Thursday, July 31, 2008

Essence Readers are Not Haters

Essence Magazine has an online poll called the Do Right Men. Week 4 features both Nmamdi Asomugha and Kirk Morrison.

They are Dominating. As of this posting, Captain Kirk leads all Candidates with 26.1% of the votes, followed closely by Asomugha who has 22.5%. This is out of 12 dudes. The next closest percentage is some dude named Angelo Mitchell. He has only 14.7% and is the only guy besides our defensive leaders in double figures.

(hat tip to Jason Jones)

For the record, I voted for Morrison. But it was a tough call. I figured that since Nmamdi was already my Man Crush of the week, I could give my vote to Morrison.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Insight from Jerry

It's no secret we love Jerry McDonald's blog. Another reason to love? His weekly live chat.

Thus far, very little seems to have been written about on-the-field-at-camp McFadden. Maybe it's just me, but I was starting to get nervous that our newest superstar was just bumbling along trying to catch passes with "incorrect hand placement." Two very encouraging comments in Jerry's chat:

"McFadden is a stunningly fast runner when he reaches the corner or finds a crack. One of the fastest I've ever seen carrying a football in person, the others being Deion Sanders, Randy Moss and Napoleon Kaufman."

Ok, that one was predictable, but this is even better:

"McFadden seems to be absorbing everything they give him in terms of scheme and complexity. I think you'll see him catch 40 passes minimum and the number will go up each year to what the Raiders hope is a Marshall Faulk level."

Jerry also brings up the "strange case" of Johnnie Lee Higgins, my least favorite Raider of 2007:

"Looks great one catch, lost the next. His ticket is if he is chosen to return punts. Kiffin clearly wants Higgins to win the job, but it's not clear he is up to it."

Unfortunately, we seem to have no full time backup plan at punt returner. Higgins was truly dreadful last year, and now he's in position to knock a promising WR prospect off the roster.

But in keeping with yesterday's optimistic tone, Jerry notes the drastic improvement in the passing game, among other improvements. Are the Raiders better than last year at this time?

"Overall, it's a pretty good upgrade."

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Tales from Camp

Thanks to the distractions of work-related travel last week, I missed much of the hoopla surrounding the start of camp. It has taken me until now to catch up with all of the information posted on the CLOAK and associated links. And now I can't help it. I'm excited.

As John alluded to, this midsummer excitement is nothing new. But with the 19-wins-in-five-seasons statistic headlining every Raider article, is this optimism turning to stupidity? Even Unk, a loyal reader and the man responsible for my lifelong Raider obsession, insists that he is taking a "wait and see" approach in 2008 - for the first time in 40 years.

Here are just a few of the reasons why I'm excited:

The defensive backfield. This is my favorite part of any team, and the Raiders have invested here for 2008. Sure, the Hayes-Haynes comparisons are wildly premature, but not since Nike was hanging "No Passing" posters in the early '80's have the Raiders had four DBs who look so good on paper. Reports seem to indicate that Gibril Wilson is the real deal, while Michael Huff sounds reborn. No complaints about Hall, and Nnamdi...what can you say about Nnamdi? He just wants to win. Awesome. Even good ol' Coop is making his presence known at safety while keeping the one-liners coming.

Young offensive stars. Another major investment area for the Raiders. By all appearances JaMarcus has taken on his role as a leader and indeed can make all the throws. Jerry McDonald even invoked the name "Jeff George" to describe one JaMarcus practice throwing clinic. McFadden sounds as fast as we imagined but without the fumbles. And Zach Miller is picking up where he left off last year as a TE worthy of playing in the AFC West. I'm buying into this group.

Kiffin in command. After an offseason of drama, Kiffin is wearing Raider gear and even making the players eat whole wheat pasta. That's a hugely welcome sight.

For the counter-argument, we can always look to Tim Kawakami. Have we really not gotten around to giving him the Nancy Gay treatment yet?

