The Modern Day Art Donovan, Tony Siragusa

Goose: The Outrageous Life and Times of a Football Guy by Tony Siragusa with Don Yaeger
Crown Archetype, 2012
ISBN:978-0-307-95598-2

If you have ever seen Tony Siragusa on television you’ll have a very good idea of what this book is going to be like.  Siragusa is absolutely hilarious in how he relates his life and antics in the National Football League.  Ironically much of his career was spent with the Indianapolis Colts (formerly Baltimore Colts) and the Baltimore Ravens, a team and city that embraced the last great comedic defensive tackle Art Donovan who played for the Colts in the 1950’s and had a good career in media afterwards because of his wit and humor.  Thus I have dubbed Tony Siragusa the modern day Art Donovan.

Siragusa relates his life growing up in an Italian New Jersey town through his college football career and then ultimately his professional career and beyond.  This is not a book about the X’s and O’s of football.  It’s about a large guy leading a large life.

Beyond just the absolutely hilarious stories Goose tells what is refreshing about this book is he pulls no punches.  You know who he does and does not like, and those he does not like get it with both barrels.

One of the funnier stories is Goose relating a college recruiting trip to the University of West Virginia:

“My next visit was to West Virginia. That was a little wacky. I went to the place, and I was waiting in this room when two white guys with Mohawks and flannel shirts showed up.

What the hell is this? Did I just land in a remake of Deliverance?

We went around the campus and the whole thing was a little weird. The campus seemed like it was literally surrounded by a trailer park.”

Hey, Tony Siragusa said it not me.

And the way he describes the incompetent head coach Ron Meyer and the “different kind of guy” Eric Dickerson when they were all Indianapolis Colts together is gut busting hilarious.  Goose clearly has no respect for Meyer, essentially discussing what a buffoon he was in words not suitable to place in this review.  And the self-absorbed drama king Eric Dickerson doesn’t get off too lightly either.

After “the whole Slick Meyer disaster was over” the Colts hired Ted Marchibroda who was attempting to turn a losing team around and had some modest success.  Goose clearly is a big fan of Marchibroda and has a lot of respect for him as a coach.

The funniest story during this era is when one of Goose’s friends from the team had a, shall we say, liaison with a one legged woman.  The woman took off her prosthetic limb and left it in the next room where the player had a Pit Bull puppy.  Well, next morning the dog had chewed up the prosthetic limb so the player had to go get her another one.  He asked Goose to cover for him with the coach so he wouldn’t be fined for missing meetings.

Once Marchibroda retired they brought in Lindy Infante as head coach and Goose clearly loathes this man, so much so that it ultimately saw him out of Indianapolis and to the Baltimore Ravens.

Goose of course won a Super Bowl of with Baltimore after the 2000 season and was one of the big guys up front doing the dirty work to keep the young and super talented Ray Lewis and his linebacker mates clean of blocks so they wreak havoc on the offense.  Clearly Goose enjoyed his time with the Ravens.

Goose also talks about his post-football endeavors, which are often equally as funny as his exploits in football.  And finally, there are some very cleaver asides told from people who knew Goose best like his mother, his best friend, and Ted Marchibroda.  You get a glimpse of what a likable goofball this guy is.

So if you want a very funny romp through the life of a gregarious football player, pick this one up.  You won’t be disappointed.

Goose: The Outrageous Life and Times of a Football Guy

2012 NFL Season: Week One Observations

Before launching into the games I watched a few comments on some major themes at the start of the season.

Replacement Referees: Granted watching on television you can’t see everything that goes on on the field but so far I think the replacement refs are doing okay. Granted there are some glitches but that is to be expected with officials with no NFL experience and probably have not worked together before. The blown reversed holding call on Green Bay’s punt return for touchdown is a good example of where one official was probably looking at one set of players where there was no holding/block in the back but the call was actually on another set of players. Thankfully it didn’t affect the outcome of the game. And I’ve seen regular officials make the same mistakes. It’s just magnified in this situation.

