So everyone is on the same page with this evening’s live-ish blog, there are a few things that I should mention. First is that I broke the 5th metatarsal on my right foot on Saturday evening, and I’m dealing with that. Good times. Second is that I’m also dealing with a miserable internet connection, so this should be really exciting. Third is that the Los Angeles Avengers and Chicago Rush are playing on the same night as the Home Run Derby, so we’ll be checking in with that from time to time, because I’m kind of curious. Chris Berman is consistently irritating, but I like watching people hit things a very long way. And Ryan Howard played trombone in high school, just like your editors. Also of interest to you may be this article in today’s Chicago Tribune.
All times are Central. Because that’s the way I roll.
It’s 7:16 PM, and ESPN2 will show irritating people playing Madden against each other for the next 14 minutes. I will spend the next 14 minutes with my foot elevated, wondering when the Motrin’s going to kick in. Also, ESPN is showing irritating people commenting on people hitting home runs. Justin Morneau isn’t doing particularly well yet. Ron Gardenhire is a crafty pitcher, apparently. Wait – there goes one to the deepest part of the ballpark. Berman instantly pulls out the “Back back backbackbackback,” schtick.
7:20 – Joe Morgan plus Chris Berman are inventing new ways to be annoying. There isn’t a lot of avenues for insightful commentary in the home run derby to begin with, but this is absurd.
7:23 – Chris Berman tells us that there’s no punting in Arena Football.
7:24 – Okay, I made that up, but it’d be cool. One anecdote, before I flip to the raison d’etre for this blog: we were in the Corner Bakery on Huron about 12 years ago, and there were some architect-types discussing their plans for a sports arena, and my dad, my sister and I were eavesdropping. Their idea for having right field abut San Fransisco Bay seemed like a pretty cool idea at the time. Indeed, we apparently were overhearing the pitch for AT&T Park in San Fransisco. May Holliday is now hitting home runs. COME ON, START THE DAMN PLAYOFFS.
7:29 – This Madden thing is shockingly annoying.
Oh, thank God. Footba- WAIT – WHAT? Matt D’Orazio has a back injury? That’s how you open your broadcast? No explanation, just an announcement that he as a back injury? Thanks, Merril Hoge and Mark Jones. Assholes. We have to wait for the “We’ve Got It Going On” montage to end to learn that a) this is the injury he suffered by stepping onto his fullback’s cleat (as referenced in the above-linked article) and b) he got a cortisone shot, just like in Any Given Sunday. I am not particularly reassured by listening to him run back into the tunnel saying “Hey, give me that shot. I really want that shot now.”
7:34 – Sonny Cumbie looks re-animated. Not re-invigorated; I mean he looks like a zombie.
7:35 – Los Angeles wins the toss, they’ll receive, and we’re on our way. Ingrahm gets swarmed at the ten. I really want to take my fucking cast off. Cumbie takes a shot to Lenzie Jackson waaaay downfield immediately, and Jackson can’t hang onto the ball. That may have been their shot, as Cumbie proceeds to hurl the ball into the bench and then Chicago gets a pick-six. All-Arena DB Jeremy Unertl puts Chicago up early. Extra point is good, 7-0, Chicago. 12:22 remains in the first.
7:39 – Hoge and Jones make a salient point about getting your first points from your defense being a mighty confidence boost, especially when Chicago’s in the situation they are with D’Orazio’s injury. Nicely done, gentlemen. Los Angeles starts back in the shadow of their goal line again. Quick completion to buy themselves some space, and then Cumbie magically gets away from what looked to be a certain sack.
7:42 – Shading? What the crap is that penalty? You have to line head-up on guys, apparently. 2nd and 5 for LA, and Cumbie airmails another pass into the stands. To say he doesn’t look comfortable would be an understatement. I think the next play they call is a “Wayne Brady,” and I’m trying to figure out how a pass to the middle of the field makes Bryant Gumbel look like Malcolm X.
7:44 – Sack, Chicago. Pressure’s coming pretty consistently, and the LA receivers aren’t getting any yards after the catch. Avengers have to take a time out. Something else that makes me laugh is that the LA coach still covers his face when radioing in a play. The dude’s miked – if Chicago really wanted to cheat and steal plays, they’d just listen to the ESPN feed, wouldn’t they?
