Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Barbaro: Dominant Indominability

The first time we heard about Horshack and Barbarino, we were in junior high -- and, although Horshack and Barbarino were OK, we were always partial to Freddie "Boom Boom" Washington and ...

Awwww, jeez ... this was supposed to be a tribute to "a horse named Barbaro" -- not to some Sweathogs named Horshack and Barbarino.
Hey, at least we didn't do what we did last May when we committed the sin of pulling out our trading cards of Kansas City Chiefs safety Gary Barbaro and of Detroit Tigers outfielder Barbaro Garbey.

All kidding aside, for those of us who elected to never have human children and, instead, opted to save each ounce of affection for fuzzy, four-legged, brown-eyed works-of-art who sometimes like to steal Mommy's socks, yes ... losing a four-legged friend is a bitter pill to swallow.

BARBARO was euthanized yesterday. Maybe he wasn't "an American hero" in the sense that Kobe Bryant and Danica Patrick are, but he stood for something, dammit.
Until he was no longer able to stand because of the laminitis.
It wouldn't surprise anyone of us who bleeds red, white n' blue if Kobe was salutin' Barbaro right now by unleashing his inner-thoroughbred by delicately and extramaritally mounting (from behind, the way Barbaro would've) a blonde skank not named Vanessa, kinda like what he kinda/sorta/maybe/probably did at Cordillera.

For so many of us, Barbaro was like the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team -- a unifying force which galvinized Americans with a "can do" spirit so that we might forget about evil places w/ evil people, such as Iran and Iraq.
Once the buzz wears off eight or nine months later, we're back to being Americans ... not understanding the plight of the Shiites and the Sunnis, but, also not afraid -- as we hoist our 17th beer at T.G.I.Friday's -- to boldly proclaim, "They only way to handle those Arabs is to bomb 'em back to the frickin' Stone Age. That's what I'M talkin' 'bout! Am I right or am I right?"

Goodnight, Mike Eruzione.
And, goodnight to you, Barbaro.

The cynical, "who-gives-a-shit?" tough guy in many of us reacted to the news with unfeeling brutality by asking, "How many bags of Puppy Chow do ya 'spose Purina could've made out of Barbaro?" -- but it was a defense mechanism employed to ward off the pain and the guilt and the sorrow.
Punchlines like that are used to mask the gut-punch of this development.

There were so many times last spring when we realized how Barbaro made us each a better person on so many levels. Who amongst us cannot relate to the times when we were playing for a last-place softball team and, upon hitting a six-hop grounder to the second baseman, felt like dropping the bat and taking three-and-a-half, semi-jogged steps to first base before veering off toward the dugout, walking slowly to the bench, plopping our 50-lbs.-overweight ass down and then lighting up a Pall Mall?

We hustled our ass to first base -- because America HAD to run when Barbaro was unable and disabled.
It was only after we'd been thrown out by 11 steps at first base that we fired up that Pall Mall.
Sure, we'd just grounded out in the fifth inning of a ballgame we were losing, 12-3 -- but that cigarette tasted like sweet victory.
Then, Roethlisberger crashed his motorcycle three weeks after Barbaro's mishap -- and we began to question God's mistreatment of our icons.

If nothing else, at least Barbaro was directly responsible for improvements in our personal lives. 1) He showed us where Kennett Square, Pa. was on a map.
2) He introduced us to Dr. Dean Richardson.
In the end, we know that Dr. Dean did all he could. In fact, Dr. Dean uttered those words which left us rattled when he described the "unmanagable amount of discomfort."
Not to mention the unimaginable amount of disdain that Barbaro had for humans not named Dr. Dean.

The timing was a little off for Barbaro's farewell. Less than one week earlier, Prez Dubya saluted the American spirit at the end of his State of the Union address by paying tribute to four individuals who had recently displayed various forms of everyday heroism.

If only Dubya could have seen it in his heart to honor a Kentucky Derby champion who would've been a Triple Crown winner, rather than by leading off his four-person salute with recognition paid to the basketballer who used to taunt opponents with an annoying finger wag following blocked shots and who once asked (with his African accent), "Who wants to sex Mutombo?"

Dubya apparently couldn't get Canseco on such short notice.

For sure, Barbaro was one of our equine heroes, although some of us are reluctant to rank him completely "up there" with SECRETARIAT and SMARTY JONES and CIGAR and JOHN HENRY and 1941 Triple Crown winner WHIRLAWAY (jockeyed by Eddie Arcaro) and 1948 Triple Crown winner CITATION (jockeyed by Eddie Arcaro ... won all three legs of the Triple Crown by at least 3 1/2 lengths) and DARK STAR (which beat Native Dancer by a head in the '53 Kentucky Derby before Native Dancer went on to win the Prekaness and the Belmont) and QUADRANGLE (which won the Belmont in '64 by two lengths over Roman Brother and Northern Dancer after Northern Dancer had won the Derby and the Preakness) and SUPER BOWL, the most-recent Triple Crown winner (1972) in trotting (winning the Hambletonian, the Kentucky Futurity and the Yonkers Trot) ... and, oh, don't forget Bart Simpson's racehorse which he customized with a rainbow-coloured mane -- FURIOUS D (as Nelson Muntz said from his seat in the grandstand, "He doesn't guff from anyone!" -- which prompted Jimbo and Kearney to ask, "Guff?" before pummeling Nelson ... ).

Nope ... Barbaro won't be forgotten.
At least not until 2009 ...

Sunday, January 28, 2007

No Shit-Zu's Allowed (Countdown to Puppy Bowl 3)

One week from today, we'll conclude one week worth of heated competition between Michael Irvin's necktie ("Is that knot the size of a dinner roll or a softball?") and Merril Hoge's necktie ("Is there a cause-effect raltionship between 50-60 concussions sustained during an NFL playing career and one's post-NFL habit of matching a dress shirt with a shower-curtain pattern and a tie with a tablecloth print?") and we'll be down to business.

That's right ... for the puppies who'll slug it out in Puppy Bowl 3 (which airs on Super Sunday at 3 p.m. on Animal Planet), "down to business" sometimes means doing a pee-pee or a poopies on the playing field.
Indeed, if this were a perfect animal planet, we'd use Irvin's tie to mop up a puddle left by a beagle pup before we used Hodgie's shirt as a pooper scooper for the mini pile left behind by a Berner (a.k.a. Bernese Mountain Dog, the longer-coated version of the Swiss Mountain Dog).

You're damn right it's gonna be great. That is, if it's anything like Puppy Bowl 1 and Puppy Bowl 2. What sets the Puppy Bowl apart from the those Eukanuba dog shows you might watch (aside from the fact that they're all rigged) is that appearances by poodles (with their wacked-out, from-outer-space hairstyles) is not allowed.
Look ... no one's bad-mouthing poodles. It's just that poodles -- like the Papillon, the Pekingese and the Pomeranian -- look good only one way.
In the mouth of a Pinscher.

Now, the PBVG (the Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen) ... that's another story.
The PBVG is a quality, small-package, un-yappy dog.

We're probably not going to see a PBVG next Sunday -- in fact, we need to be reminded that the initial scouting reports indicate that the terriers (either a Yorkie or a Jack Russell) could create problems for the retrievers (Labs or Goldens).

Here's an aspect to the game which could be problematic: At halftime of Puppy Bowl 3 (no lie), there'll be a kitty exhibition of some sort.
The only way that sounds appealing is if the kitties are in a scale-size, football-stadium "playpen" (as it were) and if there was a 15-foot python with its game face on at the 50-yard line.

That's the cool thing about a 15-foot python -- the kitties can triple-team it and the kitties are still gonna get sacked (as it were).
It's true -- the only thing better than a kitty in the mouth of Pinscher is a kitty in the tummy of a 15-foot python.
To join the other three kitties already in there.

But, enough of this feline interference. Some of us will be Jonesin' all week to watch the canines get their puppy on. Yes, there exists an anti-puppy movement in America (read: every guy who gets busted on Dateline NBC's "To Catch A Predator" series) which denounces the Puppy Bowls past, present and future, but, that anti-puppy faction has real problems.
Such as goin' on-line w/ what is believed to be 13-year-old girls and typin' rude (stuff) about their sexual dysfunction.

It is amusing how a nation which has no qualms about a veterinarian removing the testicles of a gorgeous-and-lovable puppy's testicles (in what is known as the "neutering" or "spaying" process) can't come to grips with chemical castration for 37-year-olds who are itchin' to do it doggie style with a 13-year-old (boy or girl, it don't matter none to them).

Until that matter is eventually settled one day in an on-line virtual courtroom, we'll let the puppies settle it on the field.

And, when somebody asks, "Who's the winner?", there can be only one answer:

"You are, America ... you are."

Federer Is Betterer (tough break, Fernando Gonzalez)

By the time that most of us learned that it was somebody named "Fernando Gonzalez" who was playing Roger Federer in the championship of the Aussie Open, it was nearly too late to run down to the basement, unstack the six boxes, open the bottom box, begin thumbing through the cards rapidly and then happily extracting the card we had hoped was where we thought it was.

Exactly ... right there with the other Pittsburgh Pirate cards ... right there between DOUG FROBEL and CECILIO GUANTE -- which, when you think about it, was rare because most of the cards down in the basement aren't catalogued by team and certainly most aren't in alphbetical order.

But, there it was ... the 1974 Topps card of Fernando Gonzalez -- and he looked just as we had imagined him only less than 24 hours earlier when we first heard Dick Enberg say the name, "Fernando Gonzalez."

You remember that card ... #649 in the series of approx. 660.
Fernando Gonzalez is posing in Shea Stadium, the scoreboard in RCF in the background ... just as we remembered it.
Fernando Gonzalez is wearing his familiar #37 (with a circled #21 on his left sleeve ... the reminder of Roberto Clemente) and he's wearing the brown-mustard Pirates cap with the black bill ... just as we remembered it.

Who can forget Fernando Gonzalez's thick eyebrows ... the the quality moustache ... the undershirt sleeves which, back then, extended to the middle of the forearm, but ended just shy of the wrists?
Then, there's the data on the back of the card, the fun facts which informed us that Fernando Gonzalez "Led Eastern League in Hits, Doubles & Batting, 1972, & was voted loop's Most Valuable Player" ... and, of course, the cartoon in the lower right corner of the cardback in which the animated ballpayer is holding a flag with a maple leaf on it and the cartoon tagline is: "FERNANDO PLAYED BASEBALL IN CANADA IN 1970."

