Commentary: Dear Mr. Claus ...
This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Dec. 24, 2009 - I hope this letter finds you and Mrs. Claus doing well. Al Gore tells me that your neighborhood is melting, which must be stressful at this busy time of the year. On the other hand, elves are nothing if not resourceful, so I presume your staff is on top of the situation. However, if reports from Copenhagen are to be believed, you may want to trade in your sled for a boogie board.
It's been quite some time since I last corresponded and I apologize for my negligence. Please rest assured that I haven't forgotten about you, but you know how hectic the daily grind can be. You get caught up in one thing and then another and before you know it, 50 years have flown past.
Truth be told, I went through a rather extended period of skepticism regarding your very existence. As a world-weary second grader, I began to doubt the credibility of a magical benefactor who flew around the globe, passing out things of value to total strangers for no apparent reason. It was only after I learned about the TARP program that I realized you must exist. Seeing, as they say, is believing.
At any rate, I write this year to make an unusual Christmas request. Before doing so, however, I must share a rather embarrassing admission. Because of the sensitive nature of this revelation and the potential for ridicule should it become public, I implore you to keep this information in your strictest confidence. You see, I am now -- and have been for years -- a Rams season ticket holder.
Greatest Show No More
There once was a time when having your own seat at the Dome was a matter of some local distinction. From 1999 through 2001, the team posted a 37-11 regular season record for a .771 winning percentage. The Rams went 4-1 in five play-off games during that span and also appeared twice in the Super Bowl, winning the big game once.
Overall, in the six seasons of 1999 through 2004, the team won 64 of the 96 regular season games it played (.667), qualified for the play-offs five times, won three divisional titles, two conference titles and one world championship. Known as "The Greatest Show on Turf" for its explosive style of offense, the Rams were a national draw and a staple of prime time broadcasts. Oh, those were heady times. Alas, they are also long gone.
After last Sunday's defeat, the debate is no longer so much about whether the Rams are history's worst football team, but rather its worst team -- period. This may be the least effective association of human beings ever assembled for a common purpose.
The squad has won just 6 of the 46 games it's played since the start of the 2007 season, a .130 winning percentage. The male sheep have won exactly one home game in each of the past two seasons. This year, they'll have to get lucky in the season finale to record a home victory.
Under normal circumstances, you'd expect fans to demand the coach's scalp, but that tactic has already been tried. In fact, counting interim appointments, the team has had five head coaches in the past five years.
Gotta Draft Suh
If you can't fire the coach, the only way to improve the team's performance is to get better players. In the NFL, worst goes first in the annual draft of college players. The Rams thus figure to have the entire nation to choose from when their selection comes up next spring.
There's a defensive lineman from Nebraska with the unlikely name of Ndamukong Suh -- aka, Mister Suh. This guy's an absolute, once-in-a-lifetime, dead mortal lock, Santa. Did you see the Big 12 championship game? In one of his many forays into the Texas backfield, he picked up Colt McCoy and literally threw him for a loss. I almost wept for the savage beauty of it all.
I want this guy. I need this guy. He completes me. True, his name is something of a mouthful but, if Barack Obama can be president, I don't see why Ndamukong Suh can't be the first player taken in the draft. And he figures to be ours for the asking. Problem is, as things stand now, we can't afford to take him.
But a Quarterback is Key
The one immutable truth of the gridiron is that the team that scores the most points wins. The once potent Rams offense is now dead last in the entire league when it comes to points production. We've simply got to get a quarterback.
Incumbent Marc Bulger signed a $65 million contract a few years back and promptly began to play like a man who wants to live to see retirement. It is true that he also got his brains beaten out trying to run a Mike Martz-style offense behind a make-shift offensive line but, whatever the reason, he no longer gets the job done.
When his backup, Kyle Boller, plays, the offense looks more like an unplanned jailbreak than a calculated juggernaut. And this being Christmas week, we'll just say that rookie Keith Null needs polish.
Regardless of who was in at QB, this season's team has yet to score more than 23 points in a game -- and it reached that lackluster plateau exactly once.
We're desperate for a quarterback and we can't pass on Suh, which brings me to the point of this letter. Santa, all I want for Christmas is ... Michael Vick! He's a proven starter, a fantastic natural athlete and he can run -- a real plus given our often nonexistent blocking scheme.
Yeah, I know about the dog-fighting thing and I don't condone it, but the man's served his time. Besides, what better season for personal redemption than Christmas?
I know the purists will balk and I'm an animal lover myself, but with a current winning percentage of .071, we can't afford to agonize over moral niceties.
Sign Vick, draft Suh and suddenly we're back in the hunt. Please Santa, send us Michael. Damn it, my daughter's puppy just bit me.
M.W. Guzy is a retired St. Louis cop who currently works for the city Sheriff's Department. His column appears weekly in the Beacon.