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Pats Take our Sloppy Seconds. Again.

LaMont is a Patriot. Bully for him. I don't really have anything against Lamont; he played hard for the most part and was stuck on bad Norv and Art Shell/Tom Walsh squads.

But Jason Jones' LaMont Jordan "highlight" reel is brutal.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Maybe Lombardi's NOT a Hater

Looks like I was too harsh on Mike Lombardi the other night when I went into an overly long exegesis on the lyrics to the Eagles' "Hotel California" in response to his new blog.

Today, he writes about the Tuck Game. And does so in a way that shows he is still as hurt as any of us .

He also discusses the Hotel California reference in his comments.

Man Crush: Nmamdi Asomugha


adjective. 1. Of doubtful authenticity :SPURIOUS.
2. Often capitalized: of or resembling the Apocrypha.

I start this post with the dictionary definition of "apocryphal" because Nmamdi Asomugha used it correctly during his interview session yesterday after the opening practice of training camp:

I had heard all the apocryphal stories during the offseason of what was going on so I wanted to put everything to rest and just show up. . . It went both ways. I had a lot of people saying don’t show up and I had enough people saying show it up so it helped me out. I sought out the counsel that was needed in this situation and I was able to come and be here.

Please, Al. Pay this guy next year. Not only is he the anti-Charles Woodson in terms of team leadership-by-example, but the English Major in me can't resist a guy who uses SAT words like "apocryphal" correctly to describe the speculation about his contract negotiations.

And look, I know we're not supposed to feel bad for this guy, because he's making $9.87 Million or whatever it is this year. But that's not the point. This is:

I really want to win games. That’s a big part of why I’m here. It’s putting that on the line, that you could get hurt, and those types of things. But it’s in the name of being a cohesive unit and coming together and trying to win football games.

That is exactly the kind of leadership you want from your star players. He admits he was taken aback by the money the Raiders threw around this summer, but instead of doing sit-ups in his driveway, or staying home during training to "send a message"--a message absolutely no one would blame him for trying to send--he shows up in fantastic shape and intercepts the one pass that was thrown to his side of the field.

The actions of players like Asomugha seem to contradict all of the negative press swarming the Raiders this offseason. If the Hotel California was so goddamned disfunctional, why would an obvious "character guy" such as Asomugha be in such a hurry to get back and join his teammates, when he has every incentive not to?

It almost makes these stories seem apocryphal.

UPDATE: Per Dan's comment, here's Nancy Gay's article on Asomugha. She has some very nice things to say about Lane Kiffin as well.

The Favre Debacle, From the Perspective of a Lifelong Packer Fan

I have been a Packer fan my entire life. I would sit there, throughout the 80s, and watch them lose to the Buccaneers, one of the few teams that were actually sorrier than my team. I would sit there for the entire game, even when the game was basically over, due to my allegiance to the Packers.

For every other sport, I'm admittedly fair-weather. If the Brewers make it to the playoffs for the first time in 26 years, I will be watching every single playoff game. However, I probably won't watch any of their games this season, and I can probably count on one hand how many televised games I've watched in the past 26 years. Don't even get me started on the Bucks.

The Packers are different. Growing up, I was emotionally involved with the successes (or failures) of Lynn Dickey, James Lofton, Harlan Huckleby, Chuck Cecil, Tim Harris, Ed West, Jeff Query, I could go on and on. I sat there--or more like paced-- every Sunday, cheering on my lowly Packers, only to have my heart broken at the end. But I always came back the following Sunday.

Then came Favre. Finally, all of my dedication to the team paid off. I can remember moving into the dorms my freshman year in college, going down to one of the study rooms that had the Packer-Bengal game on to check the score. The Majik man went down in that game, and I can remember thinking "here comes another loss". Next thing I know, Favre is taking the Packers 90+ yard in less than a minute in his first of many come-from-behind victories. That was the day the Packers stopped being the doormat of the NFL. And almost every victory, since then, has been because of Favre. And I'll always remember Favre as being one of the greatest, if not greatest, Packers of all time.