The '70s were a great time for a lot of us ... y'know, back in the days when we used the term "loop" to mean "league" -- a time when we learned that Fernando Gonzalez was an Eastern League MVP in '72, although neither we nor our friends knew the abbreviation of that '72 team -- "Sh'brooke" -- or where Sh'brooke was located.


What we DID know is that we felt disinclined to trade a Fernando Gonzalez of the Pittsburgh Pirates, a Nate Colbert of the San Diego Padres and a Wayne Twitchell of the Philadelphia Phillies to Todd for his Cesar Cedeno of the Houston Astros.

If it means that we have to buy 30 more packs of Topps to get Cedeno, then that's what we'll do.

The Pirates, however, felt differently. They actually included Fernando Gonzalez as a throw-in to the deal when they shipped steady Nelson Briles to the K.C. Royals for journeyman utility player Ed Kirkpatrick and up-and-coming utility player Kurt Bevacqua.

What a mistake. It matters not that the '74 Bucs won the NL East flag -- Nellie Briles was a hero. He was outstanding for the Cardinals in their World Series seasons of '67 and '68 and then very reliable for the Pirates, particularly in Game 5 of the '71 Series when, with the series knotted, 2-games apiece, he hurled a 2-hit shutout.

Most of us remember that Nellie Briles also sang the national anthem in that series (either before Game 3 or Game 5, we can't recall which) -- and that's what left us so saddened when Nellie passed away (from an apparent heart attack) at the age of 61 two Februarys ago.

Jeez, Nelson Briles was ... hey! Wasn't this supposed to be about Fernando Gonzalez?

Damn straight -- and imagine our surprise when we found Fernando Gonzalez's 1978 Topps card (#433) tucked behind the '74 Topps card in the aforementioned box in the aformentioned basement.

On that card, Fernando Gonzalez is decked out in the late-'70s Pirates garb which we loved so much -- the black-with-yellow-stripes, stovepipe ballcap and the true yellow (not mustard yellow) shirt.

The back of that card reveals that the 13 triples that Fernado Gonzalez had at Salem in '71 led the league, although there is no record or mention of "Shitbrooke," although his Eastern League "Player of the Year" honor is mentioned.

We could spend all day splitting hairs as to the differences between "Most Valuable Player" and "Player of the Year," but, we need to focus on the fact that Fernando Gonzalez was beginning to break through during the '77 season, but then the Pirates waived him early in '78 and the Padres signed him and, hey ... now that ya mention it, there may be a Fernando Gonzalez of the San Diego Padres card in the box of ... STOP!

Since this Planet never fully (or even remotely) integrated any scanner/cut n' paste/PhotoShop magic to accompany the text, this is not helping John Q. Public when he stumbles into this site and seeks deep background on Fernando Gonzalez when it comes time to sizing up Roger Federer's opponent.

One man's Fernando Gonzalez, however, may not necessarily be another man's Fernando Gonzalez -- something that we experienced last month in the work entitled "Too Much Tim Blackwell" (whereupon we discussed former MLB catcher Tim Blackwell, former Southern Miss. tailback Tim Blackwell and current Missouri-K.C. b-baller Tim Blackwell).

THIS Fernando Gonzalez -- so they say -- was attempting to become the first Chilean to win the Aussie Open.

Needless to say, the 1974 Topps baseball card of Fernando Gonzalez might've fared better against the hardcourt stylings of Federer than this Fernando Gonzalez.

The Chilean had his chances in the first set, but he failed to capitalize. It was kinda weird waking up (by chance) at 3:30 a.m. and watching that first set (before dozing off) and then awaking at 6 a.m. (by design) to see the final game of the straight-set victory.

Most people will process what Rogeer Federer has done in the past three years or so and then play the terrifically-repetitive and nonsensical game of "Who's More-Dominant At His Sport -- Federer or Woods?"

Such comparisons are immaterial -- and it's not worth escaping to another dimension to determine whether Federer could swing a golf club worth a damn or whether Tiger could swing a racquet worth a damn.

So, since there is no "Superstars" competition on ABC Sports (and, therefore, no means by which Lynn Swann can ALMOST upset Kyle Rote, Jr. by winning the obstacle course by hurdling that baby high bar which most guys dive over), the only way to sort out "Federer vs. Woods" is to use the Japan Triathlon System.

Three events which do not involve tennis or golf is the only way to settle the dispute. What we need is the system which the Japanese created to separate the weak from the less-weak.

What we need is: 1) Karaoke 2) Sudoku and 3) Oragami.

These are the activities which we have imported from the Japanese which will put the artistic and creative talents of Federer and Woods to the ultimate test.

After all, what else is there? Basketball dunking? Skeet shooting? Alpine skiing?

Hmmmm ... now that we've given it a little more thought -- taking into consideration the watered-down talent pool in each sport -- maybe Federer and Woods playing each other in their respective sports isn't such a bad idea.

It can't be any worse than wasting time watching this Fernando Gonzalez perform no better, really, than the other Fernando Gonzalez ...

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Your Crispix MVP = Roderick Wilmont

No matter how you slice it, Indiana's Roderick Wilmont HAS to be our Saturday b-ball MVP.
This is based solely on the fact that some of us spent no more than 5 minutes watching the Chuck-It-From-3, Free-For-All on the telly.
Hey ... we needed something to amuse us during that bowl of Crispix.

There's nothing funny, though, about how the Hurryin' Hoosiers needed a bounceback from the other night's messy showing at Illinois.
And Wilmont was leadin' the charge.

During his first three seasons, Wilmont had 35 assists in 86 games (avg. playing time in those 86 games was 16.19 minutes).
This year, it seems as though new coach Kelvin Sampson has urged Wilmont to be more pro-active in a leadership sense. Sampson is giving Wilmont more P.T. (27 mins./gm.) than Mike Davis did -- and the guard has responded.
Going into Saturday, Wilmont had amassed 20 assists thru the first 19 games, an average of 1.052 assts./gm.
That definitely beats the hell out of the 0.4069 assts./gm. which Wilmont had averaged for three seasons under Davis.

On top of that, Wilmont was only a 57 percent foul shooter (53 of 93), but, after sinking both FT vs. the Wolverines, he's made his last 8 and is now shooting 73 percent from the line this season (22 of 30).

Today, Wilmont sank the Wolverines by sinking a 3 in the game's first 10 seconds and then he drained two more in the final three minutes before halftime.
For some reason, TV color analyst Rick Majerus seemed quite taken by Wilmont's ability to jump and shoot a basketball at the same time.
Then, the play-by-play guy, Dave O'Brien, informed us that the 17 3-balls that Wilmont attempted at Penn State two weeks ago (he sank 7) was an IU record.

7 of 17 ... that's almost as good as how well Steve Alford shot in the '87 national title game against Syracuse.
Alford was 7 of 10.
Again, 7 of 10 in the national championship ain't no 7 of 17 vs. Penn State, but Alford will probably take it.

Wilmont has his 3-ball pct. up over 40 percent this season -- and that's a real plus, because, for every time that he goes 1 of 5 on 3-balls, you can damn well bet that Wilmont's gonna nail 3 of his next 5.
Then, he'll miss four of his next five, make three of the five after that ... and so on and so forth.

Speaking of 3-ball magnificence, North Carolina had its perimeter star -- Wes Miller -- struttin' his stuff from beyond the arc in the Tar Heels rout at Arizona.
For a lot of America, Wes Miller is the sole reason why we devote anywhere from 5-10 minutes per week on college b-ball.
Hey ... that's an intense 5-10 minutes during Crispix consumption.
Not a lackadaisical or half-assed 5-10 minutes.

Now, while it is true that Arizona was 1 of 23 on 3-balls (4.34782 percent) and committed 20 turnovers in Lute Olson's worst home loss, such inefficiency should not diminish from Wes Miller's contribution.

Let's rewind for a minute:
As a frosh ('02-'03), Wes Miller was 9 of 17 on 2's ... 33 of 103 on 3's.
Miller DNP in '03-'04 ...
As a soph ('04-'05), Wes Miller was 1 of 4 on 2's ... 5 of 16 on 3's.
As a junior ('05-'06), Wes Miller was 6 of 15 on 2's ... 64 of 145 on 3's.

That 3-ball avg. of 44 pct. last year, well ... it was a might encouraging sign.
Yet, entering Saturday, Wes Miller was 1 of 6 on 2's ... 14 of 49 on 3's -- THEN, he goes and struggles to find his 44 pct., 3-point stroke inside the McHale Center.

Miller missed all three of his 3's ... and that 14 of 52 total computes to 26.923 pct.
The way it looks now, Wes Miller appears to be on pace to finish the regular season with a 3-point pct. of anywhere between 27.668 and 29.048 and, then, after that, it's anyone's guess as to whether he can hike that success rate to 31.863 pct. or even 33.745 in the ACC and NCAA tourneys.
That MIGHT not be enough to get it done.
And, that's without addressing the woeful 16.66666666666 pct. on 2-pointers this season
If only there was a way that Roy Williams could light a fire under Wes Miller the way that Kelvin Sampson has with Roderick Wilmont.

Although "The Search For Wes Miller's Lethal Shooting Stroke" continues, at least the rest of Wes Miller's game hasn't gone to hell.
Before Saturday, Wes Miller had career totals of 145 assists and 90 rebounds in 105 games. Since he had no rebounds and no assists Saturday, Wes Miller's career assists/gm. avg, dipped from 1.3809523 to 1.3679245 and his career rebs./gm. avg. slipped from 0.8571428 to 0.8490566..

To borrow a catch-phrase from the scouts and the commentators on such matters, Wes Miller is "only going to get better."
More to the point, with a little hard work and with someone FedEx-ing them packages filled with talent, Roderick Wilmont and Wes Miller are going to make some big noise during the Big Dance.
Both players are smart enough to know that you'll never score your third basket of the game until you make your first basket and your second basket -- and, if it takes six or nine or 11 shots to get there, so be it ...

And, you can't jack up that assist average until you actually pass the ball to teammates who may (or may not) be more-qualified to make a basket.

