Rick Reilly Go Fish: Too Short For A Column


February, 17, 2012
And now for something Jeremy Lin didn't do:

Lin didn't win $7.93 (the exact cost of a cheese sandwich, fries and Coke at Denny's) in our first-ever Twitter #Cashtag contest. The #Cashtag subject was #ThinnestSportsBooks.

But before we announce who DID win, we must first announce this week's #Cashtag subject: #WorstSportsMascots.

For instance, if you were to tweet me (@ReillyRick) with "The Cincinnati Cyst" you might win $7.93!

Or if you were to send in, "Sammy the Dyspeptic Seal" you might win $7.93!

Or ... "Mincing Barry" might do it. Think of what you might do with $7.93! Buy 17 Natty Lights?

While you're thinking up those (deadline is Thursday, noon), be inspired by this week's cheesy winner, and the other worthwhile efforts (other worthwhile efforts get no money).


"Into Thin Hair" by Troy Polamalu

-- Andrew Luria (@AndrewLuria)

Congrats, Mr. Luria -- Go buy yourself a cheese sandwich! (And look for a check, written by my wife, in your mailbox. Please do not hack our account.)


"Minimizing Turnover in the Workplace" by Jim Irsay

-- Sean Gannon @SeanGannon2

"A Blank Canvas" by Pete Rose's Barber

-- Derek Lippincott @derrrrrique

"Shots I Wouldn't Take: The Kobe Bryant Story."

-- Dan Reidy @DR3IDY

"Knowing When to Walk Away" by Brett Favre

-- Bryon Meyer @bryonmeyer

"A Brief Explanation" by Ed Hoculi

-- Kirk Reuter @donkeyhoatie

"Abstinence" by Antonio Cromartie

-- Bobby Maxwell @theGreatBobino

"Asian Hockey Greats"

-- TheSportsIlluminati @SportIlluminati

"My Life as a Champion" by Anna Kournikova

-- Steve Kniss @stevekniss

"The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe Malfunction" by Janet Jackson

--Andrew Luria @AndrewLuria

"Clutch When it Counts: The Billy Cundiff Story"

-- Ditty @theDittyLama

"Knowing Your Team's Potential" by Mike D'Antoni

-- Justin Lang @jlang20

"Basketball Practice Drills" by Allen Iverson

-- Zachary Botelho @zbotelho66

"My Life as a Laker" by Chris Paul

-- John ryan @rjohn8106


"It's Not You, It's Me" by Milton Bradley

-- Dave Heraty @Haggerty11

"The Complexity of My Mind" by Ochocinco

-- Scott Palmer @ScottPalmer11

"My Fourth Quarter Heroics" by LeBron James

-- Lewis Addison @lewis_addison

"Field Goal Specs" by Scott Norwood

--Kittens O'Connor @Duquetter

"My Time at Notre Dame" by George O'Leary

-- Jeff Grantz @jefeusc

"Between the Sheets" by Tim Tebow

-- J. Wickham @jawickham

"What Heaven Looks Like" by Al Davis

-- Art Thiel @Art_Thiel

"Sexism and the Media" by Danica Patrick

-- Tim 'Patch' Rogers @Patches_OfLight

"Genetics" by Jimmy The Greek

-- Jason Rowland @firstfireeater

"Weekend at Stevie's" (a pop-up book) by Tiger Woods.

-- John Schnettgoecke @JohnSchnett

"Above The Kim: My Married Life As A Kardashian" by Kris Humphries

--Scott Lee @SleeTweets

"Rich Rodriguez: A Michigan Man."

--Taylor DesOrmeau @TDesOrmeau

"Deep Thoughts" by Rob Gronkowski

-- Dan Hajek @luvboatcptn

"Bad Things John Wooden Did"

--Madeline's Dad @WAMK

"Charlie Weis: Salad My Way"

-- Zack Woodrich @zackwoodrich

"Facial Expressions: Excitement of Variety!" by Bill Belichick

--bradley gillespie @bscottgill

"Pebble Beach on $5 a Day"

-- John Reilly @peachrules

(That last one is my brother. He's funny.)

Follow me on Twitter! @ReillyRick

Snap to it!

November, 2, 2011
Stay with me here.

Philip Rivers, the San Diego Chargers QB, has been a starter in the NFL for six years now. That's -- just a ballpark guess -- about 5,400 snaps in games as a pro.

But ... Rivers was a full-time starter at North Carolina State for four seasons. I’m estimating he took about 3,400 game snaps in his college career.

And ... Rivers played four years of Decatur (Ala.) High School football. Roughly 1,200 snaps there.

That's about 10,000 game snaps. But there's all those practice snaps, too.

Figuring three live practices a week, 50 snaps a practice, five months a year, for all 16 seasons, that works out to 48,000 practice snaps.

Add that to the game snaps and you're at 58,000 snaps, not counting junior high, backyard, OTA practices, etc.

And yet when he needs one more snap to set up the chip-shot field goal to beat the Kansas City Chiefs last Monday night, he forgets the cardinal rule of the snap, the one essential fundamental to remember after nearly 60,000 snaps: You don't close your hands until the ball is in them.

I wrote ... If there's one thing new journalism graduates can to do help themselves it's to stop writing for free. It only cuts the bottom out of the market and cheapens the craft.

Slate agreed with me and wrote...

The journalism world got all flappy about this, according to Romenesko. "Useless," NBC Sports baseball blogger Craig Calcaterra wrote. "Really, really bad advice," wrote Jason Fry, a former Wall Street Journal staffer turned freelancer and consultant.

And now, a word from ... Samuel Johnson:

No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money.

A columnist in the L.A. Times agreed with me. Plenty of writers, paid and unpaid, didn't. But it's stirred up a small hornet's nest among those who blog for free and make millions for sites like The Huffington Post (which just sold for $315 million to AOL).

A recent poll by the Media Industries Project at UC-Santa Barbara found that 69 percent of HP's unpaid bloggers think they should be paid to write, and that 96 percent percent of them think their stuff is as good as or better than the work of the paid staffers.

The truth is, if you're writing your own blog for free just to get practice and a little exposure, that's fine. If you're in college and you're taking an unpaid internship at a website or newspaper, that's fine, as long as you're getting college credit.

But if you're writing constantly for a website or magazine that is selling ads and making money and you're getting nothing? You're a fool. Demand to be paid. If you can't find anybody willing to pay you to write, maybe it's time to try something else.

I wrote... The Miami Heat are doing the hardest thing in sports -- living up to the hype. The way the three SuperFriends colluded to play on one team is destructive to the league, but the way they're playing is a joy.

You wrote ...

Reilly, the three amigos "colluding" to win a ring is not going to ruin the NBA for the following reasons: 1. In the NBA, people love stars over laundry. 2. The NBA thrives when the NBA Finals rock. 3. The Finals rock when it is filled with stars. 4. If the Heat make the Finals, then the Finals will be filled with stars. 5. Therefore, if the Heat make the Finals, the NBA thrives.
-Dan Wheeler, Greenville, SC

The Heat is still Mr. Wade's team in spite of what LeBron does. By joining up with two other superstars he proved that he does not have the mettle, or fortitude to make those around him better.
-Chuck Dennis, Maryland

I grew up very close to Cleveland and am a Cavs fan, naturally. I was in the same boat as you. As soon as LeBron left for Miami, I couldn't WAIT for them to fall flat on their face. Unfortunately, I may be waiting years for that to happen if they keep playing the way they have in this year's playoffs.
-Andy Baylor, San Diego

I wrote ... If you re-drafted the 2006-2008 NFL drafts knowing what you know now, the New Orleans Saints would've proved themselves to be the wisest and the Seattle Seahawks the dumbest.

You wrote...

