FIRE JOE MORGAN: California's Poet Laureate Waxes Dumb


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Tuesday, January 16, 2007


California's Poet Laureate Waxes Dumb

In the last 200 years, California has borne or inspired many wonderful poets and other masters of the English language. Philip Levine hailed from Fresno, I believe. Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Gary Snyder, Michael McClure, and a lot of other Beats spent their formative writing years upstate. Let's not forget Charles Bukowski! Or Wilma Elizabeth McDaniel! Nor should we ignore the prose-poetry of Salinas, CA's own John Steinbeck, or any other of a thousand brilliant wordsmiths whose presence in our great state reminds us of the beauty and power of language.

And then there's this dope.

With a couple of minutes left in Schottenheimer's Last Stand, high in the chilly winds and darkening skies, the scoreboard at Qualcomm Stadium showed an old video of Marty Schottenheimer screaming some inspiration.

Right away, Plaschke starts dropping some poetry o'er our ears and hearts. O Chilly winds! O Darkening Skies! O Scoreboard!

Down below, with wide eyes and blank face, the real Marty was speechless.

Up above, he was wildly gesturing in a single direction.

Down below, the real Marty wandered around as if lost.

Up above, he bowed his head and stuck out his chest.

Down below, the real Marty cringed.

In the case of People of America v. Plaschke, LA Times, et. al., I submit to the court People's Exhibit 61. If I may briefly quote from said exhibit...

Around the hotel table sat Dodgers executives discussing trades.

In the corner sat the old scout watching television.

Around the hotel table they were talking about dumping Milton Bradley and wondering whom they should demand from the Oakland A's in return.

In the corner sat the old scout who has never worked with radar gun, computer or even stopwatch.

Around the hotel room table, someone mentioned an unknown double-A outfielder named Andre Ethier.

In the corner, the old scout jumped.

Does anything seem familiar, here, your honor? Let me distill these two articles:

August 2006:

Around the hotel...

In the corner...

Around the hotel table...

In the corner...

Around the hotel room table...

In the corner...

Aaaaaaand...January, 2007:

Down below...

Up above...

Down below...

Up above...

Down below...

It was a tough code, Plaschke's writing style, but I think I've broken it:

A = (physical location)
B = (different physical location)


With the San Diego Chargers trying to hold off the New England Patriots in the final moments of the AFC divisional playoff game Sunday, the fans wildly cheered the televised Marty.

When the Chargers eventually blew a lead and lost, 24-21, on a last-minute field goal, those same fans quietly and pitifully stared at the real one.

Call me crazy, but I don't think all 68,000 fans were staring at Marty. Maybe some of them were staring at one of the WR who dropped key passes. Or perhaps they were glaring at Marlon McCree, who, had he merely knocked the ball down, or merely fallen down, or merely run out of bounds, or merely not allowed a 5'2" 50 year-old man to strip the ball from his arms, would have probably won the game for the Bolts. Or mayhap they were staring at Eric Parker, who muffed the punt, or Vincent Jackson, who didn't drag his feet, or Drayton Florence, who headbutted Daniel Graham and gave the Pats a free first down. Or whichever dunderhead got flagged for the dead-ball penalty that forced the Chargers to kick off from their own 15. I mean, you could argue that some of these mistakes were the result of poor coaching, but if this is a badly coached team, how did they have an NFL-low like 15 turnovers this season? I mean, I really don't think that everyone in the entire stadium was staring at, and blaming, Marty.

What's that? They were all staring at and blaming Marty? All this shit was his fault? Okay. You're the poet.

He had botched a fourth-down call, bungled two timeout calls and stood idly on the cold grass while watching his team disintegrate into serial stupidity that led to the surrendering of 11 points in the final five minutes.

He stood idly by. Perhaps he should have suited up? The CBS dudes did show that funny picture of him playing for the Boston Patriots back in the day...

Seriously, what should he have done? The timeouts were dumb, and the 4th-and-11 was inexplicable -- but that was in the first quarter. What should he have done?

