As a complete sports fan, one of the things I do is listen to sports radio. It makes the hour-plus work commute a little easier, as I frequently call in and make salient points, often giving the radio host something else to think about.
Always think "out of the box" and do not always go with the popular thought.
Most hosts do not research or prepare for their shows, and it is often revealed in their lack of knowledge about certain topics.
What the hosts usually do is generalize on their thoughts, never giving specifics to how or why something happened.
During football season it is mostly, "This QB is terrible/stinks." "The offense can't score." "The defense has to step up."
I love that last one. What does "step up" really mean? I loved it when the hosts were on the New York Yankees' Mark Teixeira in April during his early-season slump.
"Teixeira has to step up and start hitting. He needs to earn his money."
First, a sports player earns his money by playing well BEFORE he signs the big contract. Sports contracts are like the disclaimer for investment companies: Past performance is not indicative or a guarantee of future results.
That prior year's on-field play gets them the next big contract. And second, talk show hosts expect players to come through every single time, and when they don't, they are told "they need to step up."
If a player plays hard, the talent will eventually take over, and success will come. A player can't magically "step up" his game like flipping on a light switch.
Well, Mark Messier can, but that's about it.
Anyway, the biggest thing sports talk hosts do (especially in football) is base what will happen in the future by what they have seen lately.
What a football team does the prior week will determine their thoughts on what they believe will happen the next week.
For example, based upon the Giants losing 45-31 to the Philadelphia Eagles a week earlier, most New York area hosts on 660 WFAN and ESPN 1050 thought the New York (football) Giants would have a close game versus their rival Washington Redskins.
Then, after the Giants thoroughly beat up a ragged Redskins team, everybody thought the Giants (with playoff chances within their grasp) would easily beat the Carolina Panthers.
Didn't these same fans and media pundits also see the Panthers thoroughly dismantle the Minnesota Vikings that same prior week? Actually it was only two nights earlier.
As I mentioned earlier, I call in to radio shows to discuss sports (and sometimes politics on other stations), and have spoken with nearly every single talk host on both WFAN and ESPN.
I am informed and thoroughly research my thoughts and ideas with facts to back up my points.
Last Monday I was on my way north to work, when I called in to WFAN to the host Adam "The Bull" Gerstenhaber.
The Giants were to play the Redskins on Monday Night Football, and most of the calls* from Giant fans were from those worried about their team winning that night's game. That mainly was the result of the Giants' defense (and special teams) giving up 45 points the prior week to the Philadelphia Eagles.
* Most sports hosts also only take phone calls. A 10-minute spiel at the beginning of the show and then calls for the next three hours. Even at the top of the next hour, they start with phone calls! Nothing imaginative or different from the last host or the next host. Tell me what you think, Mr. Host. Tell me something different I really have to think about.
When I finally got on with the Bull, first I reported to him the possibility of two games in Week 17 being replayed the following week in the first game of the playoffs.
Then I said I had no worries about the Giants winning that night, as their defense would stuff the Redskins all night since the Skins can't run the ball.
Without a running game, I reasoned the Giants could focus exclusively on QB Jason Campbell, and would force the young gun into mistakes.
Then, I countered that the Giants would then lose at home to the Panthers, who own a more polished ground game and solid defense, a defense which shut down the vaunted Minnesota Vikings' offense a day earlier.
The Giants have not stopped a good running attack all year, and I saw no departure in this against Carolina.
Also, Carolina lost their starting quarterback, Jake Delhomme, a week earlier, and was replaced by young QB Matt Moore**. I said that Moore, despite his youth, was a pretty good signal caller. He threw for 299 yards and three touchdowns against the Vikings.
The Panthers used Moore very well against the Vikes that Sunday night, mixing in a variety of short passes off of roll outs and short drops, alleviating the young QB of many on-field decisions.
Then when the Vikings moved up their safeties to help stop the run and cut off the short passing lanes, the Panthers opened up the deep pass effectively.
** Moore is a pretty good quarterback, signed as a free agent by the Dallas Cowboys after the 2007 draft. He played very well in the final game of the preseason against the Vikings, then was one of the final cuts. The Cowboys thought he would pass through waivers and they could sign him to the practice squad. Interestingly, the Cowboys only kept two QBs on the roster all season, Tony Romo and backup Brad Johnson. I still contend that Moore, at the time, was better than Johnson. Due to a late season injury to Delhomme, Moore started the final three games in 2007. Ironically, his first ever game action was against his former team, the Cowboys.
I said to told the Bull the Panthers would do the same to the Giants that they did to the Vikings. They would run the ball with Jonathan Stewart (part of their two-headed monster, DeAngelo Williams is out with an injury), mixing early with the short passing game, then go deep later on. The team's strengths and weaknesses matchups heavily favored the Panthers.
The key, however, was the Panther coach, John Fox.
Although in the midst of a terrible season for the 2008 playoff team, the former Giants' defensive coordinator has a Bill Parcells-type mentality. Even though he never coached under the legendary Giants' head coach, Fox coaches the same way.
He will continue to pound the run (especially with the young QB) if the game was tight or even if his team was behind two scores, and would force the Giants to stop the ground game.
Something the Giants defense cannot do.
Despite their record, the Panthers still were playing tough football and have not given up on their season, similar to how the Panthers responded in 2004, when they started 1-7 before finishing off 7-9. This was also after they won the NFC South the prior season.
It reinforces the No. 1 DelGrippo Rule in sports. It doesn't matter who you play during a season, it matters when you play them.
Since an Oct. 25 loss at Buffalo, the Panthers have played good, tough football, even when they lost games.
So the Giants whipped the punchless Redskins last Monday night and everybody on New York sports radio were already talking on how the Giants would head into the final week with a good chance to make the playoffs.
After they beat Carolina in their final home game in Giants Stadium, all they had to do was beat Minnesota (another good running team) and watch Dallas or Green Bay lose their tough Week 17 game.
What happened was that the Panthers ran for 247 yards (5.2 per carry) and crushed the Giants in front of a hostile Giants Stadium crowd. The defense was powerless to stop the running game, and when the game entered the second half, the Panthers continued to run the ball, eating up valuable time.
What sports, hosts, writers, and general fans need to look at is matchups. Rely less on what your eyes tell you from the prior week and more on what teams the entire season have consistently done or have shown they can’t do. Remember to think outside the box.***
The Giants have repeatedly shown they cannot stop the run, and late in the football season, if a defense can not stop the run, they will not win many games, especially in the playoffs.
And unless a miracle happens, the playoffs are something the Giants will be watching on television. The New York area writers and sports radio talk show hosts should have realized this.
***If a Web site owner and/or radio station program director wants an opinionated, well researched, well spoken, part-time or full-time PAID writer or talk show host, I am available. I have many hours of air time under my belt and you will not be disappointed .