Really interesting article, one glaring omission. Marques Colston. The guy went in the 7th round and plays like a 1st rounder.
-Bryce Cohen, Metairie, LA

You would honestly take Devin Hester ahead of Greg Jennings and Brandon Marshall?
-Brent Gostomski, NY, NY

One thing we learned is why the NFC West sucks so much now. The bottom three teams are all from that division, with the Arizona Cardinals not far behind.
-West Garrett, Austin, TX

I wrote ... Seve Ballesteros was a player you couldn't help watch, with his incomparable rescue shots, his dashing ways and his unending thirst to win at all costs.

You wrote ...

Let me get this straight. The guy cheats in the middle of the Ryder Cup and you think it is ok. Maybe Barry Bonds should have shot up on deck. I like Seve, but just because he died at 54 does not make him better than any other cheater. By the way, I didn't know this about Seve until you brought it up.
-Jon, Tucson, AZ

What Seve did wasn't cheating. What Seve did was gamesmanship. Personally, I hate gamesmanship, but there's no penalty for it. I was merely trying to describe what the man was like, down to the bone.

As a teenage golfer, I enjoyed watching Seve as much as any American; but the coin jingling, stealth mowing, and other antics crossed the line. And who transformed the Ryder Cup from a spirited, but classy golf match into a jingoistic, mean-sprited, death match with Flyers fans? Seve! He was the rah rah captain who taught his fellow golfers and fans that it is okay to act like a horse's ass. Without Seve, Justin Leonard never happens. Seve was a great golfer, but let's be honest - he was kind of an a**hole.
-John Healy, Ridgefield, Connecticut

I remember seeing the parking lot shot in '79 on TV. Given the circumstances, I thought it was the best shot I had ever seen at the time, and now I hear he and his caddy were aiming at the parking lot because that provided the best angle to the flag on the second shot. Seve was a blast when he came up. It was obvious Jack's game was starting to fade, leaving a competitive void with Watson alone at the top ... and here came Severiano. Those were good times. My number never got that low again, my game was never better. Life goes by quick, man.
-Scott MacMichael, Fresno, CA

I wrote ... New Orleans Hornets guard Chris Paul has not only forgiven the five teenaged boys who murdered his grandfather, he would like to see them freed from prison.

You wrote ...

I'm glad our legal system does not allow family members to determine the punishments of their relatives' murderers! While I am absolutely convinced that Chris Paul is a class act, I can't believe anyone would want five cold-blooded killers released after serving just six years. Chris, try to understand that they aren't in prison to make you feel better - they are there to prevent someone else's grandfather from getting killed.
-Spencer Hughes, Ames, IA

I want to make sure that if I am ever put in a difficult position like the great Chris Paul, that I will act and react with such grace and courage. That is called inspiration.
-Warren Bradley, Lansdale, PA

I knew Mr Jones. During the gas shortage of 1973 (I was 8 years old), my dad ran a brick mason company and needed gas for his dump trucks, etc to keep working. Mr Jones would open his filling station at 4am just for my dad so he could fill up in the dark before the public came around 6am or so and waited in line most of the day.

I once had to drive to Hampton, VA and my car wouldn't pass inspection because of bald tires. He lent me tires until I returned and could afford my own.

Many, many times my mom, or someone in my family would have a stalled car due to battery, alternator, etc. and we would just call Mr Jones and he would send his only mechanic Willie (who was disabled, having only one arm) to our house to fix the car in our driveway instead of towing it, although it meant not having him available at the station for customers. The Gulf station was full service back then and usually only Willie and Mr Jones were there.

This kind of personal service and friendship was even more rare in those days, and in this area, because my family is white. He and my dad (who died when I was 10) must have had some kind of bond for him to continue helping our family so much even after he died and into my late teens and my mom always.

Mr Jones always ignored differences in people (hiring Willie), helping people of all colors, because he was truly a kind man and probably the last person I remember being a good neighbor in this country. Local businesses don't care about people like he did. I really miss Mr Jones and love hearing about him.

Thanks for giving me a place to finally share these stories.
-Todd Stevens

I wrote ... that not all NFL players are millionaires wondering if they'll have to get rid of their eighth Lexus during the lockout. Some of them are young guys wondering how they're going to make ends meet.

You wrote:

The fact that some NFL players are in a relatively difficult financial situation compared to the owners has no bearing on the morality of who is right or who is wrong. My advice to you: read Leviticus. You shouldn't favor either the rich or the poor on the basis of their financial standing. Justice is not on the side of the players just because they're less well off.
-RJ Jordan, Philadelphia

Thanks! I did read Leviticus and found it to be quite enlightening and useful in solving our modern dilemmas. For instance, in Leviticus I found out:
--I can't shave.
--If I curse my parents, I have to be killed.
--If I have a flat nose or am blind, I can't go to an altar of God.
Thanks for making me wake up and smell the frankincense!

Loved this piece on the lockout and the struggles guys are facing, in comparison to the owners. We appreciate you painting the picture that most people don't get, or even get to see/hear. Hopefully this all gets worked out, I know none of us dreamed as kids that THIS is the NFL we would love to be playing in.
-- Dan Orlovsky, QB, Houston Texans

I'll give it to you Rick. You wrote the most compelling article I've ever seen at making the public feel sorry for 20-year-olds who make $200k per year, playing a sport, struggle to make ends meet. Oh the tragedy! How will they survive this?! Personally, I think you did the best you could. You've got a great big heart sir.
-Brian Kight, Columbus, OH

Rick, you have GOT to be kidding me with your "Making Tight Ends Meet" column. I'm with you that the owners should take a large majority of the blame for this lockout, but I can't support the logic that someone who clears $200,000 per year has to struggle through life. As for "student" athletes entering the draft this year who are claiming that they have nothing else to fall back on, well maybe they should have taken advantage of that college education, especially given the fact that most of them will be out of the league in 2-4 years.
-Tim, Apollo Beach, FL

Rick, as a business owner, this was a "cut and dried" debate for me; I was on the owners' side. Let the players start their own league.........Thanks for presenting the non-star player perspective. I am now leaning towards a more moderate solution.
-Gregg, Buffalo, NY

Can you please pass on a message to Brian Schaefering for me? We have a job for him building bars in Vermont and delivering them all over the country. And we will beat his asking price of $12.
Chris Meyer, VT

I wrote ... BYU's Jimmer Fredette, Player of the Year in college basketball, is a wonderful kid with an amazing will to score, but he'll be a disaster in the pros.

You wrote ... I was an idiot and a Mormon basher.

Then I wrote ... It had nothing to do with religion and everything to do with The Jimmer being less interested in defense than a lion in a tofu burger.

Then you wrote ...

I'm a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, but not a BYU fan. Please don't mix the two. In fact, I was embarrassed by my fellow church members and their rebuttal to your perfectly worded, critically thought out article on Jimmer. I thought it was fine. I thought you did what each writer should do; study the facts, then address the issue at hand. My wife and I got a laugh as we read the responses of some very obtuse BYU fans. Way to "turn the other cheek." My fellow Cougar Blue Kool-Aid drinking Jimmer fans made the religion I practice look bad.
-Doug Harris, Salt Lake City

I wrote ... The Chicago Bulls would stun the world and win it all, defeating the Los Angeles Lakers in the Finals. Admittedly, I have a glue-sniffing problem.

You wrote ...

Thanks for cursing the Bulls, ya jackwagon.
-Chris G., Chicago, IL

Care to eat a little crow Ricky? Zach Randolph carried Memphis on his back and into the 2nd round. Thank goodness for that "Punk Chromosome"!!!!!
-Jeff Link, Memphis, TN

It's true. I said Memphis wouldn't get anywhere in the playoffs because they have Zach Randolph and he has "an extra punk chromosome." I was very wrong. Randolph played with guts and heart, leading the Grizzlies into the second round. And I've received 100s of emails telling me what a great guy he is. It's possible I have an extra bonehead chromosome.

I think you owe the man an apology. Zach has a checkered past but the man really has changed during his time in Memphis. Every year he buys kids gifts at Christmas. Every year he pays for families' utility bills in the winter. Zach Randolph has done some amazing things for this city. Come to Memphis and see for yourself this next weekend.
-Evan Winburne, TN

I wrote ... It gives me great pleasure to be able to type, for the rest of my life, "Barry Bonds, convicted felon."

