PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla -- I'm playing the Stadium Course here at Sawgrass today, as part of the annual Tom Coughlin/Jay Fund tournament benefiting cancer-stricken kids and their families. Over/under on the number of balls I put in the drink at 17: 17.
Great, classic Coughlin scene last night at the dinner and auction at the Sawgrass TPC Clubhouse, as the Giants' head coach welcomed everyone. There were moving tales of brave kids and their families battling cancer. Coughlin had just told the story of a child looking up at his parents when the cancer diagnosis came in, saying, "Am I going to die?''
And from the back of the audience:
Someone's cell phone.
Without breaking verbal stride, Coughlin said into the mike: "All right. That's at least a $5,000 fine right there. Just write the check right now.''
Pretty good for Coughlin. Pretty good for anyone in the middle of something emotional.
So before I go out this morning, let me embarrass myself by ranking the NFL one through 32. That's not being overly modest -- just realistic. I stink at this. In fact, my recommendation if you really want to find out what's going to happen in the NFL this year is to take a bye on this column. Last year, I really distinguished myself. Picked the Bears to make the Super Bowl. Picked the Saints 24th in the league, which was a point of some contention all season, right up to the moment 30 minutes after the Saints won the Super Bowl and Sean Payton walked up to his podium to meet the press after the game, saw me, and said: "Not bad for number 24.''
But I press on -- stupidly or intrepidly, not sure which, keeping one statistic in mind. Twelve teams make the playoffs each year. In the past five years, check out the turnover from the previous year. How many different teams made the playoffs compared to the year before:
2005: 7.2006: 7.2007: 6.2008: 7.2009: 6.
So for five straight years there's been at least a 50-percent turnover in the playoff teams. Remember that as you throw crap at your computer when you see I don't have New England making the playoffs, but I do have Carolina in the big dance. There's not quite the same high number of playoff changes (I have five of 12 different from 2009), but I do have five of eight division winners changing.
1. Green Bay. It's not just the maturation of Aaron Rodgers. It's the carryover from a fluky end to 2009 (the weird playoff loss at Arizona) and the fact that only one team in football -- New Orleans -- had a better point differential than the Pack's plus-164 last year. I like Jermichael Finley to become a great player in his second starting season. I don't trust the pass-rush (where Clay Matthews is the only real thing), and I worry about two of the top three corners coming off ACL surgery, and aging. But the defensive front is formidable, and a very good match for the good run teams of the NFC North. I also like Weeks 2 through 5 on the schedule (Buffalo, at Chicago, Detroit, at Washington), which sets up for a strong start.
2. San Diego. I didn't like how much the Chargers traded to get Ryan Mathews (the 28th and 40th picks in a strong draft) when they probably could have gotten him for less, but that doesn't mean I don't like what Mathews is going to do. I think he'll be the offensive rookie of the year. He has everything a good back needs -- opportunity (he should get 320 carries if healthy), playing from ahead a lot, and a good offensive line. And did I mention Philip Rivers will throw for 4,500 yards and contend strongly for MVP?
As with Green Bay, I don't know where all the pass-rush will come from, but the Chargers are relying heavily on Larry English to break out of his freshman slump and give it to them -- and hope that, in a salary-drive year, Shawne Merriman can give the franchise one last productive year. It's more likely, I think, that Shaun Phillips has seven to 10 sacks and provides cover for English. I like the Chargers to go at least 5-1 in the division, which gives them an edge over the other three division winners, setting them up for home-field in the AFC playoffs.
3. Baltimore. I think the Ravens have hit a few home runs this offseason, and those moves could carry them to the AFC Championship Game. I like the remake of their receiver corps. Anquan Boldin won't make it through 16 games healthy, but he'll give Joe Flacco a good, physical target for 12. Donte' Stallworth will be reborn as an effective third or fourth wideout, with the speed at the position the Ravens haven't had. On defense, I wish I saw something better at cornerback than waiting for Lardarius Webb to come back from knee surgery sometime this summer so that the starting corners opening day aren't Chris Carr and Domonique Foxworth. Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison obviously has to be hoping for it to be third- and-long so often (with a great run-stuffing front) that he doesn't have to worry about the more than occasional coverage error downfield.
