Commentary

Page 2 Power Rankings: Rage edition

Originally Published: August 17, 2009
By Patrick Hruby | Page 2

Welcome to another edition of Page 2's weekly Power Rankings, where the confusion of a world in which global catastrophe and the rise of horse-riding ape-man overlords does not follow Tiger Woods blowing a lead in a major is replaced by the clarity of making a list:

1. The Rage Inside


ARRRRRRGH!

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Credentials: Twelve years ago, then-Orlando Magic guard Dennis Scott told a group of basketball campers to eschew asking for his autograph, and instead ask about "the rage inside." Who knew the (at least slightly) unhinged Scott was ahead of his time? Erstwhile Super Bowl hero David Tyree throws his helmet at New York Giants camp. (What is it with summer camp?) Carolina Panthers receiver Steve Smith kicks his helmet after injuring his shoulder. (What is it with helmet abuse?) Hillary Clinton fumes at a clueless Congolese that "my husband is not Secretary of State. I am!" Chicago Blackhawks star Patrick Kane and his cousin allegedly attack a Buffalo taxi driver over $0.20 in change. A ticked-off Russian woman chucks a ceramic mug at the Mona Lisa. Health care reform town hall meetings devolve into shout-fests -- Socialism! Khaaaaaaaaan! -- worthy of Grandpa Simpson clutching a pitchfork. Is it the August heat? Paula Abdul's decision to spurn "American Idol"? Whatever the reason, the whole wide world is mad as heck and not gonna take this anymore. To what end? We'll all figure that part out later.


1a. Town Hall Criers


One nation under Glenn Beck's salty tears

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Credentials: Following a particularly civil town hall meeting that saw one woman tell cancer-surviving Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) that he was only alive thanks to the current heath care system and another man shout, "One day God will stand before you and judge you!" Specter observed, "There is more anger in America than any time I can remember." Oh, really?

Dear Politicians,
People are upset. They are not in the mood to listen. They are in the mood to yell. At you. They are emotional, irrational, wholly unconcerned with reasonable debate and highly interested in whatever's bubbling forth from their limbic systems.

Feeling confused? Picked on? Unfairly singed out? Here's a tip: Start listening to sports talk radio. Because what you see as America the Newly Livid is actually America the Eternal Monday Morning Drive-Time Quarterback, and a frowning retiree yelling about DEATH PANELS is fundamentally no different than Ron from Alexandria imploring the local NFL team to start THROWING DEEP, even though the offensive line is Swiss cheese and the receiving corps couldn't beat press coverage if you spotted them nightsticks and Tasers.

Now, is all the above cause for relief or deep, gnawing concern? We'll let you decide. After all, that's what you're paid to do.

Good luck in those upcoming mid-terms,
The Page 2 Power Rankings


2. Michael Vick


Against all odds, outlasted Brett Favre (for now)

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Credentials: Can he still play? Is he a starter? Will PETA members' heads start exploding like something out of "Scanners"? Enough jibber-jabber. When it comes to Vick, only one thing truly matters: He reportedly will retain 90-plus speed, acceleration and agility ratings in an upcoming Madden 10 roster update.


2a. Philadelphia Eagles


Invisible to radar, sonar, thermal imaging, NFL press corps

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Credentials: In an era where everything is news -- or strategically leaked news, or airtime-filling speculation -- before it actually happens, close-to-the-vest franchise keeps Vick interest and signing secret. As in: Nobody even Twittered about it. If the Eagles go 0-16 this season and Vick gets busted for feeding puppies to sharks, no worries -- the franchise's entire front office can go get jobs with the NSA.


2b. Tank McNamara


Now with 100 percent more dark reimagining

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Credentials: The Washington Post declines to run a Tank McNamara cartoon strip featuring former Vice President Dick Cheney advising NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to kill Vick. In related news, Tank McNamara still exists. In related-related news, cash-bleeding newspapers can still afford to print comic strips.


3. Rick Pitino


Officially in Humpty Dance Burger King bathroom territory

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Credentials: To the list of formerly innocuous inanimate objects that now produce a wince and/or smirk thanks to head-scratching news items -- laundry hampers post-Najeh Davenport, petroleum jelly following Stephon Marbury, Krazy Glue in the wake of those four krazier women in Wisconsin -- add restaurant floors and tables.


