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Marty's Curse

I've been calling for Marty Schottenheimer's dismissal since the day he was hired. I take no pleasure -- indeed, it is troubling -- to find myself in the company of corporate media at this late date.

From the January 21, 2002, "Sporting Box" column: "San Diego's captive press reports Marty Schottenheimer will be named Bolt's head coach.... I, long ago, have given up trying to understand what the Spanos family wants to do with the Chargers.... Be forewarned, Schottenheimer is boring, arrogant, hates the press, has contempt for fans, and wants to win every game by a score of 5 to 3.

From the January 4, 2005, column: "Unlike those who bow and bootlick before the Schottenheimer as soon as the Chargers started winning, I have remained steadfast. I didn't like him when he was 4 and 12 and I don't like him today, when he's 12 and 4.

"At bottom, excessive, soul-suffocating caution is what I hold against Marty. Caution is unbecoming in life, ugly in sports, and a crime in the NFL. Take Sunday's game. Sure, other playoff-bound teams were holding out their stars, the star quarterback, the star running back, not wanting to get a franchise player hurt before the playoffs begin.

"But, Marty held out an entire squad: Drew Brees, LaDainian Tomlinson, Randall Godfrey, Eric Parker, Tim Dwight, Antonio Gates, Keenan McCardell, Lorenzo Neal, and Jamal Williams. The equipment manager was on the bubble."

September 13, 2005: "We now know Martyball has not passed away, but lurks in the rancid underground corridors of Qualcomm Stadium. Remember last January when the Chargers hosted the New York Jets on the first day of Wildcard Weekend? The game went into overtime, San Diego drives to the Jets' 22-yard line. It's first and ten. The Chargers deal three running plays, the same plays that had not worked all afternoon, for no gain. Then, Schottenheimer sends in a rookie kicker who misses a 39-yard field goal. End of season.

"Martyball, the fear-ridden obsession of running the ball up the gut every time an important game is on the line, showed its rodent face again last Sunday. Or maybe not. Here's the situation: The Chargers are on the Cowboys' 7-yard line and have 47 seconds, four plays, and one timeout left to them. They need to score a touchdown to win. LaDainian Tomlinson is ignored, Brees throws four passes; the first three were incomplete, the last was intercepted.

"It sure seemed like Martyball: the stupid, repetitive selection of plays that do not work. But, and here's the rub, this series of stupid, repetitive plays were all passes, and purists will object if we call this Martyball.

"But, even purists must admit the foregoing was trying to fit a round peg into a square hole over and over and over again until failure is achieved. Isn't that what Martyball is all about?"

All right, now that I've shown you my bona fides, I trust you'll believe me when I say that Sunday's loss was not Marty's fault. Yes, he did make a bonehead call in the first quarter. It was one of those, "I can't do Martyball so I'll do the exact opposite of Martyball: I'll pass on 4th and 11." And he did waste a timeout on a moronic challenge in the fourth quarter. But, Marty didn't turn over the football four times, didn't blow a punt, didn't drop a ball, didn't miss a field goal, didn't pick up a 15-yard personal foul, didn't intercept the ball when he should have knocked it down, didn't fumble, and so on. The players lost the game.

Marty dumped Martyball this year, handed play-calling to his offensive and defensive coordinators much like an alcoholic, on his first week of sobriety, who tells his wife, "Honey, take all the vodka bottles out of the house and pour their contents down the damn sewer." Marty stayed sober, for the most part, and deserves our congratulations.

But, as is so often the case, good deeds don't count. Marty is cursed, and don't kid yourself, a 5-13 record in the playoffs is a curse.

You say there is no such a thing? Ask the city of Boston. The curse of the Bambino began after the Red Sox sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees in 1920. Karmic retribution ensued. The Red Sox didn't win a World Series for the next 84 years. Almost three generations. A story went around Beantown, goes like this: a bartender is talking to a couple of his noon regulars after another American League Championship Series defeat. The bartender, referring to the Red Sox, says, "They killed our fathers and now they're coming after us."

Despite heroic efforts at reformation, Marty is a cursed human being and should be fired, but not for cause. Karma giveth and karma taketh. Consider this: if New England wins the Super Bowl, Junior Seau will get his ring.