You wrote ...

Rick, I'd love you to be right about Barry Bonds. He lied but one person didn't think so or was bought. Therefore they could not convict on perjury. They convicted on something that will be overturned. I wish you could, but don't think you'll be able to call him convicted felon for much longer. Enjoy it while you can. He deserves it but it won't last.
-Vincent Fisher, San Diego, CA

There are far worse people than Bonds in this world, and to demonize him is just a way for you to get headlines, and serve as another distraction to the real criminals in this world. In fact, had the nation spent have (sic) the time investigating the risks of going into Iraq instead of steroids in baseball, we may have saved the lives of thousands of American troops, millions of Iraqi civilians, and the economic repercussions of starting wars we can't finish.
-Andrwe, Los Angeles

OK, so let me see if I have this right:
a) Sportswriters are the reason we're in Iraq.
b) Bonds isn't the felon, George Bush is.
c) I'm responsible for the lost lives of thousands of troops and civilians.
Got it.
Do you get sharp things in the home?

I wrote... Not all Augusta National members are rich, uncaring billionaires. Brad Boss, for instance, the former CEO of Cross pens, went out of his way to pay for a fine grave site for his long-time caddy, plus flew in from Boston to attend the viewing and the services.

You wrote ...

It's stories like this that make the Augusta National Golf Club not only a great and prestigious place, but that make it a place filled with people who really do care about "everyday people". The fact that the roars of Amen Corner can be heard from this man's grave makes me stop, shed a tear, and say......wow.
-William Cranman, FL

Who cares about a dead caddy? For the love of god, find something interesting to write about...
-Don Brown, Louisville, KY

I'm guessing you had no fears of being taken up in the Rapture?

I wrote ... Brainy CalTech won its first conference basketball game in 26 years, a joyous occasion that could only be matched by the discovery of the Heisenberg Uncertainty.

You wrote ...

After (Brandon) Davies was suspended from BYU, I was saying that if having sex disqualified you from playing college basketball, the only two schools that would be able to field a five-man team would be BYU and Caltech.
--Ralph Hayward
Caltech, class of 1975

I wrote ... Hueytown (AL) High School is finding out baseball can be a relief, win or lose, when the rest of your day involves putting your life together after losing everything in a tornado.

You wrote ...

I felt attached to (this column) since the game I umpired was the Briarwood-Hueytown game three. Briarwood came from behind and won 8-4. ... You could tell in the big crowd it was a relief for people to get away. They were not in a hurry to leave, very unusual for a loss. There were prayers before the game, and no one dared complain.

Rick, I'm a dog person - thanks for including that Lexi was found after all.
-Barbara, Long Beach, CA

After The Rapture

May, 20, 2011
The Rapture comes Saturday at 6 p.m. ET, according to Oakland preacher Harold Camping, who's guaranteeing it.

But what if you're scuba diving and when you surface, you're the only person left on earth?

Me? Here's what I'd do:

Play 36 at Augusta, naked.

Go through President Obama's desk, take all those cool jerseys he gets from teams, then shoot on his hoop.

Watch a movie on the huge screen at Cowboys Stadium.

See if that big canister in Scottsdale really does have Ted Williams' frozen head.

Read Derek Jeter's diary.

Go to Indianapolis Motor Speedway and take 50 laps.

Not cut the lawn.

Get a monster truck and crush every car at Target.

Ride Smarty Jones once around Churchill Downs.

Bust some glass at the Baseball Hall of Fame and try on some uniforms.

Take Tiger Woods' yacht for a little spin. Play his four-hole course. Check medicine cabinet.

Eat rocky road ice cream out of the Stanley Cup.

Swim in Michael Phelps' pool wearing all 14 gold medals at once. (Remove before drowning.)

Do the Lake Placid luge, backwards.

Watch old football games on Peyton Manning's couch.

Look in Kevin Durant's backpack.

Feed many, many pets.

Introduce myself at Wrigley Field, set up a pitching machine and try to hit one out. Sing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" on loudspeaker. Weep at the "take me out with the crowd" part.

A win-win on World Malaria Day

April, 25, 2011
Your wife's new trainer is Greg Anderson. Your team wants to draft Cam Newton. Frank McCourt is your financial adviser.

How about some good news instead?

We are kicking malaria's butt in Africa.

Five years ago, when we started Nothing But Nets, the simple grassroots $10-per-bednet movement to fight malaria, we guessed we needed 300 million nets to cover sub-Saharan Africa, where malaria thrives. Today, we only need 30 million.

Thanks to generous readers like you, the World Health Organization, the UN Foundation, Bill and Melinda Gates and Roll Back Malaria, bednets now cover 76 percent of the people at risk for malaria in Africa.

That's a terrific present to give the planet today, World Malaria Day.

We've still got the toughest parts to go, but we used to say "a child dies every 30 seconds from malaria." Now we can say every 45 seconds.

It's not exactly time to hold a parade, but we're getting there. No cure. No toppling warlords. No drones. Just simple donations to nothingbutnets.net. Takes $10 and 41 seconds to save a life.

To celebrate, Nothing But Nets has named 24 "champions" in the fight against malaria. Here's a few of them, profiled by the celebrated New Yorker photographer Platon. It's a larger-than-life exhibit that begins this week at the United Nations.

Platon/Nothing But Nets
Nate Stafford, a North Carolina boy scout, hiked 100 miles in nine days across five counties to raise money for bednets.

Platon/Nothing But Nets
As president, George W. Bush directed millions of American dollars to the fight against malaria.

Platon/Nothing But Nets
The Tangled actress, Mandy Moore, has traveled the U.S. and Africa for Nothing But Nets, raising awareness and piles of money.

Platon/Nothing But Nets
Dikembe Mutombo, a former NBA star and native of the Congo, has been a tireless fighter against malaria.

Platon/Nothing But Nets
Man, that face looks like it's seen a lot of deadlines.

Do you know somebody who could be the 25th? Nominate them at nothingbutnets.net and on May 22, we'll pick the winner, who will be awarded with something very cool. (Not allowed to tell you yet).

I'm nominating Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry, whose Davidson College "Buzzkill" 3-on-3 tournament this week (buzzkillfoundation.org) hopes to raise thousands for kids in Africa.

We need people like Curry -- and anybody we can get -- because the last 24 percent of Africa is going to be the hardest to cover -- Liberia, the CAR (Central African Republic) and the DRC (Democratic Republic of the Congo).

But for now, why not be happy?
If this NFL season never happens, it's going to be a lot like ones that do. Either way, there are going to be winners and losers.

To wit:

LOSER: Peyton Manning, who, at 34, doesn't have a lot of seasons to squander if he's going to rise to his promise -- greatest QB of all time -- much less pass Brett Favre's record of 297 consecutive starts, a record that he calls "really cool."

"I can't afford to miss a season at this point," he says. "It's not like I can catch Brett with a bunch of great starts. I only get 16 a year."

Manning still needs 89 starts to catch Favre for a record that he cherishes. "I ask my teammates to be accountable, and so I think it's really important for me to be there for them," he says. But 89 more starts with no season in 2011? That means he'd be trying to break the record when he's 41. And that's assuming, of course, that Favre doesn't -- wait for it -- change his mind.

"Yeah, for a long time there, I didn't gain any ground on him," Manning says. When great players retire, he writes them a handwritten letter to congratulate them. Wrote one to John Lynch a while ago. "I think I wrote mine to Brett about eight years ago," he says. "Still haven't mailed it."

WINNERS: Cincinnati Bengals fans. Only thing worse than not getting to watch the Bengals is having to watch the Bengals.

LOSERS: Rookies. A lot of them thought they were going to graduate, get drafted and go straight into the NFL with a $40-plus million contract in the glove box of their Benzos. Instead, they might be out of work, like many of their classmates. What are they going to do for cash, move pianos? "I really hope they get it figured out," Wisconsin guard John Moffitt, who's expected to go in the first round, told Madison.com, "because my parents do not give me an allowance anymore."