With that being said, I do not side with Favre in this dispute with the Packers.

Favre has every right to want to come back, and I would actually welcome him back as the starting QB for the Packers. I admit, the Packers have a better chance at winning the Super Bowl with Favre than with Rodgers this season. However, I do not blame the Packers for moving on. Favre has been jerking the Packers around since 2002, when he told Peter King that he was thinking of retiring. Every offseason is a media circus of whether or not he was going to retire. The Packers draft Aaron Rodgers three years ago specifically because they thought Favre would be retiring. Favre's indecision effects everything the Packers do--how they draft, who they sign in free agency, and how they design their playbook.

The thing is, the Packers were already going to let Favre unretire in March. A few weeks after his retirement conference, the Packers were informed that he changed his mind. They said that that was fine and that they'd welcome him back. The chartered a plane for Mississippi to finalize his return, but at the last minute he says "I discussed it with Dianna, and I think I going to stay retired." So the Packers go about their offseason as if Favre is not coming back. Drafting Brohm in the 2nd round, and another QB in the 7th. They tailor their playbook to fit Rodgers.

They moved on. Now they're supposed to scrap everything so that Favre can come back, again, because he changed his mind, again?

Like I said, Favre gives the Packers a better chance this year at a SB than Rodgers, but if they did accept him back as the starter, anything less than a SB win will be a disappointment and make his return a mistake. For really, why else, as a fan, would I want him back? Him coming back would almost guarantee the Packers losing Rodgers, and while we don't know what they have in Rodgers, it's certainly more than we know what they have in Brian Brohm.

At this point, I really don't care what happens--if he starts for the Pack this season, fine, if not, that's fine also. He can play for another team, as long as it's through a trade and as long as that team is not the Vikings.

No matter what happens, I'll always be rooting for the Packers. I survived the 80s, I think I can live through this.

And Al Davis should sell the Raiders.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Joy of Anticipation

I mean look at the picture heading this article.

I know vets always bitch about training camp. But this looks fun.

And I can't help it, but I'm getting excited.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Hotel California, WTF?

Former Raiders player personnel exec Mike Lombardi has taken to referring to the Raiders organization as the "Hotel California." Each time he writes about the Raiders, he posts a picture of the Eagles album cover of the same name.

In his latest article, "I AM NOT THE ONLY ONE," he links to a Monte Pool column from Tuesday that rehashes the comments of Warren Sapp, Jerry Porter, Chris Carr, and Stuart Schweigert, and uses that show that he's not the only former Raiders employee who hates on his former bosses.
I know some of you who read my blog may suspect me of being bitter about my time in the Hotel California. But in reality, I am not bitter at all. In fact, I have many great memories from my time working there. Unfortunately, the last three years were beyond any sane description and so weird that even Rod Steiger (sic) from the Twilight Zone would shake his head.
First of all, Mike, it's Rod Serling, not Rod Steiger who hosted the Twilight Zone. But that's not the pop culture reference that troubles me. It's the "Hotel California" thing.

What the fuck?

Here's a karaoke-style video of the song, that shows the lyrics, because I'm wondering if Lombardi's ever actually heard this song.

Let's start with the obvious. The Raiders have their training camp at the Napa Marriott. This is indeed a hotel located in California.

But that can't be enough of a reason for Lombardi to use the Hotel California album cover for the Raiders, when every post about every other team shows that teams helmet. So let's do a close reading of the lyrics.

On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair
Warm smell of colitas, rising up through the air
Up ahead in the distance, I saw a shimmering light
My head grew heavy and my sight grew dim
I had to stop for the night

This could refer to Lombardi's quest for a job. "Wandering in the desert" and "lost in the wilderness," are both cliches used by people who are looking for something worthwhile to do with their lives, so perhaps he relates these lyrics to his own career path. Maybe when just when he was feeling like he'd never find the job he really wanted, when he was worn down from looking, the Raiders hired him.

