What’s That Smell? Ahhh…I Smell Hockey…

David Backes reminds us why we miss hockey (Getty Image/Dilip Vishwanat)

You can feel it in the air.  Actually, you can hear it on the air Thursday on the Mighty MOX (KMOX).  I’ve never been happier to hear Kelly Chase and Chris Kerber.  Now that we’re all huddled around the radio to listen to the Blues game as if it’s 1967, I thought I’d give you something to read.  The Blues are back, and it’s not a moment too soon.

It’s great to hear the common sounds of Blues hockey season – Captain America David Backes making a hit, Chris Stewart scoring a goal, and Eric Brewer giving up a puck that leads to the game-winning goal.  Only this time, Brewer did it for someone else.  I don’t want to pick on Brewer too much, much to the chagrin of many Blues fans; after all, he did score the game-tying goal prior to the give-away.  And Adam Cracknell made a nice play to give the Blues the win.  But what stuck out for me in the game Wednesday night against Brewer’s new team, the Tampa Bay Lightning, was the fact that the Blues would not stop pushing.  Every time they would get a lead, the Lightning struck back.  But then the Blues just kept on taking the lead back, making for an electrifying (OK: Sorry!) evening.

Backes acting like a captain (Getty Image/Dilip Vishwanat)

Stewart’s three points (1 goal, 2 assists) that night might be a sign of things to be continued.  After coming to the Blues late last season, Stewart had 15 goals and 23 points in 25 games with his new team.  This is the kind of guy who can play with anyone, so the Blues won’t have a hard time matching him up with linemates this season.  Having him play with Patrik (who’s so good he doesn’t need a ‘c’) Berglund, though, could make for an interesting combo.  Berglund (6’4”, 218) has shown signs of brilliance – even dominance – at the end of last season, at the World Championships (8 goals, 10 points, +7 in 9 games; 2nd in the tournament), and in training camp.  With the two of them together (Berglund and Stewart, who’s 6’2”, 228), very few teams will be able to counter that kind of speed and size.  Throw newcomer Evgeny Grachev (6’4”, 224), who’s been dubbed “Double G”, and you have an all new Legion of Doom.

Grachev celebrates one of his goals Tuesday night

For the first time in a long time, there is quite a bit of competition brewing in camp.  The backup goaltending job is up for grabs between the Des Peres Giant, Ben Bishop, and newly acquired Brian Elliot.  Elliot made 21 of 22 saves (including stopping shots on 7 of 8 powerplays for the Lightning) on Tuesday night.  Wednesday, Ben Bishop faced Tampa’s “A” team (including captain Vincent Lecavalier, sniper Steven Stamkos, offensive dynamo Martin St. Louis, powerplay specialist Mattias Ohlund, and…I’ll say it…Eric Brewer), and made 21 of 24 saves – all of the Lightning goals were scored on the powerplay.  Time will tell on this one.

Brian Elliot makes a save Tuesday night (Getty Image/Dilip Vishwanat)

There are many other players fighting for a job, literally and figuratively.  Ryan Reaves, Stefan Della Rovere, and Anthony Peluso are trying to make the club with their fists.  With 28 games in the NHL under his belt, and after adding several pounds of muscle to battle the big boys on other teams, Reaves is the favorite to win this spot.

Anthony Peluso fighting for a NHL spot

The defense has what seems like a set crew, with the top five being Alex Pietrangelo, Barret Jackman, Roman Polak, Carlo Colaiacovo, and Kevin Shattenkirk.  Nikita Nikitin packed on some pounds to help him control the corners more (to go along with his solid puck play), and Kent Huskins was acquired via free agency to round out the group.  But don’t forget Ian Cole.  It will be interesting to see how much of a difference another year of experience will make for the former 1st round pick.  And he scored a goal Wednesday night against the Lightning.  Another guy to watch in the preseason is Brett Ponich.  If nothing else, he’ll be easy to see considering he’s 6’7”.  Let’s hope he turns out more like Chris “Captain Elbows” Pronger than like Todd Reirden.  Ponich was in the box all night on Tuesday, which certainly was reminiscent of “Captain Elbows”.  Another defenseman to keep an eye on is Mark Cundari; his vitals won’t frighten even small children (5’10, 180), but he’s not afraid to go into the corners.  And the guy is tall with the puck, running the powerplay for the Peoria Rivermen last season – think Dennis Wideman.

The biggest difference in previous years to this one is the competition to make the fourth line.  The last few years we had to ask ourselves “which AHL players are going to make the team”.  This year we’re asking “which NHLer is going to have to go down to the AHL”.  Thanks again, Doug Armstrong.

I know it’s hard for some to get revved up for hockey with the Cardinals coming together to make an exciting push for the playoffs, and the Rams getting their season started (albeit not very well).  But, my fellow hockey fanatics, it’s time to smell the hockey in the air.  Is that a smelly hockey glove I smell?

(Photo by Tom Gannam)

Thanks for taking the time to read this; please leave a comment if you like.

“Don’t Call Me Stupid” – Rams/Giants Review

Nietzsche: #1 Rams Fan

The philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once wrote, “To forget one’s purpose is the commonest form of stupidity.”  While it may seem a bit nutty to start a sports article with a quote from Nietzsche, who coincidentally went nuts in later life, himself, I think it’s appropriate after the loss by the Rams on “Monday Night Football”.  Although the Rams made plenty of what you might call stupid mistakes, on the field and on the sidelines, they cannot forget their purpose this year – to make the playoffs.  A winless start after two games is not earth-ending, or unpredictable; and it shouldn’t be any reason to believe the Rams cannot attain their goal.

“Stupid mistakes”, “stupid play-calling”, “stupid use of players” – these are the comments I’ve heard from many Rams fans.  Even pundits (inside and outside of St. Louis) are agreeing with these comments.  In some cases, these comments are far too precise.  But desperation is the mother of stupidity.  That’s my philosophical quote.  The Rams were desperate to prove themselves not just to the city of St. Louis, but the national audience of MNF.  And it gave birth to some stupid moves.  A screen pass that turned into a lateral pass, and a drop, which turned into a Giants touchdown, is probably the one that jumps foremost in a Rams fan’s mind.  Any momentum the Rams were trying to get back after already losing the lead was extinguished by a desperate improvisation by QB Sam Bradford, and then a foolish surrender on the play by RB Cadillac Williams.

Bradford knows he has to be better (stlouisrams.com)

The second “stupid” play on the field that will probably come to a Rams fan’s mind is the muffed punt return by rookie Greg Salas that expedited the Giants’ first touchdown (after getting stuffed by the Rams defense prior).  However, it might be called “stupid” because of Head Coach Steve Spagnuolo’s decision to have the rookie return punts, at all.  RB/KR Jerious Norwood is more than capable, and certainly would have been more confident than Salas.  But Norwood wasn’t even returning kickoffs.  Another rookie, who just joined the team after the Eagles game, RB Quinn Porter, was the man put in that position.  And Porter’s fumble resulted in the Rams starting from the seven yard line on a subsequent drive.  Two rookies making their debuts in high-pressure positions on MNF is hardly putting your guys in the best situation to succeed.  In Coach Spags’ defense, these guys are “pros”, and should be able to catch/secure a punt/kickoff; and they both somewhat made amends later in the game by having good returns.

The third “stupid” (and we’ll call these) “plays” came from the secondary at extremely untimely situations.  CB Al Harris and S Quintin Mikell had a miscommunication on a long pass play to Mario Manningham helped the Giants set up a touchdown.  Two veteran players cannot allow a player to be so wide-open; but I read some pundits say that is attributable to poor coaching.  And CB Justin King cannot strangle every wideout that beats him in his coverage.  Giants wide receiver Brandon Stokley got away with one on him, as King desperately (you notice I’m using this word often in this piece) tried to communicate with the officials.  The two of them looked like third-graders slap fighting over the classic “he started it” argument.  King has some skills, and is a good, physical corner, but he has to learn the tricks of the trade better from vets such as injured Ram CB Ron Bartell – who knows how to clandestinely disrupt a receiver’s route without getting so touchy that it looks like he’s trying to give the guy a wedgie.  King’s penalties gave the G-Men too many opportunities after his defensive counterparts had stopped them.

Quintin Mikell and Justin King tackle Ahmed Bradshaw (stlouisrams.com)

Fourth in the “stupid” category is the coaching, both in the use of personnel and play-calling.  Too many times, the Rams squandered Red Zone opportunities.  I don’t want to beat the proverbial dead horse, but winning teams don’t beat themselves by not scoring when they’re so close to the goal.  Bradford admitted he has to be better in the Red Zone, which is true.  But he also has to have better options.  As MNF commentator Jon Gruden said on the telecast, someone has to get open in single coverage when the opposing team sends the house at Bradford.  This would be easier if Lance Kendricks and the 6’5” Danario Alexander were out in those situations more.  Big targets are easier to hit when you’re under pressure as Bradford was.  I know Bradford looked away from Kendricks on one chance to hit him in the RZ on an out route, but he was probably afraid to give Pro Bowl Safety Antrel Rolle a chance to pick it.