WINNER: Baseball, which has been losing popularity for as long as James Taylor has been losing hair. The NFL has been stone killing baseball. This would be a chance to (a) put big pennant-stretch games on Sunday and actually get an audience and (b) finally stage a World Series that people would watch. Two of baseball's last three Fall Classics (Rays-Phillies in 2008 and Rangers-Giants in 2010) pulled two of the lowest ratings in history. Now if baseball would take this chance to put up a 20-second pitch clock -- as the NCAA has done -- people might actually stay awake for the entire game.

LOSER: Entourages. The NFLPA has handed each player a 64-page booklet with advice on how to cut costs during the lockout. One of the recommendations: Reduce the size of your entourage. This is bad news for T-Bone (driver), Uncle Red (security), Big Money (designated texter) and Lil T-Bone (groupie wrangler.)

WINNERS: Xbox, preachers used to half-empty churches and American bosses who lose an estimated $9.2 billion per year in work time to employees working their fantasy football rosters. Wait. You're saying we DO sell bulldozers?

LOSERS: Marriott, which just built a 34-story, 1,005-room JW Marriott in Indianapolis, the largest JW Marriott ever, in anticipation of the 2012 Super Bowl. It's already sold out for the game, but what if there's no game? It becomes the world's tallest daily disappointment. Priceline, anyone?

WINNERS: Any player who ripped an ACL or an Achilles toward the end of the year, two injuries that usually take 18 months to fully recover. This would be guys like Kris Jenkins of the Jets and Leonard Weaver of the Eagles. Hey, you can't lose your job if everybody is sitting around with their legs up.

LOSERS: Fans and players.

WINNERS: Owners, because no matter what happens, rain or shine , play or don't, the value of their franchises goes up like birthday balloons -- 360 percent from 1998 to 2008, according to the University of Chicago. Then again, sometimes their polo ponies get the sniffles.

LOSER: Tom Brady. If he's going to win two more Super Bowls and pass the two legends with four rings -- Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw -- he needs a bunch more cracks at it. He'll be 34 when and if the season starts. On the other hand, can you really call someone a loser who would get seven months off with Gisele Bundchen?

WINNER: John Elway, new executive VP of the Denver Broncos, who could get another year to learn the NFL before the games start counting again. The other day, I saw him buying 10 suits at one store. He's in this for the long haul.

LOSERS: Suburban towns with stadiums, such as Foxboro, Mass., where tax dollars from Patriots' games fund all kinds of city needs, including school buses, computers and police cruisers. Same with Arlington, Texas; Hyattsville, Md.; Green Bay, Wis.; East Rutherford, N.J.; and Glendale, Ariz. Also sure to lose: Every bartender, waiter and hotel owner within five miles.

WINNER: College football, which would reap huge ratings with no big brother to wallop it.

LOSERS: Randy Moss (34 years old) and Hines Ward (35) are only 46 shy of 1,000 receptions, and only seven players in NFL history have done that. For each of them, 2010 might now have been the last season. The Jets' LaDainian Tomlinson (31) needs 21 rushing touchdowns to pass Emmitt Smith for most all time. He'd need at least two more seasons to do that, but he'd be 34 by then. When Smith was 34, he had only two TDs the whole year. Good luck with that.

WINNERS: Repo guys. A 2009 story in Sports Illustrated estimated that 78 percent of NFL players will go bankrupt in their lifetimes. Last year, Mark Brunell of the Jets went belly-up while he was getting paid. Imagine what's going to happen when no money is coming in at all. Hey, what will you give me for these diamond-encrusted boxers?

LOSERS: Your kids. Sundays, which had been a refuge where they could do (video games) and not do (chores) whatever they wanted, will suddenly be taken back by fathers who will have time to team up with them and finish that spice rack, show them how to throw a spiral or, worst, talk.

For the love of God, people, Work. This. Out.

Rick Reilly's Mailbag

February, 25, 2011
Anybody wanna play I Wrote/You Wrote?

I wrote:

Carmelo Anthony colluded with Amare Stoudemire (and soon, Chris Paul) to play with the New York Knicks and forced the Denver Nuggets to trade him there, practically at gunpoint. It's not new. The same thing happened at Miami and Boston, players screwing over their hometown fans to form these SuperFriends teams. I said if the NBA doesn't get a Franchise Tag rule (the way the NFL does), to help small-market teams protect their superstar players, you're going to have six great teams in the league and 24 nobody cares about.

You wrote:

David Diakoff (Los Angeles)

I think it's a good trend that the best players are concentrated on about 6-8 teams.. ... It makes the later rounds of the playoffs as good as they can be, which in my opinion is the most important thing for the fans and the league.

Your opinion is dopey. You're willing to ruin the balance of the league just so the "later rounds of the playoffs" are exciting? Did you take ANY economics classes in college?

John Thrasher (Depressionville, CA)

I cannot even watch the NBA anymore. There are way too few teams that remotely matter, and way too many teams without a shot at ever mattering. There has not been any pro basketball west of Texas outside of L.A. for at least 3 years where a fan felt like their team could win. A lockout/strike/work-stoppage will hardly register any place other than ESPN/Disney and TNT.

Do you realize that in the space of two days, the ENTIRE mountain time zone lost all its stars? Melo, Chauncey Billups (to the Knicks) and the incredible Deron Williams of the Utah Jazz (to New Jersey). We are not just the Flyover States now, we're the Blowoff States.

Nick (Asheville, NC)

If NBA players want to play together somewhere else it is completely in their rights and to say otherwise would drag the game backwards into the time before free agency. Yes, the Nuggets and other smaller markets are losing big-name players but maybe they should have created winning teams around those superstars instead. The onus is not on the player but the owner and their staff to make that player happy and make them want to stay in a small market. What's happening is good for the game of basketball because it is contracting the talent pool into a smaller amount of teams, which will push the game to new heights and possibly create a new "Golden" age for the NBA and its fans.

Wrong, wronger, wrongest. Melo left Denver because he wanted to live in New York, where he was born and where he was married, and play with buddies in Madison Square Garden, the coolest basketball venue in the world. Denver DID put together a good team around him. That team made it to the Western Conference finals two years ago and surely would've gone deep last season had not their head coach, George Karl, missed the entire last quarter of the season battling cancer. Golden Age? Lopsided Age.

Will (Detroit, MI)

I'm a die-hard Pistons fan that's had to watch Allan Houston, (pre-ankle) Grant Hill and Ben Wallace walk via free agency. Nobody was crying for us or coming to our defense. Remind me again why I should feel sorry for Toronto, Cleveland or Denver?

So that it doesn't happen to you again when (and if) you ever come back. And, by the way, Hill was traded.



First of all, you don't get it. Let's say ESPN, Sports Illustrated, Yahoo, AOL and Fox were all part of one company, the way Denver, Toronto and Miami are all part of one company, the NBA. Let's call that company WritersWorld. So let's say all the good sports writers in the country ended up at, say, AOL. The man who runs WritersWorld would be yelling, "Wait a minute! We can't have all the good writers loaded into one place -- AOL -- while the other sites suck wind! Can't do it. Bad for business. They'll fold! They'll lose readers. They'll topple the whole thing." That's what David Stern has to look at now.

Second of all, stop SHOUTING.

I wrote:

Jay Cutler's cranky personality and brattitude make it hard on him when things go south because nobody wants to defend a guy with all the charm of a SubZero.

You wrote:

Scott (Los Angeles)

I'd be pretty grumpy if my offensive line let me get sacked more than 50 times.

Ross Zwerling (Elk Grove Village, IL)

He's not a dog killer, private-part texter, shoot himself in the legger. He could punch me in the nuts as long as he wins.

How'd he play in the playoffs until he hurt his knee? Mostly awful. If I were a Bears fan, I'd be punching myself in the nuts.