4. Indianapolis. I see no reason, either in the competitive level of the division or in the Colts' slippage, for Indy to regress. Manning will be Manning, and he has the young weapons to be good as long as his body will hold up now, even if one of his valuable pieces like Reggie Wayne breaks down. They've backstopped everywhere on the roster pretty effectively, and last year got two kid corners the kind of experience under fire that will serve them well going forward at a position Bill Polian uses interchangeably. Third-round pick Jerraud Powers played as effectively as any other rookie corner in football last year, and Indy's set with him and Kelvin Hayden, with Jacob Lacey in relief there. The Achilles heel, again, could be San Diego. The Chargers are a major matchup problem for Indianapolis, and even with some upheaval in San Diego, the AFC still could come down to Indy having to win at San Diego to make it to the Super Bowl.
5. New Orleans. The Saints face a daunting task: Only four times in the last 20 seasons has a team repeated as Super Bowl champ (San Francisco in 1990, Dallas in 1994, Denver in 1999 and New England in 2005). The Saints will surely score enough to win again. The question is whether defensive coordinator Gregg Williams can tread water in 2010, because I think that's all he's going to have to do. New Orleans doesn't have to be in the top 10 in defense -- the Bills allowed 15 fewer points last year, the 49ers 60 -- but Williams, again, will have to find a way to get pressure with middling front-seven talent and make sure the Saints don't have to score in the 30s every week to win.
I think Carolina will be better, and Atlanta might be, so this is not a mail-it-in division race for New Orleans. But when the Saints had to pick it up last year, they did, in a big way. Will complacency bite them? That's something you can never tell at this point of the offseason, but they're young at enough important positions to make another Super Bowl run.
6. Miami. I probably like the young quarterback more than most do; I think Chad Henne is set for a breakout year, and I think the receiver group (Brandon Marshall, Brian Hartline, Davone Bess) will be good enough to give Miami enough at that position for the first time in years. Even though the Dolphins didn't get a fourth receiver like the one they wanted (Demaryius Thomas) on draft day, they'll be good enough there to contend.
The most important rookie in the league to a playoff contender, other than Ryan Mathews of the Chargers, could well be Koa Misi, the second-rounder projected to rush the passer for Miami. But as Bill Parcells has said since he came out of the womb, "They don't sell insurance for that kind of thing.'' They don't, and Misi needs to have immediate impact to bolster the one area of the Dolphins that they need the most help -- pass-rush.
7. New York Jets. Tough team to forecast, through all the glitz. The one thing I like a lot about the Jets is their ability to make tough decisions, even when the decisions seem ruthless. GM Mike Tannenbaum said goodbye to two locker room pillars, running back Thomas Jones and guard Alan Faneca, when he knew there'd be player rumblings about it. Tannenbaum has put his trust in offensive line and running-game guru Bill Callahan to keep the best running game in football rolling. There's a lot about this team that's a tinderbox. Will Santonio Holmes and Braylon Edwards coexist peacefully? Can LaDainian Tomlinson be happy being a middle-relief pitcher? Will Antonio Cromartie tackle, even a little? Make no mistake about it: There's more pressure on Rex Ryan than on any other coach in football this year.
8. Carolina. Dangerous team. Very deceiving 8-8 record last year. While everyone tiptoed around it because everyone in the Carolinas loves Jake Delhomme, something awful happened to him in the last year and a half, and he just couldn't play quarterback for this team anymore. Check out what Matt Moore did in his last three starts: three wins, 66-percent accuracy, seven touchdowns, zero picks, and the Panthers outscored three foes 90-26. (Asterisk on the third, New Orleans, because the Saints played the JV that day.) This will be John Fox's last year with the Panthers -- the owner, Jerry Richardson, doesn't want to be in the business of laying off employees and paying a former coach $6 million a year in this economy -- and I think he'll say full speed ahead, damn the torpedoes, forget next year, I'm doing everything I can to win right now. And he'll win enough to make the Wild Card.
