Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Were the 1995 Cleveland Browns the Freaks and Geeks of Football?

The 1995 Cleveland Browns weren't a very successful football team. Freaks and Geeks was not a very successful tv show. But what talent they both produced!
Critically acclaimed if not financially lucrative, cult favorite Freaks and Geeks  has obtained posthumous famous and now the Browns are getting attention with the NFL Network's "Cleveland '95: A Football Life".
Now the fact that there are highly successful alumni from two separate failed business ventures doesn't necessarily mean that the members of each group have coordinates in the other. But since I thought the world would be more fun if they did, I decided to make some comparisons. Some of then, okay all of them, are pretty far-fetched, but here we go.
Judd Apatow and Bill Belichick:  Belichick was fired from Cleveland in '95, just like Apatow's Freaks and Geeks was cancelled. Both did better in their new locales--Belichick in New England and Apatow in film. Apatow is Belichick's closest comparison not only because they were the two men in charge at the time, but also because making Belichick into an actor seems taboo even if I'm more than willing to compare other serious football figures with guys who appear in Knocked Up and Pineapple Express. But like Apatow has worked behind the scenes as a producer (and director and screenwriter), Belichick would loom ominously in his hoodie and terrify his actors into great performances. Just don't expect any stoner flicks.
Jason Segel and Nick Saban: Okay so maybe Segel is more successful as a movie actor than Saban was as an NFL coach. But both of these guys have established themselves in a different industry than the rest of their famous co-workers (even if Segel made his name in both). While most of this list of football braniacs hold court in the NFL whether as coaches, GMs, or analysts, Saban dominates the college circuit instead and has won three BCS titles one at LSU and two at Alabama. My choice of Segel as a tv actor and not a movie actor is pretty much all personal bias, I'll admit. I've watched Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and I prefer How I Met Your Mother. Besides, TV gets my vote because they're on season eight, making Marshall Eriksen Segel's main time commitment. And of the three most best-known actors from that show--Segel, James Franco, and Seth Rogen--Segel is the outlier as the one in a sitcom.
Side note #1: the title of the NFL Network's special, "Cleveland '95" is misleading: Saban was a defensive coordinator for the Browns in 1994 and coached at Michigan State for the '95 season. But if Saban can be used in promotion for the tv documentary, I can use him in my blog post too. Congratulations Nick, you are now an honorary member of the 1995 Cleveland Browns football team. No, they weren't good.
Side note #2: Jason Segel is an ordained minister.
Seth Rogen and Ozzie Newsome: You probably get a good vibe from both of these guys. In the Baltimore GM's case, it's probably because he was a 7xAll Pro and 3xPro Bowl selection at tight end and winner of the 1986 Ed Block Courage Award and 1989 "Whizzer" White NFL Man of the Year Award. With Rogen, it's probably because you liked Knocked Up and felt like Ben Stone seemed like a generally well-meaning guy, because you're a Dr. Seuss fan and appreciate that he did work in "Horton Hears a Who", or because you appreciate him raising Alzheimer's awareness. Either way, these are guys you probably like.
James Franco and Scott Pioli: After Belichick and Apatow, these are your smart guys. Or at least the guys who try to appear that way (clearly Saban and Newsome are pretty smart too). Pioli was the General Manager of the New England Patriots for three Super Bowls and the 16-0 season (one which I, a Patriots fan, always acknowledge grudgingly). Franco, meanwhile, has received a Golden Globe for James Dean in the fittingly titled 2001 movie James Dean and has appeared in movies such as Milk and 127 Hours that focus on real people and real events. But neither of them have been that exciting lately, making counterparts. The Kansas City Chiefs haven't been especially threatening, which has put Pioli's managerial skills under question, and Franco has taken a lower profile by doing volunteer work and teaching at NYU (both great things but for better or worse not as buzz-inducing as starring in movies).
John Francis Daly and Steve Crosby: While these guys live in the shadow of their colleagues, at the time of the show/season, they were actually the stars. And while they may not be the biggest names, both are journeymen who have been able to consistently make a living. Daly has ventured into screenwriting and is a drummer in a band, but his main money maker has been his role as Dr. Lance Sweets on Bones (coincidentally, a show I watch frequently). Crosby has similarly bounced around, with most of his career in the NFL. Having won the 2007 Special Teams Coach of the Year, Crosby is a little more decorated that Daly. But both of them found their niche and got the job done.
Linda Cardellini and Rick Venturi: Like Daly and Crosby, both are relatively obscure after being the stars at the time of Freaks and Geeks/the 1995 season, but Cardellini and Venturi aren't quite as accomplished. I give Daly the edge over his former tv sister because his show is currently airing whereas ER finished in 2009 (and, also, I like Bones). And unlike Crosby, Venturi never won a coaching award and "coached the beginning segment the Northwestern Wildcats' NCAA Division I record 34-game losing streak." And besides...
Offense = Geeks. Defense = Freaks. Compare Ray Rice to Ray Lewis. Both tremendously talented. But who would you be more freaked out to face? In its preview for Super Bowl XLI, Sports Illustrated argued "This isn't brains vs. brawn" when comparing Peyton Manning and Brian Urlacher. Nonetheless, Manning has earned his reputation as a thinking quarterback and as the humble dorky guy in commercials, whereas Urlacher is simply terrifying. In The Blind Side, Michael Lewis tries to argue this about coaching the two sides as well, saying that offense is about thinking creatively and finding new ways to use seemingly athletically limited quarterbacks like Virgil Carter and on defense you either have talent like Lawrence Taylor or you don't. I happen to think this is a huge oversimplification of coaching defense which clearly takes a lot of talent. (Dick LeBeau, anyone?) But, whether accurately or not, offense is often perceived as the more cerebral discipline. I don't know if it's actually nerdy to enjoy watching Arian Foster. But there's certainly nothing intellectual about Jacked Up.

No comments:

Post a Comment