Steve Metteer (Denver, CO)

Arrogant, yes, but you forgot rude, petulant, whiney and childish. The only thing the Broncos' management failed to do when they sent him packing was give him a good hard spanking. He apparently never got one as a kid. Oh, I forgot, he still is.

Anna Keizer (Los Angeles, CA)

I once heard a quote attributed to Walter Payton: "When I get done with Chicago, they're gonna love me." I wish Jay felt the same way.

Ralph LoPriore (Lake Villa, IL)

Jay Cutler sponsored my twin 9-year-old boys over the Christmas holiday with tickets to the Bears-Jets game AND they were the honorary captains, because of Jay. Who cares if Elway doesn't like him? Who cares if he likes to watch TV during lunch? He is an All-Pro NFL Quarterback and there aren't many people that can say that in this WORLD.

JAY CUTLER HAS NEVER BEEN ALL-PRO. He's been to one Pro Bowl.

I wrote:

When an Iowa boy high school wrestler, Joel Northrup, defaulted his match against a girl, Cassy Herkelman, at the Iowa High School state wrestling tournament on grounds of "faith" he was condescendingly robbing the girl of her huge moment.

You wrote:

Joel (St. Louis, MO)

He wasn't protecting her and disrespecting her, he was doing what he believed was right, and living up to his own standard, which wasn't damaging to anyone. If a 10-year-old kid requests a punch in the nose, I'm not going to give it to them whether or not they think they can handle it.

What if you're boxing? What if she loves boxing more than anything in the world? What if she's been training to box her whole life, as Cassy was in wrestling, and now you're both in the state boxing tournament? You're going to decide what she needs as opposed to what she wants?

James Vance

I'm an atheist and was a high school athlete. One of the teams we played had a female quarterback. I sacked her on the third play and broke her collarbone. There is certainly an argument to be made about her choice and how she didn't ask to be coddled. It just felt wrong. My parents raised me to respect women above men. Call it chauvinistic, call it chivalrous, call it right, call it wrong. It's not even about if the girl could have handled it and taken Mister Northrup down or not. He didn't feel right engaging in physical combat, which is what wrestling is, with a female. She might have put him on his back and pinned him there, but he would have been compromising his principles. He didn't do that, instead he sacrificed his place in the tournament to do what he felt was right. That is worthy of praise, not derision. It's not a religion thing.

You're right. It's not a "religion thing," but the kid and his parents made it about religion. They said, flat out, their "faith" doesn't allow them to engage women in combat. They said they teach their kids to "respect and elevate" women. But the girl can elevate herself. That's why she made state to begin with. I get that it felt "wrong" to you, but that girl whose collarbone you broke, she wanted to play. Boys break their collarbones, too. Years ago, we had a nanny who played four years of quarterback for her school and hardly got a bruise. If everybody felt the way you do, she'd have never known the fun and comradeship and thrills of being an athlete. Who are you to take that from her?

Frank Engraff

Your column about the female wrestler in Iowa was absolutely ludicrous!

The boy showed courage beyond his years and certainly more than any adult involved in this fiasco. One wonders why there is violence and disrespect in society? This is one reason why. To grapple with with someone of the opposite sex in an open arena is a circus act not a sporting event.

Circus act? Have you ever been to the Iowa state high school wrestling tournament? It's an eight-ring circus. There are eight matches going on at once, refs and wrestlers and cheerleaders running every which way. When Cassy wrestled her second match (she lost), it looked like all the other matches. If it weren't for the two cameras there, it would've looked exactly like any of the other seven on the mats, which is to say, thrilling and athletic and, for a high school kid, epic. And that's what the boy stole from the girl.

Bill Gilman

You missed the chance to criticize the girl's father. It doesn't take a psych degree to see clearly that SHE is the SON he never had. Clearly he is trying to claim or reclaim his own masculine glory in a state where wrestling rules, through his daughter. And clearly, oh so clearly, she is desperately trying to gain acceptance from her dad because she learned by the age of 7 that being a girl wasn't enough. Being feminine wasn't good enough. He wanted a son and if the only way to earn his love was to act like a boy then by damned she would act like a boy.

Uh, hello? Dr. Phil? You didn't meet the father nor the girl. I did. She has three sisters, who are very feminine. Being a girl in that family is no problem. It's just that this girl is different. Her father, Bill, said she practically came out of the womb breaking things, climbing stuff and punching stuffed animals. He no more chose wrestling for her than he chose her hair color. It's who she is to wrestle. It's innate. The Northrup family, who don't trust schools to raise their kids (they home school him), who don't trust mainstream religion to represent their version of God (they belong to a Pentecostal offshoot church called "Believers in Grace") sees it as their chivalrous duty to protect this girl who desperately wants no protection.

I wrote:

With drunks, maniacs and people with no life ratcheting up the taunting and the violence in NFL stadiums, going to an NFL game these days is nearly as dangerous as playing in one.

You wrote:

Ignatius Fogarty (New York)

you should try going to a soccer game! In the U.K. (where I am from) rival fans are segregated, are not allowed to sit near each other. A ring of stewards and/or police will make sure that the fans don't get near each other. If you are found supporting the other team in the home team section you will get thrown out! I have been to a fair few NFL games since living in the U.S. and the experience is 100% way more family friendly than a soccer match.

And yet another terrific reason to ignore soccer.

Susan Ramos (New Jersey)

My husband, minor daughter, married son and his wife were viciously assaulted at a Nov. 21 Jets game. Just as horrible as the attack is the lack of corrective action and investigation of the incident. My husband suffered a broken nose, which required surgery, my son a concussion, and daughter multiple neck bruising and muscle strain (that left her) in a neck brace. I wish I had read your article prior to my purchase of those tickets.

Calvin (Atlanta, GA)

It's funny isn't it? When there are stupid people cheering for a team, it makes them a good fan base. On the other hand, in Atlanta and the Georgia Dome, where we never have these situations happen cause of some southern hospitality and the promoted family environment, we are called one of the worst fan bases in the league. We don't support our team ... we let too many other fans into our games ... The reason? We don't punch, kick, or do anything to make them fear our fan base.

No, you're called one of the worst fan bases in the league because you don't buy any tickets.

Ed (Nashville, TN)

While you're at it, throw the cheerleaders into your reform plan. As a father of two young girls and a teacher of young boys, I'm tired of the glorified stripper acts on the sidelines. I barely watch the games anymore because my wife is afraid my 3 year-old is going to pick up some 'dance moves' and try them out at pre-school. And it's hard to convince boys to respect girls when the NFL treats women with less respect than Hugh Hefner. I mean, at least he pays his girls a living wage and gives them a mansion to hop around in!

Wow. Have you considered home schooling?

I wrote:

Michael Vick deserves forgiveness. He not only spent two full years in prison and lost millions of dollars and millions of fans, but he's completely transformed. He spends his one off-day during the season lecturing to kids about dog fighting and animal abuse. And even the president of the American Humane Society said Vick would make a good dog owner now.

You wrote:

Bruce McDougall (Austin, Texas)

I have lost all respect for you after reading your column regarding Michael Vick. I do not think the NFL should have reinstated him to a position to receive public adulation. My heart is just not in it anymore to watch a spectacle in which talent trumps character. You apparently suffer from the same myopia, and don't have a moral compass. Good luck with that.

Not true. My moral compass actually has an arrow that points to forgiveness. Does yours?

Nick (Texas)

Forgiving him is one thing, but you are almost asking us to treat him like a king! Vick's blessing of speed and an ability to throw an accurate spiral made his "transition" back into society much easier than most felons who try and make it back in the real world. He has enough good fortune. We don't need a major sports writer asking a nation of sports fans to give him more.

You have no clue. Vick has a thousand times more haters now than he did before he went to jail, a thousand times the hate mail, a thousand times as many enemies. He'll never be rid of this. Does that make you feel better?

I wrote:

After another undefeated team didn't get a sniff at the national title (TCU 13-0), it's time for President Obama to make good on one of his campaign promises and get us a playoff.