Danario Alexander, making one of his 3 great catches (stlouisrams.com)

Speaking of both Kendricks and Alexander (“DX”), why weren’t they utilized more in the passing game, overall?  It worked when they were.  DX was thrown to three times, and had three catches for a career-high 122 yards.  The G-Men’s depleted secondary couldn’t cover him.  And speaking of things underutilized that worked, what made the Rams stop using the “sugar huddle”, as the Eagles game’s commentator, Brian Billick, called it, after extended success for the second game in a row?  The Giants were exhausted, and exasperated, and extempore when the Rams were using it.  It worked so well that the Giants began faking injuries.  Bradford said he heard one of them say, “Someone go down”, which he was obviously frustrated by.  What frustrates me, and I’m sure I’m not alone, is that the Rams inexplicably stopped using the tactic shortly after.  One of my favorite writers, Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, put it best about the Giants craven acting.  About these Academy Award winners, he asked on stltoday.com, “how pathetic was it to watch members of the Giants defense rolling around on the field and faking injuries to stop the clock and put the Rams on pause? I thought real men played in the NFL; I didn’t realize this was European soccer.”

Coach Spags was unimpressed with their acting, as well.  He said, “I have the same sense and I talked about it with (Referee) Terry (McAulay). They can’t make the decision of whether somebody’s hurt or not hurt. You just don’t know that. I don’t know. Part of the game I guess.”

Spagnuolo pleads his case to the officials (stlouisrams.com)

It’s interesting to see that there are fewer bridge-jumpers among Rams fans after the loss to the New York Giants than there were after the loss to the self-proclaimed “Dream Team”, the Philadelphia Eagles.  As overrated as the Eagles proved to be, the Rams were much better matched against the G-Men.  I’m guessing fans were more able to brush it off after seeing the St. Louis Cardinals actually look like a winning team the past couple weeks.

Mistakes were made, but fans can only hope the Rams learn from them.  It’s surely high time they correct them, especially with a nefariously tough Baltimore Ravens team coming to town next weekend.  Bradford needs to play better under pressure, but he’ll need some help – fewer drops, fewer muffed returns, etc.  He’ll need fewer mistakes by him, his teammates, and his coaches.  But it’s a long season, and time will tell what this team is truly made of.

Coach Spags saw some bright spots to the game, such as Bradford’s career day (331 yards).  Bradford did most of his damage on throws more than 10 yards, which is something many people questioned.  Spags saw the emergence of DX and Mike Sims-Walker (6 catches for 92 yards) as true threats in the passing game.  And Spags saw his defense continue to battle with their backs against the wall.

One of Sims-Walker's 6 receptions Monday (stlouisrams.com)

Coach Spags also saw too many mistakes – by his team, and by him and his staff.  All stupidity aside, it’s a new week on Sunday.  You can dwell on the past mistakes, but it’s more important to learn from them and look ahead.  As Spags said, “we’ll just forge ahead. We’ve got some good coaches here and some good players and nobody here is going to feel sorry for us. We’re not going to feel sorry for ourselves and we’re going to go back to work.”

Nobody should give up on this team yet.  The Rams will not forget their purpose.  Since I started with a quote from a philosopher, I’ll end with another.  Rene Descartes said, “You just keep pushing.  You just keep pushing.  I made every mistake that could be made.  But I just kept pushing.”  Keep pushing, Rams.

Monday Night Football Prediction – 9/20/11

The Rams Must Bring Eli Manning Down to Win (AP Photo)

I thought I’d give you an update on the Rams/Giants Injuries, and my prediction, for Monday Night Football.  For the full preview, read “They Might Not Be Giants” at this link: http://joerichtermedia.com/?p=282

Out for the Rams is DE C.J. Ah You (wrist), and of course CB Ron Bartell is lost for the season.  Two surprises that came up are that WR Danny Amendola was upgraded to “doubtful”, but he hasn’t ruled out that he will play; and Steven Jackson hasn’t ruled out playing, either.  There isn’t much reason for the Rams to press Amendola into service, though, and he certainly doesn’t need to prove his toughness by playing with a bum wing (dislocated elbow).  With Jackson, however, Head Coach Steve Spagnuolo said the team would “probably work him out on game day and see where we’re going.”  Even though Jack has to be dying to get some Monday Night action (he hasn’t played on Monday since 2006), he has to be sure he’s healthy – it isn’t worth the risk.

Though he had limited participation in practice on Saturday, Michael Hoomanawanui (I just got carpal tunnel spelling that) should be in the lineup, which should take the pressure off of Lance Kendricks.  It’s time for LK to show those skills he previewed in the preseason.  This solid tight end tandem could open things up for the wide receivers, and if they bring their hands with them to the game this time, the Rams should score some points.

QB Sam Bradford, CB Bradley Fletcher, and LB Josh Hull will play.

The Giants are really banged up.  CB Prince Amukamara, TE Travis Beckum, and DE Osi Umenyiora are out.  DE Justin Tuck and WR Hakeem Nicks are questionable; Tuck said he is less than 100%, but Nicks said he was ready last Wednesday.  If they’re out, the Rams better count their blessings.

My prediction: if Jackson plays, the Rams win.  If Tuck and Nicks don’t play, the Rams win.  If those don’t work out, things get complicated.  I’m going to be sorry I said this.  But I predict the Rams will bring the house down on Eli Manning, and that will be the key – forget about stopping the run like my pundit friends are saying.  The GMen are going to try and pound the ball (Head Coach Tom Coughlin is old-school), and they will get yards.  The Rams just can’t allow them to run rampant in the air.  With holes in the St. Louis secondary, the Rams have to be in Eli’s face all night long.  The Rams win 21-20 in one of the great Monday Night games in years.

You’re Right; I’m Wrong – 2011 Emmys

OK, I can hear you – those of you who are saying, “Joe, your page description says ‘Sports, history, politics, entertainment, and more.  Why do you continue to bombard us with sports articles?”

You know what?  You’re right.  Aside from my last post, which honored Constitution Day (covering history and politics), I haven’t written about entertainment since the Voltron article.  Speaking of which, I’ll be visiting with Supervising Producer Jeremy Corray of “Voltron Force” very soon.  But with the Emmys being awarded tonight, let’s take a look some of the major awards.  I was upset to see that my friends at Koplar Enterprises (which “Voltron Force” is a part of) aren’t up for anything, considering how well they have rebooted an icon.  You’ll find, as you read on, that I have quite a few problems with some choices for nominees.

First off, let’s look at the comedy awards.  This is something I take seriously – probably because I’m not funny…

  • Best Comedy Series, the nominees are: “Modern Family”; “30 Rock” (again…); “The Office” (again???); “The Big Bang Theory”; and “Parks and Recreation”.  Who will win?  “Modern Family”, but I cannot explain it.  Ed O’Neill is still funny, so maybe that’s why.  But I merely chuckle a bit when (if) I watch it.  Who should win?  “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”, even though it’s not even nominated.

Explanation: Now, I know I’m going to show how lowbrow my humor is (if you didn’t already know), but the shows nominated really aren’t that funny.  They have their moments.  Being a major nerd, myself (if you didn’t already know), I get the jokes on “Big Bang”; but they’re just not that funny.  It’s kind of the same joke over and over – inserting one geek reference after another, and then “I can’t believe he’s got a girlfriend since he’s such a geek”, and a laugh track ensues.  I admit that I’ll laugh at it more than the others, though.  Sorry, “Office” fans.  It’s as boring as working in an office.  “Always Sunny” is the funniest show on TV.  It’s not up for awards because of the lowbrow humor, I understand that.  It’s raunchy, it doesn’t have any family messages in it, and it doesn’t care what critics say.  And that’s why it is the best comedy series.  It’s “Seinfeld” from hell – a show about nothing, but with characters who are the worst people ever.  If critics want to have these comedy awards taken seriously, then choose the funniest show, not the drama with the most laugh tracks.  And where is HBO’s “Bored to Death”?  Runner-up: “Louie”, which mysteriously isn’t nominated, either.  It has heart, is clever, and it’s hilarious.

  • Best Actor in a Comedy, the nominees are: Steve Carell, “Office”; Alec Baldwin, “30 Rock”; Jim Parson, “Big Bang”; Matt LeBlanc, “Episodes”…(wait a minute, Matt LeBlanc???); Louis C.K., “Louie”; Johnny Galecki, “Big Bang”.  Who will win?  It’s Carell’s swan song, so they love to give away awards at times like this.  Who should win?  Louis C.K.  He’s playing himself, but nobody plays the lovable loser better than him.  He’s so funny, but exudes a pathetic charm that is true catharsis for losers like me who watch him to not only laugh but to feel better about our own lack of social skills.  Louis C.K. accomplishes more with just his face than any of the other nominees can with dialogue – his helpless, but hilarious, countenances can emote even more than his original and biting jokes and comedic situations.  Perhaps the best standup comedian alive, C.K. deserves this for making such a quality comedy.  Runner-up: Elijah Wood for “Wilfred”.  He’s great as a lunatic who thinks his neighbor’s dog is a real person.  And I’m putting this in hoping I can get work as his stunt-double…

 

  • Actress in a Comedy, the nominees: Edie Falco, “Nurse Jackie”; Tina Fey, “30 Rock”; Laura Linney, “The Big C”; Melissa McCarthy, “Mike & Molly”; Martha Plimpton, “Raising Hope”; Amy Poehler, “Parks and Recreation”.  Who will win?  Laura Linney is a great actress, and will probably win.  I still think Amy Poehler could pull of an upset, though.  If “Parks” is funny at all, it’s because of her.  Who should win?  Tina Fey.  She’s very funny and clever.  Her reactions to the weirdos surrounding her on “30 Rock”, alone, are the heart of the show, making all of them funnier.  Runner-up: Kaitlin Olson, from “Always Sunny”.  She is hilarious both with physical humor and dialogue.  But she’s not even considered, for whatever reason.

