Stafford might be starting sooner than expected; Brees' amazing run
Top of the morning to you, and here are the topics of the morning as we flip the calendar to June:
4. I have nothing new to report on those column favorites,
7. I have an anniversary this morning. It crept up on all of us.
The Austin Wood story's a good one. I'll save it for Stat of the Week/Hero of the Week, an invented column department for this one day only. Ever hear of Austin Wood? He's a college pitcher from Texas with a very sore arm this morning. Let's begin with the other nuggets of the day, opening with ...
In the wake of NFL Network losing Gruden, the channel has considered a few options of analysts to pair with
Millen has already signed with ESPN to do college football games and analysis in the Monday night road studio. If he adds the Thursday duty, he'll be busier than
"It's just numbers,'' Brees said when I told him about this gaudy list Friday. "It's not a very big deal. To be mentioned in the same breath with Marino, Elway and all those guys is a great honor. Wow. But in the grand scheme of things, we don't have the ring. One of the reasons nobody would know about those numbers is, look at our record. [The Saints are 25-23 in that period.] Marino won more; I bet he was in the playoffs every year of those three years. We've made 'em once. Peyton's been in the playoffs a lot. Favre has. So winning's a big part of it. If you have numbers without the winning, it doesn't matter.''
He's right, but there's something about Brees over the last three years that I find amazing. Remember when he messed up his shoulder late in his last game at San Diego in 2005? Miami shied away from giving him the big money because
Is it the right decision? We'll see. I've thought all along the Lions should let Culpepper take the body blows of the early season schedule (at blitzing New Orleans, followed by Minnesota and Washington at home, Chicago on the road, then Pittsburgh at home). Those are some aggressive defensive coordinators licking their chops waiting to play the rookie. I've thought for that reason plus the hazards of playing a kid, let Stafford sit, well-padded and protected, while learning. Doesn't sound like the way the Lions are thinking. If Stafford's clearly the best man, he'll play the opener.
"We've got two criteria for when Matthew will play,'' said Schwartz. "One is he'll play when he's ready. The second is when he's the best quarterback for us. But so far, whatever the opposite of buyers' remorse is, that's what we have. We knew he had the terrific NFL arm. But we've found out his release is just textbook classic.''
As many former teammates say when asked a question about the Hall-worthiness of a player, they lapse into things like, "He should have been a first-ballot guy." Which Zimmerman, who played with McDaniel in Minnesota, did. And then he said: "He's not only the strongest man I've ever seen. But he used to challenge defensive backs to races for $100, and they wouldn't take him up on it. If they did, he would have smoked them all. He was a phenomenal football player.''
Players and team officials question me each year about the Hall's picks. Always. But McDaniel is one guy no one panned.
I don't keep a lot of what I write, or the covers I've had at the magazine over the years. I've just never been that kind of "file it away you'll be glad you did someday" guy. But the current cover, the June 1, 2009, edition of the mag with
Think back to 1989. The architects of the two Super Bowl teams who had just played were
A few weeks before I got hired at
The kingmaker in my business was
Think of those names that were the heaviest of hitters 20 years ago: Rozelle, Walsh, Brown, Landry, Hunt, Mara, Schramm, Finks, Donlan, Kemp, Upshaw, McDonough. All 12, dead. Takes my breath away to think about it, to think how much the stewards of this game have changed.
What I distinctly remember at that meeting, and in the weeks that followed, was unrest by the young owners in the league, unrest that played a big part in the events of the last 20 years. When the committee was formed to search for Rozelle's replacement, four old-line owners --
Recently minted owners in the league, such as
But I think that selection was important in gaining 20 years of labor peace for the game. In Rozelle's last seven years, the league was a litigious war zone. There were two strikes, and no one was happy. I think the selection of Tagliabue made the younger owners feel more empowered, and Tagliabue built a strong relationship with Upshaw. Who knows where the labor deal goes now, but I've felt strongly over the years that the move toward a brainier, legally savvy league office was the right move at the time.
