Greetings from chilly Columbus. As I write this Sunday morning prior to the Browns and Bills, I can assure you that Mother Nature is totally psyched for Peyton Hillis Could Become The First White Running Back To Rush For One Thousand Yards Since Craig James In 1985 Day. She has "painted the town white" just for the occasion. Honestly, all of this white powder has made kind of a mess and is making it hard for people to drive, but it's the thought that counts, right?
I can't decide what amuses me more. Is it the people who have taken an ultra-serious approach to Hillis' pending milestone, revisiting the Al Campanis and Jimmy the Greek theories of racial biology, examining socio-economic factors that impact our sporting culture, and pondering the effects of overt and subconscious biases held by coaches and scouts that prevent whites from reaching their full thousand-yard running back potential? Or is it the people who are going out of their way to proudly announce that race doesn't matter and this should never have even come up and it's stupid and they don't see color and, like, they totally didn't even realize that Peyton Hillis was white until this factoid came out?
Why can't we just chew on a strange statistical oddity and leave it that? My first thought upon hearing of the potential milestone was, "Really? Huh. Wow. I didn't realize that. Interesting." And then I moved on with my day. I felt no need to invest some deeper meaning into the accomplishment, and I also felt no need to wash my hands of it and decry it as something that's beneath an enlightened and noble individual such as me. The deepest thoughts I had on the matter occurred when my brain later spoke up and said, "Wait, Craig James rushed for 1000 yards? Seriously? In one season? Maybe 1000 FEET, sure, but 1000 YARDS? Did somebody fact-check that before it went to print?"
But thanks to people on either extreme, I have become more acutely aware of this very special day, so now I am determined to acknowledge it. After all, as the great Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., once said, and I'm paraphrasing here, so the words may not be exact, but you get the idea: "I have a dream that one day children will live in a nation where they will be judged not by the color of their skin, but the content of their character, unless they are playing quarterback in the 1980s, cornerback in the 1990s, or running back in 2010. Then we, as a nation, should overanalyze everything based on race, and make a big deal about it, all while simultaneously denying that race even crossed our minds because that is not the type of people we are."
Obviously, Dr. King was taken from us before the concept of the black NFL punter gained a real foothold, so I will also be celebrating the accomplishments of Reggie Hodges today. Hodges is one of my favorite Browns players. Between his precision punting and his legendary fourth down run in the Superdome, I've had a blast watching him play. Like I wrote last week, my Tim Couch jersey may be getting refurbished soon.
Unfortunately, while I have a lot of white guy and black guy stuff to celebrate today, our local CBS affiliate, WBNS, has decided that I should have to watch the Bengals get slaughtered by the Steelers. It has long been WBNS' policy to show Ohio vs. Steelers games, since those games presumably draw the best ratings since they involve two of the three most popular teams in Central Ohio. (#1 Browns, #2 Bengals, #3 Steelers…basically, the opposite of the usual AFC North standings.) But in this instance, I think WBNS failed to consider the fact that Cincy fans stopped watching football around Halloween. At the latest. Nevertheless, WBNS has chosen to air this game, and it's snowy outside, so screw it. I am staying home like a good little consumer and watching what WBNS is insisting I should watch today. I will do my best to follow the Browns game via an online gametracker.
15:00-- As the game kicks off, Diedorf says, "It's the old adage that misery loves company. The Bengals are hoping to spread it around today." Dan, you can assure the Bengals that it has already reached my couch.
14:25—I just checked the gametracker and I see that Peyton Hillis has already amassed 48 yards, becoming the first white running back since Craig James to rush for 1,000 yards. How did CBS not cut away for the historic moment? The gametracker doesn't provide this level of detail, but I'm assuming they stopped the game so Hillis could make some sort of memorable and profound Neil Armstrong-ish "It was one bruising run for a man, but one giant statistical footnote for white mankind" speech that could be played on a loop as part of the forthcoming "Modern White Man Rushes for 1000 Yards" exhibit in Canton.
13:00— Just read an email from my good buddy Flick, who is a Bengals fan. "Here's how the season is going for me. I am in the theater waiting for Rock of Ages to start…and I just realized that I didn't set the DVR for the Bengals game…and I don't care." That's right. Bengals fans are now spending their NFL Sunday afternoons attending touring Broadway musicals with their wives, and are perfectly fine with it. WBNS clearly made the right call in showing this game.
