Hey. Welcome to Case of the Mondays. Settle in and pretend you're working. Mondays bite. We're gonna bite back.
I love this kind of weather. The days are still warm, but the mornings and evenings are cool, and you can smell grills and burning leaves on the wind. And everywhere, everywhere there's football. Heaven is late September … for most folks.
This is the last week before conference play starts in earnest, and that means it's the last week for teams to reliably hang basketball scores on opponents. Arizona, Oregon, LSU, Georgia, Texas and Michigan were among those topping 50 points on Saturday, which is nice for them. But let's zero in on a few particular debacles, shall we?
• The state of Virginia is reeling after Virginia Tech and UVA combined to surrender nearly a century's worth of points to two unranked teams. Adios, Hokie national championship hopes; farewell, at-least-we're-better-than-Wake-Forest fantasies, 'Hoos. I was born in Virginia, I went to college in Virginia (at William & Mary, which also lost), and for the first time I'm embarrassed to be from Virginia. Which, I guess, evens the score now.
• Akron defeated Morgan State 66-6, and that's all the information we have because both teams were swallowed up in a mile-wide hell pit the moment the final horn sounded.
• Speaking of hell pits, in Arkansas they're now 1-2 since ex-coach Bobby Petrino put his motorcycle and somebody else's fiancée into a ditch. Under Petrino, the program always had a thin sheen of grease on it, like a men's bathroom toilet handle, but they did get to a Sugar Bowl. One more loss and the Razorback faithful are going to be parading their women to Petrino's door in some kind of hillbilly prima nocte.
Oh, but you don't have to lose big to lose big, you know what I mean? Allow me to explain …
Let's face it: We're all weasels. We get as much pleasure, if not more, out of seeing our most hated teams and sports figures lose as seeing our teams win anything short of the Big One. Hell, "pulling for the other guy to lose" is the very foundation of America's presidential elections.
So it's particularly delicious when we get to see not one, but two jackleg icons lose in humiliating fashion in one 24-hour period. First off, there's Lane Kiffin, he of we're-off-probation-and-ready-to-dominate USC. Now in his third year as USC's head coach, Kiffin has that tattling-little-brother smarm down to an art form. (Gosh, please don't "suspend" me for that observation, Lane.) Anyway, his Trojans lost to Stanford in a game remarkable for how unremarkable USC looked. If you're gonna lose, it's better to lose in September … but with guys like Kiffin, we're happy to see it any time of year.
[Pat Forde: Stanford owns better football program than USC]
And on the pro side of the ball, you've got New England's Bill Belichick. The Hoodie has cred in the form of Lombardi trophies that Kiffin can't touch. Still, it's always a delight seeing New England lose, as they did on Sunday when Stephen Gostkowski's 42-yarder sailed wide and the Patriots fell to the … you know what? It doesn't even matter. That's the wonderful thing about sports. Soon enough, everybody loses, even the guys and teams you loathe the most. Karma levels out everyone.
Except, of course, Derek Jeter. If that dude got hit by a taxicab while crossing Fifth Avenue, he'd get knocked through the front door of a full-service mattress-and-lingerie boutique. We hate that guy.
Here's another guy I'd love to hate, but I can't because I'm too jealous at his ability to get away with anything he wants. This is reigning Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart before Sunday's Chicago race, greeting the wife of rival driver Kevin Harvick with hands wide open:
Best part of that video? When he goes for the celebratory it's-all-in-fun cheek rub. It's like a groping victory lap.
Another lockout, NHL? Seriously? At this point, even Axl Rose thinks you treat your fans like crap.
At midnight ET on Saturday, the NHL announced that it had implemented the second lockout in the past seven years. (You remember – or maybe you don't – that the last one cost the league an entire season.) If, in fact, this costs the NHL still more games – and Vegas pegs that possibility at a sucker-bet 1/10 odds – this ensures that the only people who still care about the NHL will be the hardcore, live-in-the-sweater, buried-in-the-sweater types, the only ones who've done nothing wrong in this whole mess except love hockey too much.
[Nicholas J. Cotsonika: Owners and players share blame for NHL lockout]
If you're worried about how to split up those reportedly record revenues, cheer up: soon enough there'll be a lot less to worry about.
One small bonus: We now have players signing with awesomely-named teams across the pond. Evgeni Malkin, for instance, will be signing with a Russian team named Metallurg Magnitogorsk, which sounds like it would be the best thrash-metal band EVER.
It wasn't a good weekend for media darlings, those sports figures we force down your throat because you absolutely, definitely don't want to read about them anymore. But guess what? We're still writing about 'em, and you're gonna read about 'em. Just try to turn away. Just try.
• Robert Griffin III actually had a pretty solid game, running for two touchdowns and throwing for a third. Unfortunately, his teammate Josh Morgan killed the Redskins with one of the dumber penalties you'll ever see. Griffin's victory streak thus ended at … well, one. But so far, Griffin seems like the real deal. For Redskins fans, it must be like sitting down to dinner at Daniel Snyder's restaurant and finding out that the "steak" you ordered really is steak, and not the horse meat you've gotten the last ten times you came here.
• The last time the Pittsburgh Steelers faced Tim Tebow, he ejected them and their yellow pants out of last year's playoffs as the quarterback of the Denver Broncos. This time around, the Steelers had to stifle their giggles as Tebow played Designated Something-Or-Other for the Jets. He had exactly one run – a 22-yard keeper, which was nice – and played just one series, also making a cameo appearance as a punt blocker. That didn't stop CBS from breathlessly reporting that Tebow had been observed catching passes in pregame, and from them speculating that the Steelers were about to get Tebowned. (They weren't.)
• Up in Chicago, Danica Patrick brought home her best-ever finish in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series! What place did she get? Er … it was her best ever! She beat Jeff Gordon! She, uh … all right, she came in 25th. Happy?
Hey, you people stop searching on 'em, we'll stop writing about 'em.
So Tom Coughlin has forgotten more about football in the time since I started this sentence than I'll ever know. Tom Coughlin also has two Super Bowl rings as a head coach and impeccable, if overly yell-happy, coaching credentials. That said, Tom Coughlin ought to know when's a good time to get the red-face going and when's a good time to realize you nearly got out-toughed.
The Giants were one kneel down away from victory against Tampa Bay when Bucs coach Greg Schiano brought the house, crashing the line in search of a miracle fumble. The startled Giants' O-line crumbled like Facebook stock, and poor lil' Eli Manning was left on his backside wondering what exactly just happened.
All that led to a battle of the quotes:
Manning: "Obviously I think it's a little bit of a cheap shot. We're taking a knee, we're in a friendly way, and they're firing off, and that's a way to get someone hurt."
Coughlin: "You don't do that in this league. Not only that, you jeopardize the offensive line, you jeopardize the quarterback."
Schiano: "I don't know if that's not something that's done in the National Football League,. What I do with our football team is that we fight until they tell us, 'game over.' And there's nothing dirty about it, there's nothing illegal about it. We crowd the ball like a sneak defense and try to knock it loose."
Bush-league play? Perhaps, but only because it fell short. Credit goes to Schiano for prizing a shot at victory above rolling over. Game's not over just because one team wants it to be. Play to the whistle, coach. I learned that watching "Friday Night Lights."
All right, we're done. So this is the space where you come in. Send us your letters, your quips, your rants, your one-liners. Hit us up at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter (@jaybusbee or #cotmondays). Praise welcome, criticism welcomed even more. Have at it.
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