RG III and Andrew Luck: Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck will be tied at the hip for the rest of their lives. Not just their NFL careers, but their lives. I continue to see stories about the bust Ryan Leaf and Peyton Manning, much to Leaf’s deteriment. These two will share the same experience. So far so good but if one game is any indiacation RG III came out of the gate with a small grasp on Rookie of the Year after his performance against the New Orleans Saints. He was phenomenal. He reminds me of a MATURE version of Michael Vick as a rookie, which should be very scary for NFC East foes. I was stunningly impressed. Okay, it’s one game I am not putting him in the Hall of Fame yet but everything points to him being the real deal, including, shall I say it again? His maturity. I did not see Andrew Luck but the Redskins putting it to a discombobulated Saints team was kind of fun to watch.

Super Bowl XLVII: No comment.


GAMES I WATCHED

New England Patriots over Tennessee Titans, 34-13

Are we going to have some kind of defense this year? Please? After this game, despite some shakiness, the defense looked rather improved from the debacle of last year. We STUFFED the run but at times struggled in pass coverage. But that has been a league wide trend this week so I am not overly worried about that.

I was really pleased to see a running game develop with Stevan Ridley but I am a bit worried about our depth at that position. I am MORE WORRIED about Nate Solder’s ability at left tackle. He missed or was late on too many blocks and he let Cameron Wimbley get a shot on Brady from behind that bloodied him up. We will miss the reliable Matt Light at left tackle this year. I pray that Solder steps it up.

The offense seemed decent but a bit shakey. Brandon Lloyd really had extremely poor technique in missing an easy touchdown bomb from Brady and there were a few other uncharacteristic drops as well. But overall we moved the ball well and finally got a little running game going.

While this was a team win with now true standouts, my MVP has to go to Ridley for making believe we might be able to run sometimes this year.

MVP: Stevan Ridley, RB


Dallas Cowboys over New York Giants, 24-17

Dallas put on a surprise showing for most in this game although I really was not that surprised by the outcome. Dallas defense was much improved over its inconsistent performance from last year and wide receiver Kevin Ogletree kind of came out of nowhere to be a force on offense. Overall it was a very efficient game for the Cowboys with mostly decent offensive line play, although the Giants Jason Pierre-Paul still looks to be the best defensive lineman in the league, and a solid running game. But really the key to the game was Tony Romo’s mobility. He was harassed often but used his feet to extend plays.

The second major factor in the game was the Giants defense was clearly sucking wind late in the third quarter and really didn’t do much to stop Dallas’s offense.

It will be interesting to see how these teams progress as the season wears on. The Giants always seem to start slow then finish strong, and Dallas has a habit of collapsing.

MVP: Kevin Ogletree, WR

San Francisco 49’ers over Green Bay Packers, 30-22

Solid defense, a decent running game, and a few big plays still equals a win in today’s NFL. And that is what the 49’ers brought to the table I this game. I keep wondering when Frank Gore will suddenly get old but he looked solid today. And the much maligned Alex Smith was hitting on his passes and even the mecruial Randy Moss got himself a touchdown pass.

The defense for the 49’ers was very solid and impressive.

Green Bay suddenly doesn’t look like the hot team everyone favors for a Super Bowl run. And frankly their defense looked pretty ragged and their running game non-existent. If they hope to the big game again, they probably are going through San Francisco (or maybe Atlanta)?

MVP: Frank Gore, RB

Denver Bronco over Pittsburgh Steelers, 31-19

Denver already had a solid defense. Now they have Payton Manning, who makes any offensive automatically better. They schooled the Steelers whose defense is growing ancient before our eyes and their offense was anemic at best. The Broncos defensive backs really shut down the Steelers recievers and I thought Tracy Porter was the best player on the field other than Manning.

The other thing that stood out to me in this game is Willis McGahee. I mean this guy is old and washed up right? I’ve never seen him play better.

After this performance the Broncos, so far, look like a force to be reckoned with. And despite the offense clicking, I thought the defense was even better!

MVP: Tracy Porter, CB

Baltimore Ravens over Cincinnati Bengals, 44-13

If you asked me right now who the best team in the NFL is it would have to be the Baltimore Ravens. Flacco played as good a game at quarterback as I have ever seen him play. He was poised, made great decisions and seemed much more calm in the pocket that is his norm. Ray Rice was running well, Torrey Smith had a few big plays, and Michael Oher at left tackle seemed to be getting off the ball faster and be more comfortable on that side of the line that he as been in the past.

