Hope and despair. The two prevalent emotions when it comes to being a sports fan. You either have one or the other. There is no in between if you are truly a fan, which is short for fanatic. A fanatic is defined as a person with an extreme and uncritical enthusiasm or zeal. The combination of hope and despair is also the central theme from the latest Batman rendition featuring Christian Bale, and Tom Hardy as his foil, Bane.
Coming off the heels of the recent release of The Dark Knight Rises on blu-ray and dvd, it brought to mind some of my favorite lines said by Bane from the movie, and how they can fit into the current sports world.
Without further ado, I present the sports world from the mind of Bane.
"Washington, take control... take control of your city. Behold, the instrument of your liberation!"
Speaking of liberation and freedom, why not start with the "most powerful city in the nation", Washington, D.C.? The Wizards are a league worst 3-18, and in the last four seasons the highest they have finished is third worst in the Eastern conference. They have not made the playoffs since the 2007-2008 season, which was a completely different regime of players at the time. Due to the knee injury to star point guard/franchise player John Wall, a team that could potentially hover around .500 is left dwindling at the bottom with wins coming few and far between. Even if he returns in January or February, it won't change this year. Next year with Wall at hopefully on one hundred percent health and a few pieces by way of the draft, free agency and through trade, the Wizards will look to make a big improvement from the last half decade.
"It doesn't matter who we are... what matters is our plan."
Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey is a huge stats nerd, which is not a bad thing. Most decisions he makes are with his head, and not his heart. Although risking it all for Dwight Howard would have others thinking otherwise. Throughout the off season, Morey had more turnover with his players than a retail store. The top six scorers (including the whole starting line up) were shuffled through various means (amnesty, trade, free agency) in hopes of striking gold. Morey finally had his franchise player when he traded for the Thunder's James Harden. While the common NBA fan was left perplexed as well as oblivious to the incoming players, Morey's moves helped free up a lot of money, even after signing former Knick Jeremy Lin to a hefty contract as well as Harden to a huge extension. Morey has his eyes on the 2013 free agent market, and was not afraid to unload, bottom out, start fresh and begin his rebuilding plan.
"No one cared who I was until I put on the mask."
This goes to the return of previously injured Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irvin. In a 103-102 loss to the Knicks on December 15th, Irving scored a career high 41 points on 15-25 shooting from the field as well as going 5-8 from three point land. It was a remarkable return to form for the former Blue Devil. People did care before about him obviously, but to have that kind of game while getting used to a new mask he was fitted for only hours earlier is truly impressive. To carry his team to within a point of the best team in the Eastern Conference is equally as impressive.
"Calm down, New York! Now's not the time for fear. That comes later."
This pertains to the New York Football Giants. Their abysmal showing on Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons this late in the season surely has to worry even the most devout of Eli followers. He has helped characterize his teams the last few years on a poor start, followed by a late season surge which propels them to deep post season runs. Getting shut out by a top NFC contender in the Falcons (which also has its naysayers) 34-0 with only two weeks left in the regular season is not a good sign. Oh, and Giants fans, the Cowboys won, and the Redskins have won five in a row. Just saying. At least you aren't Eagles fans.
CIA Agent: "Well, congratulations! You got yourself caught! Now what's the next step in your master plan?"
Bane: "Crashing this plane... with no survivors!"
Speaking of Eagles fans, Philadelphia has surely seen their season crash and burn. The crash started when Michael Vick began to underwhelm with his play, as well as him being extremely prone to injury. Then they lost receiver DeSean Jackson to the I.R. with a chest/collarbone injury. The burn was slightly mitigated by rookie running back Bryce Brown's success, but undermined by his last two games, the latest being a 34-13 stomping from the Cincinnati Bengals. Rest in piece, Philadelphia coaching career of Andy Reid. I will end this quote analysis with an apt epitaph: "Here lies the Philadelphia coaching career of Andy Reid, went through a lot in the city of Brotherly Love, but is now finally freed."
"It would be extremely painful." (Bane in response to the hypothetical removal of his mask.)
We can't leave out Pac Man. His most recent fight was a devastating sixth round knock out loss to Juan Manuel Marquez. He went down like a sack of potatoes, and with him went the luster of a future showdown with WBC welterweight champion Floyd Mayweather, Jr. The physical pain is only equaled by the pain of losing in such decisive fashion. The only thing that would add insult to injury is if it was found out Manny was using PED's and not Marquez.
