Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Here come the felons, er, Ravens

For the second time in three weeks, the Steelers on Sunday will be facing a team coming off a bye week. Like their Sunday night game in Denver on Oct 19, this game, too, will be in prime time, on Monday night vs. the Baltimore Ravens. This time, however, the Steelers play at home, for what that’s worth (Heinz Field doesn’t seem to be one of the more daunting places for a road team to play).

Like the Broncos before them, who were coming off an embarrassing beatdown to the San Diego Chargers, the Ravens emerge from their bye week coming off a bad loss, to the Buffalo Bills. Immediately after that loss, the Ravens started sniping, woofing, complaining and finger-pointing – specifically, linebacker Ray “Scissorshands” Lewis complaining about the Ravens’ insufferably smarmy, egotistical head coach, Brian Billick, as well as the offensive play-calling and the lack of production on offense.

Lewis’s remarks prompted this observation by columnist Mike Rutsey:

“Ray Lewis is just about the last player in the NFL to be ripping anybody, considering the baggage he drags along, one that includes dead people.

“But there he was last week on his radio show throwing his coach, Brian Billick, under the bus for the plays he called in the final minutes of Baltimore's 19-14 loss to the Bills in Buffalo. With the Ravens facing second-and-one at the Bills' 49 with less than two minutes to play, Billick had Kyle Boller throw on each of the next three plays -- and all were incompletions. There were enough folks critical of Billick's choice. Lewis, though, shouldn't have been one of them.”

Others were also critical of Billick, according to the Baltimore Sun:

“Lewis' comments were inevitable … Even before Billick had a tough talk with his team immediately after the loss at Buffalo, there were quite a few Ravens second-guessing him.”

Hmmm ... players criticizing their coach? Finger-pointing and dissension?

Sounds like Cincinnati.


Links ‘n at ...

“Everyone seems to think a New England-Indy AFC Championship Game is a forgone conclusion,” but, he advises, “Don’t overlook the Steelers.”

Going to That Big Rubber Room in the Sky

Rest In Peace, Porter Wagoner

Some folks drift along through life and never thrill
To the feeling that a good deed brings until
It's too late and they are ready to lie down
There beneath the leaves that scattered on the ground …

To your grave there's no use taking any gold
You cannot use it when it's time for hands to fold
When you leave this earth for a better home someday
The only thing you'll take is what you gave away

– "Fallen Leaves," by Porter Wagoner

Porter Wagoner, not to be confused with Joey Porter, died the other day at the age of 80. Porter Wagoner quit school in the seventh grade to later become a best-selling country crooner and TV star known for songs of heartbreak, an impressive pompadour and outrageous rhinestone suits.

He also was famous for collaborations with stars as diverse as Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash and James Brown. According to the The New York Times,

“Wagoner had 81 singles on the country charts, including 29 Top 10 records. His hits included “Dark End of the Street,” “Green, Green Grass of Home,” “Skid Row Joe” and “The Cold Hard Facts of Life.” He was famous for capturing straight up the raw emotions of people living tough lives, sometimes using his speaking voice in an old-time country technique called recitation.”

Also according to the Times,

“Wagoner recorded some of country music’s earliest “concept albums,” in which individual tracks combine in a thematic whole.”

“The lyrics in at least two of his songs came from spending time in a Nashville mental hospital. One, “Committed to Parkview,” was written by Johnny Cash about a Nashville institution in which both men had stayed. The song is part of an album Mr. Wagoner released last year, “The Rubber Room: The Haunting Poetic Songs of Porter Wagoner, 1966-1977.”

Courtesy of The Aquarium Drunkard, here’s a review of “The Rubber Room.”

Over the course of his career, Wagoner’s songs covered varied thematic concepts, including temptation, infidelity, redemption, living as a prisoner (metaphorically and literally), and other thematic touchstones. He recorded gospel as well as country.

As a Grand Ole Opry fixture and its unofficial spokesman for more than 50 years, Wagoner invited James Brown to perform on the Opry in 1979. In addition to covering the country standards, “Your Cheatin’ Heart” and “Tennessee Waltz,” James Brown performed his own “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag.”

Apparently it didn’t go over well – Brown’s appearance generated hate mail.