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Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2010

Lions and Penalties and Bears, Oh My

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When the Observers chatted two Sundays ago, Frank was planning to see the Brewers in New York the next night and Artie was planning to see a total romp by the Packers at Soldier Field. When the conversation resumed this week, things hadn’t quite followed the script.

Frank: Rain out here delayed my Brewer farewell by a couple of days, but family fun still kept me from watching Packers-Bears. I couldn’t help noticing, though, that…


Artie: Yeah, yeah, 20-17 Bears. As a Packer fan you’re always whistling past the graveyard. But there’s an explanation: Obviously the Daley political machine got to the refs and the result was 18—EIGHTEEN!—penalties on the guys in gold pants. The fix was in.

Frank: What about all those interceptions Jay Cutler was supposed to throw?

Artie: I expected him to fling about five, and to my recollection he did, but they were all called back by the flag-throwers. I want an investigation of those zebras' bank accounts!

Frank: Officially, Cutler threw one pick and had another, during the winning drive, nullified by a flag. But he had the game you expected when the Giants literally knocked him out with nine sacks.

Artie: And one of the few times he got rid of the ball, it went to the wrong team. That’s the Cutler we know and love.

Frank: So I wound up seeing the Brewers last Wednesday, beating the Mets 8-7 after blowing a 6-0 lead. And I was back at Citi Field for the Mets’ season finale against Washington—a dreary 2-1 loss in 14 innings—which meant I had no knowledge of Packers-Lions. But when I saw the 28-26 final, I guessed you had an anxious afternoon.

Artie: Let’s just say I’m breathing easier now. When I saw the point spread as high as 14 I thought, “If I were a betting man I’d put a buck two-eighty on the Lions.” They should have beaten the Bears in the opener, they could have beaten the Eagles the next week. I knew this wasn’t going to be easy.

Frank: So, a few details?

Artie: Total yards—Lions 431, Packers 261. Time of possession—Lions 37:37, Packers 22:23. Detroit had the Pack defense all figured out; they dipped and dunked and kept the ball moving all day with a lot of third-down conversions. Fortunately, the Lions also piled up negative yardage with 13 penalties to the Pack’s three.

Frank: You mean Mike McCarthy really did “fix” the penalty problem this time?

Artie: More like an un-fix, as in getting away from Cook County.

Frank: I see Charles Woodson was back to his 2009 form, taking an interception for a score.

Artie: That made it 28-14, a mighty good thing because Jason Hanson, who I think began kicking field goals the day Lou Groza retired, booted four of ’em after that. Woodson played a fabulous game—blocked passes, 11 solo tackles. Hey, they pulled it out, and that’s what counts.

Frank: So this weekend the Packers go to Washington to see their old friend Donovan McNabb.

Artie: Don’t remind me. I still have nightmares from that playoff game in Philly. Just don’t let the ’Skins have a fourth-and-26 and everything will be fine.

Buckling Badgers

Frank: I had no knowledge of Wisconsin-Michigan State, either, because I was basking in sunshine in Easton, Pa., with my nephew as his Lafayette Leopards played Harvard. It was a bad day for the Leopards, 35-10, and no better for the Badgers, 34-24.

Artie: Odd thing about this team under Bret Bielema. Whenever there’s some buzz about them nationally, they underachieve. But when they’re under the radar, not expected to do much, they perform exceptionally well.

Frank: They were fortunate to beat Arizona State at home and now they’ve dropped the Big Ten opener with Ohio State and Iowa down the road. Farewell, BCS bowl shot.

Artie: They just looked bad—not focused, sloppy. Play-action passes and screens killed them all day, and they gave up a punt return for a TD after allowing several long returns by Arizona State.

Frank: This weekend it’s Minnesota at Camp Randall.

Artie: That’s a break. The Gophers have lost four straight, including two alleged “cupcake” games against South Dakota and Northern Illinois.

The Boys of October

Frank: I'm worried about my Yankees' playoff series against Minnesota. The pitching after CC Sabathia is in disarray, so much so that they yielded the division title to Tampa Bay.

Artie: I think the Yanks are better off facing the Twins instead of the Rangers. I still don’t get how Minnesota cruised to the postseason with Justin Morneau out since early July with a concussion. And I’m still not convinced about their pitching. Yeah, Carl Pavano and Francisco Liriano have been good, but it ain’t like the Twins are the Phillies with Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt, ain’a?

Frank: The Rangers are kind of a mystery because they never really had a challenge in their division.

Artie: They’ve got a true ace in Cliff Lee and a terrific offense, with Josh Hamilton back for the playoffs. I think they’ll give that strong Tampa Bay pitching staff real trouble.

Frank: Now I feel better.

Artie: That’s my job.

Frank: The Phillies could become the first team to win three straight National League pennants since the Cardinals in 1942-’44.

Artie: They’ve got to be the favorites, but my sentimental choice is San Francisco. I’d like to see these post-Bonds Giants do it with their great pitching and just-enough offense.

Frank: Phillies-Giants would be a great NLCS. Atlanta and the retiring Bobby Cox would add tons of sentimental value, too, and it’s nice to see the Reds back in the hunt.

Artie: Equally nice to see some of the alleged “big boys,” like the Red Sox and Cardinals, stuck at home.

Frank: Five of the eight playoff teams are different from last year. Despite the huge disparities in payrolls, baseball has at least as much postseason diversity as the other top sports.

Completely Accurate

Frank: Back to the Lafayette game. I noticed something really cool that I had never run across in all my years of watching and listening to football.

Artie: That covers a lot of ground.

Frank: Five decades’ worth, at least. Anyway, the announcer at beautiful Fisher Stadium—Jim Finnen, according to the Web—has a great voice and smooth delivery. I’d heard him twice before but never noticed his unique touch.

Artie: Which is…

Frank: When a pass play succeeds, he says, “Pass completed by…” and then gives the name of the receiver! When I finally noticed, I thought, “How cool and how utterly correct.” The quarterback's toss will never, ever be complete unless it’s caught.

Artie: The forward pass as a journey, a contract, a two-step transaction. Logically, it’s undeniable. Where the hell have we been?

Frank: Same for all the broadcasters and writers over the years. Finnen has shown us a new common-sense way of describing football. And it could open a whole new emotional dimension, too.

Artie: Um, emotional?

Frank: Sure! Remember Jerry Maguire and the endearing line Tom Cruise uses on Renee Zellweger?

Artie: I’m proud to say I don’t…

Frank: It’s “You complete me.”

Artie: I think I’m gonna lose my lunch.

Frank: We could have QBs everywhere racing to their receivers, looking in their eyes and letting their feelings flow.

Artie: Now I’m gonna lose tomorrow’s lunch.

Frank: And it’s not just in football. All partnerships are like successful throws. In fact, buddy, I’d like to say right now…

Artie: This conversation is completed!

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