Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Page 2 [Print without images]

Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Updated: September 19, 4:00 PM ET
Welcome to Overreaction Nation

By Kevin Jackson
Page 2

There are 15 weeks left in the 2007 NFL season.

For a bunch of teams, however, it's pointless to keep playing. Their seasons are over. Done almost before they even got started. More cooked than Britney Spears and Larry Craig, combined.

In other words, it's time to focus on the draft, think about free agency and maybe get the youngsters in there for a few series as you play out the string.

Think mid-September is a bit early to throw in the towel? Then you're not listening to the guy screaming into his car phone on sports-talk radio, pleading for a quarterback change. You're not comprehending the words of the TV talking head who says it "always comes back to haunt you" when you lose a game in the National Football League. (Note: TV talking heads never, ever call it the "NFL"; that's disrespectful.) And you're definitely not spending any time on Internet message boards, where guys like "ltfan4life" will explain why the reigning league MVP is already washed up.

Welcome to NFL Overreaction Nation, a land where no sample size is too small for drawing conclusions, where the most common movement is the knee jerk, and where the distance between "Super Bowl-bound" and "headed for a top-10 pick" can be traveled in one NFL Sunday.

Around the Nation


So, how did NFL Overreaction Nation respond to the first two weeks of the 2007 season? Page 2 had its spies stationed throughout the country to chart the reaction … and the overreaction:

In Chicago …
The RB "runs like a pig." The QB is the most unpopular guy in town. The defense has lost a step. And all this comes after a Bears victory!?!?
Gene Wojciechowski
In New York …
It's one of the founding principles of Overreaction Nation: The backup QB is always better than the starter. Just ask Jets fans.
Kieran Darcy
In Cleveland …
The Browns' offense is abysmal. The Browns' offense cannot be stopped. What a difference a week made in Cleveland, which rode quite a roller coaster.
DJ Gallo
     
In San Diego …
Who says San Diegans are a laid-back bunch? After watching LT and the Bolts get unplugged by the Pats, Chargers fans lit up the message boards.
Mary Buckheit
In Dallas …
After two impressive wins, Cowboys fans have visions of a Super Bowl in their sights -- even a bunch of guys who are surrounded by naked women.
Jeff Pearlman
In Los Angeles …
There's no pro football in L.A. (unless you count USC), but that doesn't mean that the city is devoid of NFL fans who wear their hearts on their sleeves.
Eric Neel
     

Take the Seattle Seahawks, for example.

This team was in the Super Bowl two seasons ago. A play away from the NFC championship game last season. Picked, in this same space on Page 2, by Bill Simmons to make Super Bowl XLII. Lauded by Sports Illustrated's Peter King as "better on paper" than the franchise's only Super Bowl entry.

Matt Hasselbeck, Shaun Alexander
The Seahawks dropped the ball in Arizona ... and their fans immediately picked it up on the message boards.
But none of that mattered this past Sunday afternoon. Matt Hasselbeck and Shaun Alexander collide in the backfield on a simple handoff, the ball squirts loose and a near-certain victory turns into a miserable defeat. And less than two minutes after Neil Rackers' field goal drops Seattle to 1-1, the Pacific Northwest Chapter of NFL Overreaction Nation holds its weekly meeting on the Tacoma News Tribune's Seahawk Insider message board.

A guy with the handle "fadasan" makes the first post, seconds after the loss, setting the proper tone for doomsday: "That is the type of loss that really puts a cloud on the season."

Not to be outdone, "cpblessing" follows with a post seconds later that ups the ante -- not just writing off 2007, but deriding the overall direction of the franchise: "Hawks are old and showing it. The window closing quickly."

There's blood in the water now, and a fan with the appropriate moniker "SharkHawk" quickly swoops in: "We are closer to a basement dweller than a Superbowl team right now, and that's pretty scary."

It's war now. The doomsday crew is soon met by the optimistic crowd, eager to point out that if Seattle hadn't fumbled away a 2-0 start, this board would be all milk, cookies and dreams of a trip to Glendale, Ariz., in early February. "The sky is falling, the sky is falling!" writes "FB," mocking those writing off the season over one failed play.

Seahawks fans
"HawksKD" comes a little more direct and with a lot more vitriol: "seriously people…you guys are freakin jokes…you disgust me and i hate being a fan of any seattle team because i get tied in with all you oppurtunistic losers, who ride on anything hot and fall off at the smallest cool down…

"Look it was a game…it was a play…it is not the end of the season…"

Back and forth they go for about 100 posts, until a new bucket of chum is thrown to the sharks. Seems the NFL Network just aired the postgame news conference, and apparently the fumble was all Alexander's fault.

Seconds later, the board is debating Alexander's body language on TV … the way his broad smile doesn't reflect the same heartbreak those on the board are feeling. Then comes speculation about whether the three-time Pro Bowler apologized to the team in the locker room and took full responsibility for the gaffe.

And, finally, it wouldn't be NFL Overreaction Nation without a debate over whether Alexander, the 2005 NFL MVP, has any future worth.

Comment from "pdway" just one hour after the fumble: "I think we're a year late in realizing that SA is probably not a full-time feature back anymore."

A feature back? Hell, some are wondering if Alexander should even be on the roster. From "ochawk" 17 minutes later: "Forgetting the last play, Shaun is costing the team. I completely agree with Nighthawk above, no joke we should have kept Marquis Weeks and cut Alexander."

Seahawks fans
When you get dressed up like this, you expect to see your team successfully execute a basic handoff.
Cutting a 30-year-old running back with 109 career touchdowns and four 1,300-yard seasons? In this world, you're literally only as good as your last play.

Before Alexander packs his bags, he should remember there's a quick route back into the Nation's good graces: Just run for 100 yards and a TD (like he did in the opener against Tampa Bay) next Sunday against Cincinnati. Quicker than you can say T.J. Houshmandzadeh, all will be forgiven.

The Nation might be a brutal place, but it's nothing if not fickle.

ESPN.com NFL writer Mike Sando started the Seahawk Insider blog for the News Tribune in April 2005. After spending more than two years manning the message boards, he understands the emotion.

"Fans are passionate but also powerless," Sando says. "It's a terrible feeling investing every ounce of emotion into something that suddenly goes awry. That's why coaches and players sometimes go off during postgame news conferences. But hey, at least they're getting paid six- or seven-figure salaries for their troubles. Fans are often paying good money, and sometimes talking up their teams during the week, only to see things go terribly wrong.

"More than anything, I think it's that sense of powerlessness that can send even rational people searching for a place to vent. The Web also gives them a sense of anonymity. Put those things together, and the world can temporarily end after something as simple as a botched handoff."

No wonder most NFL players don't listen to the radio or read anything Monday morning.

So if you're a member of the Saints, the Rams, the Chiefs, the Bengals' defensive unit or the Chargers' offensive unit, you might want to avoid the Nation for a while. If you play quarterback in Minnesota, Miami or New York state (for any of its three teams), you might want to skip AM radio for a while. If you're a Raider, you might want to avoid all media at all times.

If you're a Browns or a Buccaneers or a Bears fan, it's safe to come back out now.

And, yes, if you frequent this special place on Sundays … well, yes, it's OK to hop on Orbitz and book a flight to Phoenix.

Kevin Jackson is an Executive Editor for ESPN.com. He can be reached at kevin.jackson@espn3.com.