Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Open Mike: Putting the MV in MVP

We at Backtime smelt this comeback coming even while #7 was still serving 2-to-3.

There was too much ability and too much game to count him out. His time as a guest of the federal government gave him pay his debt to society, and emerge like so many others, with a second play the game that he redefined.

And the other thing that nobody talks about - he didn't take a hit in 3 years. He's still only 30 years old with a football age of 27. And now we see a new piece to the Vicksaw puzzle: poise.

Not only has he become a pass-first Quarterback, but he's playing now with a serenity to go with his sizzle. And you can make the argument that he's playing with the type of speedy skill players that Donovan McNabb never had (the Eagles ironically take on McNabb and the Skins this weekend).

With LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson, and Jeremy Maclin to complement him, Vick doesn't have to do things on his own the way he did his early days in Atlanta (or McNabb throughout his career in Philly). Vick can trust the guys around him, and if he can trust himself, he may just have a season for the ages.

Just as we forecast over a year ago.

July 27, 2009 - The Trick for Vick: Gotta be like "Mike"
"There's a lion in my pocket, and baby he is ready to roar."
Prince, 1999

It was 10 years ago when I did a shoot with Michael Vick on the Virginia Tech campus. He was a phenom as a redshirt frosh, but he just seemed polite, friendly, and very unassuming.

When he introduced himself as "Mike," I didn't know who he was right away. There wasn't an entourage, there wasn't bravado, it was just Mike.

But there was plenty of bravado in my script and he didn't carry it like that. He was shy. The piece was average and didn't air because Vick got beat up by the Clemson "D" - though the other man on the shoot, Corey Moore, was the dominant defensive star in a Hokie home win.

I'm not trying to extol the virtues of Mike Vick, the seemingly mature 19-year old. This sick subculture was obviously ingrained in him from a very early age. And somewhere deep inside him was a Ron Mexico with middle fingers extended to his home crowd.

But we had truly never seen anyone like him. A black, left-handed whirlwind who probably could have been the best player on the field at a half-dozen positions. He did it with such confidence and class. His play screamed "look at me" so he never had to do anything arrogant to call attention to himself.

In Mike's freshman year, he led Virginia Tech to an undefeated regular season in spectacular fashion. And he left his guts on the Superdome field erasing a 3-TD deficit to Florida State before falling in the 4th quarter. Head Coach Frank Beamer is still his biggest advocate.

Two years later, Mike was drafted #1 overall. Three years after that and one broken leg later, he finished 2nd in the MVP voting, and led the Falcons to the NFC Championship game.

Then came the contract. The sense of entitlement. The rules didn't apply to him. He could spread herpes around, or bankroll dogfighting, or smoke pot on his MySpace page. He thought the authorities and the media, much like your average NFL defender, couldn't catch Michael Vick.

"Tryin' to run from my destruction, you know I didn't even care."

He was wrong and paid the heavy price. This isn't some run-of-the-mill NFL suspension he has to come back from. He was incarcerated. Every day is a blessing for this man.

This time around, I think we're going to see a lot less Michael and a lot more Mike. And maybe one team's fans will party like it's 1999.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The State I'm Min

I packed the autumn hues for highs in the low 60s in Minneapolis.

Even though there were no flight delays, the travel snafus continued. First an over-officious gate agent at the home airport told me my new suitcase was too big to carry on, so she said she had to check it.

She shrugged her shoulders, "Don't worry, you're in first class and won't have to pay." I just shook my head, "It's not about money, it's about time."

And naturally I waited 45 minutes at baggage claim in Minneapolis. And then I got to the hotel and was assigned to a Westin "Grand" Suite. Cool. Except I had to return to the desk three different times because my key didn't work. Ultimately they decided it was the lock that was broken and my room wasn't going to be ready for a couple hours.

In the meantime I got an e-mail that I needed to set up my travel for a couple of October gigs. So I got on the phone with our travel department.

TRAVEL: What position will you be on these shows?

ME: Producer

TRAVEL: I thought so, I was just checking.

ME: That's OK, I like saying it.

Always remember no matter how important you (think you) are or how upgraded your travel day is, it's still just rife with speed bumps. Fortunately Suite 432 lived up to it's billing.