9. New York Giants. Pick a team out of the hat in this division. In the last six years, the NFC East champs, in order, have been Philadelphia, New York, Philadelphia, Dallas, New York and Dallas. The Giants have spent so much money and draft currency on the defensive line, and it simply has to be better or the natives rightfully will be able to wonder if Jerry Reese knows how to build a team, or did he just catch lightning in a bottle in his first year, the Super Bowl year. The offense will score enough, that I know. What it comes down to for the Giants is the defensive investment being smart enough, and I say it will.
10. Dallas. No other team has a better twin pass-rush threat than DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer, and few teams have the multiplicity of weapons on offense. If Dez Bryant catches on quickly -- that's a big if -- the Cowboys could be the first home team to win a Super Bowl ever. But something always happens in the NFC East, something weird. The Eagles could rebound with the energy of a new quarterback to make the playoffs, but I feel pretty good about a second team making the playoffs out of the division. For five straight years, the East has produced at least one Wild Card.
11. Seattle. I don't love the division, so it's logical to give Turnaround Team of the Year to Pete Carroll and the Seahawks. "I know one thing we will do,'' he said to me a month ago. "We will increase competition at every position on the roster.'' Charlie Whitehurst, Leon Washington, LenDale White (laugh if you must, but he'll be a factor because Carroll will know how to press his buttons) and a slew of other role players will see to that. I say Matt Hasselbeck has one more sound year in him, and he'll have weapons enough to edge the 49ers and Cards for the division.
12. Pittsburgh. Surprise: They survive a month without Ben Roethlisberger to eke out the final spot over New England and Houston, assuming Roethlisberger's ban is only four weeks. -- I hope Dennis Dixon gets a shot the first four weeks, because he's good enough to win with. But they'll need defensive playmaking from LaMarr Woodley and Troy Polamalu to win at least twice while they make do at quarterback. This is the true test of a good coach, making sure your team wins when it's not at its best. Mike Tomlin didn't do a great job at that last year. But he's young, he's still learning, and I think he'll respond better this summer in camp and in September.
ON THE PLAYOFF BUBBLE
13. Minnesota. Whether old What's His Name comes back or not will determine Minnesota's fate. Brett Favre or no Brett Favre, the Vikings have an offensive line in decline.
14. New England. I still don't know who will rush the passer, who the shutdown corner is, who the Mike Vrabel/Rodney Harrison defensive leader is, and if there's enough depth at wide receiver to survive until Wes Welker returns.
15. Philadelphia. I was in favor of going to Kevin Kolb, but that doesn't mean there's a 12-win season waiting to happen. There's likely to be growing pain, maybe with a Mike Vick replacement game or two.
16. Atlanta. The Falcons are healthier, and better. I just think there are two teams in the division better right now -- unless Matt Ryan has a Drew Brees-type year. I don't think he has one of those in him ... yet. Not many quarterbacks do.
17. Houston. Will the Texans be in it after eight weeks, with the Brian Cushing debacle and the schedule (Indy, at Washington, Dallas, at Oakland, Giants, Kansas City, at Indy, San Diego)? That offense had better rev it up.
18. Denver. Not very complicated. The Broncos have to be better than a 20.4-points-per-game team to give an OK defense a chance to hold up. To do that, one of the quarterbacks has to play well, which I think is possible under Josh McDaniels. Likely? That's another matter.
19. San Francisco. The Niners allowed just 281 points last year, 39 fewer than San Diego, and they return their solid up-the-gut unit led by Patrick Willis and impenetrable tackles. That's fine. But Alex Smith is the quarterback and Donovan McNabb isn't, and that will likely be the difference between winning a division and finishing second.