I think back to when I was hired, and I remember thinking what a plum job this was. Mulvoy told me I'd be responsible for some NFL stories in the offseason, and maybe a story or two in other sports, but I'd be able to enjoy the offseason. In the first couple of years, I bet I had 10 weeks in the offseason when I didn't have an assignment, including vacation. What a life! No TV, a little radio, no Internet, no cell phones. I wrote my
That started changing with McDonough's success on TV. I had a two-year gig at ABC for the Monday night games, and then on CNN for six years for the Sunday morning show that six janitors in Wichita watched. In 1997, this column started. My former pro football editor,
That's how this mayhem began. I started out as a sportswriter. Now I'm a sportswriter who does the
When I took this job, there was no free-agency, no year-round draft-related coverage, no coverage of the scouting combine (in fact, 17 media people covered the 2000 combine, and about 400 covered it this year), no organized access to teams in the offseason, no daily coverage of mini-camps and Offseason Training Activities. I didn't write this column year-round until 2003. I think it's right about that time that Web sites started covering the NFL like it was the White House. It's only gotten more serious.
The other day,
I think in some ways we beat horses until they're long past dead today. In some cases, the pressure to be first causes those of us in the news business to react too quickly. The
A few days ago, it was reported that
I made a call to find out exactly what his contract was. Turns out Denver paid him only $100,000 to sign, with the first portion of a hefty $300,000 roster bonus due in June. So if Arrington wasn't going to play this year, Denver was smart to dump him when it did. I tweeted Thursday morning: "When you look at the Arrington deal, Denver rented him for 3 months for 100k to see if he could come back. No harm, no foul.'' I don't know if it put the fire out right away, but it should have. I can't answer questions that quickly all the time, obviously, but when I can, and it's about something of a minor nature like the Arrington deal, why not Tweet the answer a bunch of fans want to know?
So we're in a new world of football, and a new media world. Where's it going in the next 20 years? No idea. But it's pretty exciting to be starting another decade.
"They just want me to learn multiple positions. We don't know quite where I'm going to play right now. I'm just learning a little bit of everything. Whatever they need me to play, I'll play.''
"I think it's despicable. What he put the Packers through last year was not good. Here's an organization that was loyal to him for 17, 18 years, provided stability of organization, provided players. It just wasn't about
"I think he has been a great flamboyant quarterback, but he has made more stupid plays than any great quarterback I have ever seen.''
NCAA baseball tournament, Austin Regional, University of Texas, Sunday morning, 1:05 a.m. Central time.
The final: Texas 3, Boston College 2, in 25 innings.
Texas went 22 consecutive innings without scoring, and won.
The most valuable player in the game was the senior closer for Texas, Austin Wood. He entered the game in the bottom of the seventh inning with one out and a runner on second base ... and threw no-hit baseball for the next 12 1/3 innings. Wood had 15 saves this year. His longest outing before Saturday night was 4 1/3 innings. In this game, he closed for 13 innings. Austin Wood's pitching line from one of the greatest games in any sport in NCAA history:
IP H R ER W SO Faced Pitches
"In my 41 years of coaching,'' said Texas coach
I got Austin Wood on the phone around noon Sunday. He's a lefty, more breaking stuff than fastball, with a fastball topping out at about 91. He's done everything at Texas in four seasons, closed, pitched middle relief and, for two years, started. He was named closer by Garrido this year.
And so he was out in the bullpen on a 95-degree Austin evening at the Longhorns' home field when starter
"Pick me up,'' said Ruffin, handing him the ball on the mound.
"Make pitches,'' said Garrido. "Get us out of the inning.''
The first batter Wood faced,
BC went 1-2-3 in the ninth, 10th, 11th, 12th and 13th. No-hit ball for 6.2 innings.
"All I kept thinking was what I've been taught over and over: 'One pitch at a time, one pitch at a time,' '' Wood said.
What was odd, Wood thought, was Boston College being the home team. Just because a team hosts the regional doesn't mean it's the home team; the NCAA has a formula that tries to equalize the home-road factor, and in this game, Texas was the visitor. So every time Wood went to the mound, it was sudden death. In a broiler.