10:50—Dierdorf: "Let's take a close look at when this ball comes loose." The broadcast immediately cuts away from the replay that was in progress. Perfect. I am convinced that the guys in the truck do stuff like that on purpose every now and then just to see if they can get an announcer to swear into his mic. Granted, we would never hear it thanks to the nuclear fallout from Michael Jackson's sister's boob, but still, if Dierdorf would have said, "Let's take a close look at when this ball comes loose….OH FOR FU______(silence from the mic being cut during the 7-second delay)_____ -AMN REPLAY!", that would have been awesome, because I imagine that the guys in the truck would be giggling and high-fiving each other.
10:15— Gumbel notices a lot of empty seats around Condiment Coliseum: "I don't know if word got out late about the starting time for this game." Sunday afternoon? 1:00? For an NFL game? Who knew? Clearly, slobbering Yinzers ate the first wave of carrier pigeons, obliterating the region's information infrastructure.
9:58—Bengals throw a touchdown to offensive lineman Whitworth, who wears #77. It is the first touchdown reception in Seitesiete's career.
8:20— Dierdorf: "Ben Roethlisberger has his critics, but nobody has ever questioned his toughness." Nope. Just his intelligence, his motorcycle skills, and his bathroom manners.
7:48— Those two long-haired chicks on the Bengals defensive line cannot subdue Bad-Touch Ben, who gets it off despite their resistance. To clarify, it's a 9-yard completion to Mendenhall.
6:48— Looking at the gametracker, it seems that Peyton Hillis has become the first white 1000-yard rusher to lose a fumble since Craig James in 1985.
4:11— Peeking at gametracker, it seems that Reggie Hodges has become the first black punter to punt the ball in Buffalo since…uh…Reggie Hodges did it on November 2, 2008. Congratulations, Reggie! In 2008, Hodges became the first black punter to punt the ball in Buffalo since Reggie Roby punted the ball for the San Francisco 49ers on October 4, 1998. One milestone that Reggie Hodges cannot reclaim today is to be the-first-black-punter-not-named-Reggie to punt the ball in Buffalo since whenever. That mark still belongs to Greg Coleman, who punted the ball for the Minnesota Vikings on September 29, 1985. It seems that 1985 was a magical year for racially-themed statistical minutiae.
0:45— Dierdorf says that he asked Bungles linebacker Dhani Jones how he still manages to play hard despite being on a 2-10 team, and according to Dierdorf, Jones "gave one of the great answers of all-time." Jones told Dierdorf, "Because my father's watching. Because my mother's watching." Hmm, maybe they live in Columbus! If so, the number of non-Yinzers watching his broadcast will have tripled!
15:00— Nope. I just looked it up. Dhani Jones was born in San Diego and went to middle school and high school in Potomac, Maryland. Guess I'm the only non-Yinzer watching this game on WBNS after all.
9:45— Advertisers really need to do a better job understanding their audience. Troy Polamalu is starring in an advertisement for Head & Shoulders shampoo. Selling shampoo to Yinzers is futile. That phrase, "He's so good, he could sell ice cubes to Eskimos" might as well be, "He's so good, he could sell shampoo to Yinzers." Based on my experience with Yinzers, Troy Polamalu is not that good of a salesman.
9:45— And now an E-Trade commercial. Seriously? Did WBNS forget that I am on the only non-Yinzer watching this game? E-Trade is going to demand make-up ads after they see the demographic breakdown of the audience for this specific commercial. Total viewers: 17,294. Viewers owning a computer and/or stocks: 1.
4:37— He may not be much of a salesman, but Polamalu is very good at returning Carson Palmer's crappy interceptions for touchdowns. Pittsburgh has tied the score at 7-7.
3:53— You know how athletes get so popular that local restaurants will name dishes after them? I am now picturing a ramshackle hillside diner where Yinzers proudly order the Polamalu Possum. Or maybe the diner will get cute and just name the dish "Possumalu." (Advertising slogan: "Try Possumalu!")
0:56— New email from Flick. "It's intermission. I see I missed another Palmer TAINT." (Touchdown After Interception.) (At least I hope that's what Flick meant he was missing.)
