A collection of ephemera.
So Birthday No. 52 came and went yesterday, meaning I can no longer sort of pretend I’m not 50 yet. My wife reminded me that I am technically in my 53rd year on this planet, and I offered the kind of response that such a comment deserves, but there’s no getting around it — at this time next year I might start to think about what it will be like to be (shudder) sixty.
I had license to do pretty much what I wanted, as everyone should have on his birthday — but I chose to simply go out for a little lunch, then watch football all day and kick back a few Boddingtons (there’s something odd about watching NFL games while drinking the Cream of Manchester — a brew associated with a completely different brand of football — but I like it). As birthdays go, it was just fine.
I watched the ‘Justified‘ season opener tonight. I’m not from the holler but I am from small-to-middlin’-town Missouri, right on the cusp of the Ozarks. There was a scene tonight where a criminal asked a marshal for a little favor, a few months after the marshal had been granted a little favor from the criminal. The marshal declined tonight’s request. A full-on brawl ensued. It ended in a way that both of them might have intended. I understood.
I’ve got these good friends. They’re twin brothers and they put my wife and me together. They knew I was too uptight and they knew she would extract my cork. They also knew she needed someone just like me.
The twins like to make this joke: A friend will help you move, but a good friend will help you move a body. I’ve known them for 21 years. They’re joking, I think. Either way, I understand.
Bill Clinton was the walking dead. That was the conventional wisdom on the day of the New Hampshire primary in 1992. The smart money said he was going to be lucky to finish third and was on his way out of the race.
That’s what happens when a one-time frontrunner gets hammered with both a sex scandal and a draft evasion scandal in the weeks before the primary. Support peeled away from Clinton in layers after that; money started to be a problem and even a ’60 Minutes’ interview that aired right after the Super Bowl couldn’t save him. The veteran journalists covering his campaign had seen this death spiral before and told everyone within shouting distance that Bubba (why did they insist on calling this Rhodes Scholar and Georgetown/Yale Law grad ‘Bubba’?) was finished.
I’d already packed for my drive back to Washington, after having moved to Manchester in early January. It was mid-February and I’d seen most of the state by ground and air, riding in vans, driving my car everywhere and taking one extraordinarily bumpy small plane ride that reminded me life was precious.
The night before the election, a restless Clinton couldn’t stand to be in his hotel room any more. A staffer gave me a yell and a few of us went bowling with the governor. There were no TV crews around and it was too late for the 11 p.m. news anyway, but that didn’t stop Clinton from shaking every hand in the joint, then going outside and greeting every person in a two-block radius. When I left, he was still at it — partcipating in some hopeless last-minute polticking that I quietly thought was a little pathetic.
The rest, of course, is history. Propelled by that sort of hard retail campaigning and the adoration of a staff that hadn’t been made cynical yet, Clinton finished second in New Hampshire. He proclaimed himself the Comeback Kid and ground it out for a few weeks until his campaign hit Georgia, Illinois and Michigan. Clinton won all three and was on his way to the White House.
In the months to come, I’d watch him accept his party’s nomination at the national convention in New York, would sit in the third row at the base of Capitol Hill while he gave his inaugural address, and started visiting the White House almost every day as though I was working the local cop beat I had been handling only six years earlier. But it was that primary night in New Hampshire, when Clinton got off the mat in the most improbable winning presidential campaign of my life, that will top the very long list of my political memories.
New Hampshire was boring in this cycle. The Democratic race was uncontested in any real sense and no one ever threatened Mitt Romney on the GOP side. But I’ll remember ’92 — and ’96, and 2000, when I made shorter trips to the place where I learned what it meant to be a political journalist.
I finally saw Tim Tebow play for the first time this year Sunday — and I was just as fascinated by what I didn’t see.
What I didn’t see was the flawed throwing motion he had in college, where he brought the ball down to his hip and kind of looped it around. What I didn’t see was a guy making bad reads. What I didn’t see was a weak arm — in fact, he threw a 50-plus yard bomb on the money and a (even tougher, IMHO) game-winning crossing pattern in which he hit the receiver in the hands at full stride.
And what I really didn’t see was any way to judge Tebow’s long-term chances in the NFL.
If you know nothing about Tebow — and you aren’t paying attention to pro football if you still know nothing about him — he’s really big and really strong and runs like the wind. He also raises questions with his mechanics and short-pass strength, and talk radio loves to love/hate him for his religious fundamentalism.
Still, Tebow and Michael Vick are the only QBs in the NFL who are real threats to run the option, which NFL defensive schemes are just not designed to handle. And Tebow, by virtue of his height, overall size and younger age, has some significant advantages over Vick in the option — and in spotting receivers downfield.
He won the game Sunday when Pittsburgh significantly overplayed the run on a crossing pattern. When the receiver came free, there was no safety there to help out — the safety had been pulled into run coverage and a play-action fake took care of him — and it was a simple footrace to the end zone once Tebow hit the receiver in stride.
Tebow’s pass stats are semi-painful to look at. He’s gone 126 of 271 this year, for 12 touchdowns and six interceptions. Top NFL QB prospects now come in the league and make waves right away, having already learned to make read-and-react decisions and speed the ball out because they ran spread offenses in college. But Tebow ran the option, so it might be instructive to compare him to QBs of a slightly earlier era, where it often took a few years for them to hone their NFL craft after playing a much different college game.
Consider Tebow’s boss, Hall-of-Fame QB John Elway. In his first year, he was 123 of 259 with only seven touchdowns and 14 interceptions. He turned out OK.
Troy Aikman was 155 of 293 his first year, with nine touchdowns and 18 interceptions. Eli Manning, currently one of the top QBs in the NFC and another winner over the weekend, was 95 of 197 with six touchdowns and nine interceptions. I doubt I would have any trouble finding more examples of QBs who needed time to adopt to the NFL, and then became stars.
Tebow is big, strong, fast, smart, has adjusted his mechanics and would appear to have a significant possible upside. He stunk up the joint in several games this year, as novice NFL quarterbacks sometimes do, but even some of those performances featured flashes of brilliance. That is a really positive sign.
My point about all of this: I know that snap judgment is the norm in the modern talk radio and Deadspin world of sports, but it’s going to take time to see what Denver really has in Tebow. He got a little taste of NFL action last year, was wildly inconsistent — but exciting — in his starting role this year and just played a terrific playoff game with everything on the line. I think it will be next year, at least, before we can make a rational assessment of his pro football talents.
I’ve done a little cleaning/maintenance around here. First, I’ve cleaned up the blogroll, removing a few links that were dead or blogs that were no longer being updated. I’ve also thrown in a few new entries. Finally, I’ve added a notification feature — fill in your email address in the ‘Subscribe to…’ feature in the right column, and you’ll get email notification every time I update Hokum. I’m not a heavy updater — I typically write about eight posts a month — so this shouldn’t spam your mailbox too badly, if you’re interested.
Hokum is written by Randy Lilleston, a Washington-area journalist. This blog contains a variety of insignificant thoughts. I started it in March 2006, but a
stupid unfortunate event in November 2007 led to the accidental deletion of all posts before August 2006. Enjoy.