubted and will probably go to baseball hell for. At least Tom Hicks will keep me company. (Note: ZING!)

Speaking of someone who could run a little more back to the dugout after an inning, Bengie Molina must of thought he was in Boston or something. Or maybe he was just being Bengie. After all, for his career Molina is a .274 hitter with a .718 OPS (which is a stark contrast to his .599 OPS he put up with Texas.) I'm not trying to say Molina is an offensive juggernaut, but he had never been the type of catcher you had to worry about putting him into your lineup. He has some of the most postseason experience on the team, which I'm not sure how much it helps, but it's something else to explain his 3-for-4 game with a soft RBI single and perhaps an even softer home run to left (he never got around on the pitch and seemed to hit it off the inside part of the bat.)

What else surprised? How about Jeff Francoeur continuing his relevancy. Ron Washington using Neftali Feliz in a non-save situation. Feliz walking the first two batters of the ninth. Chad Qualls pitching a perfect inning and a third. Josh Hamilton throwing caution into the wind with a head first slide into second on a stolen base attempt, which had the entire population of North Texas ripping their hair out. 

But not everything was dandelions and popsicles. The Rangers were able to capitalize on jumping on Price's fastball for 10 hits, but they also struck out eight times and walked none. Jorge Cantu proved that his role in the division clinching game in Oakland would be about the only role he'll play. Michael Young squandered run-scoring chances with an 0-for-4 game. 

But who cares, right? It's time for Game 2. And as the title of the post suggests, don't get comfortable. You may be reading, hearing or watching that James Shields pitches as well as a narcoleptic on acid lately (I really don't know how well a narcoleptic on acid would pitch, but my guess is not very well). Well here are some "stats" to back that statement up:

13-15, 5.18 ERA, 1.46 WHIP and a .294 BAA. That looks awful right? Rangers should club Shields to death right? Wait just a minute.

Shields BABPIP (Batting Average on Balls Put in Play - which tells of how lucky or unlucky a hitter or pitcher is) sits at .354, which is .38 points higher than his career average. Which tells us he has been a wee bit unlucky. How about how he pitches at home? His ERA in Tampa is 4.53. Not a great number, but still, if he's good, he's going to be good at home. How about his record against the Rangers this year? Two starts, 14 innings, four earned runs (2.57 ERA) and a .255 BAA. The Rangers have not done particularly well against him this year. So when you wake up tomorrow and wonder if you'd rather play the Yankees or the Twins, just calm down for a moment.

Then again, what do I know? I'm the guy who thought Cliff Lee would suck today.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

College Football is Pretty Awesome

There are only two ways you become a rabid college football fan.

1.) You grow up in a college town without a professional sports team in the city limits (Norman, Austin, Tuscaloosa).

2.) You grow up with parents who are very invested into a college team or high school team.

(Note: I realized I needed to add high school after realizing how many high school friends I grew up with are infatuated with college football. It makes sense. High school football transitions right into college football and still follows that "pure" formula that people think amateur level sports have. And both levels compulsively drink themselves silly on the weekends. It fits.)

I grew up without any of those things. Any colleges in the Dallas/Fort Worth area absolutely blew when I grew up (TCU was just in the infant stages of being relavent and SMU routinely pissed themselves throughout the 90s). And while my high school was rolling skulls, snappin' necks and cashin' checks, I really couldn't be too interested. Come on, I was a high school basketball player. We didn't get much attention. But I'm not holding a grudge or anything (Yes I am).

So needless to say, college football is not my expertise. Sure, I love watching games all day on Saturday, rip on the BCS and have yet another excuse to drink in the afternoon, but I can't tell you the fourth string running back for any of my "teams." I can count on one hand how many games I've been to. My only "teams" have manufactured feelings:

Texas: School I was roped into rooting for because, well, I lived in Texas. Sort of how it goes. Actually fell in love with the team in 2004 and seriously thought I was going there. Been burned twice by admissions so now I'm emphatically "meh" towards them

Kansas: School I actually went to. Great school but I transfered for a reason. So obviously some mixed feelings there (no reason to go in-depth here. It's a dark and twisted tale).


(Note: For those reading thinking I was too dumb for Texas, think again. I had a 3.5 GPA at a well-credited university when I transfered. Suck on it.)

So when I ventured out to Fair Park Saturday morning, I had no idea what to expect. Sure, I went to the biggest college football game of the 2007-2008 regular season (Kansas/Missouri) but the powers at be decided to have the game over Thanksgiving Break which resulted in the stadium looking like a bunch of bumble bees swimming in an ocean.

I also had the pre-inclined notion that the Cotton Bowl was a stink hole. I've read countless reports of how the game is destined for Cowboys Stadium and that the game will be for the better for it. I sort of had to agree. I never been down there, never been to the game, so I'll trust the writers (BECAUSE THAT NEVER BACKFIRES).

Needless to say, six hours after the game ended and I was in a Dallas bar, one of my closest friends who goes to Oklahoma told me "There's no way they should move it from the Cotton Bowl. No. Way."

And I agreed.

The Red River Rivalry game really is a festival. It's a clash of cultures and friends and food and good times. And also alcohol. But seriously, it is something to behold. Inside the Cotton Bowl I almost choked on my spit by how small the stadium looked. Except then I realized I was part of a record-tying  crowd of 96,006. There is so much life to the stadium. Not to mention you can't beat over-zealous college football fans. I'm pretty sure after every penalty someone yelled "OU is buying the refs!" to which I would turn around and say something snarky about how the penalty was really Texas' fault (which I was right. Texas played a Lindsay Lohan game: Sloppy, messy but still hot enough to take home after a failed night of hooking up.) I ate it up. I'm a sucker for huge attended sporting events. I felt the same way when I went to the MLB and NBA All-Star games and even a random Oklahoma/Baylor football game. Just being apart of the crowd that was was fired up was good enough for me, regardless of Texas shitting the bed. I understand that Cowboys Stadium holds more people, but would the spirit be there? Would the noise be there? No way.

Because you see, there really is something to this whole "college football experience." Or maybe there's something to going to a giant party with carnival rides and menus that read:

"Fried Butter - 7 coupons
Fried Margarita - 11 coupons
Beer - 10 coupons
Slightly fancier beer - 11 coupons
Kids drink - 5 coupons"

Try to replicate THAT Cowboys Stadium.