Monday, October 14, 2002

Baseball playoffs, an NFL season starting to take shape and develop its storylines, leaf-peeping, a pumpkin on every there any question that October is the best month of the year?

Anyway, time for my Monday sporting thoughts, in no particular order....

:: I love watching Travis Henry run the football. He's not a "squirming" type of running back, like Thurman Thomas or Barry Sanders were. When those guys broke tackles, it was by some kind of weird contorting process that reminds me of the T-1000 in Terminator 2. When Henry breaks a tackle, though, I'm more reminded of Emmitt Smith in the way he simply keeps his powerful legs churning forward all the time, and he has an amazing sense of balance. Henry is only going to get better as the Bills' young offensive line improves, which it's doing already.

:: However, I have to wonder: what on Earth ever happened to cradling the ball close to your body as you run? Henry's biggest problem is that he fumbles a lot. He's fumbled in every game this year, and it's because he insists on holding the ball at arm's length, windmilling both arms as he runs. This makes for a schizophrenic experience, watching him run: "There he goes! He's through the hole, wow, what a back....OHMYGOD, hold on to the ball!!!!"

:: Another game, another doughnut to pencil into the "Turnovers forced" column for the Bills. When you can't even force an expansion team to turn the ball over, even when that expansion team is starting a rookie at quarterback, you know your defense is in some serious trouble later on....

:: ....with "later on" being next week, when the Bills travel to Miami to play the Dolphins, who I think are the best team in the AFC right now. Buffalo-Miami is one of the better rivalries in the NFL, and right now the pendulum is definitely on the "Miami" side of the clock. I don't see the Bills winning this one.

:: The Vikings are finally in the "win" column, along with the Rams. Hooray. Too bad it took losing Kurt Warner for two months before Mike Martz decided to rely on the best back in football.

:: The Steelers are now on track for the AFC Championship! They blew out the Bengals, and not just anybody can blow out the Bengals. Start paving the road to the Super Bowl, because the Bus is on it! (Oh wait, anybody can blow out the Bengals....)

:: Before the season began, I read some sportswriter's comment to the effect of "Sure, Patriots fans are in love with Tom Brady now, but wait until he has his first three-interception game while Drew Bledsoe is setting passing records for the Bills." I can't remember who said that, but it came to pass yesterday. It's funny how it took NFL teams three years to figure out how to beat Kurt Warner: give him pressure, bump his receivers so the timing routes are screwed up, upset his rhythm, and watch him come back down to earth. It's taken teams under a year to figure out that maybe the same theory could work on Tom Brady. Now that the Patriots are in second-place by a couple of games, they will again have to rely on the late-season swoon by the Dolphins if they want to capture the division. The bad news for the Pats (and the good news for people like myself, who don't like the Pats) is that if there has ever been a year when the Dolphins are unlikely to fall apart in December, this is that year.

:: It looks like the Chargers are for real. The AFC West is a hell of a division.

:: I love gonzo sports statistics. In yesterday's game against the Saints, Washington's first scoring drive covered 75 yards -- 36 yards more than New Orleans' first four scoring drives combined.

:: The Anaheim Angels are in the World Series. I was pulling for the Twins, but....well, the Angels are one of those teams that has been down-on-its-luck for years. This is a team that was one strike away from going to the World Series the last time they made the postseason, in 1986 -- only to have their closer, Donnie Moore, surrender a two-run homer that eventually propelled the Red Sox to the Series against the Mets. In 1992, a character on Seinfeld observed that with all of those planes carrying major league baseball teams all over the country every year, there has never been a crash -- and then the Angels' bus crashed, injuring a bunch of players. And it goes on. This franchise deserves a pennant, and I'm glad they got one. (Although, if they end up facing the Giants, I'll be rooting for them and not the Angels. It's a Bonds thing, you know....)

:: The NHL's seven-month, eighty-game preseason has started, in anticipation of the two-month regular season (which they paradoxically call "the playoffs"). The Buffalo Sabres are off to a thrilling start! I'm not much of a hockey fan; I root for the Sabres out of loyalty to All Things Buffalo, and when they are eliminated I stop paying attention to hockey altogether. Anyhoo, go Sabres!

:: I don't know if this qualifies as sport, but....let's hear it for the new champion of speed crochet!!!

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