Friday, January 26, 2007


Good thing most os us didn't waste more than 5 minutes of our Friday night watching the Queen Bee of the Unforced Error doing what she does best.
Committing unforced errors.
In the Aussie Open final, no less.

So, the next time anyone asks what her measurements are when a sexy photo of Maria Shittypova appears, it's best to say, "1-6, 2-6, 63."
If that seems a lot more confusing than 36-24-36, it's simple once we break it down:
"1-6" = score of the first set against Serena Williams ...
"2-6" = score of the second set against Serena Williams ...
"63" = amount of time (in minutes) it took for Serena Williams to dispatch the so-called Aussie Open "No. 1 seed" who, as fate would have it, will ascend to the world's No. 1 ranking this week (replacing Justine Hardin).

Chicks' tennis ... well, there's no way that a computer can measure the amount of time it would've taken Steffi Graf to mop up Melbourne with Shittypova's feeble game.
Wait! We're NOT talking about The Early '90s Steffi routing Shittypova.
No, the Retired-For-The-Past-Eight/Nine-Years Steffi would drop Shittypova like a bad habit if the two played tomorrow.
Guess this is what happens when you have a celeb who's ranked at the top of the tennis world rather than a tennis player in that role.
Serena Williams would've had more trouble playing either Michelle Wie or Danica Patrick or Carmen Electra.

In other words, there's no need for any of us to take the Anna Kournikova posters off our walls or to burn the pile of Kournikova photos which are in a locked desk drawer somewhere.
It was almost comical how, when we saw one minute of the beginning of the second set (after Shittypova had just lost, 1-6), it was a no-brainer to remark, "This'll be a messy, 6-2, second set. For Serena ..."
Like clockwork.
Sooooo predictable.
Shittypova probably had barely enough time to get her spaghetti-strapped sundress soaked with enough sweat to give the viewers quality frontside nipple action.

It's blowouts such as these in which we wish that ESPN Classic would air a match from 1990 between Gabriella Sabatini and Monica Seles, just so we could remember what it was like when attractive tennis players actually had game.
Shhhhhh! Maria has an SI Swimsuit shoot -- and then it's off to film another TV spot for Canon.
As far as her "tennis game," jeez ... it's sad when a "better" TV option is outrageous snowmobile snowcross competition at The Winter X Games on The Winter X Games Network.

Until the day comes when Shittypova is entered in the snowmobile snowcross and she's riding topless, all we can expect from her is another netted forehand from the baseline ... a backhand cross-court, would-be winner wayyyyyy wide ... and, ooopsie, 15 consecutive netted first serves.
Which is why we won't be watching.
Because it's disrespectful to our Kitten Kournikova.

Makes ya wonder where Smashnova is when we need her.
Or Dementieva.

Chicks tennis is watered down.
And, the only time that's good is if the water is used for a wet t-shirt contest at Centre Court ...

The Road to Super Bowls XLIV, XLVII and LIII

It makes ya wonder if when Steelers' defensive secondary coach Darren Perry resigned his post Wednesday (which was reported yesterday) following a meeting with new head coach Mike Tomlin, if Perry did or did not, in fact, begin that meeting by pulling a Geico caveman stunt by opening that meeting with, "First of all, let me say that I'm not 100 percent in love with your attitude."
Stuff happens.
And, this was an interesting first week of stuff happening during the Steelers' transition from Cowher Power to Tomlin's Terrible Towel Town.
The re-working of the coaching staff is underway, meaning that signs need to be posted throughout Steelers HQ which provide the warning:
"PARDON OUR DUST (during this renovation)."

Let's explore this re-shuffling:

O-coordinator KEN WHISENHUNT -- named Arizona's new head coach last week; was Steelers' O-coordinator for two seasons ('05-'06) after three years as TE's coach ('01-'03); 10 years as a TE and H-back in NFL and NFL asst. for five years ('97-'00) w/ three teams before Pittsburgh ...
QB coach MARK WHIPPLE -- (status = "out!"); KEN ANDERSON named as replacement Jan. 25 ... Anderson was Cincinnati Bengals QB for 16 years ('71-'86) and was an asst. coach for 11 ('92-'02 ... the final 3 3/4 under then-head coach Dick LeBeau) ... Whipple was Steelers' QB coach for three seasons ('04-'06) after replacing Tom Clements ('01-'03), who went to Buffalo to become o-coordinator when Bills named Steelers' o-coordinator Mike Mularkey their head coach ...
RB coach DICK HOAK -- ended his 45-year association w/ the Steelers (10 as a player, the past 35 as coach) by retiring a few days before Cowher resigned on Jan. 5 ...
Receivers coach BRUCE ARIANS -- promoted to O-coordinator on Jan. 23; after being an asst. (RBs) for the final two Bear Bryant teams at 'Bama; the head coach at Temple for six seasons ('83-'88); the RBs coach for four years w/ the K.C. Chiefs ('89-'92 on a staff w/ Cowher, Tony Dungy and Herm Edwards under Marty Shittyheimer); O-coordinator for three years ('93-'95) under Jackie Sherrill at Miss. St.; TE's coach for the Saints for a season ('96 ... under Jim Mora); O-coordinator for a season ('97) at 'Bama under Mike DuBose; Peyton Manning's QB coach for three years w/ the Colts ('98-'00 ... under Mora); and O-coordinator for three years ('01-'03) under Butch Davis for the Cleveland Browns ...
Off. line coach/asst. head coach RUSS GRIMM -- finalist for Steelers' head job; followed Whiz to Arizona after six seasons as Steelers' OL coach ('01-'06) following 10 seasons playing for the Redskins ('81-'91), five seasons coaching the Redskins' TE's ('92-'96) and four years as Redskins' OL coach ('97-'00) ... Hall of Fame finalist in '05, he was one of two OL coaches under Cowher -- the other was Kent Stephenson ('92-'00)
Tight ends coach JAMES DANIEL -- expected to be retained by Tomlin; was asst. at Aubrun for the entirety of Pat Dye's 12 seasons there ('81-'92) and was asst. to Dan Reeves for 11 yrs. during the entirety of his stints w/ NY Giants ('93-'96) and w/ Atl. ('97-'03) before coming to Pittsburgh ...

D-coordinator DICK LeBEAU -- will remain in same role under Tomlin that he was under Cowher during previous three seasons ... will turn 70 on Sept. 9 in what will be his 49th season in the NFL ... on Cowher's first staff as DB coach ('92-'94) then as D-coordinator ('95-'96) when Don Capers took the head job at Carolina ...
Def. line coach JOHN MITCHELL -- (status = "unknown"); has coached same unit for previous 13 seasons ('94-'06)
LB coach KEITH BUTLER -- expected to be retained by Tomlin; 10 seasons as a Seattle Seahawks LB ('78-'87), Steelers' asst. for previous four seasons ('03-'06)
Def. secondary coach DARREN PERRY -- resigned Jan. 24 after three seasons as Steeler asst. ... Steeler safety for seven seasons ('92-'98) and got his first NFL asst. coaching job w/ Bengals and LeBeau ('02) ...
Asst. DB coach RAY HORTON -- (status = "unknown"); played for six years under LeBeau with the Bengals ('83-'88) and was a Bengals asst. under LeBeau for five years ('97-'01), but won a Super Bowl ring in his final year as a player w/ Dallas ('92) ...
Special Teams coach KEVIN SPENCER -- (status = "unknown"); a Steelers asst. for five seasons ('02-'06)

It's always necessary to keep our records up to date re: who did what (and when) for the Super Bowl-champion coaching staffs of SBs XLIV, XLVII and LII.

Now that ya mention it ... ya gotta love Dick LeBeau, don'tya? Even if you aren't old enough to remember when he was a junior on Ohio State's 1957 national championship team -- in the team photo, that's senior captain Galen Cisco wearing #36 in the middle of Row 2 (before Buckeye LB studs Tom Cousineau, Marcus Marek and Chris Spielman wore that #36) and that's Dick LeBeau wearing #44 on the far right in Row 3 -- maybe you're not too young to remember a time when Dick LeBeau was wearing his #44 for the Detroit Lions for 14 seasons ('59-'72) when he played alongside the likes of Hall of Famers Dick "Night Train" Lane and Lem Barney (back when Lem Barney made #20 popular for the team in silver-and-Honolulu-blue before #20s named Billy Sims and Barry Sanders).

Where were we before we got all sidetracked with the Dick LeBeau Retrosepctive?
Oh, right ... #20.
That was the jersey number that Bengals CB Ray Horton was wearing when the 49ers John Taylor beat him for that TD pass from Joe Montana in the final minute of Super Bowl XXIII.
In defense of Dick LeBeau and Ray Horton (the Bengal D-coordinator and DB that day which Sam Wyche had entrusted to stopping the prolific Niner offense), it was slugs such as David Fulcher and Lewis Billups (and, you, too, Solomon Wilcots) who probably could've played a little better that day.

Anyway, back in the Iron City, the aftermath of the Whiz/Grimm/Tomlin finalist carousel has us asking a few pertinent questions.
Was Whiz REALLY the front-runner -- or did the Cardinals simply threw too much $$$ at him?
Is it possible that Whiz felt as though the Steeler search committee was not moving quickly enough -- so he moved on?

Maybe Darren Perry shoulda said that he wasn't 100 percent in love with Tomlin's resume, rather than his attitude.
After all, as the Minnesota Vikings' D-coordinator, Tomlin had the NFL's No. 1 defense against the run and the No. 31 defense (tied for last) against the pass.
How do we quantify that?

That seems a little "iffy" -- maybe moreso when we consider that Tomlin's most-recent playing days consisted of running pass routes as a receiver for William & Mary ('91-'94) before he jumped right into college coaching as an assistant at VMI ('95), Memphis ('96 ... on the same staff as Keith Butler), Tennesee-Martin ('97), Arkansas State ('97-'98) and the Cincinnati Bearcats ('99-'00).

We assume that Tomlin's six years in the NFL have served him well. Tony Dungy hired him at Tampa Bay and then Jon Gruden kept him ... a five-year association which ended when Tomlin went to the Vikes to serve on Brad Childress' staff.

Nevertheless, not too many of us will miss seeing Mark Whipple's pudgy face every time Big Ben was receives counseling on the sideline. Ken Anderson seems like an outstanding hire, given his decades of NFL expertise.

