It’s remarkable what a reactionary world we live in, especially when it comes to sports. Because of the 24-hour news cycle, we have a tendency to quickly build teams and players up to gargantuan proportions (see Lin, Jeremy), or on the other hand, act like the sky is falling when things don’t go the way we think they should.
Today, the Blues, who have the best record in the NHL, have lost two games in a row. They were outplayed in a shootout loss at Chicago, and couldn’t get the puck past Cam Ward of Carolina in a 2-0 loss at Raleigh. Normally, a pair of road losses during the course of an 82-game season would elicit a yawn, but with these Blues, it’s a cause for angst and gnashing of teeth.
Here’s the deal though. The Blues had a letdown after building a 3-0 lead in Chicago. Successful, young teams that haven’t experienced winning in tough situations have a tendency to get full of themselves. That’s what happened in Chicago. In Carolina, Ward simply stoned them. A bugaboo for the Blues for most of this season has been that they don’t snipe. They’ve now been shutout four times this season. Andy McDonald went hard into the boards, which is alarming because his return has coincided with a Blues offensive burst.
But in the big picture, the Blues still have three more points than the Rangers, the No. 2 team in the league, and five more than Western Conference runner-up Vancouver. It’s not that bad. Please relax.
The same alarm bells that ring for the Blues have blared because the Rams didn’t pick up a receiver in the first three days of free agency. While it would be nice to have a No. 1 receiver for Sam Bradford, I’m not sure that the Rams shouldn’t find that guy in the draft. In Jeff Fisher’s first year, they aren’t going to win the Super Bowl. As they go about the patient process of building a team, they can afford to do what other winning teams have done.
My point here is that while I love instant gratification as much as anyone, recent history tells us that drafting good receivers is the way to go. The Super Bowl champion Giants drafted (or signed as undrafted) receivers Hakeem Nicks, Mario Manningham and Victor Cruz. The Patriots’ passing game is built primarily on the foundation set by drafted tight ends Rob Gronkowsi and Aaron Hernandez, along with minor (at the time) free-agent signing Wes Welker and returning draftee Deion Branch.
The year before, the Packers used draftees Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, Jordy Nelson and James Jones to beat a Steelers team whose receivers included draftees Hines Ward, Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders. Same with the Saints, same with the Colts, same with the Cardinals in their Super Bowl years. You have to go back to Plaxico Burress with the Giants in Super Bowl XLII to find a Super Bowl team with a premier free-agent wide receiver. Seattle also had a modest collection of free-agent wideouts when they lost to Pittsburgh, and Terrell Owens was a lynchpin for the Eagles in their Super Bowl year of 2004.
Overall, the success of high-priced free-agent wide receivers has been limited. We all want to see the Rams win now, but to get to where they really want to go, they need to draft and develop their own group of wide receivers. That’s how you win in the NFL.
More quick-fire reaction has come from Cardinals camp, where last week Chris Carpenter had shoulder discomfort and had the joint checked out. Our immediate response? “It must be related to nerve problems that Carpenter experiences in 2004 and 2008.” “It’s going to be a catastrophe.” “The Cardinals need to call Roy Oswalt.” That’s what I said on the air last Friday.
When we wait a couple of days for actual facts to trickle in, we learn that Carpenter has a bulging disc in his neck, and he just needs some time to let it subside. He played catch Wednesday, and felt good doing so. Five days after the initial scare, and more than two weeks before the opener, Carpenter is working toward being able to join the back of the rotation at the beginning of the season, without spending any time on the disabled list.
If you want to get involved in legitimate, quick reaction, let me introduce you to the NCAA basketball tournament. Win and advance, but if your team loses, they go home. In sports, the NCAA basketball tournament’s one-and-done drama is tough to match. If you want to react immediately and harshly, it’s warranted if your team is eliminated.
But if your team still has a the playoffs (Blues), or the rest of an offseason (Rams), or a whole six-month, 162-game season (Cards) ahead, you’re allowed to be patient and let things play out.
Come on. Who am I kidding? What fun would that be?