You wrote:

Rich Mason (Seattle, WA)

I'm not sure the most powerful/influential man in the world should be actively pushing for the national playoff system. He probably has more serious things to do.

John Mullane (Murfreesboro, TN)

RE: College football playoff. Why does everything have to have a champion? What's wrong with 35 teams ending their seasons with a win? The real problem with college football is our national obsession with champions.

Why? Because this ain't Sweden.

Blake Davidson (Chattanooga, TN)

I feel that conference is over rated. Do you think TCU could go undefeated playing in the SEC?

I don't know, having skipped the witchcraft classes when I was at Hogwarts. How about we play them against Auburn just to see how good they are?

I wrote:

Ex-Montana Tech coach Bob Green is the funniest coach since Bum Phillips and needs to be hired by somebody, anybody.

You wrote:

Eric Obrigewitch (Clancy, MT)

Loved reading your article on Bob Green. I have one more for you. As a football official who worked many of his games through the years, my favorite quote was, "That was the worst call since Pontius Pilate!"

I wrote:

Being able to order an Arnold Palmer isn't nearly enough. We need more drinks named after athletes. For instance, a Brett Favre. ... By the time it comes, you've changed your mind. A Lance Armstrong. ... Only one ice cube. A Reggie Bush. ... You drink it for a little while, then they take it back.

You wrote:

Jeff (Houston, TX)

The Shawn Merriman: Not nearly as good without juice.

The Kevin Durant: The drink you should have picked (only served in Portland).

The Marion Jones: When the bartender takes your glass away, the three guys sitting next to you lose theirs, too.

The Alex Rodriguez: Turns your lips purple.

The O.J. Simpson: More than enough proof.

Andrew Rouell (Philadelphia, PA)

The New York Giants- First three quarters taste great, but the fourth tastes bitter.

Bill Belichick- Steal the drink from the person next to you.

Justin Sheinbaum (Gainesville, FL)

There already is a drink called the Anna Kournikova! It's a White Russian made with skim milk instead of whole milk. ... These are the kinds of things keeping me out of dental school.

I wrote:

Nathan Harrington, who beat millions to win ESPN's fantasy football in 2010, did it while being homeless and without a computer.

You wrote:

David Nelson (Omaha, NE)

Check out the Omaha World-Herald website for a recent article about a guy who finished last in his fantasy football league, and had to get a "fantasy loser" tattoo. That was the bet the participants made going into the season.

Worse, it was a pink-haired unicorn with clouds and a rainbow.

I wrote:

You root for the Packers in the Super Bowl because Steelers fans may want another Super Bowl title, but Packers fans need it.

You wrote:

Bill Gray (South Park, PA)

Pittsburgh has the Roberto Clemente Bridge, and Art Rooney Avenue. People from Pittsburgh bleed Black and Gold, we even paint our bridges those colors.

Mary Reina (Brookfield, WI)

The only nuance you missed was the jumping off [the Ray Nitschke] bridge [if they lose]. ... Packer fans will cross the bridge to greet their beloved team at the airport, at the stadium, and at the grocery store. We would never kill ourselves when there's always next year. Vince taught us better than that.

Danny Bogen (San Francisco, CA)

Hey Rick, you forgot cheese bras! They are the height of undergarment fashion in Green Bay.

Do they come with a matching cheese curdle?

I wrote:

Clay Matthews of the Packers went from a scrawny high school player nobody wanted to one of the most feared pass rushers in the NFL.

You wrote:

Bryan (NYC)

You ever question how this scrawny kid put on so much absurd muscle and gained so much more skill in such a short amount of time?

Cheese bras?

(Read full post)

A few moments with Fergie

February, 7, 2011
You meet the strangest people in a giant cargo elevator after a Super Bowl.

A lady pushing a giant trash can. A giant guy with a dolly full of Bud Light.

And Fergie.

Yes, that Fergie -- lead singer of the hip-hop super group the Black Eyed Peas, her five-inch heels spiking trash as she walked in. She was there -- much shorter than you'd think -- among the debris and crates in a giant elevator leaving the top floor of Cowboys Stadium on Sunday night, not two hours after she'd performed at halftime.

She was drunk with relief at having gotten through it without a major catastrophe. At least that's what I think she was drunk with. Whatever the reason, she was pain-free and loving life.

"I really have no idea how we did," she gushed. "I'm just SO glad it's over and nothing horrible happened."

Did she know about the problems with sound cutting out on her mike?


Did she know about Christina Aguilera remixing the lyrics to the national anthem.

"No!" she said. "She did?"

Fergie was with her husband, actor Josh Duhamel, and her dad, Jon, which is what made her next question a little awkward.

"Did you like my outfit?"

It was a tight, low-cut, Tron-like black-and-silver number that lit up electronically to the music, part of an elaborate technological light show that looked stupendous in person but washed out on TV.

"Absolutely!" I said.

"Did you know they had to make a plaster cast of my chest for that?" she giggled.

I looked at Duhamel. He's 6-foot-3 and used to play quarterback at Minot State (N.D.). I looked at her dad, who used to coach football in Santa Barbara.

They awaited my reply.

"Did you get to keep it? Because you could get a lot for that on eBay."

She laughed. Duhamel seemed satisfied. Then her dad came up and asked if I thought the NFL would use the Black Eyed Peas again for halftime.


"Because I'd like to come every year. That was really fun."

Hey, at least one family enjoyed North Texas.
Aaron Rodgers is the MVP of this teeth-grinding, palm-sweating Super Bowl, and it has nothing do with how he throws or how he runs. It has to do with how he lives.

In 50 years, when they write Rodgers' life story, they won't praise so much his freakish arm.

They won't write about his Houdini feet.

They won't go on about his grace under pressure, his rifle-scope accuracy or his courage while the land around him burned.

No, they'll write about his unlimited capacity to forgive.

Through all the hell Brett Favre put him through, through all the yo-yoing Favre did with Rodgers' career all those years, Rodgers never lost his patience. He never lashed out. Instead, he forgave and got to work.

Fast-forward to the biggest moment of his life -- Super Bowl XLV -- and teammates started turning on him again.

They started dropping the ball. Literally.

Five different perfect passes went begging. One to Brett Swain and one to James Jones that would’ve been a touchdown.

The main perpetrator, though, was Jordy Nelson, a third-year kid who dropped not one ... not two ... but three wide-open, room-service, pretty-as-you-please passes.

But did Rodgers lose patience with him? Did he lash out? No, he did something more amazing.

With the game in the balance and Pittsburgh trying to pull off the greatest come-from-behind Super Bowl win, Nelson dropped a spiral that could've iced the game.

Anybody else might've bit a hole in his helmet.

What did Rodgers do? He threw the very next pass to him. He ignored his safety-valve receiver and waited for Nelson to cross.

This time, Nelson's hands were true. He caught it for a colossal first down. Two plays later, Green Bay scored the winning touchdown.

To err is human. To forgive is divine.

To forgive in the Super Bowl, even better.
It's so cold in Dallas, the windows in my rental are frozen shut. Had a drink in the hotel bar last night next to a guy wearing a stocking cap, scarf and gloves. It's snowing again as I write this and 70 degrees in San Diego.

After a week like that, you want to drop rocks in blind men's cups. You snark and snarl. And every quote you come across on Super Bowl week starts to sound dumber than fur sinks.

All the more reason to collect them:

“I think it’s one of the greatest organizations I have been around."

--Green Bay TE Andrew Quarless, who's a rookie

"Who was your favorite player growing up?"

--Reporter, to Green Bay LB Clay Matthews, whose dad played 19 years in the NFL

“I think for me, I mean, obviously, we have to try to score more points than they do.”

--Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger, on how to win this game.

“When you say the name Hines Ward, everybody knows exactly who it is."

--Rashard Mendenhall, Pittsburgh RB

(An ID also works.)

“They’re good players. They’re basically all the same guy, except for Jordy Nelson is Caucasian."