And the never aging Ray Lewis? Are you kidding me? And Ed Reed (who keeps getting hurt but so what?). It’s week one but this team was clicking on all cylinders.

MVP: Joe Flacco, QB

San Diego Chargers over Oakland Raiders, 22-14

This was a very painful game to watch at times. The Raiders early on in the game constantly kept shooting themselves in the foot with stupid penalties. And then by now everyone probably knows of the fiascos in the punting game that occurred after the regular long snapper went down with an injury. I don’t think I have ever seen three botched punt attempts in one game. Two, yes. Three? Never that I can recall. And those were as good as turnovers. But the Raiders defense hung as tough as they could throughout the game. A big shout out to former Patriots defensive lineman Richard Seymour who had a great game in a losing cause.

I do have to say, without any vulgar references, what does Trent Dilfer have for Philip Rivers? For the past few years, hearing Dilfer talk, you’d think Rivers walks on water. Trent Dilfer is the most idiotic, worthless, know nothing announcer in the game today. I got sick of hearing him blather on senselessly throughout the game.

But back to the game! If San Diego barely escapes winning a game with a mistake prone Raiders, and Kansas City can’t do much more than they did against Atlanta, then those three teams are probably just conceding the division the Payton Manning lead Denver Broncos in the AFC West.

MVP: Antonie Cason, CB


Washington Redskins over New Orleans Saints, 40-32

Robert Griffin III had the best rookie quarterback debut I can ever remember. He really reminds me of a much, much, much more mature version of Michael Vick. He was poised in the pocket, has a rocket arm, and for the most part made good decisions. Across the board the Redskins looked better in this game than I have seen in a long, long time. The offensive line, a big question mark coming into the season, played mostly very well with a few glitches. Left tackle Trent Williams played well, of course against a rust Will Smith, and out of nowhere for most Alfred Morris, the sixth round draft pick from Florida Atlantic showed why he is the starting running back.

The Saints, meanwhile, looked as discombobulated, mistake prone, and had scads of penalties which fueled the should have been blowhout. While one can see how explosive this offense can be, this game would not have been nearly as close had it not been for a blocked punt and poor calls by the referees.

After bounty gate I am glad to see the Saints get there cumuppance. And while I am not, by far, any kind of fan of the Redskins, they suddenly look intriguting.

MVP: Robert Griffin III, QB

 

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Offensive Player: Robert Griffin III, QB, Washington Redskins
Defensive Player: Tracy Porter, CB, Denver Broncos
Offensive Lineman: Manny Ramirez, G, Denver Broncos
Special Teams: David Akers, K, San Francisco 49’ers (Tie NFL record with 63 yard field goal)
Rookie of the Week: Robert Griffin III, QB, Washington Redskins

Kevin Kolb or Marc Bulger?

If I were a team like the Vikings, Cardinals, Dolphins, Titans, 49’ers, or any other quarterback needy team, I would take a serious look at Marc Bulger, former St. Louis Rams starting quarterback and current back up in Baltimore over Kevin Kolb.

Bulger looked like a starter in the preseason last year, and frankly I thought he looked better than Joe Flacco.  Granted he was playing against other teams second team, but he had good command of the huddle, threw crisp, accurate passes, and moved the chains.  The end of his stint in St. Louis was marred by injuries and ineffectiveness but his offensive line was so porous no quarterback could have been successful.  He also ended up not only playing hurt much of the time, and having no protection in the backfield.

Kevin Kolb, on the other hand, when given the opportunity to start, has looked anywhere from awful to mediocre at best.  To me he has not proven he is a viable starter in this league.  That’s not to say he may not be, but Bulger looks like a more attractive and proven candidate to lead a team.

Michael Oher in His Own Words

I Beat the Odds: From Homelessness to The Blind Side and Beyond by Michael Oher with Don Yaeger
Gotham Books 2011
ISBN: 978-1-59240-612-8

Michael Oher has had so many other people tell his story that he must have felt he finally had to tell his own story in his own words.