Now on to the drama categories, where I’m a little less argumentative…

  • Actress in a Drama, the nominees are: Kathy Bates, “Harry’s Law”; Connie Britton, “Friday Night Lights”; Mireille Enos, “The Killing”; Mariska Hargitay, “Law & Order: SVU”, Julianna Margulies, “The Good Wife”; Elisabeth Moss, “Mad Men”.  Who will win?  Bates has to be the favorite, who’s great in everything she does.  Who should win?  Bates, who’s great in everything she does.  Margulies, however, also is great in everything she does.  And she’ll look better at the podium… (OK: Sorry!)

 

  • Actor in a Drama, the nominees: Steve Buscemi, “Boardwalk Empire”; Jon Hamm, “Mad Men”; Kyle Chandler, “Friday Night Lights”; Timothy Olyphant, “Justified”; Michael C. Hall, “Dexter”, Hugh Laurie, “House”.  Who should and will win?  I’m going to be a homer, here.  Hometown boy Jon Hamm should win, and will win.  Buscemi is good, but just isn’t all that believable when he tries to act tough in “Boardwalk” – his supporting cast carries him in this show.  Runner-up: Hall creeps me out even more than those ETrade baby commercials, and I think that is the idea for his character.  Only Michael Shannon (“Boardwalk”) creeps me out more.

 

  • Drama Series, the nominees: “Boardwalk Empire”, “Dexter”, “Game of Thrones”, “Friday Night Lights”, “Mad Men”, “The Good Wife”.  This is a tough one.  Who will win?  “Boardwalk Empire” is an excellent timepiece, bringing the roaring ‘20s to life in stylistic fashion.  It’s better than a very good “Mad Men” show.  Who should win?  It will be a shame for “Game of Thrones” not to win.  It is such an original show, and has such an incredible cast.  But it’s fantasy, and with the exception of “The Return of the King” getting Best Picture at the Oscars a couple years back, major awards tend to shy away from fantasy.  “Thrones” is so much more than a fantasy, though.  What it does best is challenge the viewer to guess what happens next – and then does the opposite of what viewers should expect.  It has viewers invest into a character, and then kills that character off.  But it somehow continues to bring in enthralling character after enthralling character.  “Thrones” defies convention and reality, making for the best drama on television.  Fantasy gets a bad rap because it has people “escape from reality”; but “Thrones” doesn’t just help you escape reality, it helps you escape the monotony of modern television – remakes, reboots, and reality shows.  It should be in its own category, it’s so good.  And if acting giant, Peter Dinklage, doesn’t win Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series, the Emmys will be a joke.  His character, alone, makes the show a must-watch.

All in all, I’m disappointed enough in the nominations to only pay minimal attention to the Emmys tonight.  I’m not a TV critic, so maybe “Always Sunny” and “Bored to Death” (Ted Danson makes this show hilarious) weren’t included because of the time period the Emmys are covering.  So maybe I’m whining for no reason.  But as you see by having my picks for many awards not even nominated, I’m apparently looking for something else when I’m watching TV.  Put it this way, I’ll probably be watching a Tony Bourdain “No Reservations” rerun while the Emmys are on.  No wonder I relate to “Louie” so much…I am pretty pathetic.  Come to think of it, I’ll be watching football so that I can get back to bombarding you with sports articles…

 

“Don’t Forget the Little Guy” – A Study of Aristocracy in America

It’s Constitution Day, September 17th (observed on the 16th) in the United States of America.  So let’s celebrate with a look at what this country was founded on.  I saw a movie the other day, called “Jefferson in Paris”.  I was quickly sad to find out Sherman Hemsley wasn’t in it.  But Nick Nolte was – starring as Thomas Jefferson.  Now, to me, that casting sounds as bad as Flava Flav starring as Ghandi.  Their backgrounds, and, obviously, life habits, had nothing to do with each other…but I digress.  Sorry about that; back to the point.  I’ve been rough on Jefferson in my writing, and especially on “Political Reason” (for the handful of you who have seen the show), but this article is about the Founders who were self-made men.  The Founding Fathers knew there would be an aristocracy in the country they were founding – many of them were the aristocracy.  But it was a new kind, more of a meritocracy.  And they sought to protect those who weren’t part of the elite.  I ask you what you think, after reading this, the Founders would say about their successors, the men who run this country.  Are they looking out for the little guy?  Thanks for reading, and please leave your comments.  And catch the Constitution Day episode of “Political Reason”on this link:

http://lindenwood.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?publish_id=3

Show Times are: FRI (9/16) 5:00pm, 8:30pm, 11:00pm; SAT (9/17) 2:00am, 10:00am, 4:00pm, 11:00pm; SUN (9/18) 1:00pm, 5:00pm.

Don’t Forget the Little Guy:

A Study of Aristocracy in America

By Joe Richter

For the founders of the Constitution of the United States of America, the fear of the establishment of an aristocracy was not prevalent; some even found it a necessary component to a successful government.  Though many of the prominent men who created the United States of America sprang from, or married into, the moneyed aristocracy in America, many of them also rose from humble backgrounds – many of them sought ways to check aristocratic power.  Our Constitution was founded in contradictions and compromise.  The one thing that the majority of them seemed to never forget while framing our government – don’t forget the little guy, the average American.

In the 1960s, author E. Digby Baltzell wrote, “no nation can long endure without both the liberal democratic and the authoritative aristocratic processes ([I], page 7)”.  But this was not some revelation from the heavens.  The idea actually goes back to ancient Greece, and Aristotle ([II], page 19).  Socrates, however, talked about the caveat in that idea – “And the great blessings of riches, I do not say to every man, but to a good man, is, that he has had no occasion to deceive or to defraud others, either intentionally or unintentionally; and when he departs to the world below he is not in any apprehension about offerings due to the gods or debt which he owes to men ([III], page 6)”.  Our Boys (the Founders) took their classical history and philosophy to heart.  They figured that, like in England, if they could mix all three, the expected corruption of each type of government would check each other.  However, unlike in England, Our Boys could trust each other to be “gentlemen”, and put the “noble” back into the noble elite.

After all, aristocrats can get a bad rep; but they don’t always deserve it.  Let’s go back to ancient Greece – stories Our Boys would have been well versed in.  A low-level aristocrat named Pisistratus conned the masses into letting him take control over the small city-state (more of a village, actually) called Athens in the 6th century BCE.  Although he could be called a dictator by modern terms, he catapulted Athens to an international economic power with his reforms.  Unfortunately, hereditary titles proved their worst side.  His son, Hippias, became a tyrant (by modern or any time’s terms), and one aristocrat, Cleisthenes, took up his sword and led the commoners in a revolt to take their city back.  You see both the good and the bad in aristocracy in that story – how an aristocrat can help foster a great society, but his son (whose virtues don’t equal his social standing) ruins what the father created.  Then another kind of aristocrat comes back to topple the tyrant, and gives the power to the people.

In history, we find many revolts of this kind, where an aristocrat (or a group of aristocrats) dethrones a tyrant.  You might say it happened here in the United States.  But Cleisthenes came from a rich background.  He proved his worth after he already had status.  This author believes that what sets the founding of America apart is that though the country was founded by aristocrats, they weren’t given all before they could prove their worth.  It’s important to understand that there was a new kind of aristocracy created in America – the kind of self-made man who makes his merits propel him through the ranks of society, not his name.  I’ll explain its importance as we go.

Benjamin Franklin was one of these self-made men.  “During the Middle Ages, a new class emerged…men who possessed property and wealth but were not members of the titled aristocracy ([IV], page 5).  Perhaps the most famous founder at the time of the American Revolution was “the youngest son of the youngest sons for five generations (page 7)”.   That was Ben Franklin.  Franklin said at the Convention that they should not forget the “virtue and public spirit of our common people, of which they displayed a great deal during the war…The sons of a substantial farmer, nor being themselves freeholders, would not be pleased at being disenfranchised ([V], page 110)…”  Franklin’s many public works showed his interest in the betterment of the common man, including his decision to never patent his brilliant and useful inventions, such as the Franklin Stove.  We could talk about Franklin’s civic accomplishments for days, but there are many other founders, Our Boys, who need to be addressed.

The next founder I’ll mention is probably the next best known of Our Boys (maybe the best known), George Washington.  Although Washington’s father rose to the “lower ranks of the aristocracy ([VI], page 48)”, he wasn’t given the type of inheritance that was given to his older brothers, nor did he receive education abroad like them.   But he realized that much of the world was about “who you know” and “what you know”.  He hung out with everyone that would let him, certainly going to great lengths to entertain some of the most influential people in the Colonies.  And he listened and learned all he could from them.  One thing that his fellow founders always said about him, it was that he knew how to surround himself with greatness, and, most importantly, wasn’t too self-absorbed to listen.  It was interesting that Washington was “destined to lead a revolution that eventually toppled this whole constellation of aristocratic beliefs and presumptions, he was initially a beneficiary of its powers and patronage ([VII], page 10)”.  But it was through his own diligence and skill that he transformed himself into one the most respected men in Virginia, and across the Colonies – part of the new aristocracy.  And he realized the foolishness of the “aristocratic matrix” once it didn’t recognize merit over patronage – like when he wasn’t granted a regular commission as a younger man in the British Army (page 38) because he wasn’t part of the British aristocracy.  Washington knew, or at least wanted to believe, that “legitimate power derived from the consent of the public… (and) saw himself as a mere steward…in a representative government…in which all leaders, no matter how indispensable, were disposable (page 143).”

