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Star struck

I don't do baseball, but I find a common thread between the Clemens hearing and the infamous Destruction of the Tapes. So I'll lead off with a pair of e-mails that get me talking about what I wanted to talk about anyway ... do you find this acceptable?

I'll end the suspense by announcing that these first two letters have earned the buffeted ... make that coveted ... E-mailer of the Week Award, so put your hands together for a big Moshulu Parkway round of applause to Gene Lemire of Toms River, N.J. and David Isaacson of Minneapolis.

From Gene (and incidentally, I know how Toms River got its name... after Dr. John J. River) -- "What the hell is our congress doing spending money looking into past drug use instead of preventing any future abuse?" From Dave -- "Spygate has become a symbol for how to adjust focus on something to avoid 'the something' that truly matters." And he goes on to mention the somethings that truly matter -- price setting by energy conglomerates, the phony war in Iraq, that failure of adequate compensation for indigent NFL veterans, and politicians' lack of the same commitment to these issues.

First the drugs, which I interpret to mean steroids and HGH, which triggered that TV show from the Washington hearing room. Gosh, wasn't it fun, all those politicians pretending they were like something out of Court TV?

Did they have the power to really bring charges? Uh, no. Did they have the power to reach a verdict and impose a penalty? Come on now. So what were they doing there? They appeared at Clemens' request, after he had gone around and personally schmoozed a selected group of them. Somehow there was the vague threat of punishment to Roger for lying to Congress, although the president has gotten away with it for years.

What I saw, though, in the 10 minutes or so that I was able to watch it, was something right out of the old radio show, It Pays to be Ignorant. It was one of my favorites when I was a child. It was a brilliant parody of quiz shows, such as Information Please and The Quiz Kids. This poor old ex-vaudevillian, Tom Howard, would ask his idiot panel a question such as, "Who was buried in Grant's Tomb?" and for 15 minutes or so the most moronic discussion would take place, without the question ever being answered.

The part that I watched of this week's version was Congressman John Tierney trying to get an answer from Clemens to the question, "How do you say three times in your deposition that you never did speak to [Brian] McNamee about steroids and later on acknowledge that, in fact, you had?" And Clemens would bounce this back on one hop... "It was prior."

"What was prior? You contradicted your own deposition."

"It was before that."

"What was before? First you said you didn't, then you admitted you did."

"Not the way you mean it."

I yelled to the Redhead, "You've got to come and watch this! It's Tom Howard and Lulu McConnell!" Just freakin' hilarious. And I watched that silliness for about 10 minutes and then went back to my newspaper.

Now this is going to sound very simplistic to you. If a person is suspected of a crime, bring charges and file them and let the court decide. Why is that such a hard concept to accept? Why give these congressmen and congresswoman a forum to show how dopey they are?

And now I take my simple viewpoint one step farther. Son of Spygate, or The Destruction of the Tapes (not to be confused with The Destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70). Again, if you're going to go after someone on a violation you suspect has been repeated for many years, you launch an investigation, gather evidence and act on it. That's the simplistic viewpoint from one who spent too much time watching cop shows such as NYPD Blue and The Shield. But the way Commissioner Goodell did it was to allow the Patriots to investigate themselves and gather their own evidence.

At least that's the way it was presented ... tapes the Patriots produced, representing six years of ... well, legal, or illegal, or fringe-legal, who knows? evidence, plus "notes and other material," whatever that means. And you have to believe that there was a lot more material, gathered over the course of six years.

Sure, that's the way to do it. Let the suspects bring up a case against themselves. That's the way the NCAA does it when it's checking into violations, and every time I hear that phrase, "The University cooperated in the investigation," I have to laugh, the same as I did with this Goodell thing.

What would Andy Sipowitz have said if they'd have told him, "Andy, the perps are going to provide their own evidence against themselves?" Or Vic Mackey? We've got cops and ex-cops in the family ... OK, in Linda's family ... and they just shake their heads over this nonsense masquerading as investigative fact finding.

Why are these high level people doing this tap dance with Roger Clemens instead of pushing for charges, if they feel they're merited? Because he's a superstar and they're fans. Why has Goodell perpetrated this huge fraud, allowing the club to be its own investigator, and then destroying the results of the investigation? Because, and this is strictly my own viewpoint and in no way reflects the opinion of my sponsors, Bob Kraft is a fair-haired boy in league affairs, the member of six committees, including the prestigious Broadcast and Finance committees.

Enough rabble rousing. Lee of Elma, N.Y., asks, and here we go again, "If Bill Belichick is found to have taped the Rams before the Super Bowl, will he go down as the Richard Nixon of NFL coaches?"

Did you know that Nixon was a wine buff? The story they tell about him is that, when he'd entertain guests on his yacht, Sequoia, he'd have a bottle of 1966 Chateau Margaux wrapped in a towel and served only to himself, while his guests were served an inexpensive Zinfandel. I once did a column about that and interviewed members of the Wine & Food Society for their opinions. My favorite response was from Harriet Lembeck, who taught a wine class.