There she stood in the doorway;
I heard the mission bell
And I was thinking to myself,
’this could be heaven or this could be hell’
Then she lit up a candle and she showed me the way

The introduction of a woman to the narrative of the song is the first concrete image one could argue fits the Raiders. Perhaps the first person to greet Lombardi when he arrived in Alameda was Amy Trask, the Raiders Chief Executive, and the only woman in the NFL to hold such a title. The "mission bell" is easy, it's the intro to AC/DC's "Hells Bells," which is used to the introduce the Raiders on game day. Maybe Lombardi was unsure if he should be taking this job, since he'd heard that the man he refers to so derisively in his blog as "Someone" ran a first class operation, was fiercely loyal (heaven), but could also be vindictive and capricious (Hell).

Here's the rest of the song, including the chorus, which repeats:

There were voices down the corridor,
I thought I heard them say...

Welcome to the hotel california
Such a lovely place
Such a lovely face
Plenty of room at the hotel california
Any time of year, you can find it here

Her mind is tiffany-twisted, she got the mercedes bends
She got a lot of pretty, pretty boys, that she calls friends
How they dance in the courtyard, sweet summer sweat.
Some dance to remember, some dance to forget

So I called up the captain,
’please bring me my wine’
He said, ’we haven’t had that spirit here since nineteen sixty nine’
And still those voices are calling from far away,
Wake you up in the middle of the night
Just to hear them say...

Welcome to the hotel california
Such a lovely place
Such a lovely face
They livin’ it up at the hotel california
What a nice surprise, bring your alibis

Mirrors on the ceiling,
The pink champagne on ice
And she said ’we are all just prisoners here, of our own device’
And in the master’s chambers,
They gathered for the feast
The stab it with their steely knives,
But they just can’t kill the beast

Last thing I remember, I was
Running for the door
I had to find the passage back
To the place I was before
’relax,’ said the night man,
We are programmed to receive.
You can checkout any time you like,
But you can never leave!

Other than maybe, "there were voices down the corridor," what about these lyrics say "Oakland Raiders" to you? The famous line, "You can check out any time you like,/ but you can never leave" doesn't work, because Lombardi, well, left. According to the song's entry on Wikipedia, the song has been interpreted by some as Satanic, or a reference to an insane asylum. This is most likely what Lombardi is talking about when he says he saw things that were beyond "any sane description."

Unfortunately, this is just as cryptic as Don Henley's and Glenn Frey's lyrics. It's perfectly fine if Lombardi doesn't want to give us any details.

But until then, if all we have to go on is his assertion that he's not bitter, well, that's not really good enough.

As with the song, we can only go by the textual evidence, and conclude that he's a disgruntled hater. I mean, he won't write the words "Al Davis," but he claims to have worked for Bill Callahan and Norv Turner. By those standards, didn't he also work for Art Shell?

Monday, July 21, 2008

John Clayton: No Coach on a Hotter Seat than Kiffin

In his article on training camp controversies that don't involve Chad Johnson or Brett Favre, John Clayton writes, "No coach is on a hotter seat than Kiffin."

That may or may not be true; if Nancy Gay wrote this article, it would say how cocky Lane Kiffin is, and he'll probably be leaving to become the Head Coach at Panhandle State, and Al Davis is a doddering old spendthrift jackass.

Anyway, what I like best about this article is the picture from Lance Kiffin's introductory press conference of Al leaning forward as he strains to rip a big fart.:

Lance is clearly entertained. I mean, who doesn't find flatulence funny?

Is Bill Williamson a Hater?

No, really, I can't decide. came out with their first Power Ranking of the season, and the Raiders have dropped a place from their season ending 26 to 27. They basically swapped places with the Rams. My buddy Ken, who both of our readers will remember missed an opportunity for a bedside interview with Javon Walker in a Las Vegas hospital, is a Rams fan. I'm sure he will rub this in my face all week, that his squad is 1 point ahead in the power rankings.