7:46 – We’ll check in with the HR Derby. Pujols bombs one as the broadcast team is chatting with A-Rod. Please, make the joke regarding the pronunciation of Albert’s last name and A-Rod for me. A-Rod is much more entertaining on The Dugout. Back on the ranch, Los Angeles goes for it on 4th and 6, the pass is complete to Ingram, and Ingram is MURDERED, but hangs on to the ball, beyond any and all reason. The replay is horrifying. Somewhere, Ingram’s cousin isn’t even watching, and just went “Oh, OW! Jesus!” I’m relatively sure Ingram’s internal clock has been reset to 1964. By the way, that was a first down. We come back from commercial, and Ingram’s alive, but he thinks he’s Batman.
7:52 – This game is delightful. Quiroga is sent over the boards, doesn’t get a foot down, so the pass is incomplete, but he pops up all “Look! I’m okay!” in the midst of a sea of random Allstate Arena staffers. A sweet pass from Cumbie threads the needle, touchdown, LA. The XP bangs around, but goes through. 7-7, Los Angeles. 4:37 remains. Is D’Orazio okay? We’ll find out. Alex Rios just hit a blast. Alex Rios? Really? How many people have hit, here? At least I avoided most of the NBA Street commercial that makes me want to write a stern letter to my congressman (Bobby Rush).
7:56 – jcompton shout-out: Yes, I skipped over the rarely-called offensive pass interference call. No, I don’t know why. Chicago’s starting at the 5-ish. Is this play named “Trey Wingo?” Really? Pass complete, and there’s a little bit of extracurricular activity. D’Orazio’s in a bit of trouble here. He’s moving around at maybe 75%. They’re getting him some time here, setting up with the run. I typed that before Jones and Hoge discussed it, incidentally. They think that they’re just doing it to get away from their end zone. Why can’t we both be right?
8:00. D’Orazio gets buried, and almost passes it directly to the Jack LB. The offensive line gives him some time, but he leans way back, and is compensating for his back by throwing Sexy Rexy-style, wildly off his back foot. Dan Frantz nails a 46-yarder with 16.4 seconds left. 10-7, Chicago. And there’s some blue language that follows that, because the sound cuts out for about 45 seconds. D’Orazio apologizes to Sippio for missing him a couple of times. D’Orazio sounds okay in his interview, saying that he mis-read the play, not that his back caused the trouble. Okay. Kickoff clangs off the post, and LA desperately falls on it. The first quarter comes to an end. It’s 8:04.
Back to the HR Derby, Prince Fielder is a large young man. A large young man that hit a ball 455 feet to dead center, and then skies one that lands at the warning track. And then bombs another one. Joe Morgan and Chris Berman continue to prattle. It’s much harder to live-blog the Home Run Derby. Fielder keeps hitting towering popups, but those don’t count. And we’re back.
8:07 – EA Sports scouting report. We get the “Has all the clubs in his bag” comment that has to be explained, as well as “Sonny McEnroe,” which implies that he’s the Arena League’s enfant terrible, I guess. We get to watch him run around like a maniac at Texas Tech, and then, in tonight’s game, barely avoid a sack to lead his reciever too much on 4th and for a turnover on downs. Chicago has absurdly good field position, but Hoge and Jones respect their audience enough to refrain from explaining that there’s no punting in Arena Football.
8:11 – D’Orazio to Maeger, touchdown. Apparently Maeger was an “added addition” to the team. As opposed to a subtracted addition, I guess. Or an added quotient. Or an… integer overflow… I don’t know. 17-7 Chicago, 12:14 remains in the half, and D’Orazio is asked about his back again.
8:14 – Cumbie, under extreme pressure, flings one to a WIDE open receiver (Rod Turner) who trots into the endzone unmolested. The extra point is precise, and it’s 17-14 Chicago. Hoge makes a Myspace joke, and I don’t mind telling you that “www.touchdownavengers.com” is the punchline. My foot itches, because that’s what happens when you’re in a cast. Particularly exceptional is when people ask “Hey, does your foot itch?” and you respond, “Well it didn’t until you asked,” and then you’re legally allowed to kill them with a pitchfork.
8:19 – My sister may know Rod Turner. Not biblically. Shut your mouths. Miked-up tells us that Bobby Sippio wants a touchdown pass badly. D’Orazio is a little bit shuffly, and this offense is generally not in sync. Etu Molden gets a first down as D’Orazio somehow manages to buy enough time to lob one in his general direction.
8:22 – There’s the Bobby Sippio touchdown catch and subsequent swear-fest. Dump-button-guy is on his game tonight. 24-14 Chicago, 7:55 remains in the half.
8:24 – We discover that it’s the wrong Rod Turner, as Los Angeles’ went to Central Michigan, not Purdue. Bobby Sippio gives deserved props to D’Orazio, and on the kick return, Stubbs is pushed out at the 15. Lenzie (is kind of a girl’s name) Jackson is open underneath for a solid gain, and then there’s a mysteriously inaccurate shovel pass from Sonny Cumbie that clangs to the turf. It was intended for Jeffries who, according to our crack announcing team is possessed of “a lot of biscuits.”