Now, we'll just wait n' see who Tomlin selects to replace Hoak as RB coach and who'll be the new receivers coach, the new OL coach and if Daniel, Mitchell, Butler, Horton and Spencer remain in the coaching mix.

Where's Woody Widenhofer?

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

A LAME Hiring (includes "The Lost Transcripts")

Just a few days ago, the NFL underwent an Uncertain Sunday -- not only because of two conference championship outcomes to be decided, but also with the news originating in Pittsburgh that the "defending Super Bowl champions" (we get to use that term for another week-plus) were not officially squared away on whether their new head coach was Mike Tomlin or Russ Grimm.

The issue became crystal clear yesterday once we saw the press conference where Tomlin was outfitted in his black suit, white dress shirt and bright yellow necktie.
It was then that we realized that a person should be judged by the content of his character and not by the color of his tie.

In the days ahead, Tomlin will re-configure the assistant coaches he'll retain from Cowher Power's staff (it's already official that Tomlin is going to keep Dick LeBeau as D-coordinator while receivers coach Bruce Arians will ascend to the O-coordinator post) with the new talent he'll import.

Grimm is gone, it seems ... headed for the Arizona desert to be w/ Whiz as they begin blueprinting the Cardinals' '07 thru '09 seasons of 7-9, 9-7 and 7-9.

On paper, Mike Tomlin has an easier job than Ken Whisenhunt. And, given the track record of the Rooney Family, the selection of Tomlin is one worth endorsing.

The Rooneys wouldn't lead us astray, would they?
"The Chief" would chomp on his stogie and give a big thumbs-up to this hire, wouldn't he?

Funny ... on the opposite side of the NFL continent, there's a Big Kahuna who was unofficially declared brain-dead even before Art Rooney passed away in Aug. '88.
That's right ... "Just Win, Baby" hasn't won a Super Bowl since The Chief died, but that doesn't stop AL-zheimer's Davis from stirrin' up trouble 'round OakTown.

Whereas Tomlin -- whom Deadspin accurately depicted as maybe/maybe not the long-lost twin of actor Omar Epps of "House" (the TV show we don't watch around here because Hugh Laurie uses his walking cane ON THE WRONG SIDE) -- is the third Steelers coach in the past 38 years, the Raiders' new on-field boss, Lame Kiffin, is the team's fifth in the past seven years.

It's another bold stroke of genius for Grandpa Al and his powerless (token?) chick chief executive, Amy Trask.

Some of the sound bytes eminating from OakTown have been classic. Ironically, The Sporting News put Al's face (with unflattering wisps of hair out of place) on the cover of the Jan. 22 edition. In that cover story, as well as when AL-zheimer's spoke up at the "Meet The Lame Brain," the Silver & Black are trying damn hard to remind America that the Raiders were AFC West champions in '00, '01 and '02 and that they were one Tuck Rule away from playing in three consecutive AFC Championship Games.

Rather than rehash how, back in the '00/'01 championship, the Raiders got WORKED by the Ravens in the Network Associates Coliseum (and by getting us to look beyond what Gruden did to his old team in the '03 Super Bowl), we're going to spin it positive with Al & Amy.

It just so happens that the transcripts of the Lame Kiffin interview follow, word for word, the dialogue from that scene in "The Enforcer."

It's 100 percent reliable and completely relatable.

MS. GRAY (from the Mayor's staff): "His Honor intends to broaden the areas of participation for women in the police force."

INSPECTOR CALLAHAN: "Well, that sounds very stylish."
MS. GRAY: "I think he also said something about winnowing the Neanderthals out of the department."
LT. DOBBS: "Well I'd guess we'd better get on with it. Next applicant."

(In walks Lame Kiffin)

LT. DOBBS: "As you know, this is the final stage in your examination. It's a rather informal test in which we get to try to get some line on your ability to think on your feet, your reaction to stress and pressure, your ability to apply the law in a hypothetical situation and so on, okay?"
LAME KIFFIN: "Yes, sir."
LT. DOBBS: "How long have you been on the force?"
LAME KIFFIN: "Nine years."
KRAUSE: "What department?"
LAME KIFFIN: "Mainly Personnel & Records."
KRAUSE: "Personnel & Records, huh?"
LAME KIFFIN (proudly): "Yes, sir."
KRAUSE (looking down the table to his right): "Harry?"
INSPECTOR CALLAHAN (disinterested at the end of the table, he drops his pencil and looks up): "Huh?"
LT. DOBBS: "Have you any questions for the applicant?"
INSPECTOR CALLAHAN: "Questions, hmmmm ... how fast do you run the hundred?"
LT. DOBBS: "Come on, Callahan! You know how this board functions."
INSPECTOR CALLAHAN: "All right ... sorry." (He rises from his chair, takes a few steps, leans against the wall and addresses the applicant) "You know that if you make Inspector under the mayor's new guidelines that you just might be riding in a police car?"
LAME KIFFIN (eagerly): "Yes, sir. That's what I'm hoping for."
INSPECTOR CALLAHAN: "Well, Officer Kiffin ... maybe you'll tell us all about your most important felony arrest."
LAME KIFFIN (somewhat hesistant): "I've never made a felony arrest."
INSPECTOR CALLAHAN: "Well, maybe you'll tell us about your best misdemeanor arrest."
LAME KIFFIN: "I've never made a misdemeanor arrest, either." (Looks sheepishly downward)

INSPECTOR CALLAHAN (with eyes widening from a squint and with mouth forming a snarl): "Then what the hell gives you the right to become an Inspector when there's men who've been out there on the streets for 10 or 15 years?"
MS. GRAY: "The woman's place is in the home, is that what you're trying to say?"
INSPECTOR CALLAHAN (addressing Ms. Gray as he walks toward the applicant): "What do you think this is, some kind of encounter group?" (He then uses his thumb and index finger to mimic a gun which he points at the applicant as he looks at Ms. Gray) "I wanna know what Officer Kiffin is going to do when someone points a gun at him and says, 'Hit the deck, you son of a bitch!' "
MS. GRAY: "You're deliberately trying to fail this candidate, aren't you, Callahan?"
INSPECTOR CALLAHAN: "If he fails out there, he gets his ass blown off."
LAME KIFFIN: "It's MY ass!"
(Inspector Callahan turns quickly to the applicant and offers a steely glare)
LAME KIFFIN (apologetically): "... and, uh ... my hard luck."
INSPECTOR CALLAHAN: "Except that, out there, you're going to have a partner. And, if you get blown away, he gets blown away with you. And, that's a helluva price to pay for being stylish."

LT. DOBBS: "Are you finished with the questioning, Callahan?"
INSPECTOR CALLAHAN (after returning to his seat and softening his tone): "Hypothetical situation, huh? All right .. I'm standing on a street corner and Mrs. Gray there comes up and propositions me ... that if I come home with her, for five bucks, she'll put on an exhibition with a Shetland pony."
(The applicant smiles sheepishly, tries to keep a straight face ... Krause tries to conceal his smile with his hand ...)
MS. GRAY (disgustedly): "Is this you idea of humor, Inspector?"
LT. DOBBS: "All right, what are you trying to do here, Callahan?"
INSPECTOR CALLAHAN: "I'm just trying to find out if anybody in this room knows what the hell law is being broken besides 'cruelty to animals.' "

LAME KIFFIN: "That's a conspiracy under Title 7, Section 182, Part 1 of the California State Penal Code ..."
(Inpector Callahan directs a surprised look at the applicant ... )
LAME KIFFIN: "... a conspiracy to commit a misdemeanor is, in fact, a felony and, according to People vs. Bashor 1965, that's ..."
LT. DOBBS: "Yes, that's right. Good answer. Thank you, Officer Moore. You'll be notified of your grade."

Wait ... who's Officer Moore?
And, are we to assume that Lame Kiffin got the job because his familiarity with Title 7, Section 182, Part 1 of the California State Penal Code scored him brownie points with Grandpa Al?
The Raiders once had a "Bill Callahan," but they need a stronger blend of Callahan nowadays.

For example, at his introductory press conference, America heard Lame Kiffin use the words "explosive" and "powerful" to describe what will be the Raiders' new offense.
Then, Lame Brain went all lame and said, "We will play happy and we will play hard ..."
Honestly ... is there anything in Title 7, Section 182, Part 1 of the California State Penal Code which covers "happy" and "hard"?

It's hard to swallow that one of the wins in the Raiders' 2-14 train-wreck season was that 20-13 victory over the Steelers.
That was horrific.
But, maybe, in time, Lame Kiffin will put down his G.I. Joe and his Lego's and put some pride n' poise back into the so-called "Commitment to Excellence."
When that day comes, it'll look a lot like that scene from "Magnum Force."

INSPECTOR CALLAHAN: "You heroes have killed a dozen people this week. What do you plan to do next week?"
OFCR. DAVIS (flatly): "Kill a dozen more."

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +

INSPECTOR CALLAHAN: "Your gun's out of its holster, Briggs. First time?"

Let's nobody "jump the gun here." While it is true that if Lame Kiffin's last name was "Kotite," he'd be spending the autumn of '07 licking the boots of Coach Carroll and Steve Sarkisian.
As it stands, Lame Kiffin needs to assemble a coaching staff.
With Al & Amy holding his hand.
In OakTown, there's gotta be a line forming with applicants ranging from waitresses to guys who work in the appliance dept. at Sears ... to forest rangers and P.E. teachers ... to that cute chick who works at Cinnabon.
And, say ... where's that offensive coordinator who was running the B&B?

Time to go back to the interview which laid the foundation for all interviews which followed:

INSPECTOR CALLAHAN: "You from around here?"
OFCR. GONZALEZ: "Yeah. I went to school at San Jose State."
OFCR. GONZALEZ: "No, I boxed. Light-heavy."
INSPECTOR CALLAHAN: "Just what I need, it's a college boy."
OFCR. GONZALEZ: "You haven't found one thing you like about me yet, have you?"
INSPECTOR CALLAHAN: "Well, it's early yet." (pause) "Get your degree?"
OFCR. GONZALEZ: "Sociology."
INSPECTOR CALLAHAN: "Sociology? Oh, you'll go far. That is, if you live."
OFCR. GONZALEZ: "I intend to."
INSPECTOR CALLAHAN: "Just don't let you college degree get ya killed, 'cuz I'm likely to get killed with you."

