Tuesday, September 24, 2002

Bill Simmons writes about how today's local sports media can make a disappointing season for a high-profile team, in his case this year's Boston Red Sox, almost unbearable:

With everyone competing for air time and attention, there's an inherent pressure to "up the ante," to come up with "something good," to produce an "angle" that nobody thought of before

There's similar thing going on with this year's St. Louis Rams, I think. I've been avoiding sports talk radio and the sports page for that reason. The Rams of course, are currently 0-3. It's obvious they are not performing up to expectations. But that's boring. We've got to go deeper than that!

So, let's look at this morning's sports page...

And on and on. Does this help a sports fan's enjoyment of the game? Not really, but it does help these columnists get hired when sports talk radio and ESPN and all the pre-game shows do their, "What's wrong with the Rams?" stories.

Everyone's got a theory. Mike Martz's ego is too big. It's Kurt Warner's thumb. They miss Az-Zahir Hakim. Isaac Bruce has lost a step. They need to run the ball more. They need to get back to the free-wheeling stlye they used to have. And on and on..

(Side note: I have my own theory -- it's encapsulated in the fact that Rams' offensive lineman Orlando Pace has his own weekly talk show, and fellow OL Adam Timmermann is often the most quotable Ram. This is a stark contrast to a team like the late 90's Denver Broncos, whose OL's famously refused to talk to the media until the Super Bowl. (They also cheated and tried to injure their opponents, but that's another matter.) Here, the linemen think they're individual stars, but they need to think of themselves as a unit. Football offensive line play, more than any other task in team sports, is something that demands cohesion, the entire squad playing as a unit. The Rams's OL seem to want some of the publicity that gets showered on Marshall Faulk and Kurt Warner. But they've forgotten what got them here. Anyway, that, coupled with the quick learning curve of NFL defensive coordinators, is my theory).

Last night, they did not play well, but being realistic, some of that had to do with Marshall Faulk, the best player in the NFL, getting hurt. Two of Warner's interceptions last night were a direct consequence of Faulk's young replacements running different routes than Kurt Warner was expecting. If those interceptions are taken away, we have a different ballgame, one which the Rams probably would have won.

Yes, of course the Bucs dropped some other possible INT's, and you can question Martz for not having someone better to put into that situation.

But my point is that NFL teams are so close to each other that when a team loses the league's best player while on the road against a tough opponent, it should not be surprising that that would be enough to cost them the game.
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