No one was worried about the incoming executive (the President later) and his abuse of power at the Constitutional Convention.  Everyone knew the best fit to lead the country would be George Washington.  His only other competition, Franklin, was too old.  Besides, Washington won the war to save the country, and then put down his sword and picked up his plow.  They figured the modern Cincinattus wouldn’t become a Caesar (if you don’t get it, pick up a history book).  But after Washington was done, who knew?  John Adams had to know it he would be he.  He was arguably the most important – certainly the least appreciated – of Our Boys in breaking from England.  And he might be the best example of a man of standing who rose from no moneyed patriarchal background.

John Adams is one of the forgotten founders, being the man who defended the British soldiers from the “Boston Massacre” out of respect for justice, and despite being the man who was the most important gadfly of the Philadelphia Convention where Our Boys signed the Declaration of Independence.  And he was a pain in the backside, always wanting his opinion to be respected, rather than liked.  Adams “enjoyed no social standing.  There was no money in his background, no Adams fortune or elegant Adams homestead like the Boston mansion of John Hancock ([VIII], page 19).”  He feared the power of money and hereditary title.  He once wrote, “If the executive power, or any considerable part of it, is left in the hands of an aristocratical or democratical (sic) assembly, it will corrupt the legislature as necessarily as rust corrupts iron, or as arsenic poisons the human body; and when the legislature is corrupted, the people are done (page 375).”  This man was above partisanship and corruption, and fought only for the good of the country.  He would never survive in today’s political arena.

Corruption must have been thought to be inevitable.  Perhaps that’s why the founders decided on the two separate Houses – representation was by far the most contested factor at the Constitutional Convention.  The Senate was supposed to keep an eye on the first branch; their job was to prevent exploitation of the people by the executive.  But who would keep an eye on the Senate?  Another branch was needed to keep the two others honest – or as honest as a government official could be.

The people needed someone in the delegation at the Constitutional Convention to stand up for them, to prevent their seemingly inevitable exploitation.  Surely, one of the poorest men in the delegation would stand up for them.  Certainly, it would be a man of modest means and of even more modest persona that would stand up to these prominently wealthy delegates at the Convention, and prevent the government that was steadily looking more like an aristocracy with every day they met.  It wasn’t.  The man who stood up against this was what Roger Sherman called an “irreligious and a profane man ([IX], page 148)” and a man who “never pretended to have any religion”.  Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, John Marshall, once said about this man, “his morals and manners are hateful ([X], 224)”.  He was rich, extravagant, and was even what Marshall called, a “friend of monarchy”.  He was Gouverneur Morris.

Gouverneur came from the Morris family that owned 1,900 acres in New York and 3,500 acres in New Jersey in the seventeenth century.  The family was highly involved in the politics of both states.  His father’s sons from his first marriage were political, Lewis in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, and Robert Hunter in Pennsylvania ([XI], page 3-5).  Although Gouverneur came from an important family, his inheritance wasn’t as large as his brothers (he would get none of the land his family owned), and it was delayed until his mother passed (page 8).  He would have to make his own way for a while – and he did.  His law profession and business enterprises grew his personal wealth considerably in a short time.  And he was asked to represent Philadelphia at the Constitutional Convention.

After missing a month, Morris spoke often and loudly – 173 times, more than anyone else.  The debate of the day was representation.  When Morris started his speech, he dwelt on his wish that the Senate be the largest property owners and have “aristocratical spirit ([XII], 149)”.  The rich shall rule, as long as they rule with morals, is what that sounds like.  Morris then broke into an unexpected turn, according to James Madison’s notes from the Convention, “The Senate ‘will then do no wrong, it will be said.  He believed so; he hoped so.  The rich will strive to establish their dominion and enslave the rest.  They always did.  They always will.  The proper security against them is to form them into a separate interest.  The two forces will then control the other.”  On the other hand, too much democracy could be bad: “Give the votes to people who have no property, and they will sell them to the rich who will be able to buy them ([XIII], page 84).”  A man of the establishment, someone who could be easily considered an aristocrat, himself, Gouverneur Morris fought to prevent the rich from being empowered over the poor.

It should be mentioned how different life was in 1787 America.  Many colonies were “a deferential society…in which the populace granted certain people offices and power by right of birth.  In most communities…a small group of men who made the basic decisions for the village or town…were more or less automatically elected…(which) included large landowners, like Washington and Jefferson ([XIV], page 21).”  It seemed like the common people expected this kind of oligarchy.  They had more important things to do besides keeping up with politics, such as feeding their fifteen children.

Let’s get back to the essence of our government.  Throughout history there has been three pure forms of government, “monarchy, rule of one; aristocracy, rule of the few; and democracy, the rule of many or of all…(of which) in the course of history had degenerated repeatedly into their evil counterparts: tyranny, oligarchy, and ochlocracy or mob rule, which led ultimately to dictatorship and tyranny ([XV], page 20).  Bernard Bailyn wrote, “Some success…could be achieved by mixing elements of these pure forms within a single constitution so that the…” three would check each other (page 20).  In England’s House of Lords, the aristocracy “participated…but was constrained by the other orders to which it was yoked from capturing the whole of government (page 22).  Bailyn equivocated, though, mentioning that the nobility stuck their Vandyke Beards into each of the other branches whenever they could – whatever it took to preserve their power or aggrandize them to higher positions (page 23).  In America, however, great men rose from the dregs of society.  And Bailyn agrees, “One could scarcely say that there was a traditional aristocracy in social (author’s note: or economical) terms, and further, that there was no demarcation in legal status between those who were officially members of the middle order and those who were not (page 131-2).

Something else that Gouverneur Morris said at the Convention was perhaps the most poignant of his prophesies.  He said, “The time is not distant when this country will abound with mechanics and manufacturer (industrial workers), who will receive their bread from their employers.  Will such men be the secure and faithful guardians of liberty?  Will they be the impregnable barrier against aristocracy ([XVI], page 109)?”  Well, are they?  Obviously, Morris was voted down.  This author will leave it up to the reader to decide whether your employer guards your liberty…

Do we have an aristocracy in America?  The answer is subjective to how one might perceive an aristocracy is defined.  The Oxford Compact English Dictionary of 2000 defined it as, “a class comprising people of noble birth with hereditary titles.”  In a century of the Roosevelt, Kennedy, and Bush families, it is hard to argue that we don’t.  But must we blame them for their name?  It is hard to say that these powerful families didn’t rise through their own merit, as well as their name?  Does that not indict the public for allowing these seemingly hereditary titles?  Maybe we are still used to being governed by the same old names – and most of the time, the same old ideas.  Maybe the middle and lower classes are still empowering the rich.  Maybe we are stuck with an aristocracy of sorts; and it is necessary.  But maybe they should take a look at what our self-made founders, Our Boys, did when they worked their way to the top – and not forget the little guy.

 

Sources:


[I] Baltzell, E. Digby.  The Protestant Establishment: Aristocracy & Caste in America.  New York: Random House, 1964.

[II] Bailyn, Bernard.  The Origins of American Politics.  New York: Random House, 1967, 1968.

[III] Plato.  The Essential Plato.  Translated by Benjamin Jowett with M.J. Knight, Introduction by Alain de Botton.  United States: Quality Paperback Book Club, 1999.

[IV] Isaacson, Walter.  Benjamin Franklin: An American Life.  New York: Simon and Schuster, 2003.

[V] Larson, Edward J. and Winship, Michael P.  The Constitutional Convention: A Narrative History from the Notes of James Madison.  New York: Random House, 2005.

[VI] Collier, Christopher and Collier, James Lincoln.  Decision in Philadelphia: The Constitutional Convention of 1787.  New York: Ballantine Books, 1986.

[VII] Ellis, Joseph.  His Excellency: George Washington.  New York:

[VIII] McCullough, David.  John Adams.  New York: Simon and Schuster, 2001.

[IX]Collier, Christopher and Collier, James Lincoln.  Decision in Philadelphia: The Constitutional Convention of 1787.  New York: Ballantine Books, 1986.

[X] Cullen, Charles T. and Johnson, Herbert A.  The Papers of John Marshall: Volume II.  as.ed. Wood, Joanne M. and Elias, Susan H.  Charlotte, NC: The University of North Carolina Press, 1977.

[XI] Brookhiser, Richard.  Gentleman Revolutionary, Gouverneur Morris: The Rake Who Wrote the Constitution.  New York: Free Press, 2003.

[XII]  Collier, Christopher and Collier, James Lincoln.  Decision in Philadelphia: The Constitutional Convention of 1787.  New York: Ballantine Books, 1986.

[XIII] Brookhiser, Richard.  Gentleman Revolutionary, Gouverneur Morris: The Rake Who Wrote the Constitution.  New York: Free Press, 2003.

[XIV] Collier, Christopher and Collier, James Lincoln.  Decision in Philadelphia: The Constitutional Convention of 1787.  New York: Ballantine Books, 1986.

