Friday, December 21, 2007

Feel Good Story of the Year?

If there’s anything I hate more than having to work on any day within a week of Christmas (on either side) it’s the sappy, emotional stories that assholes like Tom Rinaldi and Chris Connelly continually run on ESPN. Listen, I watch ESPN (because I have no other real sports options) because I want to see sports and maybe (gasp!) gain a little insight on things from time to time. I don’t care about waterheads playing fictional football games where they’re told they scored the winning touchdown(s). If those assholes aren’t smart enough to realize that wheelchairs are illegal in football, well, then maybe they don’t deserve wheelchairs. That’s right…maybe they’d appreciate the game of football a little more if they had to drag their semi-paralyzed asses around on the turf for awhile. I mean, you don’t see me using a Segway in my city league basketball games, and I’m short and white!

Well then…that certainly got out of hand quickly. Anywho, the point is, I hate those sappy non-stories. However, I hate it even more that I actually want to see a sappy piece done about the player who has simultaneously saved the seasons of both my fantasy team and my NFL team, Earnest Graham. I’m playing in my fantasy league’s Championship game this weekend and the Bucs have clinched the NFC South and there’s no doubt in my mind that neither of these would have been possible without the sudden and sustained emergence of Earnest Graham as a legitimately dangerous NFL tailback.

Graham had been toiling in obscurity for the past four years as, first a practice squad player and then a special teams contributor for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I, like most people, didn’t anticipate that he’d ever become much more than that throughout the rest of his career. While Graham is a solid player, he seemingly lacks any great skill that would make him stand out among the genetic freaks who play tailback in the NFL. I say seemingly because, what Graham lacks in speed, size or quickness he more than makes up for in determination. Graham has made a living this season picking up ground in 3 & 4 yard chunks and has been even more effective near the goal line where he’s become nearly automatic for the Bucs offense. When you consider what Graham had to go through to get to this point, it shouldn’t be all that surprising.

After a solid, if unspectacular career at Florida that was marked as much by untimely injuries as much as anything else, Graham went undrafted. After eventually finding a home with Bucs, he was cut after his first year in the league. This led to Graham (along with his son and wife) being evicted from their Tampa area apartment. Not quite ready to give up his dream of playing pro football, Graham rededicated himself to the sport and ended up securing a spot on the Buccaneers as a 4th string tailback. Graham would soon carve out a role for himself on special teams and, eventually, become a fan favorite due in large part to the fact that he was the Bucs’ leading rusher during each of the past 4 exhibition seasons. Fast forward to early this season in Carolina: Cadillac Williams had just gone down with a season ending knee injury and Graham (now the third string tailback and backup fullback) was inserted in the game as backup tailback Michael Pittman’s lead blocker. At least, that’s how the coaching staff had it planned. Whether it was his sense of loyalty to a great teammate or just a painful flair up of his herpes, Michael Pittman decided he didn’t want the ball on the next play (which called for him to run off right guard). Instead, Pittman told Graham he’d be the one playing tailback, with Pittman lining up as his lead blocker. A few seconds later, Graham burst off the right side for a big gain, eventually stiff-arming a Panther defender on his way into the endzone for his first career NFL touchdown. Graham would go on to score another that day and has scored 10 TDs this season in addition to amassing nearly 900 rushing yards. If the NFL had a ‘Most Improved Player’ award, Graham would be a lock at this point. Instead, he’ll have to settle for being a key cog in a one of the year’s most surprising playoff teams. Oh, and having a decidedly more secure job situation than he could have ever imagined. So yeah, cue up the cheesy piano music and put a weird filter in on the camera lense. Earnest Graham, you’re the man. Now, just score a couple TDs this weekend and I’ll forget all about you missing the Tennessee game in 2001.

If you guys are anything like me you’re hungover…and you’re also still doing your Christmas shopping. With that in mind, here’s a some help if you’re still wondering what to get me this year.

Everyone have a good time this weekend. I’ve got an early Christmas with my family tomorrow morning (they’re going up to see my oldest sister and her family in Tallahassee for Christmas and I’m not going to sit in that cold, damp shithole without the benefit of copious amounts of booze and/or drugs) so I’ll be up early on a Saturday but I’ll also be getting some fucking presents for my troubles. I’ll be back on Sunday with a few last minute Christmas thoughts. Now, do like your ancestors would want and go get drunk and say inappropriate things to those you love most.

4 comments:

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Jerry said...

Are you guys going to sell out your playoff game or what?

Greg said...

Don't worry Jerry. It will be fine.