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NFL - Inside Mike Vanderjagt's Head

By Kevin Beane
Wednesday, February 5th, 2003
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January, 20th, 2004. The Colts are in the AFC Championship game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. With 50 seconds left and trailing by two, Mike Vanderjagt steps on the field for a 38-yard field goal. What's running through that tiny brain of his? This:

* Good. The wind is blowing left-to-right pretty strong. That'll make it easier to miss this and make it look like an accident.

* All this soul-searching I've done keeps bringing me back to the same question. If I'm not much of a Colts fan -- and lord knows I still am not, why Tony Dungy didn't even rip one dreadlock out of Edgerrin James' head when he fumbled in the third quarter! Who am I a fan of?

* Got to be the Steelers. Now there's a smashmouth football team! They know how to be emotional! They know how to get fired up! In Kordell Stewarts's case, they even know how to cry! They know how to blame everyone but themselves after a loss! Most importantly, they know how to motivate with fear. That's what a good football team needs. It's why the Steelers have won the last five Super Bowls, I think.

* As usual, this stupid team that makes me a millionaire is passive. Sometimes, we even have challenge flags left after a game! We posess no grit, no meanness and, excepting for when they beat the holy hell out of me in training camp, an appalling lack of violence.

* All right, here I go. Let's send this worthy Pittsburgh team into the Super Bowl. I think I can't, I think I can't, I think I can't...

* YES! Missed it! Whoa! Better start pounding my helmet into the turf so they think it was an accident and no one can question my bleeding blue-and-white heart!

* Maybe now they will listen to me. Maybe now people will see you need a Vince Lombardi clone to win. A Bobby Knight clone. A Phil Jackson clone. Wait. Scratch that last one.

* What? What?! Holding on the Steelers? First and 10 from the 11 for us? Damn it! Why, God, why?

* Well, look at this. Peyton Manning gets his helmet ripped off, stays on his feet, untangles himself from the LB somehow without letting his knee touch the ground, threads the needle between two DBs to hit Marvin Harrison for the touchdown. What a loser.

* Oh well. I could use the Super Bowl bonus check to buy that special polish for my General Patton statue. There's always next year, and I just don't see us getting any better. For real, this time.


This is my second column for the USS Sports Central, so I'm trying to familiarize myself with my shipmates, and you can count me in on the Brad Oremland fan club. He does his homework, knows football inside and out, and writes entertainingly to boot.

That said, he wrote, "I think the Raiders would've won with a healthy Barret Robbins at center."


I understand that Robbins is an All-Pro. But Adam Treu is a capable veteran, and this was not a case of replacing Joe Montana with Ryan Leaf, regardless if Oakland's first half offensive line tactics would suggest that. Kind of an insult to Treu, isn't it? And it wasn't just John Madden who said Robbins' absence wouldn't dramatically affect the Raiders. Oakland players said the same thing, and I think they rightly had a lot of faith in Treu. Were they lying?

I realize that Oremland feels that Robbins presence would have made such a big tactical and emotional difference to the Raiders that it would have been a whole different ball game with him, but still, the Bucs won by 27. Is Robbins a four-touchdown improvement over Treu? Since the Raiders didn't win any games by 28 or more this year, it's a good thing they had Robbins -- they would have been 0-16 without him!

It seems pretty clear that Oremland is a Raiders fan. Hey, I'm a Buccaneers fan, and I have no doubt that the evil virus of bias can, has, and will affect my reasoning. But such a comment (as well as his approval of the first quarter phantom fumble call -- later reversed -- for reasons so nebulous I can't even begin to address it) smacks of the kind of sour grapes only a true fan can possess. Huzzah.

He also wrote, "You have to give the Buccaneers a ton of credit." Whenever someone writes/talks about giving a team credit, especially having to give a team credit ("I know it's a chore, I know it sucks, but we have no choice. We (groan) have to give them credit."), you can bet your bottom dollar they are not giving said team/person credit.

After all, no one ever say, "You have to give Tiger Woods credit," or, "You have to give the 1998-2001 New York Yankees credit," because it's unnecessary. It's only trotted out to take the sting out of our team's losses, or our prediction's downfalls.

So please, everyone, don't give me any credit. I'm paying with cash.

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