8:28 – Ingram is overthrown and double-covered on 3rd down, and Remy Hamilton comes in to attempt the field goal. It misses left, and the return sneaks out to the two. There’s a flag on the play – kick catch interference, which’ll move – Well! There’s a bit of a scuffle by the LA bench. Ramifications? None, apparently. CURTIS ENIS, ladies and gentlemen, getting into a bit of a scrap this evening… That can’t be the same Curtis Enis. Is it? I’ll check at the next commercial. [Update: it's not. It's Curtis Eason. I clearly do not know my Chicago Rush players. And/Or I got over-excited.] Meanwhile, first down, Chicago. D’Orazio to Maeger.
8:32 – D’Orazio throws a skyhook to the sideline. That’s ill-advised, but no harm done. (Note: this, apparently, is a half-truth, as it turns out they called the play a sack, not an incomplete pass) Oh, and a nice touch pass towards McMillen can’t be hauled in. D’Orazio’s just staying alive on grit and more grit. Sippio can’t haul in a pass, and then on 4th down, D’Orazio gets mauled again, and he throws it to no one. Pass interference on the defense offsets with holding on the offense, and we’ll do it again.
8:36 – Except this time, we’ll do it with a field goal.
8:36:15 – Well, false start on Chicago, so I don’t really know what’s going to happen.
8:37 – One-minute warning. Forget I said anything. Also, I apparently gave up on the HR Derby. And there’s been some call at the McGrath Compound for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire rather than more Arenaball.
8:39 – Bobby Sippio, with a circus catch, just fights off the defender and goes up for the jump ball. Also, he would like D’Orazio to know that Sippio’s his boy now. Next play, touchdown, Chicago, pass from Sippio to D’Orazio. Yes, I typed that right. This is just getting silly. Getting silly? Trickeration is always welcome at It’s Still Football. D’Orazio is mighty humble on the post-play interview. 31-14 Chicago, 36.7 seconds left.
8:44 – Cumbie to Turner for roughly 35 yards, and they’re going to try to score before the half. Pickup of 7 yards, and they let the clock run down to 12.6 seconds before calling timeout. They’re going to run a couple quick plays from the three. “Nimble, agile, hostile” Jeffries pulls in a one-handed catch, and gets hit late. That’ll be assesed after the kickoff. The extra point clangs away, and we get the first mention of “the goal posts are just 9 feet apart,” from our announcing team. 31-20, Chicago. 8.0 seconds left before we get to the half.
8:48 – D’Orazio is going to try to get a strike down the field with less than 5 seconds left. Sippio can’t get to the sidelines, so it’s just D’Orazio and Sippio playing the role of H.R. Paddin’stats. Halftime. I’m going to go medicate; I’ll talk to you after the half
I skipped all of halftime. So no analysis from me, other than the team that scores the most points is likely to win. That’s the official ISF halftime strategy session. It’s traditional now.
9:00 – Kickoff for the second half. Remy Hamilton puts in the soft part of the net, and it’ll come out to the 5. The D’Orazio recap is kind of brutal, and he follows it with a completion to Sippio and then one to Molden. An excellent point by Hoge: if they didn’t have the bye week, how screwed would the Rush have been, considering D’Orazio’s injury?
9:02 – My internet is all screwed up. These updates aren’t going anywhere, are they? No. they aren’t. Awesome.
9:03 – First down on the ground, and Chicago is officially driving. Good God, Sippio is double teamed on the post route and comes down with the ball anyway. There is no reason that should’ve worked. A little dance, a little popped collar, and the extra point is good. 12:14 left in the third, and the score is 38-20 Chicago.
9:07 – Sippio tells us the game plan was for D’Orazio to “put it in the back corner, and [he'd] go get it.” Yeah, that sounds like a good plan. It’s one step removed from drawing up plays in the dirt, but it works. And, in D’Orazio’s defense, he puts those throws where only a freaky-good receiver like Sippio can get at them. Meanwhile, Los Angeles screws up the kickoff return, and then fumbles a snap that’s recovered on the 1. This bodes ill for Los Angeles. What was their halftime speech? “Guys, I need you to just be terrified. Act all skittish for the first 10 minutes, would you?”
9:11 – There’s no review in the game, so the ensuing quasi-interception by DeJuan Alfonzo remains only a possibility. As ephemeral as a dream. Whatever. I need more interesting pain killers. Sonny Cumbie’s 4th and 5 pass goes for 4 and three-quarters yards. Turnover on Downs, Chicago’s left with a short field, again. Los Angeles may be on their last legs. Bobby Sippio is vocally making friends with his defensive unit. This defense really has been remarkable tonight.
