Beware the Heisman
By Brian Murphy
Special to Page 2

At The Cooler, we believe in The Heisman.

College football, totally boss sport. Tradition, a most respectable thing. December, an ultra-cool month for football talk.

Carson Palmer
Love it while you can, Carson, the uncertainty of the NFL awaits.
So why the queasy feeling in the stomach today at The Cooler?

Two words, pal: "S" and "C."

Or two other words, as penned by the headline writers on "Trojan glory."

Carson Palmer -- you're killing me, man.

Now, now. This is not to denigrate the gridiron skills of the lad himself. Fact is, Carson Palmer was the best player in the country. Fact is, Carlson Palmer's grace and cool in gutting my alma mater and Notre Dame on back-to-back weekends was the sort of football beauty to make you drool all over an "I Hate 'SC" bib. Fact is, he did all this with a name better suited to a Fitzgerald novel than a Pete Carroll playbook.

And the sad fact is, when it came time for a player to stand up and make good on the official Cooler mantra, as uttered by that anonymous surfer-stoner at the '89 UCLA-Michigan game -- to wit, and I quote, "We play some ball on the West Coast!" -- it was a Trojan who gave those words verity.

I will, with great pain, take the high road. I wish no ill will on young Palmer. I wish him nothing but the best. We're all Americans here, and may the best man win, blah, blah, blah-de-freaking-blah.

Andre Ware
Much like his haircut, Andre is a memory.
So all I can do, in keeping with my appointed duties as Keeper of the Sparkletts, is to warn young Carson: Beware the Heisman. It giveth off dark and mysterious vibes. It produceth in its winners either a surefire path to glory (note the Barry Sanders Rule) or it produceth in its winners an enigmatic poison, a surefire path to athletic mortality (note the Andre Ware Rule).

A glance Saturday night around the Yale Club of New York -- ahem, yes, my girl, the Bulldog herself, was fired up that the Eli ghosts of Larry Kelly (1936) and Clint Frank (1937) were honored at this year's site -- showed as much. Did you see Gino Torretta? Was he peddling life insurance to John Cappelletti during commerical breaks? My tax guy looks more athletic than Torretta these days. Did you see Earl Campbell? I love Earl as much for his "Skoal, brother" ad campaigns as I did for his rumblings out of the backfield in Oilers blue, but the brother looked ancient. He won the Heisman in '77, which is two years before my brother graduated from college, and my brother looks a full decade younger than Campbell these days. Can licks from Jack Ham cause that much gray hair? Can getting pummeled by Clay Matthews cause that much premature aging? Earl, my man, how about a new ad campaign: Grecian Formula, brother?

Did you see Eric Crouch? Exactly. Neither did I. Eric Crouch won the Heisman! If Carson Palmer isn't worried about the Eric Crouch Rule, he would be ignoring the case of road flares on the Heisman Highway, saying: BEWARE THE HEISMAN!

Carson Palmer can go to sleep, dreaming of Marcus Allen and Tony Dorsett.

He can also wake in a cold sweat, fresh off a nightmare of Chris Weinke and Rashaan Salaam.

Mr. Woltz
Let's hope Carson doesn't find his career in this state one morning.
Carson Palmer can drift off to blissful slumber, images of Eddie George and Ricky Williams fresh.

He can also wake screaming, like Jack Woltz in "The Godfather," with images of Ty Detmer and Charlie Ward emblazoned.

Which will it be for young Carson? Time shall tell.

While the Trojan sweats uncomfortably, we shift to the Weekend List of Five:

1. 1-2, tell me who are you: the Bears!
Terrell Owens
T.O. stars in "Bring It On II," coming to theatres next summer.
Astute, and insane, readers will note the title of Item 1 as lifted straight out of "The Brady Bunch," the episode where Marcia vies for the cheerleading gig at high school with Greg as one of the judges. But I digress. The larger point is: Terrell Owens on Sunday at Candlestick Park looked like that was not his first go-round with a pair of pom-poms. The man grabbed the pair from a cheerleader, then broke right into a rhythm that, frighteningly, spoke to a guy who, in front of a mirror in his high school bedroom, sang out: "R-E/R-E-B/R-E-B-O-U-N-D ... A re (clap, clap) bound!"

