We seem to be moving into a new era of apologies. One of my favorite subjects, public apologies.
We're still squarely in the celebrity non-apology apology era, with one miscreant after another from sports and showbiz stepping up to a microphone or, more often, a law firm fax machine to declare that if anyone may have possibly had the temerity and bad taste to -- if you can believe this -- be offended at the totally benign words and actions of the miscreant, then the miscreant is truly, deeply sorry to have to live in a world with such a bunch of sniveling pansies.
Good times. We're due for another one of those any day now.
But this week we've been treated to a double dose of this new-school apology, the denial of self. Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick and comic actor Michael Richards have both offered what seem to be heartfelt apologies for their recent actions, but with a twist. The twist is: I'm sorry for what I did, but it wasn't me who did it.
Vick, who has been slumping along with his team, flipped off boo-birds in the home crowd Sunday after a loss to the New Orleans Saints. And I'm confident you've heard about Richards' racist tirade at a Hollywood comedy club last week. You've probably seen the video.
"I'm not a racist, that's what so insane about this," Richards told David Letterman and his audience last week, an interesting gambit for someone who had just spent the last few moments of his non-infamy fame screaming the N-word at and about a black heckler and speaking nostalgically about lynching.
I'm pretty sure that if you do those things, you're a racist. But maybe Richards was really saying that he wasn't that guy who did those things. That's the tricky part. Or should I say the Vick-y part.
"People that know me know that's not what I'm about," Vick said about his obscene gestures to the people who pay his salary and who built the dome where he works.
See, it was some other guy, some guy who is all about flipping off the fans, who flipped off the fans. Are you following this? It wasn't Michael Vick. The guy on the stage who shouted racist epithets at the audience was clearly a racist, but since Michael Richards isn't a racist, it clearly wasn't him.
It's all so existential! Or some philosophical term I'd know if I'd paid attention sophomore year. How do we know that Michael Vick is really Michael Vick, anyway? How do we even know we're knowing what we know, or that what we know is knowable, or even that it's an it? Cogito ergo sum? How about: Me excuso, ergo non sum. I apologize, therefore I am not.
Listen, it's cheaper than that go-to-rehab gambit.
And if you don't agree, well, I'm sorry. I didn't write this.
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Jay Cutler: The new Tony Romo? [PERMALINK]
I've discovered over the years that there are a few people it's risky to second-guess. Bill Belichick is one of them. Billy Beane another. And even though just about everything he does strikes me as kind of odd and ill-advised, I've come to accept that Mike Shanahan, coach of the Denver Broncos, is one of those guys.
Every year I think Shanahan's team is going down the tubes, often because of his style or his philosophy or the moves he's made. And every year they go to the playoffs, where they lose.
But losing in the playoffs is pretty good, compared with what, say, the Oakland Raiders have been up to lately.
Now Shanahan seems to think the Broncos are going down the tubes, so he's changing quarterbacks. Jake Plummer is out, Jay Cutler is in. Cutler's a rookie from Vanderbilt who was the third of the Big Three QBs in this year's draft, after Vince Young and Matt Leinart. Here's how many NFL snaps he's taken so far: zero.
I don't mean to second-guess Shanahan, whom I've learned not to second-guess, but: Is he crazy?
I don't know how good Cutler is. His relative success in the preseason is meaningless, and I confess I didn't really follow his career with the Commodores. I could say the same about Lionel Richie, now that I think of it.
And Jake Plummer 2006 is no Jake Plummer 2005. He's having a pretty lousy year. But the Broncos are 7-4. If the season ended today, they'd make the playoffs. And lose. But that's pretty good!
Things have gone bad recently, with two division losses, and the upcoming schedule isn't exactly soft. There's a rebounding Seattle this week, then at San Diego, who just beat the Broncos, at Arizona, which should be a win, and then home games against beatable but also lose-to-able Cincinnati and San Francisco.
Shanahan is looking for Cutler to be the new Tony Romo, who took over from Drew Bledsoe in Dallas during a Week 7 loss and has presided over a 4-1 run as a starter that's transformed the Cowboys into a favorite to challenge Chicago for the conference title.
But there are some big differences here. The Cowboys really were going down the tubes, on their way to a loss that would drop them to 3-3. And as bad as Plummer has been, he's looked like Bart Starr next to Bledsoe. Plummer has been roughly Steve McNair.
Romo, a fourth-year man, also had more experience than Cutler has when he took over. He'd been through four training camps and had held a clipboard on an NFL sideline for more than two dozen games when he was named the starter. Cutler's been through one training camp and 11 games.
On the other hand, Cutler played in the SEC, a top-level minor league, while Romo played at Eastern Illinois, so they may be more even in experience than it appears at first glance.
Rookie quarterbacks take their lumps. I usually think it's a good idea for bad teams to get to their young-stud QBs earlier rather than later, let 'em learn in game conditions. That's what Young and Leinart are doing with the Tennessee Titans and Arizona Cardinals right now.
And they've both been way worse than Jake Plummer so far.
I don't think teams in the playoff hunt, especially teams with realistic chances of making the playoffs, should go to the rookie.
The New York Giants did it two years ago, replacing Kurt Warner with Eli Manning when they were 5-4 and very much in the picture, but that was different. The Giants were rocketing downhill, having lost three times in four weeks to bad teams, and Warner was bad and not likely to ever get better, since he was also old and hurt.
The Giants lost their next six games, but it was still the right move. Manning, currently slumping, helped lead them to the playoffs in 2005.
Where they lost -- but that's pretty good!
Replacing Plummer with Cutler is probably the right move too. I say that because I think it's the wrong move, and I've learned that when I second-guess Mike Shanahan, I'm probably wrong.
Thanks to Tom Neely, official Latin advisor of this column.
Previous column: BCS fever!
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