But at least we're ahead of the 49ers, so stick it in your ear, Sllaacs.

Anyway, so Williams writes:

Optimism is sky high in Oakland. It might not be warranted, but the Raiders will be more fun to watch than in recent years.

Now, Dan and I were discussing this recently, how every year we talk ourselves into being excited about the Raiders, either because Randy Moss will really make Norv's offense work, or maybe Art really will bring the greatness back. We will probably write something about that, and share a couple of the now-embarrassing emails that were exchanged.

Anyway, so yes, I'm optimistic. That's true. I don't know that it's quite sky high, but I'm more optimistic than I've generally been. How could I not be? JaMarcus makes me hopeful, as does McFadden.

The "It might not be warrented" qualification, while if Jerry McDonald wrote it, I wouldn't think twice, when written by a former Broncos beat writer it gives me pause.

So consider yourself on notice, Williamson.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Josh McCown's brother Luke almost cut off Josh's index finger.

On his throwing hand.

With a chainsaw.

Parcells must be ecstatic.

Let's hope JaMarcus doesn't list "wood working" or "brush clearing" as hobbies.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

John Clayton is Not a Hater

While waiting for frequent commenter dobolina to make is CLOAK debut, I checked out and noticed that John Clayton is not a hater.

He says so, in his new mailbag column. He calls them a surprise team, saying they may even be .500 or better going into December.

His response to the Atlanta Falcons question was pretty funny, too.

Anyway, while we wait with bated breath for dobolina's deconstuction of the Favre debacle, we can watch this:

Monday, July 14, 2008

The Unfolding Favre Tragedy

Fittingly, as I cleaned my home office this weekend I came across my copy of the Oshkosh Northwestern's Brett Favre Retirement Tribute that I had been saving for when I finally wrote my tribute on this blog. While the current fiasco was predictable (how often does a legend exit his sport gracefully?), my delayed blog was more laziness than foresight.

Unfortunately, what is going on now may influence the content of my tribute once I write it. I won't pass judgment - at least not today. And it's not just because Favre has a lifetime pass from me or even because no one really cares that Willie Mays ended his career with the Mets. No, I simply believe this is a pure and simple tragedy sparked by the notorious indecisiveness of our hero.

Who can blame him for getting the itch in July? Who can blame the Packers for having moved on - and not just emotionally, but with a fully rebuilt playbook?

So the Packers are in a fix, and it's getting ugly. Dobolina?

Friday, July 11, 2008

Walt Coleman Sucks Bob Kraft's Leathery Nutsack

And yes, before you even ask, I'm still fucking bitter. asked coaches around the league to vote on the best and worst referees in the league. Mike Carey and Ed Hochuli both got 8 votes for "best" referee (they also got 3 and 4 votes, respectively, for "worst" ref) in the league.

Gerald Austin had the most "worst" votes with 6. Jeff Triplette, who actually blinded a guy with a penalty flag, only got also got 3 "worst" votes. Austin and Triplette are the only refs to receive zero "best" votes.

Walt Coleman, whose mother is a prostitute famous for contracting syphilis (she was even a model for an anti-VD ad in the 1940s) after a strenuous bout of irrumatio with a Canadian stevedore, received 2 votes for "best" referee.

I will bet you $1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 that one of those votes came from Bill Belichick.

According to Mike Sando, who also wrote the survey piece, Coleman has worked games involving every team BUT the Raiders since the he shat the Tuck Rule out of his hopefully now cancer-ridden anus. All 31 teams.

As for the second vote, I remember reading an article a while back that said Jon Gruden told someone that Walt Coleman was his favorite referee. When asked why, he said, "Because Al Davis hates him." I don't know if this is true, and I've been unable to find a link, but I hope it's not true, and I really hope that his vote is not the 2nd vote.

