Single page view By Tim Keown
Page 2

Tom Benson and the camera crew provided the tipping point. The Saints' owner got into a scrape with a camera crew; then, one of his guys put his hand over the lens for the next five minutes. The conclusion was obvious: The NFL is a mess.

Tom Benson
Oh, when the Saints come stompin' in! Benson can't seem to get off the field.

From the dysfunction of the Rams to the Good Time Vikes to the rampant mediocrity on the field, this has got to be the sloppiest and most unsavory season in history. It's just plain weird but there's a significant question at the root of all this. Sure, the NFL is a mess, but is it a good mess?

So far, it's been good for the business. Who would possibly care about the Vikings right now if it weren't for their ongoing acts of self-destruction? There's nothing stranger than the Rams, who have had a team executive issue mob-style threats to a local newspaper columnist, an ailing coach rejected in his attempt to contact his coaches, and now, an acting head coach experiencing health problems.

Look around. You know the Eagles' situation is ripe for a blowup. The questions about Brett Favre's competence are bound to turn that situation into an ongoing drama. About half the league's teams have offenses that are tougher to watch than a Steve Gutenberg marathon.

A conservative list: Ravens, Browns, Jets, Texans, Bills, Vikings, Cardinals, Saints, 49ers, Saints, Buccaneers, Dolphins, Bears and Packers. Even more damning is the number of teams on the list that will end up in the playoffs.

The Ravens went into Monday night's game against the Steelers averaging 11 points a game with only two wins.

While Major League Baseball once again fends off doomsayers who point to television ratings (headlines scream "Worst Series Ratings Ever"), the NFL remains indestructible. The worse the product, the more interest.

There's no better example of institutional arrogance than Benson, who insists on acting as though his problem is the biggest faced by his city. Benson and his boy with his hand on the camera are the perfect symbol for this year's NFL.

They keep trying to push us away, and we keep watching.

This Week's List
The quickest way to respectability in the NFL as evidenced by Lovie Smith and his Bears: Constructing a defense that can harass all the bad quarterbacks roaming through the league.

Watching Nick Saban talk about his birthday during his Monday press conference made me wonder: How often do they have to adjust his circuitry to retain the appearance of humanity?

From here on out, there's one thing Daunte Culpepper's injury provides the Vikes: An excuse.

A stat someone should keep, just so Brett Favre has another record: Most underhanded passes thrown beyond the line of scrimmage.

To fix the BCS mess and implement a workable playoff format, there's one obstacle that needs to be overcome: The myth of NCAA football as an amateur enterprise.

Underreported story of the World Series and further proof that you can change your image: Carl Everett won a World Series and he didn't explode.



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