Damning implications aside, we at The Cooler stand and applaud the latest T.O. shenanigan.

He may think America hates him. He may think the White Man does not understand him. But this White American actually thinks the Sharpie thing was Ruthian in its grandness; and this White American thinks the Pompom Thing was a scream. Just flat-out funny. As simple as that.

He says he's being creative. We agree.

He says he's having fun. We're all for it.

So, I ask ... what's the problem?

2. Flutiemania: Get me a brown paper bag for hyperventilation purposes
Was it true? Was there not an apparition on Sunday in Buffalo? Was that not ... the King of the '80s? Was that not ... Doug Flutie, in the flesh?

Doug Flutie
Pull up your parachute pants and pass the Rubik's Cube, Flutie still has it.
Praise the Lord and pass the Van Halen CD.

God bless Marty Schottenheimer for dialing up Doug Flutie in the fourth quarter at Buffalo. It's the year 2002, damn near 2003. David Lee Roth's solo career has been dead for 17 years. Molly Ringwald and Andrew McCarthy have not seen the klieg lights of a Hollywood sound stage in at least 15 years. And no one has worn a pair of teakwood Wayfarers in at least as long.

But Our Man Flutie is still getting it done!

He didn't win, but he stirred something deep inside of us: the belief that Tears for Fears' 1985 epic "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" is still one of the great tunes of our time.

Take that to the bank -- even if Flutie can't stir up the old magic, anyway.

3. A brief pause for Division I-AA playoffs
Let me get this straight: Pure grass fields. A well-designed playoff system. Student-athletes. Like, real student-athletes. Ballgames in low winter light. Emotions at full throttle. Players with just enough weaknesses to add the element of unpredictability into each game.

What, exactly, is not to like about the Division I-AA playoffs again?

Just had to get that off my chest.

4. The Hot Stove League: Crank it up!
Ray Durham. Marquis Grissom. Edgardo Alfonzo.

Winter baseball is awesome!

Oh, sorry. Those were just the moves made by the beloved San Francisco Giants, apparently hell-bent on returning to the World Series.

Dusty Baker
Times are slow when you're riveted to Dusty Baker's life.
This has been as cool an off-season as I can remember -- did the Phillies not get the Collusion Memo? -- but nothing beats a rainy Saturday in San Francisco, where you can fire up ESPN News and catch live, from Nashville, press conferences of Dusty Baker and Felipe Alou, back-to-back.

Dusty talked Hundley and Hee-Sop; he talked Darren Baker Rule and Sammy.

Felipe talked Barry and baseball; he talked pitching and Jeff Kent.

I had to wipe away a tear. It was pouring outside, the Christmas lights were flickering inside -- we had them on the "Vegas" switch, full-on light-mania -- and I had nothing but ball on the TV.

How soon till spring training again?

5. NFL playoffs: Who knows?
We dragged The Cooler to the Packers-49ers tilt at Candlestick. Here's what we learned: Brett Favre is still really, really good.

Outside of that, who's to know what the NFL playoffs have in store?

The Raiders were your pick? They got pantsed in Miami.

Rich Gannon
Hey, Rich. We hope he at least bought you dinner first.
The Eagles continue to shine? OK, pal. You've got A.J. Feeley. I'll take the Bucs' defense.

The Bucs are the team? Christ on a bike, they sweated out a game in Detroit!

Did you not hear? Detroit!

So the Niners are nothing. So the Pack has Brett Fav-ruh. So the Titans and Colts are dark horses.

Yeah, like I know. Yeah, like you know.

Yeah, who knows?

They say a fool and his money are soon parted. I say a fool and the NFL are a perfect marriage.

But just wait till Carson Palmer turns up in Cincinnati! Then, it'll be a whole different story.

Brian Murphy of the San Francisco Chronicle writes the "Weekend Water Cooler" every Monday for Page 2.



Brian Murphy Archive

Murphy: Air force won

Murphy: Whoa, Nellie!

Murphy: Learning to be a hater

Murphy: The Cooler's terrible twos

Murphy: Getting personal

Murphy: All my rowdy friends ...

Murphy: Another Giant disappointment

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