4. Madden 10


A motion-captured step in the right direction

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Credentials For years, Madden has been a football game for two types of players: those who want to drop back 20 yards, scramble around and toss 60-yard touchdown bombs, and those who want to do the same thing while wearing replica jerseys on their own television show. The game has never had a pass pocket, never gotten blocking and tackling to work right, never given players a reason to call any defense but Nickel Cover 2. The good news? In Madden 10, much of the above is changing for the better. The bad news? Said change has only taken five years.

Ever since EA Sports landed exclusive NFL rights in 2005 -- killing the innovative and underrated NFL 2K series -- Madden has stagnated. Lame gimmicks. (You are not forgotten, weapons icons!) Dubious attempts to charge for downloaded content. Graphical tweaks and roster updates. But little meat-and-potatoes on-field improvement. And with good reason. After all, sans competition, where's the incentive to take risks? To mess with a best-selling formula? What are dissatisfied customers going to do? Start playing Tecmo Bowl?

No matter how much money they net teams and leagues, exclusive rights deals are a pox on sports gaming. Not chicken pox. Smallpox. To wit: 2K Sports' multi-platform exclusive MLB 2K series has been a bigger boondoggle than Madden, a lousy replacement for the well-received MVP franchise. Competition alone doesn't guarantee a superior product -- NBA Live has played the role of redheaded stepchild to NBA 2K for an entire decade -- but it does ensure improvement. Can't beat 'em? Try harder. Two years ago, EA Sports even hired away one of NBA 2K's lead designers; slowly, Live is closing the gap. For every Madden player tired of watching linebackers close gaps in zone coverage by jumping 10 feet in the air to snag interceptions, a little competition-hastened improvement would be welcome indeed. Otherwise, expect moronic 'backer pursuit angles in the flats to be addressed ... in Madden 15.


5. Tiger Woods


More above the law than Steven Seagal

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Credentials: Forget his performance at the PGA Championship. The clearest indicator of Woods' place in above the golf world came earlier in the week, when he personally shot down reports that the PGA Tour would fine him for obliquely criticizing European Tour chief referee John Paramor. As Demetrius Harris once taught us in "Playmakers" -- R.I.P. -- "when you're a playmaker, the rules don't apply."


5a. Zebras


Rodney Dangerfield got more respect

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Credentials: Here's the other thing about the punishment that wasn't -- even if PGA officials had slapped Woods with a fine, it would have been relatively puny, something the golfer probably could cover with the contents of his petty cash drawer. In other words, it would have been like every other minuscule fine levied by every other sports league in the name of protecting officials -- all of them empty, token gestures that neither deter nor punish, but rather embarrass by showing just how unvalued officials actually are. That coach just assailed your integrity, which is only your most valuable professional asset. But don't feel bad. We fined him 1/100th of his monthly salary. Problem solved! Some protection.


6. Bronson Arroyo


Missed the "how to talk to reporters" scene in "Bull Durham"

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Credentials: In an extensive interview, veteran pitcher says he has taken androstenedione and amphetamines in order to perform better on the baseball field, that he was tempted to take steroids, that fans and the media are more concerned with broken statistical records than player health and well-being, that nobody "cares if Manny Ramirez's kidneys fail and he dies at 50," that it's "a flip of the coin" if David Ortiz is telling the truth about tainted supplements, that teams only care about making money, that he'd still take amphetamines if they weren't banned, that fast food is killing people, that the players union exists to make its members look good and get rich, that he doesn't regret a thing, that players who took steroids shouldn't regret anything and that he's currently taking supplements that haven't been approved by Major League Baseball -- including, apparently, sodium pentothal.


7. The Miami Dolphins


What, Carl Lewis wasn't available to record a fight song?

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Credentials: Sit up straight, "Baseball Boogie." Watch your back, "Ram It." Pay attention, "Cuz the Blue Wave is on a Roll." T-Pain's new Miami Dolphins theme song just may be the new sheriff in town -- assuming, of course, that you live in ScreechingCatDippedInHotOilVille.


7a. The UFL


In the league's defense, the UFL season does coincide with Halloween

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Credentials: During the introductory press conference for the startup United Football League's San Francisco team, league commissioner Michael Huyghue fumbles a ball. Which is bad. He then promises that the UFL will be "different from other failed leagues." Which is worse. Next, he introduces the San Fran team's name -- the California Redwoods -- which is worse still. After that, the club unveils its uniforms, mishmashed teal and neon-green monstrosities to dwarf anything produced by the WLAF or the University of Oregon. No wonder Vick signed with the Eagles.