"I don't know if I can put it into words," said Charger LaDainian Tomlinson quietly.

I can. Three words.

January. Marty. Again.

This seems shortsighted.

Twenty-one years, 18 playoff games, and just five playoff victories.

Twenty-one years, 200 overall victories and zero Super Bowl appearances.

Schottenheimer left in front of one player, tackle Shane Olivea, who was so distraught he tore off his jersey and shoulder pads and attempted to throw the entire contraption 10 feet high into the stands.

Schottenheimer also left in front of a file of Chargers cheerleaders who were loudly weeping and complaining, "This ruins our trip to Miami!"
It's their Marty, and they'll cry if they want to.

I'm not sure what to make of this. Metaphor? Poetic license? Or is Plaschke actually claiming that he heard this, or that this happened? The cheerleaders were weeping? Pro football cherleaders? And they were complaining, and what they were saying was: "This ruins our trip to Miami?" When they wouldn't even have been going for three weeks -- assuming they won their next game?

I really don't understand what is happening at this point in the poem. I need Helen Vendler.

"Right now," said Schottenheimer, "the only thing I'm interested in is making sure that this group of young men in that locker room and that coach staff understand that we — while it didn't go anywhere in the playoffs — had a damn good football season."

Once again, he's Marty Shot-Himself-in-the-Foot-Heimer.

This is a poetic device called: the ham-fisted joke. Plaschke is a modern master.

Because, in today's NFL climate, if you have your conference's best record and are eliminated in your first game of the playoffs, you might as well be reprobates, or the Raiders.

This is sort of true -- because in 2000, the Raiders were the #1 seed and lost at home to the Ravens. The Steelers have been the #1 seed twice in the last few years and lost at home. The #1 seeded Eagles lost to the Panthers in 2002. The Colts lost to the 6-seed Steelers last year. In fact, I believe that this is the 8th out of the last 10 years that the team with the best record in football will not win the Superbowl (the 14-2 Pats of 2003 and the 12-4 Bucs, who tied for best record, being the exceptions.)

The point being, the NFL is insane, and everybody can beat everybody else. Especially Billy Belichick, who is 5-1 against #1 seeds in the playoffs. And 13-2 overall in the playoffs. If you blame Marty, blame Dungy and Reid and Cowher and every other good coach.

"We knew going into it what we were playing for," said Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi.

But did the Chargers? Under Schottenheimer's leadership, it was difficult to tell, beginning with a fourth-and-11 play from the Patriots' 30-yard line at the end of the first quarter.

This being a scoreless game, wouldn't it be time for Pro Bowl kicker Nate Kaeding to try a 47-yard field goal?

Instead, Schottenheimer called for a Philip Rivers pass that became a sack that gave the ball to the Patriots, who then drove and kicked their field goal.

Dumb decision. Dumb dumb dumb.

Schottenheimer, renowned for being too conservative in big games, was clearly and quickly trying to change his reputation. It cost his team the lead and momentum and who knows what else?

What else could it have cost them?

"The intention was to be very aggressive," he admitted.

His players took him literally, and it cost them more.

They should have taken him figuratively? They should not actually have been aggressive, but rather...what?

In the third quarter, Eric Parker muffed a punt, then attempted to run with the loose ball, fumbling it again and giving it to the Patriots.

In the ensuing drive, the Chargers defense pushed the Patriots out of field-goal range with a third-down sack, but after the play, cornerback Drayton Florence was flagged for the needs-his-head-examined act of head-butting.

The penalty moved the Patriots right back into field-goal range, from where Stephen Gostkowski connected to close the gap to 14-13.

All of this is Marty Schottenheimer's fault.

"How do you go 14-2 and fire the coach?" asked defensive end Luis Castillo. "The responsibility for this is all on the players."

Those players kept acting more irresponsible when safety Marion McCree seemed to have the game in his hands after grabbing Tom Brady's pass on fourth down with 6:25 remaining.