WAIT 'TIL NEXT YEAR
20. Washington. The natives won't be thrilled with 8-8, but there's lots of deadwood, and deadwood attitude, to flush out of the organization for Mike Shanahan and Bruce Allen. IfMcNabb is his usual self, the Redskins will be in 13 games in the fourth quarter.
21. Jacksonville. Lots to find out this year -- whether David Garrard is the longterm quarterback, whether Jack Del Rio will be around longterm, and whether the franchise can sell enough tickets to survive in north Florida. We'll know an awful lot after the Jags see San Diego, Philly and Indy in Weeks 2-4.
22. Arizona. Let's just say everything I hear about Matt Leinart is lukewarm. I don't get a confident feel that he'll be a good or long-range replacement for Kurt Warner, and without a strong passing game, the Cards can't score enough to help an OK defense with some holes. Now, if Joey Porter can turn back the clock six years ...
23. Cincinnati. I love Carson Palmer. I worry about Carson Palmer. And I bet if you ask every Bengals fan out there, they'd say the exact same thing.
24. Detroit. If the Lions were in the NFC West, they might win it this year. They're making significant progress -- assuming Ndamukong Suh is the genuine item and Kyle Vanden Bosch has something left.
25. Chicago. The Mike Martz-Jay Cutler marriage could work, or it could explode. The defense will be solid, assuming Julius Peppers comes to play, but he can't solve everything on a unit that allowed 375 points last year.
26. Kansas City. I think Matt Cassel was unfairly blamed last season for too much on an offense with few weapons, but he's good and will make strides this year. Having Dexter McCluster will help. Giving up 26.5 points a game again can't happen if the Chiefs want to be a threat of any kind, which is why Eric Berry has to be the genuine item from day one of training camp.
27. Tennessee. Tough to see a Jeff Fisher team down for a second straight year, particularly coming off such a strong finish last year. But this is a team in transition, unsure where the pass-rush will come from and whether Vince Young can be the quarterback of the future.
28. Oakland. Good for Tom Cable. He stays and gets a defensive quarterback (Rolando McClain) to pilot the other side of the ball. But while everyone is thrilled JaMarcus Russell is gone, and it's clearly addition by subtraction, those left in his wake -- Bruce Gradkowski, Jason Campbell -- aren't proven NFL winners. So here are the Raiders in five-win-ville again.
29. Cleveland. Still can't believe the Browns could end up paying Jake Delhomme $7 million to play quarterback this year. For a team I rank so low, there's a lot about Cleveland I like, though the passing game is not one of those things.
30. Tampa Bay. What I like about the Bucs: that the top five draft picks will get a chance to play right away, and a lot. What I don't like about the Bucs: that the top five draft picks will get a chance to play right away, and a lot.
31. Buffalo. Drafting C.J. Spiller is the one thing a terrible offense did this offseason to get better. Unfortunately, he can't throw the football.
32. St. Louis. The Rams are 6-42 in the past three years. They were 32nd in points scored last year, 31st in points allowed. The Lions scored 87 more points. But there's a quarterback now, and there's a solid defense captain now in James Laurinaitis. The cavalry's on the way, St. Louis. Give it another year or two, if you've got the stomach.
"How many Raiders coaches ended real great? It's all Al Davis. He's gonna run the whole thing. What's going to happen is whatever he feels like that day.''-- Lane Kiffin, the former Raiders coach, on his ill-fated tenure as coach in Oakland under owner Al Davis, in an interview with Andrea Kramer running Tuesday night on HBO's "Real Sports.''
Kiffin also defended his itinerant self with Kramer, who said to him: "When you came into Knoxville, the first thing that you preached was loyalty and togetherness. Now you're leaving a year later and there's no loyalty.'' Sounds familiar -- if you read this column. Said Kiffin: "I never once told any of those players I would be there forever. I never made the statement, 'I'm coming here, this is my dream job, I'm never leaving.' I never made those statements ... It's part of the business. You know, and as they get older they understand.''
