Profiles in courage
By Brian Murphy
Special to Page 2

Watched that Ray Lewis Pre-Game Intro Dance on Saturday, and sat up in my chair, panicked.

His pants were on fire!

What else could cause such shimmying, dancing and convulsing?

Ray Lewis
Ray Lewis has some dance moves the world has never seen before.
I knew of only one cure.

Douse the pants with some water from The Cooler.

Only you, dweller, can prevent Ray Lewis Pants Fires.

That's right. The long-lost Cooler is back, just for this week. Week One of the NFL Playoffs, plus the sentimental yearning brought with the turn of a calendar year, means we gather 'round the mythical Water Cooler this Monday morn.

And we have Ray Lewis to thank.

What an intro at the Ravens' home yard on Saturday!

Three parts New Zealand Maori Dance, two parts Blues Brothers stage jig and one part man-who-stuck-wet-finger-in-socket, Lewis boogied to the turf while Ravens fans roared.

Imagine -- one man causing 60,000 people to stand and scream their devotion. It was like a Leni Riefenstahl film. Only Riefenstahl never set her footage to Nelly's "Hot in Herre."

Is that guy in shape, or what? I tried to replicate the dance for my babe, and got winded after about 10 seconds. She observed the histrionics coolly.

"Are you trying to make rain?" she said.

Nope. Just in dire need of a Dixie cup of Sparkletts.

So, in the future, I'll leave the Ray Lewis Dance to guys who look better in fur coats and limos. But thank you, Ray Lewis, for propping up The Cooler. For auld times' sake.

On, then, to the Weekend List of Five:

1. The Irv Factor
What better way to ready myself for some NFL action than to hear from my buddy Schuchie, the kid outta Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin? Cut open his vein, and his blood is 75 percent cheddar, 25 percent Maytag Blue.

With the Packers squeaking in to the postseason party, the Wisconsin Mafia was living large.

He reported from a wild weekend in Chicago, imbibing with transplanted Badger Staters as they watched the Vikings spit the bit in Arizona in Week 17. He and his ilk exulted in delight at a Packers bar in the Windy City. I'm not sure, but I think he said there were a few antler heads on the wall. In Chicago. I'm not kidding.

Anyway, two things came out of the conversation.

One, Schuchie's high-school buddy was at the bar, peddling his new get-rich-quick scheme: T-shirts that read "Decade of Dominance" in reference to the Pack's 10-game win streak over the Bears in Chicago. I'm serious. He even fired up a Web site, decadeofdominance.com.

Packers fans, man.

You can't make this stuff up.

Brett Favre
Brett Favre and the Packers seem blessed ever since Favre's father passed away.
His buddy was pumped by the development in the Arizona desert, and not just because it meant the beloved green-and-gold would play in January.

"This means I can set up shop at Lambeau next week and sell more 'Decade of Dominance' shirts," he said.

The night, apparently, dissolved into bacchanalia.

But not before Schuchie's Decade-of-Dominance buddy, in the height of the revelry, tossed out the second bauble in this gem of a conversation: the signature rallying cry for the Packers' playoff run.

"It's the Irv Factor," he said, citing the tragic death of Brett Favre's father and the ensuing series of tips of fate tilting Green Bay's way. "We've got the Irv Factor on our side."

Irv Favre -- the Guardian Angel.

Packers fans, man.

You can't make this stuff up.

2. The Biker's Take on the Irv Factor
Sunday's tilt at Lambeau escaped my prying eye, as that morning I was winging it to Maui for the PGA Tour's season-opening Mercedes Championships on the red clay bluffs of Kapalua. My flight eclipsed the entirety of the Packers-Seahawks game, so it was with heightened curiosity that I landed, rented the rig, and steered straight into The Ale House near the Maui Airport.

After ordering the obligatory Maui Opening Drink -- the Lava Flow -- I cast a look at the TV, only to see the Colts already dismantling the Broncos.