Michael Oher may be the most well known offensive lineman in the history of the National Football League after the movie, The Blind Side, based on the best selling book of the same name by Michael Lewis. The Blind Side tells of an inner city Memphis kid who grew up virtually homeless but rose to become the first round pick of the Baltimore Ravens of the National Football League.

Anyone who read or saw The Blind Side knows the basics of Oher’s story. He grew up in drug infested neighborhoods in Memphis with an indifferent mother addicted to crack cocaine, who often left her many kids to fend for themselves and was at times homeless.

Oher grew up often not knowing where his next meal was coming from or even where he would sleep. In an out of foster care, sometimes homeless, always destitute in if not the basics, direction and care, his character and work ethic, along with a lot of help from some very generous people, eventually landed him at a private school in well to do part of Memphis.

The amazing aspect of Oher’s success beyond people like the Tuohy family who took him into their home and made him part of their family, is his work ethic and perseverance through severe disadvantages.

Yes, Oher got lucky that there were enough people to help him along the way achieve his dreams. But it takes more than being huge and athletic to take those opportunities and turn them into success. While there are many, many, better off, less disadvantaged athletes that never graduate from college or achieve any level true success in professional sports, Oher graduated and had had success as a pro. Regardless of talent and background, that takes a lot of hard work. And despite the unbelievable disadvantages, Oher took the opportunities in front of him and made a success of his life.

In this book Michael talks about his life growing up, his love for his siblings and his adopted family, the Tuohys, but he also has a message. And that message is to those in similar circumstances not to give up, work hard, and take the opportunities afford and make the best of them. While not all kids in Oher’s situation will be quite as lucky, and probably not have quite the perseverance, Oher’s success creates a model and gives hope to others.

And another amazing thing about Oher is how self aware he is. He notes that the life of a professional football player is short, so he doesn’t live lavishly and plans to save and have a plan for the future. He understands that he doesn’t know everything about football and the professional game and understands he has to continue to learn and improve. It’s a rather refreshing perspective.

This book is readable, interesting, and while it will not really tell much that is not basically known about Oher’s life and success, it is his message of hope and perseverance that makes it a worthwhile read.

I Beat the Odds: From Homelessness, to The Blind Side, and Beyond

2010 NFL Football Season: Week 11 Observations

GENERAL OBSERVATIONS

Top Ten Teams

Philadelphia Eagles. While not as dominating a performance as last week against the Redskins, the Eagles won a division game against a tough opponent and shut down Giants’ running back Ahmad Bradshaw.

Atlanta Falcons. I don’t know what the Falcons strength of schedule looks like but it can’t be great. But they keep rolling along with a solid offense and defense.

New York Jets. The Jets’ come from behind wins week after week are pretty amazing. If the Patriots and Jets both win on Thanksgiving the Monday Night match up the following week will be the biggest game of the year so far.

New England Patriots. The Patriots constantly giving up big leads week after week is a real concern for Patriots fan. While the offense seems to have found a rhythm, the defense hasn’t matched up. This could ultimately be their downfall.

Baltimore Ravens. Not much to say about the Ravens game this week against a depleted and woeful Carolina Panthers unit.

Pittsburgh Steelers. After getting convincingly beaten by the Patriots last week the Steelers made a real statement in blowing out the Oakland Raiders.

Green Bay Packers. The shellacking of Minnesota this week must have been sweet for Aaron Rodgers and the Packers.

New Orleans Saints. It will be interesting to see if the Saints can regain their dominant form they showed last year. They seem to be on a bit of a roll now.

San Diego Chargers. San Diego is starting to look like the Super Bowl contender they were supposed to be. This is a very dangerous team in a weak division.

Indianapolis Colts. The Colts dropped a little this week after losing to the Patriots but only because the Chargers played so well.

The New York Giants dropped off the top ten list this week after losing a home game to the Eagles.

Trent Dilfer

Along with Tom Jackson, Trent Dilfer joins my all time least favorite announcers/analysts list. This guy is complete idiot and does not belong on television. The first week of the season he was the announcer for the San Diego Chargers versus Kansas City Chiefs game. I taped the game and watched it the next day and started right at the kickoff so I wasn’t even sure who the announcer was, I just thought he was an idiot. He kept going on and on and on and on ad nauseum about how great San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers is. I thought, gee is this guy married to Rivers?