But instead of batting the ball down because it was fourth down, or instead of simply falling down, McCree tried to run.

"I thought I could score," he said.

From the middle of the field deep in Chargers territory?

That is so dumb of you, Marty Schottenheimer! I mean, Marlon McCree!

Troy Brown stripped the ball --

-- from Marty Schottenheimer's arms, I assume? --

-- the Patriots regained possession, and five plays later scored a touchdown and the tying, two-point conversion.

Despite replays clearly indicating it was a good call, Schottenheimer cost himself a timeout with a challenge, then called another timeout on the ensuing drive although the players had just been standing around for several minutes while an injured Patriot was examined.

"I don't think they were material to the outcome," said Schottenheimer of the timeouts.

This is dumb. Of course they were. But was Schottenheimer to blame? Don't teams have a guy in the replay booth who watch the plays and radio down to the head coach about whether or not he should throw the flag? Maybe the Bolts do not, or maybe Marty made this call on his own, but I haven't heard anyone definitively say that Marty made that call himself. (If anyone has such evidence, email me, please.)

Oh yeah? Well, if the Chargers had two timeouts, the NFL's most powerful fourth-quarter home offense would have had time to give Kaeding better than a 54-yard field goal attempt at the end of the game.

Ahhhh, yes. The fallacy of the pre-determined outcome.

If the Chargers had two TO left, the Pats might have played their drive differently, too. They might have gone for it on 3rd and 5 from the 15, and perhaps they would have made it, and run down the clock even further. The play calls would have been different on both sides. The whole last 7 minutes might have unfolded differently. Obviously, the Bolts would rather have had TO than not, but to say that the game would have unfolded exactly the same's just plain silly.

"Hopefully he'll be back," said Charger Shawne Merriman of his head coach, shrugging. "If not, well, it's a business."

A business that Marty Schottenheimer again built into a giddy fall power before running into the cold January ground.

O Giddy Fall Power! O Cold Ground! O Plaschke, my Plaschke!

I believe it was Plato, or was it Arquimedez, who said: "Poets utter great and wise things which they do not themselves understand." Perhaps that is the problem here. Plaschke is so brilliant he is just channeling God, and even if he himself is just babbling nonsense, we must trust that he is great and wise.

Or maybe he's just a lousy writer.

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posted by Unknown  # 3:06 AM
A few thoughts from the Mind Grapes of our readers:

Re: Marty throwing the flag himself or some other coach doing it, the aptly-named reader Read writes:

...That's one of the big (and as this incident showed, maybe fair) criticisms of Schottenheimer- he doesn't even wear a [profanity edited -- ed.] headset. Maybe if he had had a headset on, he would've heard someone shouting in his ear "DON'T THROW THE [more profanity edited; perhaps Read is a Bolts fan? --ed.] FLAG." If he wasn't the one that actually made that call then, heck, maybe it is his fault anyways for putting a complete idiot in charge of challenges.

Possibly. Although, consider this report from James:

I was watching Patriots 5th quarter after the game on one of those local channels, and one of the guys reporting said something to the effect of:

"It was Rivers' decision to throw that flag. He was looking up at the replay board, and he ran over to Schottenheimer and started yelling at him and pointing to the board, and Schottenheimer got out the flag and threw it, trusting his quarterback."

Now, this wasn't shown on TV, so I don't have any proof that it happened, but it seems unlikely that this guy, who was at the game, would make it up.


In any case, many of you have already written in to point out that Martin Q. Football, alias "Martyball," doesn't wear a headset -- I did see him with a good ol' Motorola around his neck at least a few times in the game, and I have to believe that before throwing that flag he either got some bad advice from a player, or else from a coach up in the replay booth.
It should be noted, as we discussed during the game itself, that although Marty himself was not wearing a headset during most of the game, that weird piece of chocolate / cold sore below his lip was wearing a tiny headset of its own.
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