OFCR. GONZALEZ: "There is one question, Inspector Callahan. Why do they call you 'Dirty Harry'?"
FRANK DiGIORGIO (butting in): "That's one thing about our Harry ... he doesn't play any favorites. Harry hates everybody. Limeys, micks, Heebs, fat degos, niggers, honkeys, Chinks, you name it ..."
OFCR. GONZALEZ: "How does he feel about Mexicans?"
DiGIORGIO: "Ask him."
INSPECTOR CALLAHAN: "Especially spicks." (smiles slightly, winks at DiGeorgio)

It was nice to work our way backwards from "The Enforcer" to "Magnum Force" to "Dirty Harry," the original masterpiece of machismo and testosterone.
Nowadays, all they give the aspiring Lame Kiffins is dirty, bleak, forgettable films with throwaway lines ... movies such as "Fight Club" and "Saw," "Saw II" and "Saw III."
What's that gonna learn ya?

"The First Rule of Fight Club ... 'Do not talk about the '03 Raiders.'
"The Second Rule of Fight Club ... 'Do not talk about the '04 Raiders.'
"The Third Rule of Fight Club ... 'Do not talk about the '05 Raiders.'
"The Fourth Rule of Fight Club ... 'Do not talk about the '06 Raiders.'
"The Fifth Rule of Fight Club ... 'Please talk about the '00 Raiders, the '01 Raiders and the '02 Raiders.'
"The Sixth Rule of Fight Club ... 'When talking about the '02 Raiders, talk about Baskin-Robbins' 31 flavors, not about the mental health of Barret Robbins ..."

Oh ... and the actor who played Frank DiGiorgio was in all three Dirty Harry epics.
Lame Kiffin's goin' out the way that Frank did, sad to say ...


Sunday, January 21, 2007

The Other Colt QB

Normally when we talk about a Colt QB, everybody just assumes that we'll be discussing Colt Brennan, the Hawaii Rainbow QB who set the NCAA Div. I-A record with 58 TD passes during the '06 season -- or Colt McCoy, the Texas Longhorn QB who tied the NCAA Div. I-A freshman record with 29 TD throws.
Seriously, what other Colt QB is there?

Apparently, there's another Colt QB who wants props during this football season -- only, it's not Bert Jones or Art Schlichter or Jeff George or Jim Harbaugh or Jack Trudeau or Gary Hogeboom or Don Majkowski or any of the lesser-known QBs who wore horseshoes on their helmets and failed to get Baltimore/Indianapolis to the Super Bowl between 1970 and 2006.

There he is ... it's that guy who set the table for Tee Martin to lead the Tennessee Volunteers to the 1998 national championship.

"Peyton Manning" (yeah, THAT Peyton Manning) is the QB on everyone's mind as we're just a few clicks past midnight on this Sunday turnin' to Monday.
Come to think of it, have we ever seen anything as prolific from a Colt QB who was wearing #18 as what we saw a few short hours ago?
Mike Pagel wore #18 as both a Baltimore Colt and as an Indianapolis Colt, but ...
Back here in the present tense, wasn't this AFC Championship the type of game in which the Colts were "destined" to routinely throw away their chances for victory sometime in the second quarter and then spend the second half in a confused, zombie-like stupor?

Did America send out an S.O.S. to the Colts proclaiming that we absotively posilutely did NOT want Belichick tugging on the plunging neckline of his short-sleeve hoodie during Super Sunday?
Seriously, how many times did we turn to our lover seated next to us and ask, "How soon 'til Indy implodes -- or melts down?" -- and how many times did our lover respond by pointing to the TV screen (lo-def) and, upon noticing the Colts team doctor (Dr. Arthur Rettig) standing on the sideline before poiting to the surgical scar on her right arm saying, "He's the one who did my elbow surgery" ?

Okay, so maybe that last part didn't happen to 99.99% of America.
Yet, that doesn't nullify what we learned a bunch of years ago, no matter who we were watching the game with:
Take the "L" out of lover and it's over.
And, this Colts-Pats game was over (for the Colts) aprrox. five or six times.

A nation will remain divided over the following debate-team topics:
A) The Colts came back from the dead.
B) The Pats didn't bury 'em when they had the chance.

Maybe the Pats were lucky to be in the game at all. When you size it up, aside from that 4th-down, 35-yard scamper by Corey Dillon (which set up the first TD); that 4th-down, 27-yard jaunt by Troy Brown on the quick slant (setting up the second TD); and that INT TD by Asante Samuel (on a pass-pattern -- the quick out -- which Merril Hoge warned us on NFL Matchup that a Colt QB or any QB should never, never, never, EVER throw against Samuel 'cuz he sits on that route and he'll jump it), the Pats' offense was a model of inconsistency.
And, who the frick is linebacker Eric Alexander?

America will spend all of this Monday re-hashing the game and the many turning points in what was either A) The greatest AFC Championship Game ever played or B) The greatest AFC Championship Game we can remember, post 1998.

As per "the" turning point in a game which seemingly had three dozen, this Planet is selecting the point in the second quarter, 4 1/2 minutes 'til halftime when Brady completed that 9-yard pass to Watson for what would be an apparent first down at the Indy 19 as the Pats nursed their 21-3 lead.

Going into the locker room, up 24-3 or 28-3 woulda been more than "huge."

It woulda been "mega-huge."

Alas, Troy Brown was flagged for offensive P.I. on a pass-play in which the spirit of the law and the letter of the law merged and a penalty was assessed in a judicious and fair manner. The Pats almost always get away with that chicken shit, but, this time, they got flagged.

Instead of 1st-and-10 on the 19 with the chance for Brady to hand off a few times and eat some clock, NE was shoved back to a 3rd-and-16 at the Indy 38.

Then, there was an illegal motion penalty which made it 3rd-and-21 at the 43.

Then, Brady got dumped for a 6-yard loss on a sack.

Such are the mistakes and mishaps which have plagued the Patriots' opponents thoughout most of the past six seasons (particularly the opponents coached by Marty Shittyheimer or his protege, Bill Cowher).

Yet, after Steroidbrun punted and bottled up the Colts on their own 12 with 3:06 to play 'til halftime, 84 percent of America was just cringin' for the pass that Manning would throw which would bounce of Joe Addai's hands, carom off of DT Vince Wilfork's helmet, ricochet off Dallas Clark's shoulder pads and nestle soflty into the tender embrace of LB Mike Vrabel, who would cradle the INT and tiptoe his way down the sideline for the 37-yard TD for the 28-3 lead which would prompt Boomer Esiason to whisper to Dan Marino, "Am I the only guy in America who can that he's seated next to a Hall of Fame choker while watching a Hall of Fame choker?"

(Actually, Norman Esiason did spend part of the CBS halftime show spouting some rhetoric about how, if Peyton didn't lead the epic comeback, choking Peyton could go live in ChokeTown and live a choking lifestyle with the choking A-Rod. Marino had to suck it up and take it like a man, but, even for those of us who are mostly middle-of-the-road about Marino, we were itchin' for him to yell across the studio set to Norman, "Hey! Hasn't your kid died from cystic fibrosis yet?")

So, Peyton Manning went out and betrayed Norman Esiason.

Beginning with that punt with 3:06 to play in the second quarter, Manning led scoring drives on six of the Colts' eight possessions thereafter. This from a QB who spent the first 2 1/2 games of these playoffs directing two TD drives and 10 other drives which ended with Vinatieri FGs.

A QB who, to the point, had thrown 1 TD pass and six INTs in these playoffs.

"They're not saying 'boo!' -- they're saying 'mooooo-vers!' "

Maybe when it comes to the unappreciated Peyton Manning and the maligned Colts' D, we're 'sposed to expect the unexpected. It's been a bitch tryin' to figure out Indy in '06-'07. They began 9-0, then went 3-4 to end the regular season -- all four of those losses on the road, including a defeat to the 6-10 Texans and a 44-17 thrashing at the 8-8 Jags.

They were 'sposed to be dead meat vs. K.C.'s ground game and then they frickin' shut down Larry Johnson. Despite completely dominating the first 2 1/2 quarters of that game, they were leading by only a 16-8 score late in the third (though they'd played well enough in some areas to be up, 28-3).

Then, Indy went to Billickmore and not only derailed the Super Bowl plans of the Super Genius Playcaller and God's Linebacker, but created insurmountable anguish for ex-Colts fans who still cry, "They stole our team!"

(Sidebar: Addressing "choker" labels, how come the guy with the horseshoe on his helmet -- Johnny Unitas -- always got off scot-free? Sure, he won those back-to-back NFL championships in '58 and '59, but, what about '64 when his powerhouse Colts team got skunked, 27-0, by Cleveland in the NFL title game? What about his 11-0-2 Colts losing on the final Sunday of the '67 season and missing the playoffs? And what about his Colts being 18-point favorites vs. the upstart Jets in SB III? In two Super Bowls, Johnny U. was 14 of 33 for 198 yards with 3 INTS ... what's the efficiency rating for that ... 45.8?)

Well, there won't be a Dreamboat SuperHunk Named Brady in the Super Bowl (although there will be a "Sexy Rexy"), so, unless Tom's scheduled to perform the ceremonial coin toss (as he did last year), he'll have nuthin' to do but enjoy the funnel cake at the carnival whilst everyone else throws the football through the hole and wins a prize (that SNL sketch was mighty classic).

Oh, and when he isn't enjoying funnel cake, Tom'll be killin' time awaiting Puppy Bowl III on Animal Planet as he has a front-row seat for a private session of Giselle modeling her shiny, lacey, sheer Victoria's Secret undergarments.

Relax, America ... Tom's gonna always be terrific.

Except maybe when he's at the county fair. Seeing Mr. Clutch/Tom Terrific toss that INT in the final seconds, jeez ... that looked worse than when he set down his funnel cake at the county fair/carnival and was totally incapable of throwing the football through a hole and winning a giant, stuffed animal.

Kinda made ya think that maybe Super Genius Hoodie shoulda called for the hook-and-ladder TD magic -- not that Reche Caldwell's magic hands were gonna be much help.

Tom's failure, well ... once again, America decided that it did not want Vinny Testaverde to have a Super Bowl ring.

But, that's what happens indoors sometimes.