0:21— The Bungles drop interceptions on back-to-back plays, allowing the Stillers to kick a field goal. 10-7, Yinzerville.
0:21— Given that the Steelers quarterback has taken some hits, Dierdorf says, "Ben could use a hot tub right now." Thinking back to the Matt Leinart photos and Bad-Touch Ben's most recent offseason, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell surely disagrees.
* Browns highlights! I am treated to Hillis' 25-yard run, Hillis' fumble, and the Bills' touchdown pass. That is the full extent of my Browns viewing so far today. Thank you WBNS!
* For a moment, I freaked out, thinking I was supposed to be up in Cleveland with all of my relatives. It turns out that, for some unknown reason, the Detroit Lions are on TV despite it not being Thanksgiving. Thanks WTTE! So living in Columbus, not only can I not watch the most popular NFL team in central Ohio, but in their stead, I am given the choice between watching the Bengals or the Lions. I believe the internet/texting shorthand for what I am experiencing is "FML."
14:42— Gumbel and Dierdorf laud Rothlisberger for ditching the visor on his helmet. He's so tough and courageous and selfless. Dierdorf says the surgeon stated that Ben's nose "was in so many pieces it looked like cornflakes." But now Ben is going to bravely take the field with only a helmet and a facemask, but NO VISOR (!!!!), protecting his nose.
Unlike women, sports announcers never say no when Ben needs something. It was a freak accident that broke his nose, and it's going to take another freak accident for him to take another shot to the nose. Full credit to him for toughing it out by playing through his various injuries, but the announcers are reacting like he's playing without a helmet or that he's wearing one of those Mark Mosely one-bar facemasks.
12:09— In front of a swath of empty yellow seats, there hangs a banner that reads, "ZERO TOLERANCE." For what? Cold? Rain? December football weather?
8:34— After Ben risks his matinee idol good looks by playing football while wearing a helmet with a facemask but no visor, Suisham kicks another field goal. Ben's sacrifice was not in vain. 13-7 Stillers.
8:22— Every time Gumbel throws it to JB for a game break, it's never for Browns-Bills highlights. Surely one of those punts or third-down incompletions had to be interesting.
6:45— A camera shot of two Santas sitting in the crowd. That makes sense. If everyone in Pittsburgh sang, "All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth", more than one Santa would be required to deliver an order of such staggering magnitude.
2:44— After consecutive holding penalties, the Steelers have a 1st & 30 from their own 25. The odds of the drive continuing to a fresh set of downs? 10-to-1. In Pittsburgh's favor.
2:10— On cue, there's Hines Ward with a 29-yard catch on 2nd & 30.
1:21— Redman rushes to pick up the first down. Pittsburgh gets a fresh set of downs. The Steelers and Bengals are so predictable.
12:52— Dhani Jones does mom and dad and womankind proud, knocking Bad-Touch Ben to the turf for Cincy's second consecutive sack, taking the Stoolers out of field goal range.
12:21— Carson Palmer tosses his second Pick-6 of the game. Who needs Jake Delhomme on TV when I can get a reasonable facsimile? Lamar Woodley returns this one, making the score Steelers defense 14, Bengals offense 7, Steelers offense 6.
12:14—The Bengals return the kickoff to the seven. No, seriously. The seven. Their own freaking seven.
10:43—The Lions have just taken a 7-3 lead in the 4th quarter of the other televised game. I didn't even need DirecTV for that. How sweet it is to be an NFL fan in Columbus!
10:01— Gumbel notes that in the second half, the Bungles have run only nine plays and have gained only 17 yards. It's good thing that none of their Columbus fans are watching this game.
5:34— Suisham with another field goal. The score is now Pittsburgh defense 14, Pittsburgh offense 9, Cincinnati offense 7. There seems to be some confusion over the pronunciation of Suisham. This time, Gumbel says "SWEESE-um", which is how I always thought it was pronounced. But on an earlier kick, Gumbel pronounced it "SWISH-em", as if he were accurately answering the question, "What do Cavaliers' opponents do with their shots when challenged, so to speak, by the Cavaliers' defense?"
4:12— The Bengals are going for it on 4th down. Will the Steelers run up the score by intercepting the pass and running it back for another touchdown?