And that was just the living room portion.

The highlight of the Minnesota trip (certainly wasn't the game) was the two meals at Hell's Kitchen.

Thursday night dinner - Lobster Tacos - a "10"

Saturday morning breakfast - Poached Eggs over Venison Chili with a side of Cornmeal Waffles topped with Homemade Peanut Butter - a "12" - one of the best breakfasts I've ever head.

Other highlights of the trip (that didn't involve food) were USC-related. Let's forget for a moment that the USC Song Girls practiced their routine right outside our truck.

After a fairly generic USC victory over the Golden Gophers, we went out to Smalley's sports bar in downtown Minneapolis. And watching 50 Trojan fans in USC colors sing "Fight On" in unison in the center of enemy territory was actually very cool.

Then it was the 3:45 AM wakeup call for the 5:20 AM flight Sunday morning, all so I could be home before Noon and spend the afternoon with the kids.

And maybe, just maybe, I'll get to watch some of the Jets-Patriots game.

Fight On Mark Sanchez!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Breakout Star of Hard Knocks: Mike T

My new favorite Jet doesn't wear a number, but he sure can crunch them.

The 4th episode of HBO's Hard Knocks 2010 featuring the New York Jets may have been the most ground-breaking hour in the history of reality television. The training camp football behind-the-scenes of who makes the team and who gets cut, and the big personalities - are always eye-catching. But it's the candid contract negotiations headed up by GM Mike Tannenbaum that yields unprecedented access.

When Mike T gave 3rd string QB Kellen Clemens a calculated business offer to take it or leave it, that's when I hit the rewind button and watched the same scene several times in a row. Did that just happen? Was that on television?

Did an NFL quarterback have to decide his own future right there on the spot? No, but pretty damn soon. And a man who started 9 games at QB for the Jets in the last 3 years took the minimum salary to stay with the team. Hey, at least it's guaranteed.

And the cut-throat decision-making involving veteran team leaders WR Laveranues Coles and FB Tony Richardson were handled with tact and a personal touch.

And there was the outright lambasting of ESPN's Tim Cowlishaw who reported that holdout all-everything CB Darrelle Revis' arrival at Jets camp was imminent, which of course was a fallacy.

And is it any wonder that after an episode that showcased how Mike T and the Jets do business, that Team Revis ended their holdout and came to camp at a much lower number than they were floating?

Mike T handled players' coach Rex Ryan the same way with the same incisive, clinical thinking he operated with players and their agents.

That's the side of football that isn't reflected in a Fantasy Football draft or a 3-hour TV broadcast, the complicated and fascinating business side. And the business of Jets football is in great hands.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Mad About You: Another Case of Co-Dependency

The continuing, evolving drama of a night with Don and Peggy told you everything you wanted to know about what this show is all about. Watching them take on a the Samsonite campaign, a mouse, and a Duck in an all-nighter, was very reminiscent of watching the way a mentor and protegee bicker on their AMC compadre show, Breaking Bad.

Don naturally backed Sonny Liston against Cassius Clay that night in 1965. The way he liked Nixon over Kennedy a few seasons earlier. Don liked the guys who didn't brag.

And Peggy is Don's #2 now. Peggy gives don ideas and she tries to boast about it, but he shits on her. At least that's Peggy's take on it. But Don is adamant.

"That's the way it works. There are no credits on commercials."

"I give you money. You give me ideas."

When Peggy complains, "But you never say thank you!" Don is incredulous, "That's what the money is for!"

It is a pivotal night in Don's life. Not just because Don lost $100 on Liston, but because of the death of Anna Draper - and the close relationship he had with the woman who allowed him his name. And Don showed vulnerability for the very first time.

But at the end of the night (really the next day), a "spruced up" Don Draper realizes he has a stable relationship in his life. Despite the death of his great friend, his divorce, and his reckless drinking, he found someone to complete him, and not in the usual way Don relies on a woman.

And the constant shake-up of the pecking order on the Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce totem pole continues. At age 26 (Happy birthday!) Peggy Olson is in a tremendous position at her job. And she didn't know it until now.