Dr Z
Friday September 19th, 2008

Quick guide on how to make instant friends -- rip any network announcers who annoy you. You'll always get support among your fellow viewers. Only exceptions were John Madden in the Summerall days, and Matt Millen. But I'm not going to lead the piece with this. It's too easy a fix. I'm going to introduce you to my Emailer of the Week, and I wish he had a last name because I'd certainly use it, but since he's a modest chap, he never dreamed that his little missive would reap such a gaudy harvest.

Step forward and claim your prize, Jim of Phoenix, because you have done a valuable thing. You have served to educate myself and my readers. You have seen the lawyer side of Ed Hochuli. We have seen only the referee side.

"I had to suffer through an hour long CLE (Continuing Legal Education) seminar this past summer," wrote Jim , an attorney, "where Hochuli droned on and on about how we should all live our lives modeling ourselves after him. Call me fragile minded, but I could never figure out how learning about what goes on behind the scenes at a football game is supposed to make me a better lawyer."

Excellence in football as a metaphor for excellence in life is not one of my deep beliefs. The NFL player turned minister tells about how he found God at the bottom of a pileup. The business executive brags about the rapid decisions he made behind center that set up the bold strokes of merger and acquisition. Fooey, I say. A person isn't a success in life because he could put on a great pass rush at one time. He's a success because he developed a complete set of skills. This isn't a popular opinion, and the guys who make four and five figures a pop, doing those motivational speeches, certainly wouldn't wish me well.

• I particularly liked two more emails, and I will do the last name honors on each of them. Call them Emailer of the Week runners up. "I saw where Roger Goodell has just issued a memo to all teams," writes Tim Caretti of Arlington, Va., "basically saying that safety is paramount and any conduct that unnecessarily risks injuries to NFL players will be severely punished. Next time you see him, ask him when he's going to do something positive about getting rid of artificial turf, if he wants to protect the players."

I've gotten off the soap box on this one because if the players, through their association, didn't think the issue was worth fighting over, I wasn't going to take on their fight for them. I used to ask Gene Upshaw why that was always the first giveback issue in bargaining talks, the first one to come off the table. He said the players were more interested in money issues. No one ever will convince me that artificial turf, no matter how many modifications have improved it, is not dangerous. But it would be presumptuous of me to tell Goodell to be a spokesman for the players when management hired him.

• Real good one from Graeme Saint of Chelmsford, England, and let me say, Graeme, that the best capsule description of football that I've ever heard came from a London fan 25 years ago. I was covering the Cards-Vikings exhibition game in Wembley. I spent the second half going through the stands, asking British fans what they thought of American football.

"I'm a chess player," one young man told me, " and what I love about the American game is that it's a neverending set of chess problems. Each situation presents a different problem, and a solution is attempted. Then every 30 seconds or so the board is re-set and a new problem is presented. Fascinating."

So it doesn't surprise me, Graeme, that you've come up with a question that I have seriously asked many times. When specialists come in on practically every play, at almost all positions, why isn't there a specialist pass-blocker, lighter and quicker-footed, to come in at tackle on obvious passing downs to face the greyhounds coming around the corner at 90 mph?

The most serious answer came from the late Bill Walsh, who said he actually contemplated it for a while. "First of all, even on long yardage you must keep the running threat alive, and this would absolutely tip it off that it's a pass. Secondly, you're neglecting a very important quality in a good pass blocking tackle. Long arms. An absolute necessity. It means that even if he's beaten to the outside, he can steer the guy wider than he'd like and keep him out. Smaller, quicker people usually don't have arms that are long enough. Tall, skinny stringbeans wouldn't be able to generate enough leverage"

I know, I know, he was the guru, but I STILL think it's a good idea, as you do.

• Time to level the siege guns on the ESPN Monday night crew, with whom I expressed mild annoyance the other day. This generated a horde of pent up frustrations from my loyal readership. John P. of Hobe Sound, Fla., refers to them as "Bloated, bloviated buffoons." Killer B's, huh? Bloviated, huh? Sounds like the way I feel after one of the Redhead's lasagna dinners. You've driven me to my gigantic old 1943 Webster, JP, because I don't know this word.