"Let the games begin!"
This might be a bit premature, but if the Washington Redskins can continue their winning ways, they would see the postseason for the first time since 2007. Through sheer will and determination, as well as athletic ability, possible rookie of the year Robert Griffin III has turned an NFC East basement dwelling franchise into one on the verge of winning the NFC East. Let's not leave out fellow rookies Alfred Morris and Kirk Cousins. Fans all around the DMV area are seething for a chance in the playoffs, and this team wants to deliver on it.
"What a lovely, lovely season."
If there's one truly inhuman thing about this year's NFL season, it's the post- ACL injured Adrian Peterson. Most would consider rushing for 1,000 yards and a handful of touchdowns a successful comeback for a sixth year running back, but Adrian Peterson is not just a running back. He is a cyborg sent from the future to show all the human players what the future of running backs looks like. If the mold could be broken, Peterson has now obliterated it. He has compiled 1,812 yards and 11 touchdowns while averaging 6.4 yards per carry. The closest to him is Seattle's Marshawn Lynch with 1,379 yards, 433 behind. What about last year's leading rusher, Arian Foster? He only trails by a yard under 500, with 1,313. If "Purple Jesus" can lock up the all time rushing record held by Eric Dickerson (2,105 yards), as well as push the Vikings into a wild card spot in the playoffs, the MVP is all but his.
"Speak of the devil and he shall appear."
To all those who talk about Kobe Bryant's play as selfish, and the treatment of his teammates as bullish: Kobe Bryant is still here, and he doesn't intend to leave anytime soon. The man most people compare to Michael Jordan has five titles, over 30,000 points, two Olympic gold medals, one MVP, and has been to 14 all star games. Oh and in his sixteenth year, he's leading the league in scoring at 29.5 points per game.
Roland Daggett: "I paid you a small fortune.."
Bane: "And you think this gives you power over me?"
Unfortunately for Larry Fitzgerald, yes it does. Fitzgerald signed an eight year, one hundred and twenty million dollar contract in August 2011. I'm sure he had no idea how bad things would get in term of the quarterback situation, but I can only imagine what thoughts run through his head. To his credit, he hasn't retaliated verbally in the media, or even on the field like his former idol Randy Moss. I suppose he can't actually give up on his team, for the simple fact that they CAN'T GET THE BALL TO HIM. Kevin Kolb has had his share of injuries ever since signing with the team two off seasons ago, and backups John Skelton and late round rookie Ryan Lindley have made Mark Sanchez look like Tom Brady. The trio combine to average a paltry 141 yards passing per game, throwing for 10 touchdowns total and adding 18 interceptions, too. Rumor has it they are looking to sign the "Play 60 Kid" to a long term deal. Fitzgerald has only one game over one hundred yards (114 on September 23rd). His longest catch all year is 37 yards, and he only has 4 touchdowns this season. In his last five games, Fitzgerald has 10 catches on 42 targets, for only 89 TOTAL yards. His game high during that stretch is 31 yards. If the Cardinals quarterbacking triumvirate of incompetence continues, Larry will be on pace to finish with his third season under 1,000 yards receiving. His previous low was 780, which came in his rookie season. His last touchdown came November 4th. That was so long ago, Romney still had Presidential aspirations.
"Let us not stand on ceremony, Mr. D'Antoni."
"Do you feel in charge?"
If there is one organization aside from the New York Yankees that has built its reputation on winning, it's the Los Angeles Lakers. With the signings of former MVP Steve Nash and Dwight Howard, as well as the returns of Pau Gasol, Metta World Peace and cornerstone Kobe Bryant- lofty expectations surely followed. After an atrocious 1-4 start, coach Mike Brown was fired. Nash suffered a lower leg fracture. In stepped former Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni. Since then, he has led the team to a pedestrian 10-10 record. In Laker land, that's failure. The franchise has not been under .500 this late in the season in years, and has not finished a season under .500 since 2004. They are on pace to go 36-46, which is unfathomable to anyone who follows the NBA, or knows of the Lakers. Fans, as well as management expect their team to turn it around and contend. Let's not forget about that Bryant guy. I cannot imagine he is too happy right about now. Then again, "super teams" rarely gel right away, if ever. The 2003 Lakers with Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant, Gary Payton and Karl Malone never truly played up to their expectations. The 2010 Miami Heat with LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh worked on sheer talent and didn't click until last season....a full season after joining up. But for D'Antoni, the pressure is on and the time is now in Los Angeles. As for being in charge, the position of head coach is in title only. We all know who runs the team.
