Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Midseason Form-Unfortunately

When I started writing The Packers Literary Corner a year ago, one of my questions was, is there really enough absurd, even idiotic media coverage about the Packers in the offseason for me to do a weekly blog poking fun at it?

Silly me.

In the last few days I could have done an hourly blog, what with all the rich comedic material provided by the NFL scribblers and TV chatterers, on the subject of Brett Favre’s comments about the Packers not trading for Randy Moss. Offseason? What offseason? Some of these media numbskulls are in midseason form and it’s only May.

We don’t need a show titled CSI-Lambeau to get the facts of this simple case:

--Brett thought having another talented veteran receiver on board would make the offense run more efficiently. 99% of Packer fans agree with this.

--Brett has a burning desire to win here and now in 2007, not in some distant time and galaxy far, far away. 99% of Packer fans agree with this.

--Brett gets so frustrated with not winning that he can hardly contain himself and at times he might not choose his words as carefully as he should. 99% percent of Packer fans share that frustration, and express themselves far more colorfully than Brett did. At my house, we have had to replace a considerable amount of glassware.

If you’re a division manager of a large company, and you are given a sales target to hit, and then your boss refuses to give you the resources you absolutely need to hit that target, year after year—and you’re the one who takes the blame—then you’d be just as angry as Brett apparently got. You might even say, to hell with this job; I’ll go work somewhere else, where top management isn’t so tight with a buck.

So what’s the problem? With some of these sports “journalists” the problem seems to be, their boss gave them a word quota for that day, and they have absolutely nothing to say, so they end up producing excreta like the following, from the word processor of Adam Schein of Fox Sports.com. It can be smelled in its entirety at: http://msn.foxsports.com/nfl/story/6810106

He starts off with the headline: “Packers Better Off Without Favre”

What’s wrong with that headline? Everything but the spelling. This is, flat out, one of the stupidest things I have ever read about the Packers.

First of all, how can an organization be better off without the most effective leader it has ever had, a leader who clearly still performs at a high level? It boggles the mind that anyone could say that. But making sense is not a prerequisite for employment in the major media.

But this little fellow is just getting started. He goes on: “Favre continuously popping off on management about not surrounding him with adequate talent, indirectly ripping his teammates, is a distraction and a detriment. So are the constant questions about his retirement.”

Bad writing here, folks. First of all, popping off means: “to speak in a burst of vehement anger.” That doesn’t sound like the way our soft spoken Southern quarterback sounds. It sounds more like, well, the way Adam Schein makes his living, which is why I wouldn’t waste much time listening to him on TV or radio.

How about the “indirectly ripping his teammates” part? That’s simply wrong. Brett has had to demonstrate tremendous self-control throughout his career, when baited by reporters to comment on the poor play of his teammates. Other star NFL players have not been so gracious.
Their initials might be: T.O.

Schein continues: “…is a distraction and a detriment. So are the constant questions about his retirement.”
This is funny. The same media that constantly pesters Brett with questions about his retirement from the moment he arrives at training camp in July, now says that by patiently standing there and answering their bonehead questions, he is causing a distraction and a detriment. Strange logic.

Before we assign a letter grade to this article, let’s show one more example of why it seems odd they make you take a test in order to operate a motor vehicle, but they turn virtually anyone loose on the airwaves:

Schein says, “Let Favre go play for the Dolphins or Jaguars.”

Here, he demonstrates a fundamental lack of understanding about the Green Bay Packers. The team is owned by over 100,000 loyal fans across the country, and we don’t want Brett playing anywhere but for us. Ever.

And Brett doesn’t want to play anywhere else, either. There was never any doubt.

Today’s Packers Literary Corner Grade for Adam Schein’s work
posted on FoxSports.com May 14:

Fluidity of Prose: D
Knowledge of Subject Matter: C-
Logic: F
Usefulness to Packer Fans: F-
Overall Grade: D-

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Mystery Solved

In the old days, writers, particularly those who wrote freelance articles for magazines, were paid by the word. Let’s say you wrote a 2,000 word article and the publication had a rate of 10 cents per word. You would earn $200 for an article. Let’s say your goal was to earn $20,000 per year from writing. That would mean you would have to write 200,000 words per year. A typical novel is about 100,000 words in length. So, the busy free-lancer of the past had to write the equivalent of two complete novels each year. This explains why not that many people made a living as freelance writers.

When you look at columns and articles at many sports-related Web sites, you have to conclude that the old days of pay-per-word must be coming back, because many of these pieces are chock full of breezy, chatty opinions, and tired repetition from other articles, but are low on facts, insights or original content. We’ve commented before at Packers Literary Corner about Sports Illustrated’s Peter King and his “Monday Morning Quarterback” series, which is thoroughly padded each week with tedious stuff such as his political views, notes on trival things his family is doing, or little hassles he encounters in traveling. But Mr. King is by no means alone in his low content- to- word-count ratio.

In the 2007 NFL “offseason”, if there is such a thing anymore, I’ll wager I have read or heard the following statement at least, oh, 15,000 times (I might be guilty of underestimation here):


And when the Packers do things like pass on making offers to marquee free agent receivers or running backs, bizarre conspiracy theories emerge like:

Ted Thompson is sabotaging Brett because he’s jealous of Brett’s popularity.
Ted is trying to force Brett to retire.
Ted Thompson actually works for the Bears.

In fact, the Packers whole offseason personnel strategy has become something of a mystery to the fans. Many question whether there is, in fact, any strategy at all.

But then out of the gloom comes a succinct, fresh and stimulating viewpoint like the one penned by Tom Oates of the Wisconsin State Journal (http://www.madison.com/) in a column dated May 3. After I finished reading Mr. Oates’ article, the offseason mystery was solved and all became clear. He said:

“Indeed it has become increasingly apparent that Thompson is reading out of a 10-year-old playbook, one written by his mentor, former general manager Ron Wolf.

During the Packers’ Super Bowl years, Wolf spent his money elsewhere and handed Favre mid-round picks at the skill positions.”

He cites Packer stalwarts such Edgar Bennett, Dorsey Levens, Robert Brooks and Antonio Freeman as examples of how this method worked so well. All of these players had such successful careers with Green Bay, we forget they were not first or second rounders in the draft. Why did this strategy work so well? Oates says:

“All of those players were good, but none was truly special. The Packers got away with it because Favre was such a dominant player.”

Ted Thompson’s rigid adherence to this strategy is suspect, it would seem, because now Brett is 37 and cannot take over the game by himself anymore. As Oates says:

“He (Thompson) doesn’t seem to understand that Favre needs more help than he once did.”

This is a great, great, column. It clears up a huge mystery for Packer fans. Ted Thompson isn’t incompetent, as so many have argued in the heated debates that take place on message boards and in chat rooms; he’s simply following a very successful business model that his mentor implemented in the mid-1990’s.

It’s obvious to Packers Literary Corner that Ted is trying to build a kick-ass defense in the Ravens/Steelers/Bears model, and he’s hoping that Brett Favre can still make the so-so players on offense look better than they are, because of Brett’s skill, leadership ability and sheer will to win. I would also add, Brett's willingness to spread the ball around and locate whatever receiver is the least bit open. Will this plan work in 2007?

Maybe. If the new kick-ass defense can generate enough turnovers and get the ball back for Brett.

But in any case we can relax and enjoy the rest of springtime and summer. The Packers have a strategy, after all.

Thanks to Tom Oates for explaining this so clearly—and he didn’t require that many words to do it.