8. New Jersey


Proud. Almost as corrupt as Louisiana. But proud

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Credentials: Pop quiz! After the New Jersey Nets decided to remove "NJ" from their road uniforms, a state senator announced plans to draft a bill that would prohibit use of tax dollars to help:

(a) Teams that don't carry the New Jersey name
(b) State senators with excess staff and far too much time on their hands


8a. New Jersey Nets


Proud, depending on how the laundry comes out

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Credentials: Glass half-full: team promotion gives buyers of 10-game package five reversible jerseys, with a New Jersey player on one side and an opposing player on the other. Glass half-empty: unlike jerseys, actual Nets players non-reversible.


9. Terrelle Pryor


Faster than sound, light, Chuck Norris

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Credentials: The difference between reports that the 6-foot-6, 235-pound Ohio State quarterback ran the 40-yard dash in 4.33 seconds and GM's claiming the upcoming Chevy Volt will get 230 miles per gallon is like the difference between a unicorn and a horse with a horn scotch-taped to its forehead.


10. Batting Helmets


What are they actually protecting?

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Credentials: The New York Times reports that several major league players will not wear a new batting helmet that offers significantly improved protection over current models because it looks geeky -- or, as Jeff Francoeur told the newspaper, because "we're going to look like a bunch of clowns out there." Right on. After all, nothing says non-clownish haute couture like wearing bike messenger gloves, padded cereal bowl hats and numbered pajamas to work, all while having a closetful of Ed Hardy T-shirts at home. Keep Puttin' on the Ritz, MLB!


11. Jeff Fisher


Greatest play in the history of the NFL preseason (note: not damning with faint praise)

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Credentials: We know, we know -- the Tennessee Titans' sweet fake punt in the Hall of Fame Game is a bit more than a week old. Still, it's worth addressing, because it raises an intriguing question: Just how many other cool plays do NFL coaches dream 'n' draw up, only to never use them in regular-season games due to (justified) fear of failure? And can we somehow get those plays added to Madden? Our suggestion: After the Super Bowl, have every NFL team submit two creative, far-out, high risk/reward plays to the Pro Bowl coaching staffs, and mandate that at least half of those plays be used in the game. Players would enjoy it. Coaches would enjoy it. Fans would enjoy it. Everyone wins. Plus, we might actually watch five minutes of the Pro Bowl.


12. Reggie Miller


Dirty laundry best aired at 10,000 feet

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Credentials: Believing that former NBA player Miller was hitting on his fiancé, millionaire Alex von Furstenberg reportedly has a plane fly over a California beach trailing a banner reading "Reggie Miller Stop Pursuing Married Women!"; in response, Miller's lawyer notes that von Furstenberg's fiancé sent Miller two provocative photos of herself, and that being engaged is not the same thing as being married. Sigh. Why can't people handle their romantic disputes in a quiet, dignified, private manner, like the Gosselins?


13. "The T.O. Show"


Because something has to make "Emily's Reasons Why Not" look like "M*A*S*H*"

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Credentials: According to the Sports Business Journal, Terrell Owens' VH1 reality show tied for the 798th-highest rated cable show of the week, deadlocked with a 5 a.m. airing of "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" on Nick at Nite; in Owens' defense, it was one of the "Fresh Prince" episodes where Carlton dances.

(Note: This is also an example of how those of us who watch a lot of sports tend to vastly overrate both the social importance and notoriety of professional athletes. Most people have no idea who Terrell Owens is, a vague notion that Brett Favre plays football and a sneaking suspicion that Andre Agassi just won the U.S. Open. Unless it was Tiger Woods. Of course, plenty of people also cannot locate Canada and Mexico on a map. So take this for what you will).


Also receiving votes:
• The Detroit Lions phasing out rookie hazing, a break-from-the-past move that would make more sense if coupled with a phase out of the Detroit Lions.

Prep basketball star Jeremy Tyler signing a deal to play in Israel. Can he make them forget Khalid El-Amin?

• Quentin Richardson being traded four times this offseason. Must feel good to be wanted by so many NBA teams ...

Never receiving votes:
• Shane Victorino getting a beer tossed on him at Wrigley Field. Just appalling. Appalling to waste that much brew.

• Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's newly declared war on golf. As if Charles Barkley needs any allies.

• Theo Fleury hopes to return to the NHL. Dude, NHL 95 was a looooong time ago.

Patrick Hruby is a columnist for Page 2.

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