[XV] Bailyn, Bernard.  The Origins of American Politics.  New York: Random House, 1967, 1968.

[XVI] Larson, Edward J. and Winship, Michael P.  The Constitutional Convention: A Narrative History from the Notes of James Madison.  New York: Random House, 2005.

Axelrad, Jacob.  Patrick Henry: The Voice of Freedom.  New York: Random House, 1947.

Formisano, Ronald P.  For the People: American Populist Movements from the Revolution to the 1850s.  North Carolina: The University of North


 

They Might Not Be Giants – NY Giants/Rams Preview

Rams Hope to Light Up Monday Night (stlouisrams.com)

They might be Giants, but the Rams stack up to them pretty well.  Dating back to 1938, the Rams own the all-time series against the Giants at 25-13.  The Rams are beaten up after their first game, but they are not alone.  The Giants are dropping like flies, as well.  Giants Head Coach Tom Coughlin said, “We’ve had what, three ACLs, we had a guy break his foot, he stepped on the field one day, we had a guy tear a (pectoral muscle).”  So the Rams will get no sympathy from them.

Both teams are coming off disappointing losses in Week 1, so each has a lot to prove to their fans, to the rest of the league, and to themselves.  “For us (the Redskins game) was a divisional game and those are extremely important,” Coughlin said.  Even though the Rams aren’t in their division, they know this game is as important as any other, especially with all the mistakes they made last week.  “We’ve got a lot of correcting to do and we’ve got a lot of improvement to go through. I think the players all share that feeling.”

Sam Bradford should be back for Monday – his finger is feeling better, and was on the practice field Wednesday.  Head Coach Steve Spagnuolo was obviously relieved, saying that was the “understatement of the year”.  Coach Spags said, “We all know how we feel about the quarterback on any team, because it’s an important position, and we know what Sam means to ours.”

Everyone, Including Bradford, is Glad He'll Be Under Center (stlouisrams.com)


But Sam was just as relieved as his coach.  It will be his first Monday Night Football Game.  “
If I wasn’t playing something,” Bradford said, “definitely Monday night football was always a highlight of my week. I remember it being the only game on TV that night and I remember watching it and thinking how cool it would be to play on that stage some day and how fortunate we are to be here, going to play on Monday night football for the first time next week.”

Bradford thinks it’s important for the Rams to rebound well on Monday, no matter the stage.  He said, “Obviously we feel we dropped the game last week. As last year goes to show we were a game away last year and had we closed out some of those games earlier in the season it would have been a different situation last year. I think everyone in this building understands the importance of getting wins early in the year.”

But even if Bradford plays, the Giants still plan on stopping the run first.  Coughlin said, “First of all you try to stop the run which…they demonstrated the other night the Rams run the ball well. Sam is a very good, young quarterback who has really matured and developed in his year of playing time. We’ll do the best we can against a very good player.”

The Rams strength last week was the running game, but they might have to get things done another way against the Giants.  The Giants gave up only 74 yards to Washington running backs (Tim Hightower had 72 and Roy Helu had 2), an average of 2.8 yards per carry.  They’re a team that makes stopping the run its focus.  Bradford said, “They’re big, they’re physical. It’s hard to run the football against these guys. There’s just not a lot of space inside. They do a great job of putting pressure on the passer. We’re going to have to be really good up front both in the run game and the pass game this week.”

Though Steven Jackson is still questionable for Monday’s game with his thigh injury, Coughlin doesn’t think there’s much of a letdown with Carnell…er, I mean…Cadillac Williams in there.  Coughlin said, “Well, he played very well, and of course I know of him in his younger years, but he played very well the other night. Both backs really displayed strength and power and quickness and the ability to move the pile. And 91 yards against the Eagles is a lot of yards.”  Coughlin doesn’t see how he needs to change his game plan because of the roster changes.  “I didn’t see a whole lot of difference in terms of how they used the backs,” he said, “I thought the backs were used in a similar fashion.”

Jerious Norwood Eludes a Defender (stlouisrams.com)

And look for Jerious Norwood to get some action, as well.  When he gets space, he can make things happen; as if he greases up his jersey before the game, he’s hard to get a hold of.  He only got 3 carries for 10 yards, but had the most 20+ yard kick returns in the NFL (tie) in Week 1, showing how hard to handle he can be.

Pro Bowl DE Justin Tuck feels the same about the Rams offense.  “Their running game can be tremendous,” he said.  “Obviously it helps if you have 39 (Steven Jackson) back there. Even with Cadillac…he still had 91 yards on 19 carries, so we definitely have to put them into some situations where they have to rely heavily on their quarterback – who is a great and up and coming quarterback. We would rather have him be one dimensional than have the option of handing it off and being able to drop back and pass too.”

Cadillac Williams Looks For Another Big Game (stlouisrams.com)

Tuck knows Williams very well.  He said, “Actually, I played against Cadillac in high school. I remember him before he had the knee injury. The knee injury still hasn’t slowed him down. He’s still a great, great back.”  When asked how good Williams was high school, he said one word, “unstoppable.”  Rams fans hope the Giants won’t be able to stop him Monday.

 

Let’s look at what kind of defense the Rams will be facing.

On the defensive line, Giants Defensive End Osi Umenyiora (knee) should be out of the lineup.  However, though he said his neck is “less than 100%”, outstanding DE Justin Tuck should be ready on Monday, which isn’t good news to Sam Bradford – Tuck said sacking quarterbacks is favorite part of playing football.  With both Rams Offensive Tackles banged up last week, Tuck and his counterparts should be trouble for them.  DEs Jason Pierre-Paul (2010 first round pick – the 6’5” 278 DE that does backflips, like he’s two Ozzie Smiths) was effective last week (6 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble), and Dave Tollefson had a sack and two tackles.

At 6’7”, 317, Defensive Tackle Chris Canty is a roadblock in the middle.  And starting partner, Linval Joseph (6’4”, 323), is no little person, either.  But if the Rams RBs can get past the line, they have to face a young, but strong linebacker corps.

LBs Greg Jones, Mathias Kiwanuka, and Spencer Paysinger Tackle Tim Hightower (AP Photo: Evan Vucci)

6-year veteran LB Mathias Kiwanuka (6’5”, 267) had five tackles in his start in Week 1.  7-year veteran Michael Boley (6’3”, 230) had four tackles and a fumble recovery.  Beyond 5-year vet Zak DeOssie (2 tackles in Week 1), who’s mainly their long snapper (2011 Pro Bowler) there isn’t a lot of experience.  The Giants have four rookie LBs in Mark Herzlich, Spencer Paysinger, and 2011 6th round picks Jacquain Williams and MLB Greg Jones (had a productive career at Mich St., started 46 games, 465 tackles).  Jones had 4 tackles last week, catching some eyes.

It’s good to hear that Sam Bradford is healthy, because if Rex Grossman can get over 300 yards passing against the Giants, then you’d think Bradford could.  Losing Danny Amendola is tragic, but it affords an opportunity for Greg Salas, Danario Alexander, or Austin Pettis to step up.  Salas made a good catch for 21 yards on Sunday, and has a solid-enough frame (6’1”, 209) to be a third-down guy.  And his 4,345 yards in college give him the 6th highest total in NCAA history.  So, Coach Spags will have to decide on either Alexander (deep threat) or Pettis (extra 3rd down help/punt returner) – or if they even go with five on Monday night.  Dominique Curry should play for his special teams ability.  Coach Spags said on Wednesday, “We have five wide receivers, obviously, that are healthy on the 53; and whether we go in the game with four or five we will determine at the end of the week. Then we’ll decide who, if it is only four, we’ll decide who the four are.”

The Giants secondary is good in the middle.  Antrel Rolle is a Pro Bowl safety (2010: 87 tackles, 4 interceptions), and made 7 tackles in Week 1.  Kenny Phillips is a big, strong tackler (6’2”, 217) who made 9 of them in their first game, along with two passes defended.

2011 first round pick, Cornerback Prince Amukamara (foot) is questionable.  Dependable DB Terrell Thomas (2010: 102 tackles, 5 interceptions, 21 pass defended) is on the IR, as well, which might create some space for Rams receivers.  There was a reason the Giants picked Amukamara, their lack of solid corners, and the Rams hope they can take advantage.  They especially can take advantage of an inexperienced slot corps if Salas can step up.  In that same regard, the Rams tight ends could have a field day if Mike…hold on while I copy and paste it…Hoomanawanui can get back in the lineup.  Having “Hooman” back could take the pressure off Lance Kendricks, whose drops last week were costly.  Kendricks’ hands should return this week.

Kendricks Looks to Make His First Monday Night a Great Night (stlouisrams.com)

Now let’s take a look at the Giants offense.  The good news for the Rams Defense is that the Giants managed only 75 yards in Week 1.  Starting Running Back Ahmed Bradshaw managed only 54 yards (44 rush, 10 rec) last weekend, an average of 3.4 rushing yards per carry.  But he had over 1500 all-purpose yards last year, and shouldn’t be forgotten.  It should be a key for the Rams to shut him down – the Giants are 14-24 under Tom Coughlin when they don’t manage 100 yards rushing.  Forget about last week against the Eagles – Vick’s versatility and slipperiness inflated the rushing yards against (236).  RB LeSean McCoy only had 10 rushing yards in the first half.  If the Rams can play at that level against the Giants for a full 60 minutes, things should go much more smoothly.  And don’t plan on Eli Manning running for 97 yards – or slipping out of the pocket as easily as Vick did.  He’s going to seem like a turtle stuck in mud compared to Vick.