There's always sumthin' crazy going down inside the RCA Dome, isn't there? Oftentimes, this involves a fumble -- and the moment when Reggie Wayne (who'd been tripping all over his own feet all day) allowed himself to get hit inside the final two minutes and watched the ball squirt out of his grasp, go straight up and then gently fall back into his arms as if it was on a string, good gravy ... that was weird.

Almost as weird as when Jerome Bettis had his fumble squirt up in the air near the Indy goal line (again, inside of two minutes) in the Colts' final game of last season.

It's a head-scratcher when we play football indoors (where Mom told us never to play football, though we did anyway). Dallas Clark ... isn't it some sorta law where ya've gotta salute that dude, even if you're not into white-boy tight ends?

The last time NE invaded his RCA Dome space, Dallas Clark tumbled to the RCA Dome FieldTurf, writhing in pain with a broken fibula (which the Mrs. correctly diagnosed mere seconds after the play occurred ... thus cementing her reputation as The Fibula Whisperer).

This time, Dallas Clark had two frickin' gnarly plays -- the time when he skillfully extended himself and dragged his toes just inside the sideline for a key catch to keep a drive alive -- and then, his 52-yard, runaway rhino rampage through the Pats' secondary to set up the field goal which tied the game, 31-31, yes ... that was cool.

So, while an outdoor team (N.E.) went indoors and got knocked out, an indoor team (N.O.) went outdoors and lost its SB XLI bid (no dome team has ever won outdoors with a Super Bowl berth on the line ... right, Houston Oilers?)

Anyway, there's a Man Law out there (not one that's on the books, per se) wherein it's wisest to exercise caution when sizing up a Super Bowl which pairs one of Jim Harbaugh's ex-teams and another of Jim Harbaugh's ex-teams, especially when that game is played within the three-month window of Jim Harbaugh leaving one college coach job to take another college coaching job.

Speaking of the Bears vs. Indy, we seem to remember Bob Swersky and his pals conversing about Da Bears -- and one of the guys at the table pondering what would happen if Da Bears Bus was entered in the Indy 500 against the likes of Rick Mears.

Meerce? Or Da Behrse?

"Is Dittt-kuhh driving Da Behrse Bus?"

Hang on? What about America's team ... the Ain'ts? Well, despite the fairly-repetitive nature of it, we kind of admitted to liking that fight song ("The Saints! Are coming! The Saints! Are coming!").

Other than that, though, there was a historical hurdle which the Ain'ts found to be insurmountable -- something more rare than the Two-Black Head Coaches paradigm.

The Ain'ts, as it was, were attempting to reach the Super Bowl with three white linebackers.
Now, it is true that some of the Patriots' Super Bowl winners had three white linebackers (Ted Johnson, Mike Vrabel and Tedy Bruschi), but those three were often three-fourths of the linebacking crew (depending on whether Willie McGinest and/or Rosevelt Colvin were in the game).

The Saints, however, had 100%, white-boy linebacker coverage -- but, more than that, it was "three white-boy linebackers that they didn't draft."
Yup ... Scott Fujita (Chiefs castoff), Mark Simoneau (Eagles reject) and Scott Shanle (Rams/Cowboys evacuee) were the Big Three Anomaly.

That threesome did NOT have anyone conjuring up images of the days of our youth when the heart of the New Orleans' D was the quartet of LBs -- Pat Swilling (#56), Sam Mills (#51), Rickey Jackson (#57) and Vaughan Johnson (#53)

Some say it's a sad commentary upon those of us who aren't exactly Ain'ts fans but can name those LBs and their jersey numbers when we can't remember the street address of our previous residence and we always forget our spouse's Social Security number.

As long as we're in the time-travel void, when most of us are asked to name the most-recent team to win the Super Bowl with three-out-of-three white-boy linebackers, it's a no-brainer.
The Pittsburgh Steelers in SB XIII, of course.
Jack Ham, Jack Lambert and (here's the kicker) ... Loren Toews.
Toews started in place of injured Robin Cole, who, by the way, was a fantastic bad-ass and one of the most-underrated Steelers ever.
(To keep your files up-to-date, remember that Ham was injured for SB XIV vs. the Rams, so Dirt Winston saw most of the action)

In recapping FOX's broadcast of the Bears-Ain'ts game, it was kinda cool when America caught a very brief glimpse (too brief, in fact) of Sean Payton lined up in shotgun formation as a strike-replacement player for the '87 Bears.
That was a terrifically-wobbly pass that he completed down the right sideline.

Again, this shows us the glaring weakness of the Winter X Games Network when it attempts to report on the NFL.
It's Sean Salisbury this, Sean Salisbury that, Sean Salisbury's unit here, Sean Salisbury's package there -- and then the Winter X Games Network brings down the hammer and fills yer TV screen with that cartoon character named John Clayton.

Those are the times we thank God that we don't have hi-def.

Still, we wish there was less Sean Salisbury, more Sean Payton on our TV screen. After all, Sean Payton was playing in those '87 strike games, then he was gone and Walter Payton was back in his Bears gear.

'87 was Sweetness' final season. Then, he was gone ... forever.

Of course, Walter Payton wore #34 -- the same number worn in Ain'ts lore by the inimitable Ironhead Heyward. Remembering how Ironhead lost his battle with brain cancer last May, it seemed kinda empty havin' Mike McKenzie wearing #34 so cluelessly.

So, forget Sean Salisbury.

Bring back Fred Edelstein!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

MINOR League (The Saga of Tom Brady & The '95 Draft)

Many Americans were riveted to the testimonial offered before Our Lord and Saviour (His Majesty ... DEADSPIN) by that site's associate editor, Rick Chandler, when he info-tained us with his first-person account of his association with three-time Super Bowl champion and super-hunky dreamboat Tom Brady back when the Patriots' QB was a teen in San Mateo.
Indeed, back in the day, Tom Terrific was a teen idol -- before the cleft/crater in his chin had fully developed and either turned on or turned off the girls (and the guys).

Some of us never saw Tom play basketball as a freshman back in the early '90s -- nor did we get a chance to watch him as a senior catcher in the mid-'90s at Junipero Serra High (so named for the Franciscan missionary who greatly impacted 18th-century California).
But, we did see his big sis, Maureen, dominate as a freshman softball pitcher at Hillsdale High.
She was ridiculously great.
And, a nice-lookin' gal, too.
Y'know ... for the early '90s and all.

By the time Tom was establishing an identity on the baseball diamond, the Brady big sisters (Maureen, Julie and the other one whose name we always forget) had carved out quite a legacy. So, while Tom was a mighty-OK b-baller and non-flashy, mistake-free QB, his path to the pros, in the eyes of many, would be as a baseball player.
Particularly when the Montreal Expos drafted Tom in the 18th round.

However, for those of us who scutinize and over-examine such matters, that June of 1995 draft was as fascinating as any other before it or since.
For the Montreal Expos -- the organization which drafted Brady -- the transition from '94 to '95 was a disaster. The team that had a MLB-best 74-40 record when the player's strike occurred stumbled to 66-78 in '95 ... and that's because stars such as Larry Walker, Marquis Grisson, Ken Hill and John Wetteland began the exodus of talent out of Canada and into the Lower 48.

Someone who helped build the early'90s 'Spos was super-scout Gary Hughes ... and it's anyone's guess as to whether his friendship with Serra coach Pete Jensen was a factor in Tom Brady's 18-round selection.
In the 24th round that year, the 'Spos drafted Mike Wolger, a product of the Spring of '91 Serra team (along with Dan Serafini) which won the mythical state title.

Since there was no statewide baseball playoffs in California back then, it looked silly as hell Serra's administration decided to hang a large banner from the rafters in the gym, proclaiming themselves as "state champion" (especially in the Spring of '92 when a public school from San Jose with ZERO baseball tradition -- Mount Pleasant -- beat Serra in the sectional championship game).

Young Tom Brady, though, probably looked up at that banner on several occasions during timeouts of a basketball game against Riordan High and thought to himself, "One day, I'm going to help Serra win another banner to hang from these rafters. That's my goal ... another banner for Padre Pride."
Then, the horn sounded and the timeout was over.
"Tommy ... you're guarding Number 24. D up!"
"Right away, Coach Chandler ..."

Daydreams of gynasiums aside, here's what made that '95 draft fun for the entire family: The football factor.
The No. 1 overall pick was a punter from Nebraska (Darin Erstad) ... the No. 8 overall pick was a southpaw QB who wore #2 at Tennessee (Todd Helton), but whose injury early in the '94 season led to the emergence of a freshman named Peyton Manning ... the No. 26 overall pick was a Stanford QB (Chad Hutchinson), who was drafted by the Braves, but did not sign ... and the player selected one pick after Hutchinson -- by the Yankees -- was a Texas Longhorn QB (Shea Morenz), who lost his starting job late in the '94 season to the more-athletic player, James Brown.

The rounds that followed provided equal intrigue.
In the 8th round, the Phillies drafted a shortstop out of San Diego's Patrick Henry High named Ricky Williams (yeah ... THAT Ricky Williams).
In the 15th round, the Angels chose outfielder Darren Hooper out of Aragon High -- a tough-as-nails RB w/ good speed who prepped at the high school located approx. one mile from Serra on the Alameda de las Pulgas (Boulevard of the Fleas).
In the 19th round, the Tigers selected Lawyer Milloy, an outfielder for the University of Washington (and a future Super Bowl-ring-wearing teammate of Tom Brady).
In the 25th round, the Yankees chose pitcher Danny Kanell from Florida State.
One round later, the Yanks selected an outfielder from Vanguard High in Ocala, Fla. -- Daunte Culpepper.

Flashing back 11 1/2 years sure makes ya reacquaint yourself with so many hits and misses from high schoolers and young collegians bidding to make it to "The Show."
For somebody like Morenz, his dream ended in the minors when chronic shoulder problems (rotator cuff, etc ...) forced him to hang it up in '99.
Ricky Williams ... he batted .188 in 84 games (with 3 HR and 20 RBI) for the '96 Piedmont Boll Weevils, then, knocked nobody's socks off by hittin' .206 in 37 games for the '97 Boll Weevils.
Was it the ganja, was it the dreads ... we'll never know -- but it didn't deter Williams from rippin' up the gridiron for the Hook 'Em Horns in the autumn of '98.