We'll see about that.
"I want fans to feel they can trust me and believe in me. The young, immature Finley, I thought he was foolish. And the new Finley, I think is going to do the work, do what he's supposed to do and be that player the Packers know I can be and all the fans out there too.''-- Green Bay tight end Jermichael Finley, in a revealing profile by Greg Bedard in Sunday's Milwaukee Journal.
Good reporting by Bedard, who discovered that in the past year Finley skipped out of training camp to sleep in his own bed consistently. The tight end missed curfew the night before Green Bay's playoff game at Arizona, changed agents and then changed back, partied so hard in Texas this offseason that his marriage was endangered and now has thrown himself on the mercy of the coaching staff and front office of the Packers, determined to prove he'll be good and responsible. When Finley's right, there aren't three tight ends in football better than him.
"I am no longer concerned about the offensive line at all.''-- Dallas owner Jerry Jones, to reporters last week.
Well, he might be the only one who isn't.
The one thing about player movement that has befuddled me all offseason is when I hear fans and some in the media wonder, "Why isn't anyone going after Shawne Merriman? He's a restricted free-agent, only 25, and the Chargers would let him go.''
The answers: He may not be what you think he is, the Chargers put a compensation level of first- and third-round picks for him early in the offseason, he wants too much money, and ... well, that would just about do it.
But let's stick with the facts, and the numbers. It's been since 2007 that Merriman was good. Why would anyone pay a premier number for him? Divvying up the first five years of his career:
Merriman won the NFL's defensive rookie of the year award in 2005, then was suspended for four games for using performance-enhancing drugs in 2006, and then had another strong year in 2007. In 2008, he went against the wishes of the Chargers and eschewed knee surgery early in the offseason; he played one game, then had to have the same surgery the Chargers wanted him to have months earlier, a bad decision that led to him playing in only one game in 2008. Last year, he was a run-of-the-mill rusher, almost totally without impact.
So I ask: Why would any team pay significant compensation and give him the kind of contract he feels he deserves? Merriman turns 26 this month. If I were him (unless he knows he's washed up and just wants to get some guaranteed money before he goes on to his next career), I'd play for the one-year contract this year, stop trying to get a rich deal elsewhere that won't come, and prove again I'm a premier player.
Thought of this the other day: In the past three drafts, the Baltimore Ravens have drafted zero players from the University of Florida. The New England Patriots have drafted five Gators since 2006, the first offseason Urban Meyer would have been able to give good advice to NFL coaches about his Florida players after taking over the job in 2005.
I make the point because the two teams have good connections to the Florida football program, and they are using those connections in far different ways. Bill Belichick admires Meyer and they share strategic nuggets. This is the third year Greg Mattison has been on the Ravens' coaching staff after being Florida's defensive coordinator. It would stand to reason Mattison not only knows the Gators' draft prospects as well as or better than any other person in the NFL right now, but also would have a direct pipeline into the program to find out the scoop on all of them.
For instance, with the Ravens having such a major tight-end need this year, you'd think Florida's Aaron Hernandez slipping into the fourth round would have set off alarm bells in the Ravens' draft room. But no -- Baltimore instead took tight end Ed Dickson of Oregon over Hernandez, and then another TE, Dennis Pitta of BYU right after New England chose Hernandez. Simple scouting preference? Maybe. Or maybe it's more about the character questions and positive marijuana test (or tests, according to Albert Breer of the Boston Globe) that pushed Hernandez away from the Ravens.
New England has to hope its three Florida draftees -- defensive lineman Jermaine Cunningham, linebacker Brandon Spikes and Hernandez -- fare better than the first two from Florida in the Meyer era. Wideout Chad Jackson and lineman Jeremy Mincey, both taken in 2006, made zero impact in New England.