9:12 – Bubble screen to the right is blown. Up. And it’s a fumble, recovered by Los Angeles. Etu Molden gets stopped cold – the first horrifying hit of the game was worse, but Etu Molden got up much faster. Molden and the tackler were square on each other and it ended poorly for Molden. While I’ve been writing this, Cumbie misses two receivers, one broken up by Unertl. The DBs for Chicago have been all over the Los Angeles wide receivers all night. Jumping routes, closing on receivers, and this last hit stalls LA at 4th and 1. Which Cumbie completes to Ingram for the 1st down. Flag on the play. Offisdes, offense, and it’s coming back. The official’s microphone is the only one in the building not working, so I had to interpret that for everybody. You’re welcome.
9:15 – But the Internet still isn’t working, so the interpretation is for naught. Awesome. Cumbie on 4th and 6 calls the same play, and it works again. Ingram is a stunt double for the Rock? Did I hear that right? Or is he just a stunt double in a movie that The Rock is also in? Well, he was in Invincible, too, so that’s nice. Another pass to Ingram, and they’re making my analysis of Chicago’s coverage team look somewhat less accurate. Side note, Uni Watch – style. Chicago has a Discover Card patch on each shoulder. That seems somewhat redundant. And, the Rush rough Cumbie as he chucks the ball into the stands. Not a smart play. Linzie Jackson can’t hold onto the ball, as he gets hammered by (I think) Unertl.
9:20 – Another underneath route allowed and slowed down by Chicago, as Los Angeles is burning daylight that they don’t have a surplus of. Ordway knocks away the pass intended for Quiroga on 3rd and Goal.
HEY! Da Coach sighting! He looks… angry, unsurprisingly.
9:22 – Cumbie is sacked, and the ball is turned over on downs. Woofty. Way too much time ran off the clock, especially considering Los Angeles came away with no points. Back to Coach Ditka, still inscrutable as the sphinx. A gum chewing, surly sphinx.
9:24 – Back from commercial, and we get another look at Ditka, who’s now pretty fired up, I think. You know, relatively speaking. It looks like he wants to put some pads on and hit somebody himself. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to take a moment and celebrate ESPN’s next graphic, comparing LA and Chicago. Because it references the ’88 Dodgers, and my beloved ’05 White Sox. WOO! ALL RIGHT! And then they talk about the Lakers and the Bulls, and then the ’83 Raiders and the ’85 Bears. And then, they go hockey. The poor, poor Blackhawks, run into the ground by the stupid crappy disaster that is Bill Wirtz. Though the LA Kings haven’t won any titles, they at least had Gretzky. And not Bill Wirtz. This is a rant for another day and another blog. Back to the action. Though Merril Hoge references Stan Mikita, which is pretty cool.
I tried to get a picture of the Smurfit-Stone (Vajay-jay) Building downtown that ESPN just cut to, as it says “Go Rush,” and I thought I could start a post with that, but alas, ’twas not to be. ANYWAY. There’s a game going on, if ESPN was inclined to show it.
9:27 – I had to rewind to see what backup QB #8 got hit in the face with. I think it was an elbow pad. Meanwhile, perhaps as distracted by graphics as both the ESPN team and I, Hohensee needs to burn a time out with 25.8 left in the 3rd, as the play clock runs down on D’Orazio and the Rush.
9:29 – D’Orazio throws off his back foot again, this time complete to Mager at the 4, moving the chains, and that’ll kill off the rest of the 3rd quarter.
9:32 – Somebody’s dressed for New Orleans in the stands here at Allstate Arena. We still haven’t figured out in which grocery store parking lot Hohensee was struck by a car. I mention that because ESPN does, and we were asked the question, and never sufficiently followed up. And, just like that, touchdown, Sippio. The extra point is good. 45-20 Chicago, 14:17 remains in the game. Sweet! We get Arena Bowl I highlights of Hohensee as a player. Of note: Hohensee had significantly more hair in the Arena Bowl I highlights.
9:35 – Coach Ho is trying to concentrate on the game and his interview at the same time, and it’s pretty scattered. Apparently, there’s a lot of trickeration that still remains in Chicago’s bag. That’s what I took away from that. On the next play, Ingram is drilled into the boards by Unertl, but hangs with the ball for a significant gain. But, LA can’t seem to string more than two plays together in a row, as they shoot themselves in the foot with an offsides penalty, and then a short dump off that Chicago swarms towards. The good news for LA is that there’s another roughing the passer penalty called on Chicago. Moving on: this would be the biggest 4th quarter comeback in AFL history, and getting the crap sacked out of them on 2nd down and then falling over on 3rd down isn’t the way to go about setting a new mark.