Ah yes, 1998 ... the summer in which the Phillies made Pat Burrell the overall No. 1 pick -- a selection which was awarded to them when their overall No. 1 pick from the previous draft, J.D. Drew, refused to sign.
Three years earlier -- in that historically-intriguing '95 draft -- the Boston Red Sox used a 43rd-round choice on Burrell, who had just concluded his athletic/academic career at Bellarmine Prep in San Jose where he oftentimes squared off against Brady in critical West Catholic Athletic League showdowns.
Burrell did not to sign with Boston, opting instead to play third base for the Miami Hurricanes.

Funny thing about Miami -- that was the site of the Tom Brady's final game at Michigan, a zany, 35-34, overtime win over Alabama in the Orange Bowl.
In the aftermath of that victory, Tom likely thought to himself, "Winning an Orange Bowl during my senior season ... does it get any better than that? I get to wear a ring around campus with the inscription 'Michigan Wolverines, 2000 Orange Bowl Champions.' I could even show it to the guys at the NFL Combine ... that is, show it to the players from less-fortunate schools which didn't get to play in the Orange Bowl."
Tom Brady got his Orange Bowl ring by outdueling 'Bama's Shaun Alexander ... and by completing a bunch of passes to David Terrell, who was routinely abusing DB Milo Lewis (from Mountain View, Calif.).
It would NOT be the final bowl game of Tom Brady's career.

That span of '98/'99/'00, as it turned out, was the beginning of the end for Ryan Minor -- a 7th-round selection of the Mets during that '95 June draft.
Ryan Minor's destiny as Cal Ripken's replacement as the O's everyday third baseman was not coming to fruition, basically, because Ryan Minor struggled mightily against MLB pitching.

While Tom Brady was becoming a CinderFella story, Ryan Minor was making the riches-to-rags transition. Baltimore had drafted Minor initially out of high school (Hammon, Okla.) in the 15th round in '92, the same year in which they spent the No. 4 overall pick on Jeffrey Hammonds of Stanford.
Minor, though, never signed with the O's out of high school because, as you may recall, he was a budding basketball star. After two years of playing for the Oklahoma Sooners under Billy Tubbs, Minor flourished during his junior and senior seasons ('94-'95 and '95-'96).
If you remember his game, it was easy to see how the 6-6 swingman was a first-team All-America in '95-'96. He was versatile, a good shooter, quick enough to play solid D and rebounding was stout.
Ryan Minor was a complete player (22.5 ppg and 8.0 rpg during his final two years).

Oddly enough, in that '95 draft, Minor's twin brother, Damon, was also selected by the Mets -- only Damon went in the 19th round.
Funny thing is, the San Diego Padres drafted "another" Damon Minor -- this one an outfielder with Green River CC in Washington state -- but, we never heard from him again.
Maybe Damon Minor had Damon Minor "rubbed out" in a "this town ain't big enough for two Damon Minors" scenario.

Neither Ryan Minor nor his twin brother Damon Minor (not the other Damon Minor) signed with the Mets. Maybe they over-estimated their worth -- after all, the twins were sophomores who, along with pitchers Russ Ortiz (drafted by the Giants in the 4th round in '95) and Bucky Buckles were the stars of the Sooners' '94 College World Series championship team.
Ryan Minor might've been in no rush to sign with the Mets because, with a year remaining for b-ball and baseball at OU, he could leverage an NBA career against a future in The MLB.

Less than two weeks after the 76ers selected Minor with the third pick of the 2nd round of the '96 NBA draft (the Sixers chose Allen Iverson No. 1 overall), Ryan Minor was chosen in the (gulp!) 33rd round by the Orioles.
If Minor fancied himself going in the first round of the NBA draft, he might've scratched his head and wondered about who the 76ers selected with their second 1st-round pick -- forward Mark Hendrickson out of Washington State.
What made that ironic was that Hendrickson, a 6-foot-10, lefty pitcher, was a 16th round pick of the Tigers in that '95 draft. After playing for four sluggish seasons for four NBA teams, the Blue Jays picked Hendrickson in the 20th round of the '97 draft.
After a dazzling 10-15 record for the Jays in '04, Hendrickson split last year with Toronto and the Dodgers, posting a 6-15 mark.

So, while the '95 June draft is an afterthought for Tom Brady, it makes some of us wonder (out loud), "Where the hell did it all go wrong for you, Ryan Minor?"
And what's your story, Danny Kanell?
Ryan Minor -- currently a minor-league coach in Lancaster, Pa. -- was a can't-miss guy in two sports who, ummmm ... missed in both.
Shea Morenz and Daunte Culpepper never had a miscommunication in right-center field in Yankee Stadium wherein the outfielders converged, but failed to take charge on that fly ball by Red Sox star Lawyer Milloy which eventually led to a pair of unearned runs which cost hard-luck Yankee starter Danny Kanell a W.

If it makes ex-outfielders Shea and Daunte feel any better, many hardcore fans of the New York Football Giants definitely gave Danny Kanell the business with unimaginable profanity, invectives and good, ol' fashioned boos when Kanell was struggling to move the home team inside Giants Stadium in East Rutherford during his days there ('96-'98).

So, the happy side is that Danny Kanell did have New York fans buzzing.
That's what matters ...

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Gridiron Gang Bang (and Clay-Mation)

Wow ... there's some sensory overload on a Tuesday night.
Tonight was the debut of American Idol (more Simon! more Seacrest!) -- on the same day that The Rock's "Gridiron Gang" was released on DVD.
All of this, on Ali Eve, of all days.
Cassius Clay turns 65 tomorrow.
Here's an idea: Howzabout we blow off all three?
No Seacrest, no Rock, no Clay.

Right, right, right ... there's the "social significance" of Ali's 65th tomorrow.
What exactly that is, ummm ... it's not easy for us to put a finger on.
"Social significance"? What ... because he heightened our awareness of cockroaches and those insects relationship with the famous roach-killer D-Con?
Ohhhh, so you forgot that Ali pitched roach spray back in the '70s?

To some of us, the D-Con Incident kinda/sorta/totally negates the deep, philosophical, larger-than-life impact of Ali. Sure, Stallone has admitted that the character Apollo Creed was patterned after Ali, but so what?

To many of us, Ken Norton outboxed Ali in that '75 tilt in Yankee Stadium -- which is why some of us always mocked boxing ... because of that "to beat the champion, you have to knock him out."
Which is like saying, "For a win over USC to count, you have to beat the Trojans by three touchdowns."
Which is probably how 'SC feels about its loss to UCLA, anyway.

Regardless, somebody somewhere will ask the obvious rhetorical question, "What would it be like if Ali were alive today?"
Well, techincally, the Louisville Lip is still alive, his past relationship with D-Con notwithstanding.
However, due to his advanced Parkinson's affliction, the goopy sentiment is that Ali changed the world -- and maybe he'd do so now.
Alas, that's what makes rhetorical questions so great.
They elicit heaps of rhetoric.

First of all, if Ali was fighting today, his handlers would be busy avoiding a must-see title showdown against that Russian man-beast-thing named Nikolai Valuev.
All 7-feet, 322 lbs. of that horrid mass of back hair.
Could Ali, in his prime, take down Lennox Lewis or Evander Holyfield?

As per "beyond the ring" issues, there's no way that Ali could ever melt our hearts and coax us into owning a counter-top grill, the way that lovable lug George Foreman twisted our arms (figuratively) into buying a George Foreman Lean, Mean, Fat-Reducing, Grilling Machine.
And, as far as considering Meineke Car Care products, once again ... George wins our hearts via TKO.

Ali was good for D-Con -- but that double-standard where he was calling Joe Frazier "a gorilla" and other opponents "an Uncle Tom," well ... that's just bad salesmanship.

No one should dis Smokin' Joe like that.
Besides, Ali killed both of the Quarrie brothers.


To a lot of us, Ali was a mythological beast who, following the triumphs over Frazier and Norton, fought a bunch of nobodies (once Foreman -- at that time, a super-bad-ass -- went into seclusion).
Earnie Shavers? Alfredo Evangelista?
What ... no Duane Bobick?

That was a real dead era in boxing, which was perfect for Larry Holmes.
And, as Ali begat Holmes, Holmes begat that killing machine named Iron Mike Tyson.
If only we had that time machine which could give us Tyson '86 vs. Ali '76 (the winner to square off against Marciano '50).

To repeat: These time-travel matchups are fun, yet pointless.
For example, Tom Brady and the early Y2K Patriots vs. the Steel Curtain of the late '70s, c'mon ...
Brady gets his neck snapped by Lambert on the third play from scrimmage, one play after Mean Joe and L.C. sandwich Capt. Handsome and knock the dreamboatness outta the QB.
Now you've gotta play the rest of the game with Rohan Davey leadin' the Pats.
Ooops ... Mel Blount just picked off Rohan Davey and that's a 45-yard TD, it's 21-0 Steelers and we're only midway through the first quarter.

Next up: Lou Gehrig takes his hacks against Barry Zito ...

Saturday, January 13, 2007

19 Is Always Greater Than 18

That's the sign that was in prominent view (field level, 50-yard line) yesterday at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore: "19 IS ALWAYS GREATER THAN 18."
It was obvious reference to the jersey number of former Colts legend Johnny Unitas (#19) and current Colts legend Peyton Manning (#18).
Here's a newsflash, Balmer:
15 Colts points are always greater than 6 Ravens points.

For those of us who enjoy hearing about (but not necessarily watching) a Billickmore Ravens defeat almost as much as we do a Steel Curtain victory, yesterday's 15-6 Colts win in Baltimore was gratifying.
It seems as though "God's Linebacker" (so dubbed on an Sports Illustrated cover last month) and the lucky statue of Unitas outside Gate A (y'know ... the one with the grapefruit-sized "package" which the sculptor carved onto Johnny "Unit") were not enough to slay the Irsay Family and the NFL team which was stolen from Balmer.
The 90-point-sized headline in today's Baltimore Sun was typically predictable:

The only way to create greater melodrama would've been to use purple ink for that headline.
Then again, if the purple crows had won, the headline would've read:

Alas, God's Linebacker wasn't up to the task. If we're to believe that "keeping an opponent out of the end zone" is a moral victory, well ... such a philosophy looks good -- as long as it's swirling the toilet bowl with the purple-colored Ty-D-Bowl.
Billickmore's team "on the defensive side of the ball" was the greatest in the past 50 years of football (wink, wink), but Peyton did not seem to be terribly daunted by that soft, soft, soft coverage which allowed him to complete the underneath stuff to his receivers.