4:09— Palmer completes a pass to Shipley after a defender jumps the route and narrowly misses the interception.
3:35— I see the Browns lost to the Bills, 13-6. Maybe WBNS knew what they were doing. Maybe they were being overprotective for our own good. Later tonight, I will listen to "Mother" by Pink Floyd and think about WBNS.
2:36— Two major milestones in the Browns loss. They are now winless in Buffalo all-time when playing with a white 1000-yard rusher, and they also lost in Buffalo for the very first time while employing a black punter. They had been 3-0-1 in Buffalo under the black punterships of Horace Gillom (2-0-1 from 1947-1949) and Greg Coleman (1-0 in 1977.)
1:52— Palmer with another interception. Polamalu realizes that he can't return this one for a TD, so he decides to do a Clay Matthews and lateral the ball to nobody in particular. The Steelers recover the brainless lateral and keep the ball. Of course they do.
1:00— The research I did for the previous comment about black punters has made me realize that of the five black punters in NFL history, three of them have played for the Browns at some point: Horace Gillom, Greg Coleman, and Reggie Hodges. Maybe I should write an article overanalyzing this fact and speculating as to why Cleveland is a hotbed of black punters, all while offering half-baked ideas as to What It All Means. But don't worry, Barry. I will still be friends with you after I am hired by a prominent national sports website.
0:00—Final. Pittsburgh 23, Cincinnatti 7. And a fight breaks out between the two teams at midfield! It's the first time the Bengals have broken a sweat all afternoon! At last, some excitement!
Some final thoughts on the Bungles game from yet another email from Flick: "I saw the final score and I saw that Palmer threw another TAINT. I swear Jordan Palmer has been playing in Carson's place in a storyline that only Vince McMahon could write. The Bengals are terrible. My decision to not DVR the game was totally correct."
Rob the Bengals Fan also told me he did not watch, record, or even really think about the game, and also pointed out that he originally suggested the Jordan-secretly-switched-places-with-Carson theory months ago, presumably back when he last thought about the Bengals. "I've been a bad fan this year," he said, "and they've been a bad team this year, so it's nice how that synced up."
I would now like to take a moment to facetiously congratulate WBNS for keeping Bengals fans in mind when deciding which game to air.
As for the Browns-Bills game, I received two rave reviews about the game that I missed. My friend Ed the Bills Fan declared it to be "another fine display of professional football at Torture Park." (His nickname for Orchard Park.) I then called my sister in North Olmsted and asked if she watched. She said, "I did for a little bit, but nothing was happening. It was annoying. We were so bad that I finally had enough and went to Best Buy to get an HDMI cable for my mother-in-law. I knew we were going to lose."
I know a lot of people are down on Daboll and Delhomme after this loss, but I can't be too down on them. After all, Daboll learned firsthand that six points is usually enough for the Browns to beat the Bills. At least in the daylight. The last two afternoon games between the two teams resulted in Cleveland victories of 8-0 and 6-3. Dabol's offense hit the traditional victory threshold, so people need to lay off. As for Delhomme, he studied game film of Derek "That's Fine That's Fine That's Fine That's Fine That's Fine" Anderson's winning performance from 2009, and then went out and obliterated those numbers. Anderson was 2-of-17 for 23 yards, while Delhomme came out slinging the rock Marino-style, comparatively speaking, completing 12-of-20 for 86 yards. A sad fact of life for an NFL QB is that, some days, your defense will actually give up a touchdown, and then all the gaudy stats in the world won't translate into a victory.
Well, that's all for now Barry. The Bills game may have sucked, but after watching the Bungles, I can't help but think that better days are right around the corner this weekend. As long as Delhomme is running the scout team offense this week, the Browns' secondary should be well-rehearsed in the art of catching passes thrown directly at them by whichever Palmer is actually out there. If the secondary takes care of the football while returning interceptions, and doesn't make any Matthewsian laterals, the Browns will be in a good position to win.
Oh, and one last thing to keep an eye on during the game Sunday in Cincinnati….according to my research, Peyton Hillis needs to just one single, solitary rushing yard to become the very first white running back to rush for 1,071 yards in a season since Craig James in 1985. Hard to believe, isn't it? Look it up. It's true! Even the Craig James part!
Until next time,