Hot Sports Opinion #1,958,104 on the Dallas Cowboys' campaign-ending blowout defeat at the hands of the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday afternoon: virtually everything about that laughably miserable effort (a veritable comedy of errors, if you will) exuded a thick air of discombobulation, from Nick Folk's errant opening kickoff to Donovan McNabb's final victorious kneel-down.
Tony Romo and Jason Witten were clearly never right from a physical standpoint (the former reportedly sustained a rib injury at some point during the day's proceedings, a contributing factor to his collapse in the locker-room shower later in the evening), and some of the blame for the Cowboys' thoroughly inept offensive showing should deservedly be attributed to that. But the inexcusable turnovers, the idiotic penalties, the debilitating confusion that pervaded the Dallas sideline ... you can't pin all that on the injury bug.
I don't profess to be a Cowboys fan in the slightest (in actuality, I'm on the exact opposite end of the spectrum), and perhaps the fact that my football loyalties lie with a 6-10 team some 1,000-plus miles to the north disqualifies me from criticizing the regional product. Daily media exposure to this team breeds familiarity, however, and while my pre-season skepticism that this squad of talented misfits would win a playoff game (much less execute a patented run to the Lombardi Trophy, as some were convinced into believing) was quite strong from the outset, I can honestly say I never foresaw a regular-season collapse of such embarrassing magnitude.
My deepest sympathies to the legions of walking wounded football fans that no doubt comprise a considerable portion of Texas's populace this morning -- the very nature of this recreational pursuit of ours that we call sports fanaticism frequently lends itself to the painful malady of heartbreak.
We can only hope the Texas Rangers will soon formulate the antidote.
● The Red Sox are set to ink free-agent right-hander Brad Penny to an incentive-laden one-year, $5 million deal (pending the completion of a physical exam and contractual language), and have agreed to terms with free-agent catcher Josh Bard on a non-guaranteed one-year, $1.6 million deal (Sean McAdam, Boston Herald)
[Is it just me, or does the impending Penny deal have a very Jason Jennings-esque feel to it? Beset by mid-season shoulder tendinitis in 2008, the 30-year-old Penny fared miserably after May 2nd (52.1 IP, 8.77 ERA, 1.87 WHIP) and was shut down entirely in late September, opting for the rest and rehabilitation plan that Brandon McCarthy employed to such great effect months prior. Texas was thought to be interested in the hard-throwing Dodger earlier in the off-season, but there had been little word on that front for weeks on end, and it can be reasonably inferred that the Rangers decided they would be better served by pursuing alternative options.
The signing of Bard should only marginally impede the well-publicized negotiations between the Rangers and Red Sox on that proposed catcher-for-pitcher swap that I'm beginning to suspect will never materialize; at 30 years old, he's not a long-term solution behind the plate, his defense is suspect on top of that (a lifetime caught-stealing percentage of 15.9 percent does little to inspire confidence), and while he could conceivably regain his 2006 and 2007 form with the stick, heavily betting on him to do so would likely border on folly. In other words, he's second-string material.
Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the Penny signing is its potential adverse impact on the Red Sox' interest in Ben Sheets, who may not have a rotation spot available to him in Boston depending on the front office's view of Tim Wakefield's projected effectiveness and Penny's projected health, not to mention the ever-alluring Clay Buchholz. The cash-flush Red Sox could certainly still decide to make a play there, but that possibility became a tad less likely on Sunday.]
● There are rumblings that the Rangers may be tossing around the idea of signing free-agent southpaw Andy Pettitte (Nick Cafardo, Boston Globe)
[Again, don't bet on it.]