--Ryan Clark, Pittsburgh S, on the Green Bay receivers

“I’m not that prima donna kind of receiver. I don’t have that personality. ... Some of the guys do it just as a publicity stunt to get themselves out there, which is a good strategic plan, but there are other ways to do it. I chose the humility role. This is not a front. It’s just who I am."

--Green Bay WR Greg Jennings, who went on to refer to himself in the third person and complain about how annoyingly early the interviews were and how suffocating his jersey was on Media Day: “I want to ... let people know who I am and what I’m all about and get a feel for Greg Jennings, not the football player, what I like to do. I’m trying to get myself out there so I can be in a movie this year."

(Hopefully, some director can cast him in the humility role.)

"He’s not a guy that’s going to go out there and say a lot of gibberish. He’s going to say what needs to be said."

--Pittsburgh NT Chris Hoke, on teammate James Farrior's pregame speeches. Then Hoke added this: "A lot of times you don’t hear everything he’s saying, because he’s screaming and yelling ..."

(In other words, gibberish.)

"I have always had cake and no one ever took the cake away from me."

--Oddly serious Green Bay WR Donald Driver, who celebrated his birthday Wednesday and, we're assuming, did so with cake.

"I'm tired of chewing on my mustache when I eat."

--Pittsburgh DL Brett Keisel, whose beard is otherwise magnificent. It looks like it should be on a cough drop box or running against Chester A. Arthur. It's the greatest looking beard since Kimbo Slice. Santa Claus' beard aspires to this. It's inspired T-shirts and websites, if not musicals. It stole the hair hype away from Troy Polamalu and Matthews, locks, stock and barrel. NFL Network ranked it the greatest facial hair in NFL history. Better yet, Keisel's musings on it were equal to the moment:

"The beard is why we're here. It's unleashed Super Bowl powers on our whole team, and hopefully it can win us one more."

And ...

“Steeler Nation is strong. They’ve accepted the beard. They believe in the beard, and we believe in them.”

At one point, Keisel tweeted:

"My beard's getting too caught up in this media attention, basking in the glory. It just need to focus on the game."

Greatest beard tweet ever.

Roethlisberger, who is bearded himself, is in awe of it: "It's its own entity. He hides everything in there. We go hunting, and he hides his decoys in there."

Keisel hasn't shaved since June and says he'll shave it after Supe 45.

Hello? Letterman bookers?

Then there was Polamalu, who is a unique blend of humility, commerce and pure physical genius.

"When he gets an interception, he doesn’t let us congratulate him. Casey Hampton tried to congratulate him by jumping on him and [Troy] moved. Casey fell, that’s a lot of man falling to the ground."


Polamalu steadfastly refused to accept congratulations for winning the 2010 Defensive Player of the Year award, saying just about everybody in the league should've won it except him:

"I was not deserving of this honor."

Did you know Polamalu practices in tennis shoes so putting on game cleats Sundays feels like a huge advantage? Clark:

"He’s really smart. He sees things. He can cover so much ground. He practices in tennis shoes on a grass field and still makes every play."

Talk about smart: In the first half hour of media day, Polamalu mentioned his sponsor, Head & Shoulders, three times.

He also said the coolest thing of the week when asked about the Steelers' talent and the Packers' youth:

“Our strength has never been in our talent. It’s always been in our virtues, of our hard work and most importantly our camaraderie, our humility and how we respect the game and respect our opponents. That’s something youth can never have."

The dumbest thing anybody said all week came from much-fined Pittsburgh LB James Harrison, who was a warehouse of contradiction and illogic all week, alternately ripping the NFL's attempts to curb concussions and ruing his own mental future over being the NFL's leading distributor of them. For instance, when asked how long he intends to play, Harrison issued this circuitous journey:

“I won’t sit here and say that I want to play as long as I can. That’s not true. I want to try and play out my contract, and if I get that done, I’m through. Like I said, everybody has to take into account their own health and think about things. With all the concussion stuff that’s out, I’d walk away right now and say, 'Here, take it. It’s not worth it and I’m more worried about my health.' But, right now, I’m going to take my chances and live with whatever I have to live with later on down the line and hope I come out of it better than most. I’m not going to sign another contract. ... I want to be able to run around and play with my kids.”

(Insert sound of America slapping its forehead.)

This is exactly what the NFL is trying to do -- protect anvil-heads like Harrison from themselves -- and it seems to suddenly be getting through to him, intermittently.

Here's a player who fought every dollar of his $125,000 in fines this season for helmet-to-helmet hits, for leading with his head, for endangering the brain pans of not just his opponents but himself. Harrison threatened to retire over Goodell's fines, remember? Was supposedly distraught over them? Set off an avalanche of protest from players and analysts who sided with Harrison and accused Goodell of trying to turn the game into "touch football" and "soccer" and sports with "dresses"?

Still, it's not as dumb as what he said after Super Bowl XLIII, when he refused to go to the White House at the invitation of President Barack Obama:

"If you want to see the Pittsburgh Steelers, invite us when we don’t win the Super Bowl. As far as I’m concerned, [Obama] would’ve invited Arizona if they had won.”

Apparently, Harrison is unclear on the whole winner-gets-to-go-to-the-White-House concept.

Lastly, there was this from Steelers CB Bryant McFadden, who seemed to issue a kind of oddly casual public prayer to random gods:

“If I can have the best game of my life Sunday, I would really appreciate it.”

We'll get back to you.
You say you can't decide whether to root for Green Bay or Pittsburgh this Super Bowl Sunday?

No wonder.

They're the exact same team!


Both teams have no cheerleaders.

Both teams are named after local industries -- Packers and Steelers -- the only two left in the NFL.

Both teams wear yellow pants.

Both teams come from lunch-pail, small-market, beer-and-pretzel towns.

Both teams have ownerships that have never changed. Pittsburgh has always been owned by the Rooneys and Green Bay has always been owned by, well, Green Bay.

Both teams are famous for linebackers with missing teeth. Green Bay had Ray Nitschke and Pittsburgh had Jack Lambert. Both men must've hated to eat corn on the cob.

Both teams have fans who don't get dressed without team-logo underwear. And nobody travels better, or more friendly, or in greater numbers, than these two fan bases.

All-time playoff winning percentage? Green Bay is first at 63.6. Pittsburgh is second, at 63.5.

Green Bay was the Team of the '60s. Pittsburgh was the Team of the '70s.

Pittsburgh was first in scoring defense this season, Green Bay second.

Pittsburgh was first in sacks, Green Bay second.

The Green Bay coach, Mike McCarthy, was born and raised in Pittsburgh. He has nine coaches on his staff who have Pittsburgh connections. Gee, you think he looks for that on résumés?

Both teams play the same 3-4 blitzing defense, which was installed by the teams' best-buddy defensive coordinators -- Dom Capers (Green Bay) and Dick LeBeau (Pittsburgh) -- who perfected it when they were both coaches under Bill Cowher in Pittsburgh.

Both teams were led this season by bearded, Christian, mobile quarterbacks -- Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers -- who play in the shadow of legends they don't particularly admire. For Roethlisberger, it's Terry Bradshaw. For Rodgers, it's Brett Favre.

Both teams have superstar defenders who would make very good Chia pets. Pittsburgh's is Troy Polamalu, who won the AP Defensive Player of the Year award this season. Green Bay's is Clay Matthews, who finished second. They both went to USC.

For headline writers, Pittsburgh fits perfectly on top of Green Bay. Or vice versa.

And finally, you have to pull a hammy to find a way to hate either team.

There's no way to choose. They're identical. It's like picking your favorite Olsen twin.

Which is why Super Bowl XLV won't be played in either of the twin cities of Dallas OR Fort Worth.

It will be played in Arlington, square in the middle.
Nobody knows for sure, but it's been more or less 50 years since a woman overheard Arnold Palmer order a half lemonade, half iced tea at a bar in Palm Springs and said, "I'll have that Arnold Palmer drink."