It was still in the mid-80s by the time it got to the 12th. In between innings, Wood drank until he couldn't stand to drink anymore. Over the course of the night, he's sure he drank 30 cups of Gatorade, Pedialyte (the electrolyte-laced fluid given to dehydrated infants) and water -- more than 200 ounces of liquid in all. That would become a, well, a bit of a problem later. But for now, there was another problem Wood had to solve.
"After four or five innings, I came to the bench and I heard coach Garrido and Skip [pitching coach
A two-out walk in the 14th resulted in nothing. Then seven more Eagles were retired in a row.
It was becoming a running joke on the bench, the marathon. "I'd come into the bench, and all I could do was laugh,'' he said. "What an incredible ball game! I was so involved in the moment, but I knew what a great game it was, what a fun game it was -- the funnest, easily, that I've ever been involved in. And if I'm never involved in a more fun game than that, fine; I mean, who ever could be in a game this enjoyable? And every time I'd come in, the guys would say, 'Hey, don't worry, we'll pick you up. We'll score this inning.' ''
Wood started cramping severely around the 15th. The trainer, between innings, would stretch him out, and he'd drink more and more. Before he went out for the 17th, Wood adjourned to the locker room and threw up violently because he'd been drinking too much too fast.
"Did you think you'd be too sick to go back out?'' I asked.
"Oh, I wasn't coming out of that game,'' he said.
He walked the leadoff hitter in the 17th, and the next batter reached on a sacrifice that Texas couldn't get the out on. But Wood got the next three batters groundout-strikeout-flyout, and it was on to the 18th. Each side went 1-2-3.
Wood now had thrown 11 2/3 no-hit innings.
"I didn't know,'' he said. "I had no idea until later.''
In the 19th, Texas opened with back-to-back singles, and eventually had the bases loaded with two out. But a flyout to left ended the threat. The grandstand groaned. There were 7,000 at the game at the 6 p.m. start. Now it was approaching midnight, and about 4,500 remained, on the edge of their seats.
Bottom 19: BC opened with two quick groundouts. But Wood walked the next hitter. And on an 0-1 fastball, BC's
Now Wood had to bear down. First and second, two out. Here came cleanup hitter
Wild pitch. Runners moved up, and now it was second and third, two out. The biggest win in BC baseball history was 90 feet away.
Rupp called for another curve. "You gotta be kidding me,'' thought Wood, who shook him off. Rupp called for the fastball and set up outside.
Strike three. Swinging.
That was Wood's 163rd pitch. Usually he'd throw between 10 and 30 in an outing. Never, ever in his high school or college career had he gone this far in a game, thrown this many pitches.
"Maybe it was adrenaline,'' Wood said, "but I couldn't believe how good I felt. My arm felt great. I wasn't sick, even though I threw up. But my body felt great, my arm felt great.''
Texas got a two-out double and a walk in the top of the 20th. But a strikeout ended the threat.
With one out in the bottom of the 20th,
When he walked off the field, just after midnight, everyone in the stadium rose and cheered. The Longhorn bench emptied and met him with cheers and high-fives and hugs in front of the dugout. The BC dugout cheered.
"The coolest feeling I ever had on a baseball field,'' Wood said. "I can't lie. I wanted to soak in every second of it. The BC kids, what class. That was incredible. I just wanted to make sure I enjoyed the best moment I've ever had in baseball. But I wasn't satisfied. Not at all. We had to win this game.''
Wood heard what Garrido said about him, about how it was the greatest pitching performance he'd seen in 41 years. "Now that is pretty cool,'' Wood said. "I can't lie -- that's some unbelievable praise.''
There may have been higher praise. "But I have to tell you what was the most incredible thing after the game. The president of the university came to me after the game, and this is a direct quote. He told me, 'That's probably the best athletic performance ever at the University of Texas.' I mean, wow.