Ahmed Bradshaw Tackled By London Fletcher (AP Photo: Susan Walsh)

Manning now has the longest QB starting streak in the NFL, after his brother Peyton had to miss his game on Sunday, at 104 games.  Put it this way, the Cleveland Browns have started 12 different QBs during Eli’s streak.  Manning had 268 yards (18 of 32) last Sunday, numbers he wasn’t satisfied with.  He’ll be looking to feast on a depleted Rams secondary after not getting a touchdown last weekend, while being intercepted by Redskins rookie Ryan Kerrigan.  The Giants finished last season 10th in passing yards and 7th in scoring.  Without CB Ron Bartell (and perhaps without other starting CB Bradley Fletcher) the Rams will have their hands full in the passing game.  The Rams have to get a good rush on Manning to shut him down.

Manning Sacked by London Fletcher and Chris Neild (AP Photo: Susan Walsh)

In the offseason, the Giants added Center David Baas, after he started 53 games for San Francisco – and was their full-time starter for the last two seasons.  Pro Bowl-starter, G Chris Snee (6’3”, 305), anchors the Giants line, just as he has since 2004.  Snee has started all 108 games he has played in the NFL.  On the outside, Kareem McKenzie (6’6”, 330) has been a fixture at Tackle since 2004.  Will Beatty started on the other end in Week 1, but had only started 6 games before that in his young career.  Look for the Rams DEs to get them some.  It’s imperative that they don’t let Manning get comfy in the pocket.

Chris Long sacks Vick (stlouisrams.com)

Wide­ Receiver Hakeem Nicks (79 rec, 1052 yards, 11 TDs) is probable, and said he is feeling like his knee should be ready to go on Monday.  He’s sure to give Rams cornerbacks fits.  Nicks had 7 catches for 122 yards before leaving the game.  Mario Manningham (2010: 60 rec, 944 yards, 9 TDs) had only 49 yards last week.

As far as the cornerbacks go, the Rams have Justin King and Al Harris ready to go.  King still has to prove himself in the pro game as an outside corner, but that was his game in college.  Having had to learn the inside game in the pros, he’s welcoming a return to the outside.  Harris was a two-time Pro Bowler, but knee troubles have kept him in a backup role.  The Rams are hoping he still something left.  To help out, the Rams resigned CB Tim Atchison – who had just gotten home and unpacked after his prior release from the Rams practice squad when he got the call to come back.  Atchison showed versatility in camp, playing both the outside and nickel corner positions.  Coach Spags said, “You don’t normally want to throw somebody into the heat this quick but I thought Tim showed enough in training camp both from the physical part and knowledge part that deserved to get him back here.”

James Hall Looks to "Get Some" Monday Night (stlouisrams.com)

It’s a great matchup between these two teams.  On defense, both teams need to get after each other’s quarterbacks and limit the opposition’s running back.  On offense, both teams need to find a way to exploit a weak secondary on the other side, and find a way to break through each other’s solid defensive front lines.  It will be a close game, so it will come down to the usual game-breakers.

Third Down will be important, as always.  The Giants were 1 for 10 last week on Third Down plays.  The Rams allowed the Eagles to covert 8 of 13, mostly because of Michael Vick scrambles, so should automatically improve on that.  On the flip side, the Rams were only 2 of 12 on Third Down.  Somebody has to step up and make plays.

Turnovers could make the difference for each team.  Manning’s interception started the second half off wrong (the third play of the half), and those points scored on its return were costly.  The Giants never gained the momentum, or the lead, back.  Bradford, being tripped by his own man, fumbled the ball in the first quarter against the Eagles, leading to a touchdown – and a letdown in momentum.  The Rams never got the momentum, or the lead, back.

Bad penalties cannot be made (Giants had 8 penalties for 63 yards, and the Rams had 9 for 60), nor can chances be missed (both teams missed a Field Goal in Week 1).

Both teams have a lot to prove on Monday night, and there’s no better stage to prove it.

Thanks for reading.

 

From the Undrafted Rookie – Around STL Sports (9-13-11)

BLUES – FINALLY, CAPTAIN AMERICA IS REAL

On the Blues knighting David Backes as their new captain, this is a no-brainer.  There are so many reasons why, and an article I wrote months ago should explain that.  You can read that at this link: http://joerichtermedia.com/?p=59

Backes is the kind of guy you want to follow; he’s tough, talented, and tenured.  The Blues did the right thing.  They couldn’t make General Manager Doug Armstrong – who has done a terrific job since joining the staff – the captain, so Backes is the next best thing.

Though there is a lot going on sports-wise in St. Louis, I can’t put in words just how excited I am to see the Blues get out there.  My anticipation is bubbling over watching Alex Pietrangelo blossom as a star defenseman, Chris Stewart emerge as a star power forward, and Jaroslav Halak become a true #1 netminder.  There’s so much that we have longed to see – the continued brilliance of Patrik Berglund, the rocking mullet of TJ Oshie, etc.

The Blues New Captain, Captain America

But if I might protest something, it would be the choice of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” for the Blues ad campaign.  I just saw the commercial on the Blues website, (I’d add the link, but I don’t want to put you through the obnoxious college ad) and was selfishly bothered.  I never started believing that Berglund can actually play the piano (although the guy’s charismatic goofiness should certainly be part of the campaign), and I did stop believing that the song should be played outside of a high school dance.  Besides, it sings about Detroit, which should be enough said.  OK, maybe I’m being too nitpicky here (I admit being a bit petty), but didn’t Tony Soprano get shot to that song?  Sorry, late spoiler alert…

Regardless, it’s nice that the exhibition season will start next week (September 20), and training camp begins Friday, September 16.  And it’s classy of the Blues to allow fans to be there at the St. Louis Mills to see them officially take the ice for the first time of the 2011-12 season.  Many of the boys in blue are already there, which shows me the Blues, themselves, will not stop believing they owe it to the fans and the franchise to make it back to the playoffs.

 

 

RAMS – MAYBE WORST FEARS REALIZED

Well, we talked about it before, and now our worst fears have been realized.  The positions with the least amount of depth for the Rams were ones most battered on Sunday.  First off, Rams Quarterback Sam Bradford slammed a finger on an Eagles player’s helmet, leaving him inactive in practice until at least Wednesday.  It turned out to be just a bruise, but the finger he hurt was on his throwing hand, and the franchise QB wasn’t exactly meticulous on Sunday (I thought he was trying to hit the cameramen on the sideline on a couple throws) to begin with.  Neither was AJ Feeley.  This is very concerning in a league that has a quarterback fetish.  The NFL knows these guys are the faces of franchises, and have bent and changed rules over the last two decades to benefit the passing game.  Teams cannot live on the run alone.  “Keep our fingers crossed,” Head Coach Steve Spagnuolo said, “no pun intended.”  Hey, Spags; I make the corny jokes around here…

All-Pro Running Back Steven Jackson was updated to “week-to-week” by Spagnuolo.  But it’s a wait and see scenario with Jackson.  He said, “I’ve always trusted Steve with injuries and how he feels. He knows better than anybody how his body reacts.”

Even worse, Wide Receiver Danny Amendola – Bradford’s go-to guy – is out for who knows how long.  It was determined that he dislocated his elbow, and was getting an MRI during Spagnuolo’s press conference Monday.  They’ll more info midweek.  If Amendola doesn’t require surgery, then he could be back sooner than originally expected.  Spagnuolo called him a “tough sucker”.  Spags said Danny is “a lot tougher than me.”

But what might be the costliest injury is losing Cornerback Ron Bartell.  After suffering what everyone thought was “just” a stinger, Bartell wanted to go back into the game.  In the understatement of the season, it’s a good thing the Rams didn’t let him.  It turns out that he has a broken neck.  Ouch.  He could miss the rest of the season.  You got to feel bad for him, considering how long he has waited for this team to be a winner.

Ron Bartell (stlouisrams.com)

Who will take Bartell’s place on an already short list of quality corners?  Cornerback Bradley Fletcher suffered a toe injury, as well, possibly leaving only two healthy corners for Week 2.  The Rams will have to see how Fletcher comes along this week.  Right now, they might have to look outside for another corner to fill in.  “Obviously you have Justin (King) and Al (Harris) here,” Spags said.  He added that they “may have to find a way to get another one.”

There was some good news.  Offensive Tackle Jason Smith and Defensive End C.J. Ah You are listed as day-to-day after their injuries turned out to be less serious than previously estimated.

Right now, it’s a waiting game for the Rams to see just how depleted their first game left them.  “We didn’t envision starting like that,” Spagnuolo said.  “We certainly didn’t envision losing all these guys but between the coaching staff, personnel staff, the players just find a way to rally and go play.”

 

 

CARDS – THANK YOU, MORGAN?