Our JetBlue flight from Boston to Jacksonville got us here just fine Sunday afternoon, but with nothing but hot air flowing through the cabin. Try that for three hours, when no one has the sense to close the window shades to cut down on the heat. About midway through the flight, the captain came on to apologize for the warm temps and said they were doing everything they could, but nothing ever changed, and it was a toasty 88 or so throughout the last couple of hours inside the boiling tube. When I got off the plane, Don Hasselbeck (the former NFL tight end, now a Reebok exec coming in for the tournament) followed me off, and I noticed his polo shirt was soaked through. Now that's a pleasant flying experience, sweating on your fellow stranger.
"Not to pile on, but the nickname JaCarcus seems especially relevant now that Russell's career with the Raiders is dead.''-- @BobGlauber, Newsday football writer Bob Glauber, on the spectacularly flamed-out 2007 first overall pick in the draft, JaMarcus Russell. Oh, that's not piling on.
1. I think the only things left to add on the Brian Cushing situation are these three points:
a. The Associated Press, the news agency that oversees the balloting, has to make some hard-and-fast rules for future all-pro teams and awards. This voting shows that too many of the 50 men and women who vote want rules and don't want to have to unilaterally decide whether to vote for suspended players or not. I was comfortable in drawing a line in the sand from this day forward, saying I'd never vote for another performance-enhancer. But obviously some of my peers were not. My feeling is we shouldn't be able to vote for any player or coach who has been suspended for performance-enhancing drugs or for masking agents for performance-enhancers.
b. I don't believe Cushing's tumor defense.
c. Voting for players suspended for other reasons (like Ben Roethlisberger) shouldn't be outlawed. I mean, it's difficult to see how a quarterback who misses 25 percent of the season could win an all-pro or MVP nod against passers who play. But Roethlisberger didn't tilt the field by taking a banned substance. What I oppose is a player who takes something to gain an unfair advantage over his peers.
2. I think the 80 Titans coaches, players and staff members deserve credit for going out in the storm-ravaged central Tennessee area to help friends, neighbors and strangers recover from a historic flood. Kerry Collins tore down waterlogged drywall in a home, and Jeff Fisher,Vince Young and others stunned neighbors in a lower-middle-class section of Nashville by showing up and getting to work. "I'll tell you one thing,'' cornerback Cortland Finnegan told me. "Taking out a ruined wooden floor with a crowbar is not easy work. What we saw out in the community was so devastating. Think about everything in your house floating out onto your lawn, ruined.''
3. I think if the Colts had it to do all over again, they'd have activated Sam Giguere, a reserve wideout from an obscure college in Quebec, to play in the spot Hank Baskett occupied on the kick-return team late last season. Strange statement to make here in the middle of May, looking back at the Super Bowl, but I think the Colts were starting to have real questions about Baskett's hands by late in the season, and they nearly made the move to Giguere. Baskett, of course, couldn't handle the onside kick to start the second half of the Super Bowl, the Saints recovered, and the rest is ignominious history.
4. I think Dan Snyder is correct to be disappointed in Albert Haynesworth for not showing up for the team's offseason program, minicamps or official Offseason Training Activities. It's absurd that a guy who's made more money than any other player in football over the past 14 months is boycotting practice under a new coach with a new scheme. I don't care if the Redskins are morphing from a 4-3 to a 1-6, with Haynesworth being the 1. You take all that money, you've got to show loyalty, whether you feel it or not. By the way, congrats to Snyder and the Redskins for their record of revitalizing playgrounds and ballfields in the in the Washington area. The team finished its 25th rehab over the weekend.
5. I think it's almost as absurd to think ill of Tim Tebow for passing on a couple of huge endorsements, which he has done since the draft. Tebow knows his job right now is to prepare to be a football player, and it isn't that taking a day or two out of his prep work or vacation will do significant damage to his career. But if teammates see his mug all over TV this summer and fall pushing two or three products as a big NFL star before he's ever arrived ... not a good idea. It's smart to lay low for now.
