Friday, October 29, 2010

An American Football Team In London

This week, the San Francisco 49ers are one half of the bill for the NFL's now customary regular season game in London, England, as the League attempts to spread its brand in a land where the term "football" means something entirely different. Good luck with that, Roger. Double good luck given the records and quality of the teams going over there for representation duty, as the 49ers are a woeful 1-6, fresh off losing to an at-the-time winless team; not to be outdone, their opponents are the Denver Broncos, sporting a 2-5 record and fresh off surrendering 59 points to the team NFL fans and pundits have been making fun of for at least 5 years, the Oakland Raiders. When England tries to get their American cousins into their football, they send perennial powerhouses like Manchester United and/or Arsenal to play each other or beat the snot out of one of our soccer league teams, the Somewhereville Somethingorothers (defending MLS champs! Look it up!).

We send them this?

This is the 3rd special scheduled game for the 49ers this year, after a Monday Night Football home opener against the defending Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints (they lost) and a marquee Sunday Night Football contest, again at home, against the Philadelphia Eagles (they lost, and fans shat on Alex Smith). This third game is also technically a home game, for what its worth, and when the league gives a team 3 turns in a spotlight game in a season, it means you have been Calvinistically predetermined to be "marketable", which is corporate-speak for good. Yet another painful reminder of how much better this season of 49er football was supposed to be than the grim reality of what it actually is. For better and for worse, that ends this week. After this the 49ers get their bye week, and 8 regular ol' 10 am/1pm Sunday game start times on regular old CBS and/or FOX from here on out. So the good news is national eyes will turn away from the 49ers and stop snickering at how the presumptive NFC West Champions fell on their face. Further good news for the 49ers is they've been insulated somewhat even from local media slings and arrows by the improbable aegis that is the baseball team actually being in a position to win the World Series. Go Giants. Somebody around here has to frickin' win something.

The bad news for the 49ers is, of course, spewing forth from multiple sources. The Baseball Giants won't provide cover for them forever (perhaps ending as soon as October 31st, gameday against the Broncos, if they manage to sweep). The other bad news is Alex Smith's shoulder currently resembles that powdery stuff inside Pixie Stix, so he can't play. Which first meant after two weeks of fan insurrection demanding David Carr, the worst case scenario happened, and we actually GOT David Carr.

David Carr, seen in his natural habitat; i.e. having
no offensive line and getting abused by tacklers
after a vain attempt to run for his life

Carr was so atrocious that his chance has come and gone. Or perhaps Mike Singletary feels his own job security ebbing away as this season goes down the tubes so much so that David Carr's chance has come and gone, and desperation has finally prompted the team to go to 3rd String Quarterback and 49er fan Preseason Game Love Affair, Nate Davis.

Nate Davis, completing a pass. Normally a good thing for an NFL QB to do, but...

....Except, not. Because Nate Davis made one too many impressive, fan-pleasing successful plays in the preseason game against the Vikings, and so he had to be verbally lambasted by the head coach in the post game press conference, thrown under the bus as "not nearly prepared enough" to play, i.e. basically being called lazy, and was then summarily cut so no one amongst the 49er Faithful could call for Nate to get a chance over Alex. They did a good enough job of burying the guy that he cleared waivers and was added to the practice squad, but the bottom line is the 49ers' third string quarterback, starting this week in London, is none other than Troy Smith.

Troy Smith, like most 3rd string NFL QBs, is a big question mark, because they never see the field. Hell, most NFL teams do not even permit their 3rd string quarterback to look in the general direction of the field. Whether this is due to superstition, or some traditional hazing, or the league's byzantine rules governing substitutions and rosters and "activating players", who can say. But the point is Troy Smith is a big question mark. Who knows how well or how poorly he will play? The answer is no one knows. This fact that we DON'T KNOW whether he sucks or not is, sadly, his primary qualification for getting the nod this week. His secondary qualification is, as often is the case in the NFL, attrition.

I don't normally deal in predictions, and this is not a game that inclines me to start. How do you predict this game? The 49ers are playing a 3rd string quarterback. Anything could happen there. Meanwhile, the Broncos gave up 59 points at home to a hated division rival in a performance so woeful that Bronco fans exhibited the same behavior as 49er fans did the week before: they turned on Kyle Orton to the point where they started booing all his 3rd down incompletions and started chanting for their backup quarterback, Tim Tebow, to get into the game. Does that mean the Broncos are abysmally bad and even the 49ers can roll them? Or does it mean the Broncos are going to come into this game pissed off, fired up, and roll the 49ers with trick plays and superior game planning like the Chiefs did? Again, there's just no way to know. The 49ers flew straight from North Carolina to England, opting to take training and weekly practice there, while the Broncos followed their usual routine and didn't travel to London until today. Does that mean the 49ers will have the advantage of their body clocks being on Greenwich Mean Time while the Broncos jet lag their way into a dozen false starts and dropped passes? Or will it not make a difference at all? Who knows.


Neil said...

For what it's worth, I watched Troy Smith a ton in college and he just made plays. He can move, but he's short and his athleticism (which is his chief attribute)is marginalized much more in the pros than it was in college. Which leaves a short dude with some moxie who's not quite good enough to be anything more than just a vagabond in the NFL. Good luck! No, Whiouxsie, put down the drain cleaner! We'll get through this together. I promise.

Whiouxsie said...

Hey, no problems now, for a few more days at least, the baseball team is in the World Series, and actually looks like they're going to win it. One local sports team winning a championship in their sport can do a lot to cover for another local sports team shitting its bed and vomiting on itself in its sport. Even I'm easing off on the 49ers right now, blogging less than I thought I would be by now because hey, there's championship games to watch mid-week.

Of course, soon the 49ers will have to face the music alone, either being a stark contrast to a championship team, or perhaps even worse, the whipping boy for a good team that fell just short.

And with The Raiders actually showing signs of life, and being better than the 49ers as well? THAT will be an ugly scene in local media and fan-talk. And I'll have a full bye week to unload on poor Alex, too.

Whiouxsie said...

Yeah, I remember Troy Smith won the Heisman, which sounds good, except while the Heisman tends to be a good sign for a player who doesn't win it as a QB, it does seem that QB's winning the Heisman have a long history of never quite panning out in the NFL. The Ravens gave up on him pretty quickly, too, but then again Joe Flacco being really good has something to do with that.

So yeah, expectations are low for Troy, but he'll have to try really hard to be any worse than what we've already seen.

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