I needed some Lambeau News.

I turned to a heavy-set Biker across the bar. He wore dark shades, indoors. He was about 40, maybe 50, pounds overweight. A minimalist motorcycle helmet sat by his side, the kind Kaiser Wilhelm would have worn had the Kaiser been up for a summertime ride to Sturges, S.D.

"Packers win?" I asked The Biker.

"Yep," The Biker said.

I expected him to augment his report with a detailed description of the continuation of Green Bay's playoff run to destiny, and looked for the tear in his eye when he would inevitably discuss The Irv Factor.

"Barely," he grunted, expanding his analysis. "Guy took an interception back in overtime. Guy was running with his arm up, like he had it all the way."

The Biker scoffed.

"Same guy got torched all game," The Biker said, unimpressed by Al Harris' work. "Running down the sidelines like it's all him, when he got smoked all game."

Unfazed by Mad Cow headlines, Biker Guy tore into a cheeseburger as he gave the report.

Guess The Irv Factor doesn't touch every heart.

3. Remembering the Titans
How about the protagonists of the Titans' win in Baltimore?

Eddie George separates his shoulder, straps a harness on it and totes the rock in searing pain. He was nothing short of a profile in physical courage.

Eddie George
It doesn't get much more gutty than Eddie George's effort on Saturday.
Meanwhile, the game is won by a 44-year-old kicker with the body of an accountant.

Eddie George: Grapples with pain that would render most mortals limp.

Gary Anderson: Questionable at game-time with a corn on his right foot.

Eddie George or Gary Anderson: Quien es mas macho?

I still say: Ban the kicker. Have a lineman kick, like in the old days.

If Anderson missed that kick and the Ravens went on to win, what sort of scene would have gone down in the Tennessee locker room?

Anderson: "Way to play with that separated shoulder, Eddie. I admire your toughness."

George: "Way to miss that kick, paper boy."

4. A Quick Nod to Charlie Hustle
We'll interrupt our NFL Playoff Theme and sadly tear up our betting sheet in honor of the fallen Peter Edward Rose. We sprinkle the torn-up bits on a wintry ball diamond, not unlike Ice Cube's shedding of the final drops from his 40-ouncer in honor of his fallen brother Ricky in "Boyz N the Hood."

The worst-kept secret in American sports history has now been confirmed: Pete Rose bet on baseball.

No way!

Have you ever seen a guy -- ever -- who carried himself with the bearing of 'Addicted Gambler' like Pete Rose? This guy was gambling royalty. Bookies probably sent limos to his hotel rooms to make sure he made it to the ballgame on time.

Pete Rose
Could Pete Rose's "shocking" admission pave his way to Cooperstown?
Hit King, we hardly knew ye.

Next stop: Cooperstown!

In America, we forgive a lot. Right?

5. The Irv Factor, Redux
Back at The Ale House near the Maui airport, I pulled out of the parking lot, sated by a couple of beverages, a turkey club and my chat with The Biker. Peyton Manning had the Colts revving high, another round of NFL playoffs beckons from this weekend, and I had a week of Tiger, Ernie and Vijay under the Hawaiian sun waiting for me.

As the rented rig took to the Maui roads, my cell phone registered a text message.

I was alarmed. Who could it be?

Eddie George, looking for Advil?

The Biker, wondering where I'd be drinking tonight?

Pete Rose, looking for a tip from Santa Anita?

I checked the phone.

It was Schuchie. The text message was pure and unmistakable. It read simply: "Decade of Dominance."

Brian Murphy of the San Francisco Chronicle writes every Monday for Page 2.





THE WATER COOLER

ALSO SEE:


Brian Murphy Archive

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Murphy: College hoops pros

Murphy: Winter meeting quiz

Murphy: Inhuman nature

Murphy: Tiger's wedding plans

Murphy: The best sports holiday

Murphy: Ah, the revelry of a rivalry





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