9:40 – The Los Angeles coach is just trying to settle down an obviously overwhelmed Cumbie, and isn’t able to do so over the headset. Cumbie’s forced to burn a time out. This game is over, kids. The Avengers are a mess and a half.
9:43 – I’ll tell you something else: there was an ad that said “Good seats still available” for tonight’s game in today’s paper. It looks like they sold those seats. It’s relatively raucous in the ol’ Rosemont Horizon tonight. And the Rush force another turnover on downs. The coverage forced Cumbie to check down all the way to his grandmother, and the pressure from the line caused him to uncork a pass anyway. A pass that was tipped at the line and nearly intercepted by a linebacker. That’s a complete defensive effort.
9:46 – D’Orazio’s going to sit the rest of this one out. I’m going to argue that he earned it, and they’d better give their trainer a nice steak dinner tonight. I wonder if my friend Mary is still working for the Rush as a massage therapist. New Guy completes his first pass. Good for you, Russ Michna (formerly “New Guy”). Russ is a Leatherneck from Western Illinois, and I guess he said something that Dump Button Guy found to be objectionable, beyond “You went inside and you scared me,” to Bobby Sippio.
9:48 – We’re officially in killing time mode – oh, Chicago scores! – as the announcing team interviews the bejabers out of D’Orazio. The scoring play, doesn’t seem to have gone according to plan, as the sound drops out entirely for about 45 seconds, and when it cuts back in, Michna is apologizing profusely to Sippio for something. This is the part of the AFL that I find most interesting – listening in on these guys’ conversations. Michna apparently gave up on Sippio’s route, but Bobby contends that he was improvising or something, and to NEVER GIVE UP ON BOBBY SIPPIO. The extra point is good, Michna and D’Orazio commiserate about Sippio’s bitching – I assume they said “bitching,” because I set my crack team of linguists on figuring out what got cut out there – and the score is now 52-20.
9:52 – Meanwhile, Chicago hasn’t allowed any points in the second half since week 16. That’s insane. Hoge says that, on the kick return, Terrence Stubbs is “undecisive.” Really? Are you sure that’s the word you want to use? Well, whatever, we’re previewing the upcoming San Jose/Chicago game. Jones gives a little support to San Jose flying under the radar. Not at It’s Still Football, friends. I legitimately can’t wait for that game. And I never thought I’d say that.
9:54 – Hey, look, an Avengers drive that’s stalling inside the red zone. That’s… not news. Cumbie overthrows a guy, a sort pass gets the receiver dumped into the boards, Sippio shouts “Free mouthpieces!” for some reason (thanks, ESPN!), and the ball is batted halfway to O’Hare by Unertl on 3rd down. ESPN mentions that this could set a new record for fewest points in a playoff game as Cumbie clangs the pass off the crossbar, and that’s turned over on downs again. This has been a complete shutdown by Chicago’s defense.
9:59 – Subplots, subplots, watch the backup QB throw, watch him scramble, watch him get sacked and throw the ball into the stands anyway. Hey, free ball! That’ll take us to the 1:00 warning.
10:02 – Bobby Sippio’s taken his pads off, and Molden pads his stats. I’m a master of parallel construction. I don’t even know I’m doing it. Aaaaannnddd… that’ll do it. Ta ta, Los Angeles. Merrill Hoge says that D’Orazio and Bobby Sippio are “the two quasars in Chicago’s universe.” That word… I do not think it means what you think it means.
What have we learned? D’Orazio may take the Gritty Crown from the Scrappy Chris Griesen by virtue of his play this week. Bobby Sippio remains a game-changer, and a chatty one at that. We’ll get a little preview action going later in the week, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a Georgia/Chicago Arena Bowl. There was no leader that stepped up on the Los Angeles side, and it showed. I’ll assign that blame to both poor coaching, and to Sonny Cumbie looking like an aggrieved ferret for most of the second half. From top to bottom, LA looked panic-stricken, and as Chicago’s defense constricted, they simply ceased to have answers. To steal a gimmick: many, many cocktails to Chicago’s defense tonight. They played extraordinarily. Which makes me giddy, because I like proof that defense can be played to great effect in the Arena League.
However, I’m going to chuck an official Spalding AFL football directly into the groin of AT&T DSL, because I don’t know when this post is actually going to go through to the site. Sorry for it not being particularly timely.