I don't really have any hard feelings toward Chucky, despite the ass-whupping he gave us in the Super Bowl. But if, say, he DID vote for Walt Coleman as the best referee in the game, then he is a traitorous, sell out, Mike Shanahan-esque punk, and I hope his wife screws a Hooters bouncer and then goes home and gives Chucky crabs.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Sllaacs Don't Love You Like He Loved You, Yesterday.

Found out that I have to borrow from Fallout Boy to express my feelings for Boom-Dizzle. He was Timmy Hardaway with four more inches of height, the unquestioned floor leader and the face of the Warriors. Now he is just a wobbly-kneed jerk with dreams that would Ruin the World. A bit dramatic? Perhaps, but I am a Warriors Fan, and this ass left us without a Point Guard. See Ya, Baron - you were awesome, but you are a Clipper now and that is disgusting. Why is Baron Davis playing for the Clippers disgusting? I'm glad you asked, here's why:

L.A. Sucks:
"The Clippers" is the stupidest name for any Professional franchise not named the "Mighty Ducks" or Los Angeles Angels (The Angels Angels as a direct translation"). And since the Ducks are just the Ducks, and the Angels have actually won a few division titles, that leaves the Clippers as the lamest of the stupidest. And by the way, if you call them "the" Los Angeles Dodgers or "the" Los Angeles Clippers, you are actually saying: The the Angels Dodgers, or The the Angels Clippers. See how stupid the entire L.A. thing is? And that is just the sports scene.

He Wants to be a Movie Star:
Baron actually wanted to pursue his Movie career while he plays hoop. Hopefully not at the exact same time. Nice focus though, for a team leader... Not.

He Doesn't Give a Damn About Winning It All:
If Baron wanted to win it all he would have gone to a team with a chance. What team? Hell if I know, you figure it out. I find it acceptable if Baron thought the Warriors were going nowhere, but to go to the Suck Ass Clippers?

In Boom-Dizzles' face however:
Elton Brand signed with the 76ers. Warriors snatched Maggette and made an offer to the Lakers' Rony Turiaf that Kobe probably won't match. Welcome to the Basement, Baron - it's gonna bring you down.

I mentioned Justin Duchsherer in closing a post a little while ago. Need I mention him now?
The A's traded the best pitcher in Baseball yesterday - "when he is healthy" being the only caveat. Dick Harden is the most talented pitcher we've seen in Oakland in the last 20 years (Jose Rijo being the end cap), maybe ever. Tune in to Cubs games when Harden is throwing to check out a future Hall of Famer - or another Chicago fireballer going down to injuries. Knowing Billy Beane's results when it comes to trades though, I expect Richie to go the path of Mark Mulder, unfortunately - with his best years left behind in Oakland, so far - and Mulder had nothing like the injury history of Dick Harden. Beware Hardens last two starts - only five inning each - his injury history is thus: Dominate for a few starts, come out of game early raising no alarm, then announce before the next start that the disabled list is his destination.

In Closing:

With or without Baron Davis, the Warriors are still a team that needs vast improvement from several young players to win during the regular season and contend for the playoffs this year. They probably lost 20 wins with Baron leaving, so Warriors Fans will see if Monta Ellis and Corey Maggette are good enough to make up for the absence of Davis.


Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Tony Gonzalez is a Hero; Saves Chargers Fan's Life

Tony Gonzalez, who normally I hate because he plays for the Chiefs, but who I used to really like because he went to Cal, gave some choking dude the Heimlich Maneuver the other night. Saved the guy's life.

Ken Hunter was trying to swallow a piece of meat when it got stuck in his throat. That's a pretty common way to begin a sentence about a Chargers fan, actually, "Trying to swallow." Choking is a pretty common thing for Chargers to be doing, too, especially when Marty Schottenheimer was involved.

Anyway, good for Tony G.