6. I think I'll be stunned if the 2014 Super Bowl is not played in New Jersey. And I think the players in that game will be thrilled to know they're staying in the Jersey burbs, not Manhattan, with the practices in New Jersey (one team at the Meadowlands, where the Giants work out, and the other in Florham Park, 35 minutes to the west, where the Jets train). Logistics will be a mess, unless everyone commutes by chopper.
7. I think, neophyte program director that I pretend to be, I have one piece of advice for ESPN as it sets its NFL schedule for the year: Find a spot for the long-running "NFL Matchup'' show. The NFL has decided it won't seek sponsors for the show this year, meaning it's now up to ESPN whether it wants to air the show or let it die. It always has been an NFL Films production, since its inception in 1984: so ESPN would own and operate the show if it decides to take it on. I know this: My football Sundays would be severely diminished without the show, whenever it's on -- and in the past few years, I've had to chase it to odd times as ESPN moved it all over the schedule. But I found it. It's a bastion of great information for the real football fan, and it just has to survive.
8. I think this is my reaction to Patrick Crayton skipping OTAs beginning today in Dallas: Dude, are you crazy? You actually think you have some leverage here, and you actually think teams out there want you? I can hear it now, a coach of a receiver-needy team saying to his GM today: "Hey, let's go get Dallas' fourth receiver, deal something for him, and give him a new contract! What an idea!''
9. I think it's sad to report the death of 37-year-old Norman Hand, the defensive tackle who, 10 years ago, was a Haloti Ngata type, an athletic pile-pusher for the Saints and led a resurgence of the New Orleans D. Hand died of undisclosed causes the other day, and those who played with him will tell you he never minded doing the dirty work.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. I'm not saying The Office has jumped the shark or anything, but I watched one of the DVRed new episodes (I think from the night of the draft), about Michael chasing some attractive bar owner, and I didn't chuckle, guffaw or laugh one time. I'm trying to figure out what's changed. I think it has something to do with Pam and Jim, but I'm not sure. I just know it's not very funny.
b. If you want the World Cup to return to the United States in 2018 or 2022, go to GoUSAbid.com and sign the online petition. The local organizers are in the homestretch of trying to convince FIFA we want the Cup. (See how I'm getting into the soccer thing now?)
c. Thanks for your film recommendations last week. Will act on them in the coming weeks, then in July, post-World Cup. The only movie I watched last week was Planes, Trains and Automobiles, which stopped me in my tracks when I had 100 other things to do Thursday. I once met the late John Candy, in of all places the locker room of the Toronto Argonauts (which he at the time he owned with Wayne Gretzky and Bruce McNall) in Winnipeg, after Rocket Ismail helped the Argos to a Grey Cup title. I approached Candy, wearing the largest fur coat in Canadian history, and told him Planes, Trains and Automobiles might have gotten a lukewarm reception from the critics, but I loved it. "Great movie,'' I said. To which he said with a disgusted sneer, "Damn right it was.''
d. Well, I'm 11th out of 12 teams in my Jersey-based rotisserie league (thank you, Mr. Broxton; you too, Mr. Ellsbury), so I shook things up Sunday. Dealt Dan Uggla, King Felix (Hernandez) and geezerish Trevor Hoffman for Dustin Pedroia, Ricky Romero and Kerry Wood. The King has been underwhelming, but I know that's a gamble. Have to hope Romero pitches his next 25 starts like he's pitched the first seven.
e. Never live that down, Bruins. Heck of a job, Flyers. The Flyers are amazing. They expend all that energy to win four in a row, including coming back from a three-goal deficit in the decisive seventh game against Boston -- then wipe out the Canadiens 6-0 in the first game of the next round.
f. Stay in Cleveland, LeBron.
g. Is it possible the biggest reason I had such disdain for the NBA the past 20 years is I lived in New Jersey? That Cleveland-Boston series was enough to make me interested in Boston-Orlando.
h. Coffeenerdness: Meaningless Non-Starbucks Stat of the Week: There are 1,151 places to buy brewed Dunkin Donuts coffee within a 50-mile radius of Boston.