Monday, January 19, 2009

Monday's Starting Five

1. John Conyers. It's his day. Sort of. I mean, it's really Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Day as far as we're all concerned. But it's MLK's day because of Conyers, the US Representative (D-Michigan), who first put a bill before Congress to create the holiday in 1979. This bill was initially opposed by the likes of Jesse Helms, a Southern pol who cut his teeth working on segregationist campaigns, but was finally signed into law in 1980. MLK Day was first observed as a national holiday in 1986.

2. Larry Fitzgerald & the Arizona Cardinals. Against all odds, the football team from the literal desert has emerged from the metaphorical desert. And Fitzgerald was their Moses. The dreadlocked reciever out of Pitt is the best pass-catcher in the NFL right now. Hands down. Or up. Or wherever the ball is. After not being awarded the Heisman Trophy in 2003 even though he should have (the trophy went to Jason White), Fitzergerald has been a great professional ballplayer. He seems to get it. Even when he doesn't get the ball. Of course, there's really no reason not to get him the ball right now. Fitz already has 419 recieving yards and 5 touchdowns during this postseason run.

3. Troy Polamalu & the Pittsburgh Steelers. It was a matchup of the Steelers and the Ravens. A tilt between division rivals. Dozens of professional football players and two talented coaching staffs. But, ultimately, the AFC Championship Game was a battle between just two men: Polamalu and Ed Reed. The latter had led the NFL with 9 regular-season INTs and picked off two passes in the AFC's Wild Card (including one returned for a touchdown) round but the former made the play the punched his team's ticket to the Super Bowl. His interception return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter propelled the Steelers to the championship round and made Reed's signature move (the INT return for TD) and made it is own.

4. Deadspin. Although the consensus amongst the two people with whom I occasionally speak out about the state of the blogosphere is that the noted sports blog has dropped off since it mostly abandoned its "Without Access" ethos and become more of a sieve than a source, the Gawker subsidiary sure has been blessed in the past several months. First, the Philadelphia Phillies - beloved by (newish) editor A.J. Daulerio - advanced to and won the World Series. And, now the Buzzsaw that is the Arizona Cardinals - long worried over by founder-turned-emeritus Will Leitch - have reached the Super Bowl. Thanks to this luck the site has managed to insert itself into the narrative of both MLB's and the NFL's championship rounds. Well played, sirs.

5. Mike Tannenbaum. Things weren't looking good for the Jets' boy wonder GM in the aftermath of the team's season-ending loss to the Miami Dolphins. His firing of head coach Eric Mangini looked more knee-jerk by the day and the majority of his roster openly railed against his marquee personnel decision. Fans and players alike didn't want Brett Favre back on the team. Yet, Tannenbaum stood by the team's owner when he declared that he wanted Favre to return to Florham Park for training camp. The Cleveland Browns, meanwhile, were quickly snapping up the coach he discarded and Bill Cowher was making it clear that he wasn't interested in the Jets gig. Uh oh. After being a member of the Jets organization since 1997, the UMass product looked like he was finally in the doghouse. But then nearly every Jets fan watched the Baltimore Ravens defense demolish Chad Pennington and the Dolphins (who had just demolished the Jets) during the first week of the playoffs. And there was a flicker of hope. For word got out that Tanny was inquiring about Rex Ryan, the defensive coordinator orchestrating the devastating attack of the Ravens.

Benched. Sav Rocca. He didn't lose the game for the Eagles. But he sure didn't help. The holder who receives the ball from the long snapper for David Akers did not get the laces spun around correctly on a kick that was missed. It was perfectly caught on television and (more than any of McNabb's early or late throws) perfectly encapsulated the loss for the Eagles. Close. But, no cigar. Somewhere, Ray Finkel just violated another pair of Isotoners.

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