"The shadows betray you, because they belong to us!"
To any team that plays in Seattle. The Seahawks are a perfect 6-0 at home this season, partially due to the now infamous "replacement referee debacle" against the Green Bay Packers on September 24th. But don't discount their home crowd, one of the loudest in the NFL. They came back against the Patriots on October 14th, 24-23. They simply decimated the Cardinals 58-0 in week 14 while rookie quarterback Russell Wilson only completed 7 passes for 148 yards with 1 touchdown. Things got so bad, pricey back-up Matt Flynn showed up in the third quarter. Their final two games are at home against the 10-3-1 San Francisco 49ers (2 losses came on the road) and the 6-7-1 St. Louis Rams. They would look to lock up the NFC West and home field advantage heading into the playoffs. I would not want to have to go into Seattle to pull out win this time of year.
"Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum are players that are unmotivated.. but we are motivated, aren't we Timothy?"
Lamar Odom all but took off last season, "feeling bad" about his lackluster effort while laughing his away to the bank with over eight million dollars. Andrew Bynum's injury history has caught up with him, but he has also had his doubters who point out he could have conditioned himself better. But in his 15th season, Spurs center Tim Duncan is averaging 17.3 points, 10.3 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game on the way to a 19-6 record for the Spurs. They are second only to the favored Oklahoma City Thunder, who are 19-4 without James Harden. Every season, NBA observers wonder when the Spurs will drop off. When will Duncan look his age? When will Greg Popovich's coaching fail to cover any gaping issues for this perennial Western Conference title contender? When will they have a bad draft? Two seasons ago, it was thought that after an average season, Duncan had finally reached it. But after a deep playoff run last year and a hot start this year, the end is not yet in sight for the Duncan-led San Antonio Spurs.
"You fight like a younger man, with nothing held back. Admirable but mistaken."
After missing a whole season due to neck injuries, former Colt quarterback Peyton Manning questioned if returning was even an option. He already had his Super Bowl, and multiple MVP's. What was left to prove? But he's led his Broncos to an 11-3 record, (including nine straight wins) and a good chance to go to another Super Bowl. He has over 4,000 yards, 31 touchdowns and only 10 interceptions. Three of which came in one quarter to the Falcons, which I would give him a mulligan for. He has had seven games with at least 300 yards, and has seemed to adapt to the ever evolving nature of aging in sports, like Kobe Bryant. The truth of his 11-3 record as some pundits argue, is that the three losses are to New England, Atlanta and Houston. Only time will tell if Denver's record season is due to its talent and not its scheduling.
"Ah, yes... I was wondering what would break first..your spirit, or your body?"
Back in June during the NBA playoffs, the foundation of the Chicago Bulls was dealt a swift blow when Derek Rose went down with an ACL injury, reminiscent of Adrian Peterson's. He, like John Wall, has been out all season and is eying a February comeback. In this case, though it is his body that broke first and never his spirit. In a press conference for his new shoe this past summer, he took the podium and did what athletic males in their prime aren't supposed to: he cried. He knew how fortunate he was to be able to play basketball on the biggest stage in the world, and to get away from Englewood's tough streets. He also never imagined having his own shoe. Now Chicago awaits his triumphant return, if only to see how he has changed since the injury.
"Your precious treasury, gratefully accepted! We will need it."
Within the last 365 days, both the Los Angeles baseball franchises have signed or re-signed players for close to a billion dollars. The list includes:
Josh Hamilton (LAA, 125 million)
Zach Greinke (LAD, 147 million)
Matt Kemp (LAD161 million)
Albert Pujols (LAA, 240 million)
C.J. Wilson (LAA,77.5 million)
Adrian Gonzalez (LAD, 154 million)
Andre Ethier (LAD, 85 million)
Crawford (LAD, 101.5 million)
Hanley Ramirez (LAD, 52 million)
Josh Beckett (LAD, 34 million)
Jered Weaver (LAA, 85 million)
Hyun-Jin Ryu (LAD, 61.7 million)
Both franchises have a lot on the line. With this many players at such a steep price tag, and with the way players get hurt during the course of a 162 game season, I cannot see all of this money being spent as a good thing.