"Why, the '66 isn't ready yet," she said.

All this is my way of trying to move us to a lighter topic. OK, one more ... on second thought, I'm going to ditch that heavyweight query from Tom of Orchard Park, N.Y., and move us on to one more apropos, footballically speaking (I once heard Joe Cronin, in a baseball press conference, say, "baseballically speaking"). Here's Tom's back-up question: "Why was Art Monk selected to the Hall of Fame ahead of Andre Reed?" Because this was the ninth time Monk was in the room and people were tired of launching the same arguments.

"Is Andre Reed still waiting because other wideouts played on great teams and the Bills fell short?" asks Marc of Peterborough, N.H. Hey, did you guys get together? Team success should not influence personal acclaim, I believe, but unfortunately it does. Personally, I've always been a Reed man. But too many wideouts came up this year.

Michael of Durham, N.C., feels Troy Smith deserves a shot at the Ravens' QB spot, based on his good outing against Pittsburgh. The Steelers had clinched and were resting people. I don't know how good the guy is. If they fall in love with someone in the draft, well, Ozzie Newsome's track record is pretty darn good.

Attention Martin D. of Bristol, Tenn. Which question do you want answered, the one about your great-uncle or still another Patriots thing? Hint. I'm sick of Patriots questions. The great-uncle. Good. I'm particularly sharp on anything that happened more than 60 years ago. And thanks for the nice things you said.

"My great-uncle, Mac Peebles, played line for the Redskins in the mid-'40s. Do you know anything about him as a player?"

I am now looking at the program of a game I attended when I was younger than I am now. The date is Dec. 8, 1946, and the cover says Merry Christmas, and it has the signatures of lots of Giants players. New York won, 31-0 over the 'Skins. Peebles, No. 19, and, incidentally, his formal first name was Jim, is listed as a third string left end behind Ralph Schilling and Doug Turner. I believe that depth chart is bogus, though, because I have a check mark next to his name, and in those primitive years of my charting, that's the way I designated a good performance.

He's listed in the Total Football encyclopedia as 6-4, 231, but in his rookie year of '46 his program weight was 218. There were no tight end-split end designations in those days but the other end, Ed Cifers, was a big guy, too, 6-2, 227. Sammy Baugh liked big receivers. Mac Peebles was known as a good defensive player, especially after his rookie year, when his weight actually did go up to 231. He started seven games at end as a rookie and caught nine passes for 164 yards, a fancy 18.2 average, and one TD.

The next year his pass catching dropped to four, but he was seeing most of his duty at right tackle, and he started 11-of-12 games. In '48 he was second string behind John "Tree" Adams, a tall, rawboned (cooked boned?) 6-7, 242-pounder, and in his last three years, '48 through '50, he had six starts. He didn't catch any more passes. He was 30 in his last season, the war, I would assume, delaying the start of his five-year career, which he started at age 26.

Since I dwell in the past, as everyone knows, it was a pleasure to research all of this, partly from memory, partly from my library. If anyone else has anything of this nature, for instance the Oorang Indians of the 1920s, I'm your man. I'm not kidding, Jimmy, stop laughing, I've got stuff on those guys.

From Mark of Lexington, N.C. Why wasn't Gregg Williams hired as Redskins coach? From what I heard, he didn't want to step into a job in which both coordinators already had been chosen. And he wasn't exactly happy about a three-man triumvirate of himself, Danny Boy and his lapdog, Vinny Cerrato, determining the makeup of the roster. Will Snyder ever sell the 'Skins? You're not going to believe this, but he wouldn't confide in me, apropos of this particular information.

Eric of San Francisco wants to know why some high draft tackles, such as Joe Thomas, are the real deal and others, such as Robert Gallery, fall short. In the case Gallery, I can tell you what Charley Casserly told me. He said that they're coached so well at Iowa that they make up in technique what they lack in natural ability, such as quick feet. In the case of another can't-miss tackle, Tony Mandarich, he never faced the kind of speed rushers in college that he met in the NFL, and once he got off the juice, the power rushers bombed him. I can comment on specific cases, but the reason for success-failure in general eludes me. And everyone else.

Two more Hall of Fame queries and then we're into, yaaay! TV. Phil Callahan of St. Albans, Vt., is doing some early lobbying for Charles Haley. Gently, my friend. We've got about 10 edge rushers to clear away first. The ranks were thinned by two this year.

And that's just what's wrong with the recent selections, says Dave of Riverview, Mich. "It's getting to be a joke," he says. "It should be renamed, 'The Hall of Guys who were pretty good.'"

I agree with you that leaving Cris Carter off was a misplay. Also my man, Kuechenberg. If it's any consolation, Ron Wolf, former super scout, agrees with you. He believes most of the names that come up are a joke. I believe they're all a joke, except for those of the guys I'm pulling for.