It's popular now all over the world, transcending Palmer himself. People today order an Arnold Palmer who have no idea who Arnold Palmer is. No other athlete has had a drink named after him catch on.

This, to us, seems a shame. Seems like we should be able to walk up to a bar right now and order ...

A Tiger Woods ... Pineapple juice and vodka ... Drink one and you'll want 13 more.

A Jack Nicklaus ... Kind of like an Arnold Palmer, only a little better.

A Brett Favre ... By the time it comes, you've changed your mind.

A Chris Bosh ... Chaser only.

A Greg Oden ... You can order it but it never shows up.

A Rex Ryan ... Tastes like a Tootsie Roll.

A Mark McGwire ... Comes with a shot.

A Cam Newton ... Your dad orders it for you.

A Dennis Green ... It is what you think it is.

A Tom Brady ... Really good by the sixth round.

A Michael Vick ... A little hair of the dog that should've bitten you.

A LeBron ... Served with a mirrored glass so you can watch yourself drink it.

A Terrelle Pryor ... It's free!

A Lance ... Only one ice cube.

A John McEnroe ... After one, you cannot be serious.

A Karch Kiraly ... Comes spiked.

A Tim Tebow ... Served very straight.

A Michael Phelps ... Water with a water chaser.

A Reggie Bush ... You drink it for a little while, then they take it back.

A Nick Saban ... Comes with extra bitters.

Anna Kournikova ... A white Russian, hot.

A Quentin Richardson ... Hold the Brandy.

A Chris Evert ... You drink it with both hands.

A Barry Bonds ... Careful: it goes straight to your head.

The final shot

December, 28, 2010

At our house, you must either be adept at Double-Pop-A-Shot or ducking, one of the two. We are perhaps the only home in America where you MUST play ball in the house. The two-hooped mini basketball shooting game sits in the corner of the living room only because my wife refused to have it in the center.

Alas, the pop-a-shot's days ended this Christmas, and we took it outside for one last farewell game of H-O-R-S-E before trashing it. My son Jake won with a 57-foot swish, then I attempted a heroic shot I'd been thinking about for five years.

When Jake finally stopped crying with laughter at the injuries I incurred, he asked a question I hadn't even thought of: "Why didn't you move it onto the grass first?"

Will somebody please hire coach Bob Green?

December, 15, 2010
He's the best quote in college football. And after 24 years at Montana Tech in Butte, Mont., Bob Green is out of a job.

He went 140-116-1 at Montana Tech and his team played for the national championship in 1996, but that's not why you hire him. You hire him because his media conferences are so funny you don't care when you lose. He's Bum Phillips reincarnated; Will Rogers with a whistle around his neck.

Just a few Greenisms from over the years:
  • "I'm a perfectionist. I expect Jennifer Lopez to know how to cook."
  • "I told [my defensive players] they've got to stick like a Toyota gas pedal."
  • "It was an outstanding scrimmage. There were plays on offense, there were plays on defense. It's kind of like going to the Golden Corral buffet. It's all good and there's a lot of it."
  • "We had an interception chance, and we caught the ball. An interception chance is like a date with the homecoming queen -- close the deal. Don't waste an opportunity."
  • After a big win: "I feel like I just had a Viagra cocktail with a Cialis chaser."
  • "They're gonna be very good. They're rougher than a pine cone toilet seat."
  • "The younger guys are a little bit lost. Kinda like chinese arithmetic."
  • "I really feel like our team is ready to go hit individuals from another institution of higher learning."
  • "It's like you're trying to sell bubble gum in a lockjaw ward. You just can't get much done."
  • "We gotta be like a homely girl on her honeymoon. Busy, busy, busy."
  • "I hate to sound like an old coach but I am an old coach. I was coaching when the Dead Sea was only sick."
  • "When I first started coaching, Christ was a kid."
  • "I'm not a big Yankee fan. It's kinda like living in ancient Rome and rootin' for the lions."
  • "We're like the kid that plays second french horn in the school band. We gotta play better."
  • After a close loss: "It's kinda like watching your mother-in-law go off a cliff in your brand new Cadillac. You got mixed feelings.”
  • "We're kinda like a woodpecker in a petrified forest. We just keep busy."
  • "I got a short memory, just like when I was in the third grade. Two of the best years of my life."
  • "I don't like bottled water. I like that Butte water. You can eat and drink at the same time."
  • "The game is going to come down to playing football. We've got to play football. We're not trying to split the atom."
  • "We want to play a full 60 minutes. One thing is for sure, the game will last at least 60 minutes."
  • "There were some long faces and there were some lower lips sticking out. But we did not call the undertaker and tell him to order a 50-gallon drum of embalming fluid."
  • "We played two games that were very winnable. Unfortunately, they were very losable."
  • After a tough loss: "I told them the sun was going to come up. My wife didn't file divorce papers. I didn't have a heart attack. My dog knew me when I came home."
  • "It's not being disappointed that counts, it's whether you stay disappointed."
  • "We were lower than a snake's vest button."
  • "The way I describe him is he looks like Jane but plays like Tarzan."
  • "The last two weeks we really dug ourselves a hole. That's not the ideal road map."
  • "It's been very tough on them. But the road to success passes through the town of Adversity. I hope we've got Adversity in the rearview mirror. I hope we're at the city limits."
  • After Alex Grevas caught a game-winning TD pass: "I'd like to thank Mr. and Mrs. Grevas for conceiving Alex."
  • "It was a team effort. Everybody contributed with poor play."
  • “What a difference a week makes. This week I feel like a football coach. Last week I felt like Britney Spears’ choreographer.”
  • “We’ve got to play like we’re on a hot stove. Your feet aren’t going to stay in one place very long.”
  • “If you ain’t burning up for this one, your wood’s wet."
  • "The season's a lot like a roll of toilet paper. The closer you get to the end, the faster it goes."
  • On retiring: "You can be the guy who stayed at the party too long. I don't want to be that guy."
(With thanks to mtstandard.com)

'Homecoming' with Magic Johnson

December, 13, 2010
It was an odd "Homecoming" (airs Tuesday at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN and Jan. 14 at 4 p.m. ET on ABC) we shot with Magic Johnson on Michigan State's campus in East Lansing, Mich., if only because nobody called him Magic.

They called him Junebug (his mom), Buck (his Los Angeles Lakers teammates), Junior (his dad), E (his high school coach) and EJ the DJ (his wife, Cookie, who knew him as a very good DJ in college).

More than 4,000 people packed Jenison Fieldhouse -- including a rapt Michigan State coach, Tom Izzo, and most of his team -- for a night of laughs, tears and surprises. Among them:
  • His favorite jacket as a collegian was a chartreuse Superfly crushed-velvet number with a white fur collar that his sister remembered as "awful, awful, awful." You should've seen both their faces when we suddenly produced it.
  • Johnson revealed that he wants to buy not just an NFL team but an NBA team, too. "I've been contacted by all kinds of teams," Johnson said. "I will be an NBA owner."

He mentioned the Detroit Pistons as one potential team he could own. That would be convenient because Lansing is only 90 minutes away by car. But Johnson owned slightly less than 5 percent of the Los Angeles Lakers until October, when he sold his share of the team. What was wrong with that?

"I want to control a team," he said. "I'm a control freak."

But how could he afford both an NFL and NBA team?

"Because I'm going to use other people's money," he said, laughing.
  • The greatest basketball play he's witnessed isn't on video. It happened in the fourth epic, intrasquad scrimmage of the 1992 U.S. Olympic Dream Team behind locked doors before the Games began. Naturally, it starred Michael Jordan. Johnson's description of it is unforgettable.

By the way, all four of those scrimmages -- with the teams divided up into East and West teams -- ended in ties, according to Johnson.
  • Lakers forward Jamaal Wilkes learned early in Johnson's career that you can be open even when you don't know you're open.

In all, it was an amazingly open, honest and funny interview from an athlete who is among the most open, honest and funny I've covered.

But I still don't know what to call him.