Now there came the physical toll. "As soon as I started icing it,'' he said, "I knew it was going to hurt. And it did. It does. But boy, is it worth it. I was on Cloud 9 all night. I couldn't fall asleep. I got to bed around 4:30, I guess.''
"Did you sleep OK?'' I asked.
"About four hours,'' Wood said. "But I'll tell you this: Fell asleep smiling, woke up smiling.''
And that is why we love sports.
When Brett Favre has thrown this spring to high school receivers near his Sumrall, Miss., home, one of the wideouts has been a 6-foot-1, 195-pound Division-I prospect with Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Louisville chasing him. Pretty good pedigree, too. The wide receiver in question:
From lfitzgerald11, better known to you as
"Just wanted to let you know I would love to come on your show & talk about my moms fight w/ breast cancer. If ur intersted let me know''
1. I think these are my three opinions about
a. It matters only slightly. Rosenhaus is not responsible for teams not wanting to pay the freight -- a top 35 draft pick, plus an annual salary of $9 million a year -- for the best physical receiver in football, but a receiver who can't beat corners deep with consistency. That's not a criticism of Boldin. I love him as a player, and he'll be a great asset to whoever employs him. But I'm just telling you why he hasn't moved yet -- the asking price is big enough, and what Boldin will ask for in salary makes it a double hit. The change will basically mean Condon and Dogra will work quietly, without a Tweet every 10 minutes or so about what they're demanding.
b. I don't care. There's way, way too much time and energy in our business devoted to the agent a player has. At the end of the day, it rarely matters, and I don't think readers, viewers and listeners care at all who represents a player. I've never heard a fan call a radio show and say, "Hey, first-time caller. I've got a question about Drew Rosenhaus.''
c. Absolute gut feeling: Boldin stays in Arizona and gets a new deal done, quietly, around Halloween.
2. I think
3. I think the Santa Clara deal makes so much sense for the 49ers, rather than waiting for the city of San Francisco to build a stadium. Just do it.
4. I think we've known all along the Rams are for sale; I've been saying it since last November. What
Although I'm told the league really wants the Rams to stay in the Midwest, it wouldn't be a disaster if they moved back home to Los Angeles. This is one franchise that can be moved without upsetting any competitive applecart. The Rams in the NFC West always were a bit of a stretch. But a Seattle-San Francisco-L.A.-Arizona division makes much more sense than leaving the Rams in St. Louis.
5. I think I wouldn't be bothered so much by the news of
6. I think I cannot believe -- and will refuse to believe until I see him stink it up in training camp, which won't happen -- that
7. I think I have nothing new to report on your favorite newsmakers, Brett Favre and Michael Vick. Favre is flying very far under the radar and hasn't been heard from all week, and I hear the Vikings don't even know his plans, though they're anxious to find them out. And Vick ... well, all I know is don't believe that the Rams are interested. And I don't think the Saints are interested either. So if you've got "no one will sign him in 2009'' in the Vick pool, you might be in luck.
8. I think someone has to tell
9. I think you'll all appreciate a long-overdue update about your favorite soldier. Army First Sgt.
"All my soldiers are back now, I extended in Germany for another three years so I could stay the First Sergeant for a long time. My heart is with every one of these soldiers. We are already scheduled to be in Afghanistan sometime in 2010. This is a heck of a deployment ride we are on right now, back to back to back. I could have left but it's hard to walk away and leave behind something as great as I have here. My company really is young and tough and now experienced. Most extended in Germany to make the rotation next year with me. So we begin to train up again later this year.
"I love the Army but will be glad when I retire in four years. I need the break. We have a memorial service and dedication later this week, this deployment we lost Sgt.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. I think we probably shouldn't send
b. You tell me the World Baseball Classic isn't kryptonite for
e. Saturday was the third time in two weeks that a shaky play or error by the shortstop played a huge role in a Red Sox loss. Either
f. Nothing personal, Rance. But
g Coffeenerdness: Not to get all touchy-feely on you, but there is something about walking into a Peet's and just breathing the air. That's what espresso smells like in Italy.
h. Remember the neat Raffle idea former Patriot
i. You go,