Nope. Nothing in the old Webbie between Blouze-linda and blow. Ah, wait. Google leads me to The Free Dictionary by Farlax, whatever that is. "Bloviate...to discourse at length in a pompous or boastful manner."

Nah, I wouldn't say that about Ron Jaworski. But it sure describes ESPN's modus operandi through the years, and its sister network, ABC. First there was Dennis Miller, then Rush Limbaugh. Last year, and before, there were those terrible celebrity interviews in the booth, remember? Rode right over the live action which at times was not even presented. Now there are Jaws and Tony Korn.

The idea of straight football, only analyzed better, more colorfully and incisively, as the aforementioned Millen or Madden used to do, is not part of ESPN's game plan. The network is into freak show presentation, and unfortunately Jaworski, who's always up at NFL Films, studying tape, who works at it as hard as anybody, is caught in the squeeze.

So you don't like Tony Korn's idiot-fan approach, eh JP? Well, ESPN must feel that others do. My two other emailers who weighed in on the subject, Mario of Vegas and Robert of Santa Monica, would disagree with the network. So would I. Do the people there care? Hell, no. Ratings are up, and of course, that's usually driven by the quality of the game, not the announcers, although you'd never get the network to understand that.

"Wow, will ya just looka that, Jaws! They're scoring on almost every play. I've never seen anything like it. The world's never seen anything like it. I'm just so excited that I can't...." Forgive me a moment, please. Urrp-bleeeaugh! There, I feel better now. Let's go on, shall we?

• From Andy of Baton Rouge -- Q: Was Ed Hochili graded lower because he made the mistake or because he admitted it? A: Because he made it.

• OK, I've had things too soft. All those people who want to bitch about the rankings have been waiting outside too long now. Open the door and let 'em in, Dominic...hey, watch the shirt, you there! Get your hands off it! Linda just washed it.

Jim of Phoenix, brandishing his Emailer of the Week award, has turned ugly. What a betrayal! Upset about the Cardinals at No. 18. So is Sean of Santa Fe, and what an odd couple you two make, if you don't mind my saying so. Stay cool, fellas. It's a long season. Cards will upset the Skins in Washington and rise to No.11. Then lose to the Jets in Jersey and sink to 14. Bills will upset them, Dallas will win in a surprisingly close one, bye week will stand watch over a 3-3 record and a mid-range, 16th spot on the Z-mobile. Write again next week if you'd like me to project them farther into the season.

• Giant fans will not be put off so easily. Alex of NYC is upset that they're at No. 5, behind the Patriots and "Stillers." Kieran of Richmond makes a very valid point. I have the Pats at No. 2 because no one has knocked them off, but the Giants, who beat them in the big one last year, are sitting there, three places lower, without the same courtesy.

Hmmm, you've made a good point. One thing I can't stand is logic. When I did my first ranking of the year, the Patriots, with Brady, were my Super Bowl front runner. I had the Giants at No. 9, based on their offseason. Things have been adjusted, and they're closer now, of course, but it wouldn't really be fair to move the Giants ahead of them at this stage of the game. All I can do is offer the usual "Wait a while. Things will sort themselves out."

• Here's one from deep centerfield. Actually from Doug of Storrs, Conn. "Are you there? Are you awake? Have you been watching football yet this season?" The answers, in order, are No, Yes and Yes. Two out of three ain't bad.

Sean of Portland feels I've been too hard on his Seahawks and he might be right. "The Hawks have lost six receivers and Hasselbeck has not recovered from his offseason back surgery," he says. Both good points, but when the offense has problems the defense must bear down and carry the team. Seattle has allowed 34 and 33 points in its first two, and the Bills and 49ers are not exactly offensive powerhouses.

Donald, a Carolina fan from Pittsburgh, says thank you for not picking the Panthers for the playoffs, because when I pick them for anything, they take the pipe, and when I don't, then they do well. Well, uh, you're welcome...have I just been insulted, thanked or what?

• Last man gets the potato and it's YOU, CODY OF CLARKSBURG, MD! Why did I move the Skins up 10 spots after they upset New Orleans? Perhaps a bit rash, I admit. "Are you sure that decision wasn't made under duress? Is Cerrato holding a gun to your head? Cough if you want me to call the clops...uh, the cops." I can't cough. I got it all out in my ESPN section.

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