Nyjer Morgan Gives a Lesson in Class

I know the 5-game winning streak was snapped on Monday night by the mighty (to the Cardinals) Pittsburgh Pirates.  But the Cards are still in it.  That’s right, I said it – they still have a chance to get into the playoffs.  And if they do, I think it’s all because of Brewers Center Fielder Nyger Morgan.  He may be a player with crazy skills, but that might not be the only crazy thing about him.  I mean, we’ve all thrown our chaw at a pitcher that has struck us out, and made a fool of ourselves on television.  OK, maybe that’s just me.  But I don’t think any of us have called Albert Pujols a little girl.

You have to hand it to Morgan, he has more guts than brains.  Many have accused 6’3” 230 pound Albert Pujols of being surly at times, or thinking he’s ten times faster than he really is; but we would never call him feminine like Morgan did.  It’s like the old line by Gene Wilder from “Blazing Saddles” that he said about the movie’s character, Mongo, “No, no; don’t do that.  If you shoot him, you’ll just make him mad.”

That might be exactly what Morgan did with the Pujols and the Cardinals.  Morgan might have lit the fire under the Cardinals that they needed.  They have been on a roll ever since.  And the Brewers are starting to look a bit more mortal.  After losing five games in a row, The Brew-Crew defeated the Philadelphia Phillies on Sunday.  And they also got Rickie Weekes back.  But the Cardinals have a little more incentive to see them in the playoffs, now, and beat them.

Nyjer Morgan Reminds Us to Floss

Thanks to the Florida Marlins’ Mike Stanton’s game-winning RBI single Monday night against the Braves, the Cards are only 4.5 games out of the wild card spot – and a ticket to a whole new season, the playoffs.  While the Cards will be hard-pressed to catch the Brewers (6.5 games back   games slip away, especially against the Pirates.

One more note.  Getting Chris Carpenter for two more years at a reported $21 million total is a steal by the rate pitchers are getting these days.  It’s important to have the one-two punch of him and Adam Wainwright next year.  If Jaime Garcia can come back next year with a more consistent season, the Cards will have one of the best top three pitchers in the league.  And the money saved could help the Cards retain Morgan’s best friend, Albert Pujols.  Maybe…

Point Forward

It’s week one.  Rams fans, take a really deep breath.  Some fans want to point fingers in a number of directions.  But the one direction fans should point their fingers is forward.  The best is still ahead.

Sure, the game against the Philadelphia Eagles didn’t have the optimal result.  In fact, it could have been the worst thing that could’ve happened for the team.  Injuries, especially, brought the team down, as well as the hopes of Rams fans, on Sunday.  But it’s not time to panic.

I’m sure there were several of us that made brash predictions that the Rams would surprise the Eagles, as they rode in on their high horse, thinking they were the greatest team ever – “The Dream Team”, as Eagles backup quarterback Vince Young called them.  The Rams proved the Eagles weren’t unbreakable.  If not for injuries, an untimely fumble by Sam Bradford, along with several dropped and poorly thrown passes, the Eagles could very well have lost that game.

Spagnuolo explained the injuries as best he could after the game, “Steven’s (Jackson) got a quad. I’m not sure whether to call it a pull or a strain or whatever. We’ll have a better idea on those tomorrow so he’ll be reassessed.  Jason Smith is an ankle. (Head Athletic Trainer) Reggie (Scott) has called it a high ankle. I’ll have a better idea what we’re dealing with tomorrow.  C.J. Ah You – (it’s) just his wrist. Hopefully that’s OK and we think we’ll probably take a picture of that.  Danny Amendola did dislocate his left elbow. It’s not broken but it was dislocated, and now the thing is getting an MRI and see how much damage is actually done in there so we won’t know that until.  Ron Bartell got a stinger. Sam banged his right index finger on a helmet. It’s not broken they did x-ray it but they’ve got to find out a little bit more about what we’re dealing with here. And again, probably take it into tomorrow.  Quintin Mikell just cramped up when he came out.”  That’s quite a mouthful.  But hopefully these injuries won’t be lingering.

Jack gets his TD (stlouisrams.com)

Steven Jackson looked amazing in his two runs before leaving the game.  With those golden shoes, it was like “The Predator” was directed by Joel Schumacher (director of the gold and neon-macerated “Batman Forever” movie).  Jackson exploded for a touchdown with his first run, and it looked like it was a new day for the St. Louis Rams.  But toward the end of the run, Jackson pulled up with an injury in his thigh.  “It was one of those freak things that I just felt a little something there,” he said.  “I tried to go back in there that second series, and I just couldn’t be the runner that I wanted to be.”  It was a two-sided play – one that showed how good he can be, and one that proved how quickly things can change.  “It was very disappointing. Like I said, I prepared all offseason for this, had a great training camp, really felt mentally in tune to the game plan. I was really looking forward to it, and I knew I could have had a big role in this game. Plus, to jump on Philadelphia like we did and for me to have the news that I won’t be able to finish the game is very disappointing, especially when you see your teammates battle the way they were battling.”

And battle, they did.  Carnell…I keep messing that up…Cadillac Williams made a heck of a Rams debut, running for nearly an hundred yards.  Williams said, “During camp, coach just came to me one day and said, ‘Cadillac, stay ready.’ In this game of football, you just never know what could happen.”  And it was a good thing he was ready.  It was a great performance.   He’s got a lot to prove.  “I feel like I have a lot of football left in me,” he said.  “I do want to establish myself as a guy who can get the job done, so every time I get my chance I’m out there just doing my best. That’s just me.”

Williams on the rush (stlouisrams.com)

Bradford appreciated Williams’ work, saying, “It’s very comforting. Obviously, anytime you lose Jack you know it’s frustrating because he is a great player. His presence on the field changes things in the defense, but we’ve got two guys behind him that can come in and keep the level of play very high.”

But it wasn’t enough.  Spagnuolo was as upset as you might expect.  He said, “We knew no. 7 was going to be tough to stop. We thought we would do a better job in that but we didn’t. But like I said to the team I think it goes back to – overall – there were fundamentals things we didn’t do right.”  That wasn’t it, though.  As frustration mounted, so did the penalties.  Spags said that “when you play good football teams, the first thing you’ve got to do is make sure you don’t beat yourself. We didn’t do that today so we suffered the consequences.”

 

One of the bright spots was that Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels was able to find a weakness on the Eagles defense, their inexperienced linebacking corps, leading to a lot of yards on the ground (154 yards total, 5.9 avg), in fact the seventh best output in the NFL before the Monday night games.  Coach Spags agreed, but wasn’t impressed with the rest of the team’s performance.  “I thought we ran the ball effectively. Drops are going to kill you, penalties are going to kill you. Bad tackling, or backside leverage as we’ll call it, with the cutbacks are going to kill you. They’ve got some talented, talented players. But I just thought if we had done some of the fundamental things right I don’t think the talent would have come out quite like it did.”

Eagles coach Andy Reid liked what he saw from Coach Spags and the Rams, saying, “My hat is off to Steve and his football team; they went down today like crazy with quite a few injuries out there. That is a tough deal. He sure has done a nice job, along with his coaches and front office. He has a pretty good football team.”  The Rams certainly sent the house on a lot of plays, putting pressure on Vick to scramble a lot.  “They showed us a lot of looks which we knew they would. Spagnuolo and Ken Flajole know what they are doing and that is good test for us. We were able to hit a few big plays against them, and you need those when they are coming after you like that.”

Spags and Reid, old friends together again (stlouisrams.com)

Vick was anything but comfortable out there.  He said, “They blitzed like crazy and it was tough being on the road, our communication was down a little bit.  But, we still found ways to make plays…and we did it the way we wanted to do it, it wasn’t pretty but we got the win.”

Vick throws past an outstretched C.J. Ah You (stlouisrams.com)

 

Vick was impressed with the Rams, as well, saying, “I knew coming in they were going to play very hard, extremely hard, and they played very well and I give them a lot of credit.”

But on the field, Vick wasn’t that impressed.  Every time the Rams sat back, thinking they had him contained, the slippery devil found a way out – on his way to 98 rushing yards.  Spagnuolo said, “if you could cut that yardage in half when he tucked it, just by however, then you‘ve got a fighting chance. But (when) he gets out there, there is nobody in the league like him. He knows how to play in the dome.”  And he slipped out the Rams grasp too many times.  “I’m sure that’s some of it,” Coach Spags said.  “I did feel like we were there and didn’t finish.”

Vick slips out (stlouisrams.com)

But it’s not all bad news.  The team made some good plays, and hung in for most of the game.  The final score didn’t really give justice to the team’s effort in the first three quarters.

Look at the offense.  They accrued a lot of yards, but just didn’t make the necessary plays to win the game – too many drops and some errant passes.  Bradford tried to find a silver lining.  He said, “If you watched us, we moved the ball up and down the field on them. It’s just we just hurt ourselves with the mistakes every drop. It seemed like there was always one negative play that occurred after we got the drive going, and it just seemed like we were never able to overcome that one negative play. But for the most part I thought our guys did a great job executing. I think we only had one three-and-out in out today. We just got to find a way to be perfect. We can’t make those mistakes that keep us from getting in the end zone and putting points on the board.”

Bradford was actually a little too understanding of his receivers dropping the ball (I’m surprised they didn’t drop the flag in the pregame ceremony), saying those things just happen.  Sam, they don’t happen that much in the National Football League if you want to win.  Rookies or not, this cannot happen.

 

There were a few bright spots, and a lot of not-so-bright spots.  But they can’t look back.  Bradford said, “We still have 15 more games, and I don’t think anyone ever folded camp after going 0-1 to start the season.”