Not that anyone's complainin'. We've heard plenty about how Billickmore, during the past four seasons, is 26-6 at home during the regular season (the best in the NFL).
And now, purple pain is best described as an 0-2 playoff record at home during that same span.
Seems as though Billickmore has some issues to address on the offensive side of the ball during the offseason.
As if it'll matter.
Well, it will if someone kick-ass such as Vin Diesel is brought in.
Either as an H-back or as the assistant coach in charge of "quality control."
On the offensive side of the ball.

What killed purple pride's offensive side of the ball yesterday was that horrifically-bad INT that McNair threw in the red zone ... a pass that was picked by Colts rookie Antoine Bethea.
The reason this was so damaging is because Bethea wears #41 -- the same number that Tom Matte (still a Balmer mainstay) wore during all those glory years.
That's not to take anything away from Bethea and the job he does on the defensive side of the ball.
Matte needs to realize that.

However, Balmer fans' hearts will be filled with dismay and scorn until August when the exhibition season begins. It won't be uncommon for fans who live in Hard Canny to say to one another, "Pitcher bane seat on 'cuz we're gonna go danny ayschun."
FYI: Hard Canny = Howard County.
While we're at it: "Pitcher bane seat on 'cuz we're gonna go danny ayschun" = "Put your bathing suit on because we're going to go down to the ocean."

For those of us who grew up frolicking in the SoCal sands of Zuma, USA, "the ocean" = "the beach."
Crazy backwards f*cks.
Where would God's Linebacker be without 68,553 of the 70,000-plus in attendance wearing his #52 jersey?

The buildup for the Team Which Was Stolen From Baltimore vs. The Team Which Baltimore Stole focused on that Colts exodus in '84 and how the city was out for blood, but ... the aftermath made such matters an afterthought.
In a lot of ways, the purple birds' fans might be just as overrated as the purple birds' players. When the score was 12-6 late and Vinatieri was lining up for a field goal, the fans of God's Linebacker weren't making scarcely enough noise or delivering any deafening chants of "Block that kick!"
If Vinatieri had missed, a TD by the purple birds would've spelled a 13-12 victory, but, alas ...

We'll all miss those sound bytes of God's Linebacker barking, "What time is it?!" -- and his teammates responding with barks of, "Game time!"
"What time is it?!"
"Game time, woof woof woof!"
It gets ya so fired up that ya wanna go to the kitchen to make a sandwich.
Or maybe to open a jar of apple sauce.
Or a pudding cup.
As you reminisce about the ol' days of inspired catch-phrases such as "Who dat?!" or "Who dey?!"

If nothing else, at least San Jose State grad, Bill Leavey, was present and accounted for to hand the game to the Colts in much the same manner in which he handed Super Bowl XL to the Steelers.
Not that anyone's complainin'.
Not anyone that matters, anyway.

Leavey is part of the rich San Jose State landscape in the NFL this season ... along with the resurgence of Jeff Garcia, not to mention our fondness for those Coors Light TV ads featuring ex-NFL coaches with SJSU affiliations (Bill Walsh and Dick Vermeil).

So, yes ... it was an usually-fascinating NFL weekend. You sorta had an inkling that it would play out as it did once your edition of SI showed up in the mailbox (a few days ago) and the largest words on the cover photo of Florida QB Chris Leak were: Gator Raid
Not: "Purple Pain" -- but, rather, "Gator Raid."

Say, weren't those the same exact words which The Sporting News used as a headline last April to paraphrase Florida's NCAA basketball championship?
Well, truth be told ... TSN's "Gator Raid" was the bold headline inside the mag.
SI went all cutting edge on us and put it on the cover.

Bottom line: Florida is the Gators ... the Gators are Florida ... Florida romped to the title ... hence, the Gators' conducted a "raid" on their opposition.
OK ... for the 97th time, we get it already!

Now that ya mention it, a Saturday with pro football rather than college football, well ... that's a damn fine idea -- although, admittedly, the previous Saturday was better than yestrerday given that last week, SNL (not SI or TSN) re-aired the recent Alec Baldwin hosting wherein a Robert Smigel TV Funhouse rocked our world (as he parodied, in cartoon form, Kobayashi).

Those Japanese subtitles which accompanied the plot essential made no sense and were completely out of place.
Which is why we loved them (and Smigel, most of the time)

"I smell warmth."
"The circumstances are not set."

Kinda makes ya wonder when SI and TSN will get on board with the "I smell warmth" and "The circumstances are not set" campaigns.
Our weekend began with college football (in print) and ended with college football (in a holiday paradise known as O'ahu, Hawai'i ... in something called "ESPN's live broadcast of the Cornerstone Bancard 61st Annual Hula Bowl All-Star Football Classic").
Kai vs. Aina?
Right ... Kai (West) vs. Aina (East), I smell warmth, the circumstances are not set and Merry Manumaleuna you and yours and a Happy Tatupu-Tuiasosopo.

Anyway, here's what was to like about the Hula Bowl (no matter if you thought Kai was the bomb and you were hatin' on Aina) -- Chad Nkang of Elon (a graduate of Northwestern High in Hyattsville, MD) was his team's MVP.
Now, it's not easy to remembeer if Ohio State's Justin Zwick was wearing a Kai jersey or an Aina shirt, but here's what he was wearing -- a Buckeye helmet with WAYYYYY too many Buckeye decals on it.
We've covered this ground before, but how does a QB who attempted 23 passes as the backup to the guy who won the Heisman Troy-phy have the left side of his OSU helmet completely covered with decals?
No wonder Tressel's team came out soft and played like shit in the Arizona desert less than a week ago.
Each Buckeye player probably got five Buckeye decals just for making it to the opening kickoff on time.
Also, each Buckeye player who didn't get bit by a diamondback rattlesnake during the trip to the desert received another 10 helmet decals when the team got home ("kinda hard to get bit by a snake when Gators are chompin' on yo' ass.")
Ouch ...

Speaking of guys who dressed up as alligators in college, maybe someone out there in TV Land can explain what Sexy Rexy meant when he said this after his Bears beat the Seahawks:
"We're just two wins away from me putting a ring on my finger for the rest of my life."

Yikes ... that quote wasn't toooooo effeminate. Does "Roxy" want his lover to slip that ring on his finger before or after the spooning session?
Jeez, that was mega-creepy.
However, it didn't move the needle on the Numbnuts Meter as much as Michael Kay of the YES Network did when, during this morning's B.S. session on The Winter X Games' Channel's Sports Reporters show, he loosely tied all actions in the cosmos to John Lynch.
According to Kay, if it wasn't for Lynch's hit on Drew Brees which exaccerbated Brees' rotator-cuff problems, the Dolphins might've signed Brees, God-only-knows-where Daunte Coldpecker would've been for the '06 opener, Saban wouldn't have resigned to take the 'Bama job and the Saints wouldn't be on the brink of a Super Bowl.

Wait ... so, you're saying that because of John Lynch, folks in New Orleans' flood-ravaged communities now have a place to live?
Or are you saying that because of John Lynch, Crimson Tide fans now have a reason to live?

Leave it to the Mrs. to provide "clarity" and "context."
She witnessed how badly Michael Kay had drenched his own pantleg with urine, so she tried to create a diversion.

MRS. PF7: "... and if Denny Green had kept John Lynch at quaterback and not moved him to safety at Stanford ... and if John Lynch had performed a little better as a college baseball player ..."

That gal is so "up to speed" with the issues. She doesn't allow herself to get all bogged down with purple pain. Moreover, she knows that the Colts' punter is named Hunter Smith and that the Colts' head athletic trainer is named Hunter Smith, although neither Hunter Smith is related.

In the "Kay Cosmos," it's safe to assume that if rookie QB Art Schlichter hadn't had a gambling problem during the Colts' 0-8-1, strike-shortened season of '82, Bob Irsay wouldn't have been interested in John Elway as the franchise's savior and, therefore, never would've moved the team from B'More to 'Nap Town, thus keeping the Browns in Cleveland for another year or two, whereupon Billick and Belichick would've combined their dark super powers to win at least three consecutive Super Bowls before Art Modell moved the franchise from Cleveland to L.A. (just as the NFL-champion Cleveland Rams had done before the 1946 season).
So, yes, suffering Cleveland fans ... Ohio native Art Schlichter (current property of the Ohio Department of Corrections) is the reason why the New Browns suck worse than the Old Cleveland Browns or the Ancient Cleveland Rams.
See how much fun that was?

In a stupid and accidental way, Mike Kay is a catalyst in getting America to think outside the box.
Even so, his circular logic (or is it specious reasoning) is no guarantee that even if John Lynch hadn't sucked as a Stanford QB that Cleo Lemon would be leading the Dolphins to Super Bowls XLIV and XLVIII.

What we do know is that John Lynch ruined Marty Shittyheimer's life -- for it was Lynch's hit on Drew Brees which created all the questions about the QB's health, thus inititiating the rapid-fire development of a QB (Philip Rivers) who, in his college career at NC State, rarely won a big game (0-4 vs. Maryland, mediocre vs. awful, awful, awful, non-conference opponents).

The San Diego Super Chargers made several dozen mistakes, but rather than re-hash those or mock the lame "Lights Out" motto which Shawne Merriman has shaved on the side of his head, let's all remember that MartyBall will usually find a way to lose.
And, if he can't find one, he'll invent a new way.

His coaching stylings (read: overseeing the incompetency of chief wingmen Cam Cameron -- whose real first name is "Malcolm" -- and Wade Phillips -- whose daddy's name was "O.A.") have Team Sea World's fans so enraged that probably many of them are burning their #18 retro jerseys.
#18, of course, was the Charger jersey worn by Hall of Famer Charlie Joiner.
It's difficult to determine the number of Charger fans who are burning their #19 Charger throwback jerseys with the name "ALWORTH" on the back for the Hall of Famer who played there (1962-70) or with the name "UNITAS" on the back (for Johnny U.'s one season there in '73).

Which takes us right back to Square One.
And the philosophy that 19 is always greater than 18 ...