Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Monday's Off! Special Day of Atonement Edition

Well, I know a number of you were anxiously and worriedly clicking your refresh buttons all day, wondering where your weekly dose of Mondays Off went. The fact is, I was traveling this weekend and didn’t have time to write it. In the spirit of Yom Kippur, I’m sorry to any of you whom I may have offended.

The good news is, I was able to do some Mondays Off primary research at the Coliseum while I was in Nashville on Sunday, where the Titans lost their second straight home game, this time to the uppity Jaguars. Here are the high(but mostly low)lights:

-My Grandfather and I caught a ride to the game with a family friend, who also brought along none other than the Rabbi from our congregation. It’s weird to make non-religious small talk with a Rabbi. I feel like everything he says is supposed to MEAN something. You know, like when he says, "well the Giants are still half a game back in the Wild Card, but I think the Cubs are done." When I say something like that, everyone basically just nods as if they care. But when a RABBI says it, I start to look around for lightning. Does he know something I don’t know? Is there an ESPN.com/rabbisonly page that he gets his stats and injury reports from? Are there betting lines buried deep in the Kabbalah? Anyway, he happily assured us that God is on the Titans’ side today.

-Walking into the stadium with my Grandfather, we passed by a table where a couple Titans cheerleaders were signing autographs. As I pretended not to care, I jokingly asked him, "Hey Grandpa, do you want to go meet the cheerleaders?" He dryly replied in his old-South drawl, "You know, even if I got one of those things, I wouldn’t even know what to do with it anymore." The best part was, he didn’t seem to care.

-The good thing about having a pro football team in the country music capital of the world is that you never have to worry about enduring a crappy rendition of the National Anthem. While people in Cleveland had their hands over their hearts, listening to Mrs. Mabry’s second-grade class squeak their way through the Star Spangled Banner, we in Nashville had multiple Grammy winner Trisha Yearwood doing a totally pleasant a capella version. It’s actually a very nice perk. I’ve also heard Martina McBride and Lee Greenwood. (One of the highlights of my football-watching career thus far has been listening to Greenwood do "God Bless the USA" in person at halftime while the person next to me ate a gigantic pretzel with mustard. Really moving stuff.)

-We’ve got a surprise guest in the building, and it’s none other than Terry Tate, Office Linebacker! Sadly, I was the only person in the stadium who was genuinely excited about this appearance. "The pain train is coming, baby! Woo woo! Woo woo!" I silently hoped he’d lay out Trisha Yearwood, but no such luck.

-By the way, it’s 6-0, Titans. And somehow Tennessee is doing everything they shouldn’t be. Settling for field goals, letting Jacksonville hang around, keeping the clock moving. Basically following the Del Rio blueprint for how to lose to an inexperienced, defensive-focused team. Doesn’t Jeff Fisher recognize the strategy here? Anyone remember the ’99-‘01 Titans, who just hung around, kept it close, played solid defense, wore opposing defenses out with the running game, then fought hard and made plays in the fourth quarter, when it mattered? I’m getting sick to my stomach.

-To quote the guy sitting two seats down: "That’s bullshit! They moved it! What the fuck! I’m telling you it was number 1!" That three-helmet-monte game they play on the TitanTron can be really intense.

-Remember, loyal readers, when I lambasted Jeff Fisher and the Titans for playing without desire, heart, or will last week? It’s okay if you don’t--I just said it again. Anyway, the Titans just ran out the second-quarter clock with nearly two full minutes, three timeouts and the reigning MVP at quarterback. I hope it hurt when Jeff Fisher’s guts came out of his butt.

-It’s halftime, and Jeff Fisher is on the TitanTron with recently-revived Bull Connor reminding the fans that "if you drink and drive in Tennessee, you go to jail." That is, unless you’re MVP quarterback Steve McNair and have an unlicensed handgun in the car. In that situation, "if you drink and drive in Tennessee, you go to court, get your lawyers to insinuate that the arresting officer is after you because you’re a professional athlete, and you get the charges dropped because the evidence against you is now inadmissible." Doesn’t have quite the same ring, but oh well—the law’s the law.

To make a long story short, the Titans went on to lose the game exactly as planned—go up 12-7 in the fourth quarter, then watch as Byron Leftwich and Fred Taylor march the Jags down the field, help them out with two stupid penalties in the red zone, and then have them win it 15-12 with 8 seconds left. It’s like the Titans watched the game film from the two previous Jags victories and game-planned around it. Unbelievable. Sadly, I will now be forced to convert to another religion, as apparently the Jags' unholy deity had no trouble vanquishing my Judeo-Christian God, despite my Rabbi's assurances. I think I'll look into that cool Thugee cult from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. They wouldn't have knelt on the ball with two minutes to play. They would've ripped Byron Leftwich's heart out. Literally.

A couple other bits of NFL news:

-In case you had forgotten why the Colts play in a dome, Peyton, Marvin, Reggie and Brandon strapped on their track shoes and threw up 5 touchdowns in the first half against Brett Favre and the Packers. Interesting stat of the week: In 30 minutes on Sunday, the Colts scored 35 points. In three weeks, Jacksonville has scored 35 points TOTAL (all victories).

-In a related story, Mike Martz and his Greatest Show on Turf called 55 pass plays and 15 running plays against the Saints and their worst run defense in the league. Strangely, this strategy backfired and the Rams lost in OT. When asked about his play-calling in his Monday press conference, Martz replied, "Get used to it." Get used to what, losing? Hey Mike, when you honk a game like that, your coaching is going to get questioned. Get used to it.

-In the injury of the week, Rich Gannon broke his neck in a collision with Bucs linebacker Derrick Brooks during Sunday night’s victory over Tampa Bay while trying to simultaneously slide and dive for a first down. How, you may ask, does someone simultaneously slide AND dive? Well, from what I could tell, you tuck the ball away with your right hand, then quickly tighten your face mask between your knees while you get hit. Somehow Gannon walked away from that one, but he may never see the field again, as backup Kerry Collins spent the rest of the evening torching Tampa’s once-vaunted defense.

That’s all for this week. See you next Monday.


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