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I've been calling for Marty Schottenheimer's dismissal since the day he was hired. I take no pleasure -- indeed, it is troubling -- to find myself in the company of corporate media at this late date.

From the January 21, 2002, "Sporting Box" column: "San Diego's captive press reports Marty Schottenheimer will be named Bolt's head coach.... I, long ago, have given up trying to understand what the Spanos family wants to do with the Chargers.... Be forewarned, Schottenheimer is boring, arrogant, hates the press, has contempt for fans, and wants to win every game by a score of 5 to 3.

From the January 4, 2005, column: "Unlike those who bow and bootlick before the Schottenheimer as soon as the Chargers started winning, I have remained steadfast. I didn't like him when he was 4 and 12 and I don't like him today, when he's 12 and 4.

"At bottom, excessive, soul-suffocating caution is what I hold against Marty. Caution is unbecoming in life, ugly in sports, and a crime in the NFL. Take Sunday's game. Sure, other playoff-bound teams were holding out their stars, the star quarterback, the star running back, not wanting to get a franchise player hurt before the playoffs begin.

"But, Marty held out an entire squad: Drew Brees, LaDainian Tomlinson, Randall Godfrey, Eric Parker, Tim Dwight, Antonio Gates, Keenan McCardell, Lorenzo Neal, and Jamal Williams. The equipment manager was on the bubble."

September 13, 2005: "We now know Martyball has not passed away, but lurks in the rancid underground corridors of Qualcomm Stadium. Remember last January when the Chargers hosted the New York Jets on the first day of Wildcard Weekend? The game went into overtime, San Diego drives to the Jets' 22-yard line. It's first and ten. The Chargers deal three running plays, the same plays that had not worked all afternoon, for no gain. Then, Schottenheimer sends in a rookie kicker who misses a 39-yard field goal. End of season.

"Martyball, the fear-ridden obsession of running the ball up the gut every time an important game is on the line, showed its rodent face again last Sunday. Or maybe not. Here's the situation: The Chargers are on the Cowboys' 7-yard line and have 47 seconds, four plays, and one timeout left to them. They need to score a touchdown to win. LaDainian Tomlinson is ignored, Brees throws four passes; the first three were incomplete, the last was intercepted.

"It sure seemed like Martyball: the stupid, repetitive selection of plays that do not work. But, and here's the rub, this series of stupid, repetitive plays were all passes, and purists will object if we call this Martyball.

"But, even purists must admit the foregoing was trying to fit a round peg into a square hole over and over and over again until failure is achieved. Isn't that what Martyball is all about?"

All right, now that I've shown you my bona fides, I trust you'll believe me when I say that Sunday's loss was not Marty's fault. Yes, he did make a bonehead call in the first quarter. It was one of those, "I can't do Martyball so I'll do the exact opposite of Martyball: I'll pass on 4th and 11." And he did waste a timeout on a moronic challenge in the fourth quarter. But, Marty didn't turn over the football four times, didn't blow a punt, didn't drop a ball, didn't miss a field goal, didn't pick up a 15-yard personal foul, didn't intercept the ball when he should have knocked it down, didn't fumble, and so on. The players lost the game.

Marty dumped Martyball this year, handed play-calling to his offensive and defensive coordinators much like an alcoholic, on his first week of sobriety, who tells his wife, "Honey, take all the vodka bottles out of the house and pour their contents down the damn sewer." Marty stayed sober, for the most part, and deserves our congratulations.

But, as is so often the case, good deeds don't count. Marty is cursed, and don't kid yourself, a 5-13 record in the playoffs is a curse.

You say there is no such a thing? Ask the city of Boston. The curse of the Bambino began after the Red Sox sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees in 1920. Karmic retribution ensued. The Red Sox didn't win a World Series for the next 84 years. Almost three generations. A story went around Beantown, goes like this: a bartender is talking to a couple of his noon regulars after another American League Championship Series defeat. The bartender, referring to the Red Sox, says, "They killed our fathers and now they're coming after us."

Despite heroic efforts at reformation, Marty is a cursed human being and should be fired, but not for cause. Karma giveth and karma taketh. Consider this: if New England wins the Super Bowl, Junior Seau will get his ring.

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