Nichol(s) Slots 10-10-11

With news that Theo Epstein was sighted at a Lincoln Park Starbucks over the weekend and ESPN keeps regurgitating the same NBA lockout info from last month, welcome to another round of Nichol(s) Slots.

It’s been a beautiful Columbus Day weekend. And sports has been red-hot. Let’s get right to the big local story, tonight’s Monday Night Football game between the Lions and Bears.

Before I get into the particulars, if Eminem’s “Lose Yourself,” isn’t used at all on the broadcast, I will be disappointed.

You’ve got to wonder if Eminem has been on repeat all day in the Lions locker room. It very well should be. It’s only the perfect song to reflect the Lions and Detroit the city. They both want to be taken seriously again. Here’s their chance.

The Lions haven’t played a Monday game in 10 years. The Bears are 6-1 on MNF with Lovie Smith at the helm. Many are thinking the Lions are going to fold under the spotlight. The Chicago media thinks they’ll choke.

The Lions want this spotlight. They need MNF for their coming out party. And to do it against the Bears, a team they feel stole two games from them last year, it’s perfect for them. And the Lions know from the past four Bears games this season, they can eat apart their secondary. Megatron might do it himself, alone.

I expect the Lions to win, may be win big. Bears have won six-straight but it won’t be seven. Megatron gets two touchdowns. Suh goes after Cutler. Stafford doesn’t get hurt by Peppers.

Here’s a quote nobody envisioned Michael Vick saying about the Philadelphia Eagles this season:

“We’re desperate for a win.”

Desperate wasn’t supposed to be in Philly’s vocabulary, especially after Vince Young labeled the Eagles as a Dream Team.

Clearly, Young watched too many Miami Heat games during the lockout.

But it’s definitely time to panic in the city of Brotherly Love. First your baseball team was supposed to be unstoppable, then your football team. The Eagles now want the “Dream Team” moniker to go away, Michael Vick is upset about getting hit but the only thing sticking with them is a 1-4 record and unfulfilled desires.

May be if ESPN wasn’t too busy blowing the Eagles from the day the organization started signing a pro bowl team, you might have heard some analysts saying the Green Bay Packers were the best team in the NFC and now people who picked the Pack aren’t looking too crazy.

The Eagles are last year’s Dallas Cowboys. Remember that horrible start? The media’s given the Eagles all the attention and all the passes as they do with Dallas every year. It’s the same way Notre Dame comes out ranked to start a season.

This hype needs to stop.

Young quarterbacks have been quite entertaining so far and they’re about to get more entertaining. They’re nothing like Dan Le Batard’s new show on ESPN or J.A. Adande hosting Rome is Burning.

Or a Lovie Smith NyQuil commercial. In fact, you don’t need the meds anymore. Just watch Lovie Smith and you’ll fall asleep, sick or not.

Back to young quarterbacks. Cam Newton has jolted Carolina’s football team over the first five weeks and regardless of record, he’s a lot of fun to watch. His last three weeks haven’t been as stat piling as the first two weeks where he threw for a combined 900 some odd yards, but he’s made sure Carolina’s been in every game. And he’s helped us reclaim Steve Smith on our fantasy rosters. He definitely has the pro attitude and it seems like every week you see him mature. Carolina has big things on its way.

And I can’t believe I’m saying this, but with the emergence of Tim Tebow in Denver, if Tebow is named the starter, this will also make the game more fun to watch at the quarterback level.

Who thought it was exciting when Tebow entered the game yesterday against San Diego? Or the last play of the game where he avoided almost every tackle known to man and still almost completed a hail mary winning throw? I did. I almost wanted him to actually complete it just to see how hype (ESPN) would run with it.

It’s no secret the NFL has reformed into a throwing league. And if we’re going to have a passing league, quarterbacks have to be exciting.

And while Newton is exciting to watch, I still can’t shake off all the controversy at Auburn. Here’s a kid who was surrounded by scandal and got off easy. I still think Auburn will eventually lose that BCS title sometime in the future when they uncover the juice about Cam Newton, his father, Auburn and everyone involved. Now that he’s in the NFL if he’s found guilty of anything in that scandal, it may not tarnish his legacy (unlike Reggie Bush). It might reflect the legacy of Derrick Rose. Not much to get him on in the pros, but it’s there and everyone kind of forgets it.

What’s so confusing, but then again if you look at society today it isn’t, is that Newton seems like the hero and Tebow, who’s done everything so morally right since his days at Florida, is the goat.

How backwards is that?

May be Tebow is hated because he’s so angelic it is disgusting. May be because Tebow doesn’t follow the trends, he doesn’t weigh the wordly ways on himself, he doesn’t connect to the way society is turning. But because of that, the public opinion on him is more harsh than Newton.

Just baffles me.

Tebow and Newton may be the youth of the football nation, but there’s no mistake about it, people have Cam and Tim mixed up.

But none of them is Aaron Rodgers. He is unreal. It’s about time we put him in the conversation with Brady, Montana, Elway and any other quarterback you feel needs to be there. I’ll throw in Marino, Unitas, Namath, Grossman?

This guy is nuts. Good grief is he’s good. If I was living in Green Bay or a Packer fan, I’d say Brett who? 396 and 2 touchdowns against Atlanta? He might lead the Packers to a 16-0 season. I’m serious.

Back to Carolina for a second, or two...

With the Saints driving down the field with no timeouts as the first half ticked down, what was Carolina thinking calling a timeout with two seconds remaining? New Orleans had no chance of getting the field goal off in time and yet the Panthers bailed them out with a timeout. Instead of a 17-13 lead, the Saints went into the half up 20-13.