Rams safety Quintin Mikell agrees, “We’re not going to hang our heads and think it’s the end of the world. It’s a good team that we lost to. We had some plays that we left out there on the field. (At the) end of the day, we’ve got a lot of work to do, but we’re still a good team.”

LeSean McCoy tries to dance around Laurinaitis, to no avail (stlouisrams.com)

Linebacker James Laurinaitis, the leader on Rams defense, was especially upset at the amount of rushing yards they allowed in the second half.  But next week will be here before they know it.  And they have to be ready by looking at the film and making corrections.  Laurinaitis said, “You let it hurt, you let it kind of tick you off, and then you do something about it. You don’t sulk and feel bad for yourself. You change it with hard work during the week.”

That’s right.  You point forward.  Though they have the class not to call themselves “The Dream Team”, the New York Giants are a good football team – and it’s on the national stage.  Bradford knows that.  “You know we have a big game next week on Monday night against the Giants,” he said, “so we have to get ready for that.”

 

It will be a rough few weeks for the Rams – at the Giants, home against the Ravens and Redskins, then at the Packers and Cowboys, and back home for the Saints.  As Brian Billick pointed out on Sunday’s broadcast, that’s just not fair.  But then the Rams get to play their suspect Division Rivals for pretty much the rest of the season.  Rams fans, keep pointing forward, because the best is yet to come.

An Eagle is crushed (stlouisrams.com)

Gone…But Not Forgotten

Pavol Demitra, Nov 29, 1974 - Sept. 7, 2011

One of the great St. Louis Blues is gone, but not forgotten. Pavol Demitra, former Blues center Igor Korolev, Ruslan Salei, and several other notable hockey players tragically lost their lives in a plane crash 150 miles from Moscow, Russia, on Wednesday, September 7, 2011.

An estimated 43 of 45 people were killed in a Yak-42 airplane when it crashed into the Volga River banks, just outside of Moscow. En route to its season opener in Belarus to play the Dinamo Minsk, Demitra’s Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) team, Lokomotiv (coached by former NHLer Brad McCrimmon), never made its destination.

Demitra and Salei were 36 years old, and both wore #38 for the Blues. Korolev was 41. Some of the other former NHL players who perished were Alexander Karpovtsev (41), Karlis Skrastins (37), Stefan Liv (30, a Detroit Red Wings prospect), Josef Vacinek (30), Jan Marek (31), and Karel Rachunek (32). Many more talented hockey players lost their lives, and the whole hockey world is shattered today.

Former Los Angeles Kings star, and Demitra teammate, Luc Robitaille said in The LA Times that Pavol was “just a fun guy to be around.”  Robitaille said Pavol was “just happy to play hockey.  He loved the game – that’s why he was still playing.”

In the team’s official statement, Blues GM and President John Davidson said, “On behalf of the St. Louis Blues, we are deeply saddened by the tragedy that took place today in Russia involving the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl hockey club. The entire hockey community has been affected by this news and our most heart-felt condolences go out to the families of those who perished.

“The St. Louis Blues have lost two members of our family, Pavol Demitra and Igor Korolev, and our thoughts and prayers are with their families as well. Pavol and Igor were both incredibly passionate and dedicated players and their influence in St. Louis was not only felt on the ice, but throughout the community.”

Blues great Keith Tkachuk is “beyond devastated” by the passing of two friends in the crash, Demitra and McCrimmon. Tkachuk said, “Brad was my teammate in Phoenix and later coached me in Atlanta and was truly a wonderful man who will be greatly missed.  Pav was like a brother to me and I cannot believe that he is no longer with us.

“This is a terrible day for the hockey fraternity. My family’s thoughts and prayers are with their families during this difficult time.”

We can look back at the great memories we share of Demitra and Korolev. If you want to comment on their loss, below, please do. It’s only right that we share our memories of them. Here’s what I remember about them.

Korolev was part of the Blues’ “Russian Connection” line in 1992-93, which included Vitali Prokhorov and Vitali Karamnov. While the latter two returned to Russia after the experiment, Korolev had a strong NHL career (119 goals, 346 points in 795 games) until he returned home in 2004. He was a solid two-way player.

Demitra came to the Blues in a time of transition. In one of the great steals in Blues history, they traded Christer Olsson for Demitra in 1996 after Pavol held out in Ottawa. While the Brett Hull era of the Blues was coming to an end, Demitra stepped up to almost fill the scoring void that Hull left when he signed with Dallas. After a short preview in 1996-97, Demitra came back the next year to net 22 goals and 52 points in 61 games. In his 494 games with the Blues, Demitra scored 204 goals and 493 points. His tandem with center Pierre Turgeon was highly productive. The two just seemed to click, with Demitra never scoring fewer than 20 goals in any of his full seasons. Pavol won the Lady Byng Trophy in 2000, awarded to the NHL’s Most Gentlemanly Player.

I remember when the Demitra era had first begun. He loved the city and game so much that he was absolutely elated to be in the position he was – on a top line on a playoff team. In an intermission interview, he was so overwhelmed with emotion that all he kept saying was that he was “so happy, I’m so happy.” But with his Slovakian accent, it came out as “so hoppy, I’m so hoppy.” And we were “hoppy” to enjoy his play for so long.

One of the most exciting players to watch in a Blues uniform, many of us were disappointed in his exodus from St. Louis in 2004. Back then, Blues fans (including this author) were spoiled by the long string of playoff berths without the glory of a Stanley Cup. Many fans were quick to blame the “non-playoff performers”. While he wasn’t the unstoppable offensive force that was known for being in the regular season, he still performed well in the playoffs – 18 goals and 43 points in 66 playoff games. But that production, and the Blues production overall in the playoffs, just wasn’t good enough for us. Don’t we miss those days of playoff intensity? In those years of regular season futility, wouldn’t we have loved to see Pavol “hoppy” in St. Louis again? The Blues have made the playoffs only once since he left.

We should celebrate the great memories that Pavol Demitra and Igor Korolev gave us. I’ll never forget them. St. Louis will never forget them. And we’ll never see anyone “hoppier” than Pavol was when he was a Blue.

Demitra had two young children, Zara and Lucas, and a wife named Maja. Korolev is survived by two children and his wife, Vera. The hearts of St. Louis Blues fans everywhere go out to them and the families of those lost.

Blues Celebrate a Demitra Goal (UPI Photo/Bill Greenblatt)

Labor Day Work

It’s a holiday for most of America, but not at Rams Park.  The Rams did some work today on and off the field – making roster moves and practicing on Labor Day.

After sneaking his way onto the team with his versatility, Ben Guidugli has been released.  The Rams picked up a great blocking tight end in Stephen Spach, and another veteran blocker in center Tony Wragge.  Center Hank Fraley was also released.

Rams Head Coach Steve Spagnuolo explained how tough it was to let them go.  “We had to make room.  We had to release (TE) Ben Guidugli and (C/G) Hank Fraley which again is not easy to do.  Especially when guys have been around here and have been loyal and great people, (it’s) a hard thing to do.”

New Ram Stephen Spach breaks a tackle while playing for Arizona (AP Photo: Ralph Freso)

Spach is primarily known as a blocker, bouncing around the last few years in Philadelphia, New England, and Arizona.  Wragge has played both guard positions, as well as center, in San Francisco.  “Obviously we’ve seen or gone against the 49ers so we we’re familiar with (Wragge),” he said.  “I thought he would add something to the team depth wise and the same thing with Stephen Spach.  I was actually in Philadelphia when Stephen was a rookie, so I knew him that way.  He got released…it’s a couple of those that you don’t know that are going to appear and they do, so we made those moves.”

But Spagnuolo doesn’t want to typecast Spach as just a mauling blocker, especially in a Josh McDaniels offense.  He said, “Yeah, I mean it’s like when (TE) Billy Bajema came here and everybody tags him as that.  I don’t think they particularly like that because they’re tight ends, they’re athletes.  We’ll find out what all these guys can and can’t do and try and take advantage of their assets and move on.”

Are they done?  Probably not.  But Coach Spags has faith in General Manager Billy Devaney, and his coaches.  Teaching a new system to new players goes with the territory.  “That’s why the coaches are here,” Spags said, “and I think we have a good staff to do that.  But it’s not easy to do that.  You certainly don’t want to have a lot of that going into your first game.  But most of these guys we bring in, Billy (Devaney) and his staff have done their research and we feel like that’s one of the things we put a lot of onus on, the intelligence part.  So hopefully they can get up to speed quickly.”

It’s game week, folks.  And the Rams are as excited as we are to get things going.  After an undefeated preseason, the Rams are looking forward to the challenge of facing an Eagles team that many pundits have all but given the championship to.  Spagnuolo is – without a doubt – taking the Eagles game seriously, but knows there won’t be much of a letdown in competition after it.  “The four preseason games are in the rearview mirror,” he said, “and the only game that’s in the forefront is Philadelphia.  That’s only the way I can describe it or do it.  Philadelphia is an elite team.  It’s going to be a hell of challenge, and I think our guys are looking forward to it.  But in this league all 16 are going to be challenges so we’ll try to face them one at a time and just focus on the one at hand.”

The Rams have as good a chance as anyone to beat Philadelphia.  They are not invincible (OK: sorry for the pun).  As Dennis Green once said, “You wanna crown them?  Then crown their (behinds)!”

Return top