OK, TV now. John of Mendon, Mass., is amused and amazed that I have not mastered the wonders of DVD and TiVo (I don't even know how to spell it ... Is that correct, small i, small o?) What can I say? I can give you the complete lineup of Napoleon's marshals or the 20 wine growing regions of Italy, but these electronic wonders cannot find a place in my mental rooftops. But hope is on the march. Steve Sabol of NFL Films has put his TV guy onto me, and this person says he will get me up and running in no time. Yeah, no time. As in none. Reminds me, I have to call him ... someday. Maybe in March. Or April.

Gordon of Auburn, Ala., and I have a feeling I've felt heat from you before, says that the NFL Network showed old Super Bowls WITHOUT all the graphics, and gee, it was wonderful. Why can't we return to those days? Ummm, progress, mumble mumble. Besides, you have to like the stripe indicating first down, right? What's that? They can have that gimmick, too. Gordon, are you a person who doesn't believe in progress, now admit it, you are, aren't you?

A nasty note from Ben of Seattle, advising me to get over my fixation with line play since no one else gives a rat's ... uh, gives a goshdarn about it. Grow up, Ben. Adults follow line play and its intricacies. Children with short attention spans watch only the ball and immediately flip the dial if a team has to punt.

Benny of New Iberia, La., has scoped it out, and he figures that not 10 percent of the Super Bowl viewers could name one offensive lineman on either team. Easy, Mr. Wiseguy. Packers -- Bowman, Gregg, Skoronski, Kramer, Gregg. Raiders -- Harvey, Upshaw, Otto, Svihus, Schuh.

Canio of Swoyersville, Pa., where mercy is not easy to find, is aiming a sparrow at a cannon, check that, a cannon at a sparrow. Just listen to this heartless fellow: "Inordinately pushing the super stars or belaboring an obvious point forever or neglecting to call a game fairly are problems with Bryant Gumbel's broadcasts, but getting the names and numbers mixed up is a broadcasting sin. How could you not realize this?"

Canio, I'm going to level with you, and I'm even going to move into this new paragraph to do it. Every neighborhood has its kid that takes heat from everyone. There is always one person in a gathering that's the object of everyone's one-liners. You feel sorry, and you say, "Come on now, give him a chance, he's not so bad." Do you like my fearless approach to life, to the fact that I protect no sources, except for a few of my friends? Well, grant me this one little indulgence, OK? He's getting better. He'll continue to improve. He's not so bad, compared to some others. At least he's not an ego guy. Come on, Canio old boy. Be a sport. Waddya say?

Oy, here comes another one. A "yes, but" from Nick of Louisville. Yes, your commentator column was OK, but you were too soft on ... here we go again... Gumbel, and not enough acclaim for Mike Tirico.

I don't like the job ESPN does, so I'm not going to go overboard in any direction there, although I'm sure that Mike, if not messed with, would be just fine. Will you guys please leave poor Gumbel alone already! He's not a bad guy. He's trying to do the best he can. I am rooting for him. You think all those names are easy to remember? You try it. Don't be a bully, Nick. You're too good a person for that.

Here's a good one, from Ralph of Victoria, Canada: How would a typical interview for a head coaching position go?

OWNER: Why do you want this job?Z: The moneyO: Do you know lots of things?Z: EverythingO: Who was the Russian Commander at Balaklava?Z: Prince MenshikovO: Who formed the Thin Red Line?Z: 93rd HighlandersO: Marching song of the Seventh Cavalry?Z: Garry OwenO: Commanded by ...Z: George Armstrong CusterO: You're hired

From Anupam of NYC -- What do you think of the proposed changes to the playoff system? What will happen to the historic divisional rivalries if that's approved?"

I am a conservative. Leave the damn thing alone. Goodell wants the current system changed, so as to pump more life into the end of season, give-up games, but I think teams that clinch early have earned their rest. With the league office it's all about generating more revenue; more, more, give us more.

To Chazz, K\Xfebelberg, Germany-- Wow, is that a tough name to type, and I'm not sure I have it right even now. Where is that, somewhere near the Nord Zee? Anyway ... how do teams such as Indy, Seattle and Dallas comply with the Rooney rule if they have already picked their next coach? Beats me? Bluff it through, I guess. A good German wine in the $25 range. Medium dry, not too sweet. I'd say anything from J. J. Prum or Thanisch, Kabinett class or above, trocken or halb trocken if you want the dries. Try to shoot for the '05 vintage. Von Buhl or Bassermann Jordon for the Pfalz wines. Wish I knew where you were located.

Sam of Burke, Va., wants to know why Ron Rivera has nosedived following the Bears' Super Bowl loss. Came close to three head coaching jobs, had a falling out with Lovie Smith, but I'm not telling you anything you don't know. I don't think he was blackballed, just edged out by others. I liked what he did with the Bears defense. I think he'll be back.

Here's a good one to close on, and it's from Peter C. of San Francisco, and why do all these followers in the footsteps of the late Herb Caen immediately get right to the heart of the matter? I'm a player on a Super Bowl winner. What's my locker room Champagne? Easy ... 1947 Pol Roger Brut, the greatest Champagne I've ever tasted. Whoops ... didn't read the last part ... "assuming you use a bulk processed one for head pouring." Gallo Spumante Ballatore. Will add body and zest to the hair follicles.

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