Every time I see him on television he makes me sick with his stupidity. I turn the channel when I see him now. He was an awful quarterback too.

Brad Childress is Gone, Brett Favre Should Be Next

As soon as I saw that Brad Childress was finally fired from the Minnesota Vikings and Leslie Frazier named the interim head coach, I thought if Frazier really wants to take control of this team he has to release Brett Favre and see what Tarvaris Jackson can do as quarterback. Favre is as much of the problem with that team as Childress was and it will not be resolved until they show him the door. Favre has played horribly this year and clearly is the person who really that runs the team.

GAMES I WATCHED

New England Patriots over Indianapolis Colts, 31-28

After building up a nice 31-14 lead the New England Patriots defense gave up two really quick scores to the Colts in the fourth quarter, and nearly gave up a tying field goal or winning touchdown near the end of the game. This was heart attack city for Patriots fans and a cause for great concern. The defense is clearly still a work in progress but that progress better be a bit quicker as we reach the end of the regular season. The offense is not going to be able to put up 31 points on every team. And if we get behind it seems like the game could be over.

I am a glass half empty kind of fan after years and years of woeful Patriots teams in the late 1980’s and 1990’s, and I complained about the offense not doing more in the second half after a few bad series. But I was reminded that Peyton Manning threw three interceptions and the game loser, so I will just have to take that.

Danny Woodhead’s 36 yard touchdown run in the third quarter with little Wes Welker blocking downfield was a thing of beauty.

MVP: Danny Woodhead, RB

Chicago Bears over Miami Dolphins, 16-0

With third string quarterback Tyler Thigpen starting for the Dolphins off a short week I thought they were in big trouble, and they were. Add to that some injuries on the Dolphins’ offensive line and they were in even bigger trouble. The Dolphins offense just never could get it going and they were giving up a lot of yards on kick returns to Devin Hester that set up Chicago for an early lead that they never relinquished.

I think Thigpen is a decent quarterback and with a regular practice schedule and some protection can win some games for the Dolphins.

MVP: Devin Hester, KR/WR

Baltimore Ravens over Carolina Panthers, 37-13

This game went pretty much as expected with the Ravens dominating the undermanned Carolina Panthers on both sides of the ball. Nothing against Brain St. Pierre but when you sign a perennial backup and third stringer off the street to be your starter you are in big trouble. That goes doubly true if you are facing a ball hawking Ravens defense.

MVP: Ray Rice, RB

Philadelphia Eagles over New York Giants, 27-17

Despite being only a game up on the New York Giants in the NFC East, the Eagles staked their claim to the division title with a win over the New York Giants. While it wasn’t the otherworldly performance of a week ago against the Washington Redskins, the Eagles played good enough, especially on defense, to pull out a tough win. More impressive is the defense is playing better than it has all year long.

While the Giants are a bit banged up they are a strange team to watch week in and week out. Some weeks they look great and other weeks they look awful, even in some of their wins. You never know what Giants’ team is going to show up.

MVP: Jeremy Maclin, WR

San Diego Chargers over Denver Broncos, 35-14

Has a sleeping giant awoken from its slumber? After three straight wins and basically handing a game to the New England Patriots, the Chargers, even at 5-5, are poised to take the AFC West title if they keep winning. They have some tough matchups ahead but I am not a big believer in the Kansas City Chiefs or Oakland Raiders and the Denver Broncos are almost out of it.

This was a very dominating performance in all phases of the game by the Chargers. And while Philip Rivers was brilliant and really is having an MVP type season, backup running back Mike Tolbert set the tone early in the game with tough runs.

MVP: Mike Tolbert, RB

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Offensive Player: Steve Johnson, WR, Buffalo Bills
Defensive Player: Julius Peppers, DE, Chicago Bears
Offensive Lineman: Sebastian Vollmer, T, New England Patriots
Special Teams: Devin Hester, KR/WR, Chicago Bears
Rookie of the Week: Gerald McCoy, DT, Tampa Bay