"This great city, it will endure. New York will survive."
"Perhaps he's wondering why one would sign a former starting quarterback before benching him behind the league's worst starting quarterback?"
New York City is a mecca of sports to some. It has seen stars come and go, as well as championships and dynasties. Mark Sanchez, Rex Ryan and Tim Tebow are only cogs in the machine. Expensive cogs. Sanchez draws the ire of most Jets fans due to his "prima donna" ways, which typically fit in perfectly to the bright lights of the city except for one glaring problem- he isn't winning. Ryan initially came from the Baltimore Ravens, promising Super Bowls every season. While getting to the AFC championship in his first two seasons as coach, he failed to bring the big one home. Now he has since changed his tune, becoming more humble in the wake of a seemingly lost season. Tebow is the the shiniest cog brought in this off season to backup Sanchez for reasons not fully known. Ticket sales? Motivation for Sanchez? To attract uber-religious people? Regardless of why, the simple fact is that he has yet to get a chance to prove himself as the Jets' starting quarterback. Even Greg McElroy got a better shot, leading them to a win over the lowly Cardinals. Who knows what will happen this season or next- but New York will always prove to be an attraction for any athlete to prove themselves.
"When it is done and the Lakers' season is ashes, then you have my permission to sign elsewhere."
"Dwightmare" was a term coined this past summer in reference to the saga Dwight Howard put the Magic organization and fans through. It only continues into the fall and winter as Dwight Howard fails to make the most of his chances at the free throw line, shooting a shade under 50 percent. All the bricks he has had in L.A. could be used to make one hundred houses in the Philippines. The Lakers knew they only had him for a guaranteed year, before the ever flippant big man changes his mind and wants to go for greener grass. He's Kobe's new toy, but without a serviceable point guard, or even an MVP caliber one like Nash, his effectiveness is limited. It remains to be seen whether or not their season's ship will be righted. If they fail to win a playoff match-up, Howard will almost undoubtedly look for another suitor.
"We both know that I now have to end your season. You'll just have to imagine the playoffs."
The Detroit Lions have been, for lack of a better word, underwhelming. They've lost six games in a row by a combined 54 points. Calvin "Megatron" Johnson has over sixteen hundred yards, but only five trips to the end zone. Matthew Stafford has been radically inconsistent, throwing 17 touchdowns compared to 15 interceptions (The Cardinals would love to have him, though.) Their defense has been spotty at best. Better luck next year, Lions fans.
"Behind you stands a symbol of oppression."
On the top of lost seasons, the New Orleans Saints seem to come first to mind. Enemy number one is NFL commish Roger Goodell. They are not the only ones, though as other players have come to question his methods. Such methods include adding a Thursday Night game every week, and proposing an extended schedule to two more games before the post season, while trying to champion player safety. He answers to the owners, but at some point Goodell has to stop his quest for the almighty dollar and start actually caring about player safety, as well as their future well being. Stop protecting the shield, and protect the players.
"I'm Miami's reckoning, here to end the borrowed time you've all been living on."
Back in 2010, Lebron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh all joined forces in Miami in hopes of "not winning one, not two, not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, not seven,but eight championships." A highly unrealistic, almost unattainable goal based off the potential longevity of the trio's collective careers, as well as the ever-evolving up and coming players. They struggled to play together the first half of that season, but turned it on all the way up to the NBA Finals when they lost to the Dallas Mavericks. The encore that followed was a Finals win over the Thunder. Next year, the point has been brought up that they may not be able to afford all three, and if for some reason they underachieve this season, one of the three may want out. If this rings true, the culture in Miami next season may be very different and not necessarily for the better.
A fan with hope always thinks that "there's always next year." A fan with despair wonders if their team will ever win. Loyalty is tested by going through tough times. But when the going gets tough, the tough get going. Isn't that right, Bruce?