End result of the game? 30-27, Saints. May be the outcome of the game changes if New Orleans goes into the half without attempting the boot and I know the Saints got the last score to win, but it makes you wonder about that timeout.

Speaking of things ending, it’s time to write off the Falcons for this year. How about going up 14 on the Super Bowl champs in your house, only to let them go for 25-straight and yet another win in the dome?

Matt Ryan looked awful in the second half. Threw two picks and finished with a rating of 55. If Vick doesn’t come out of the game against the Falcons a few weeks back, you’re possibly looking at Atlanta being 1-4. With the Saints (4-1) and Bucs (3-2) in front, Atlanta has Newton coming into town next week and is at Detroit in two weeks. Bye bye, Falcon.

The town has been in disarray all year. First, the Thrashers move to Canada and become the Winnipeg Jets. While that was actually awesome, it gets worse for the city. All of you know of the Braves wild card collapse and if there’s no basketball this season, they could easily mirror the image of Philadelphia pretty soon. Actually, they pretty much do.

Philadelanta?

I think the Jets are right where they’re supposed. Let’s think about this. The Jets have been a little bit better than mediocre the last two seasons and just when you think they’re done, they reach the AFC championship game. But already with 3 losses, they’re going to have to play really good football the rest of the way – I’m talking 8-3 football. And I think Rex Ryan can talk the talk for an 8-3 product, but translating that to victories are going to be tough. Though, 8-8, 9-7, if they get in as a wild card, wild is an appropriate way to describe J-E-T-S JETS JETS JETS!

I’ll give Jet a pass. They had 3 of the possible toughest road games of any team – Oakland, Baltimore and New England. But if they were an elite team, they would have come away with two of those games.

They’re in familiar territory Atlanta is in. Buffalo and New England are both 4-1 and although the Jets have the Bills in two weeks, they’re going to need that game and a little help to get back on the fast track.

By the way, Browner’s pick-6 in the Giants-Seahawks game was so awesome. Just like Nebraska’s comeback on Ohio State.

Not so sweetness?

If you’re thinking the new Sweetness book is out to discredit Walter Payton, it’s not.

What’s happened here is that Sports Illustrated, ESPN and other media vendors have taken it out of its context. They only want the juiciest of details and if you know by now, nobody wants to think of Walter Payton in a negative way.

And by giving the juiciest details and focusing just on that excerpt, it’s a poor way of looking at the entire book. It’s like judging a book by a cover basically.

Granted, the author gets a lot of heat – heat which turns into readers on that perspective – this book is supposed to open up Walter and show perspective on his entire life, not just the superstar, but the superstar who had problems just like the average person. We often forget that superstars are real people, too. And Payton’s story is more compelling if you hear EVERYTHING instead of the sugar-coated, he ran for the most yards, Super Bowl life. ESPN just steals the ratings and turns it up a notch to get you swayed a certain way…

Just like Hank Williams Jr.

I think a lot of people are torn, not on their reaction, but verbalizing that reaction to avoid political or racial conversation in regards to Williams. Let’s put things into perspective here.

Whether or not Williams is right or wrong, ESPN is infringing on Williams’ right of free speech. Anybody can disagree and show displeasure, but Williams has a right to say what’s on his mind. He is an American, first. Though Williams didn’t use a great comparison regarding President Obama, I think the media took everything out of context and didn’t see the analogy.
But when you use Hitler and Obama in the same sentence, its easy for the kind of feedback to occur.

ESPN has every right to take him off the air. They certainly can, but they shouldn’t have. ESPN doesn’t pay its analysts, journalists and producers for its political views. They are a sports news outlet. Not a political outlet. And for ESPN to decide whether someone was out of line for a statement that had nothing to do with ESPN, it’s low. When did ESPN drive the political spectrum? When did ESPN have a liberal standard? ESPN should keep its nose out of politics and keeps its eye on its reporting, which is really lacking the quality, not the ratings.

Many will say he was an employee of ESPN, he represented the brand and if you work for a media conglomerate as ESPN, you have to watch what you say. They’ll also twist and turn the race cards, political agendas and make this more than what it is.

But really, it’s all bull crap. From Williams to ESPN. Bull crap. I’m not defending what Williams said. I have my own political beliefs I’ll keep mum.

Hank Williams Jr. appeared on Monday Night Football promos every Monday night and that was it. He was on for about a minute and sang a song. ESPN never paid him to be an analyst of a football game. They don’t treat him as Mike Ditka, who’s supposed to be paid for his opinion. He’s not Jay Harris or Trey Wingo anchoring shows. To call him an ESPN representative is just insane.

He’s simply a southern ENTERTAINER assigned to sing a pregame promo. And that’s it. All ESPN had to say that its views aren’t the same views as Hank Williams Jr., apologize, suspend him and move on. Instead, ESPN made this much bigger, even though Hank isn’t helping himself out, either.

Do they really think a singer who is solely popular for a MNF promo will keep people from watching Monday Night Football? It has no impact on the game, the guys calling the game and the players playing the game. Stupid.

Last, but certainly not least – Al Davis. Davis, who passed away on Saturday transcended the National Football League in many ways we can understand. The football world lost a legend over the weekend, a man who lived by the phrase, “Just win baby.”

My thoughts go with the Davis family and the Raiders organization. It was gratifying to see Oakland come away with such an emotional win in Houston and hopefully they’ll remember Al for the next game, and the next and the next. He was a pioneer for the game right now and on that note, I say to you,

“JUST WIN BABY.”

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