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Vikings' Childress has emotional holiday; remembering my brother

A special holiday edition of MMQB! Print it out, take it to the beach, share it at the cookout, read it on the Blackberry on your way home.

A preamble, first:

Thanks to all for your Tweets, e-mails and notes of sympathy on the passing of my brother Bob, who died of a heart attack doing what he loved so much -- bike-riding on the backroads of northern Connecticut -- 15 days ago. Your words have been great comfort to me, and I won't soon forget the outpouring of condolences you've all sent my way. I'll have a few words on him later in this column.

I hadn't planned to write this weekend, but I wanted to talk about Bob a bit among some other things. Thanks, by the way, to Oakland cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha and Jacksonville running back Maurice Jones-Drew for their prescient columns while I was covering the World Cup, and to Texans tackle Eric Winston for doing such a great job filling in for me on short notice last Monday after Bob's death. I loved their columns.

Guest MMQBs:ASOMUGHA: Advice for rookies on life in NFLJONES-DREW: Separating great players from goodWINSTON: Five ways to change the NFL

I hope you like who will be pinch-writing the next two weeks while I'm on vacation: Matt Ryan, the Falcons quarterback, and then NFL Films czar Steve Sabol. I'll be back in this space on July 26, the week I begin my annual training-camp trip.

This holiday week's headlines:

Drew Brees and Sean Payton are at literary war. In a good way.

• Brees has a relatively strong opinion on who the opening-night Vikings quarterback will be.

Brad Childress had the most emotional holiday weekend of any NFL person.

• FIFA could learn something from the NFL -- quite a bit, actually.

• The Steelers have suffered a bad, bad loss. And I don't mean the suspension of Ben Roethlisberger.

Michael Vick's in trouble. Surprise!

• RIP Don Coryell. And I've got a message for my Hall of Fame-voting peers.

• If you're in southern California on Monday, July 19, I've got a great event for you to attend.

***

Happy Independence Day, Brad Childress.

I was thrilled to read about the Minnesota coach's surprise reunion with his Marine son, Lance Cpl. Andrew Childress, at an Afghan military base on Friday. This is the second year that NFL coaches have visited the troops in Afghanistan (Andy Reid, Childress, John Fox and Marvin Lewis also spent two days in Germany visiting the wounded), and the Marines did a beautiful thing for Childress when he was greeting a line of troops just off the plane in Afghanistan. They put Andrew Childress in the line, and dad simply discovered him while shaking hands and greeting the men and women in uniform. Their bearhug, according to one eyewitness, lasted 60 seconds, a rocking hug that left each man emotional.

The next day, Saturday, is when I spoke with Childress. It was at the end of long day of visiting troops and then attending a Fallen Hero ceremony aboard a C-130 aircraft. I saw one of these on my visit to Afghanistan two years ago. The entire base lines up at attention while the casket of a fallen soldier goes past; the casket is loaded aboard an aircraft and flown to the United States for funeral and burial. So the coaches went aboard the aircraft while the fallen man's friends said their final goodbyes. It was a touching and emotional night for Brad Childress, obviously, because there but for the grace of God could be his son, and it hit home.

Then the two Childresses went to Brad's quarters and talked well into the night, and then the Vikings coach got on the phone with me. The connection -- cell from Afghanistan to cell in Boston -- kept cutting off, but we were on long enough for the message to come through: Father was incredibly proud of son.

"Andrew's had this on his mind for a long, long time -- to serve his country,'' Brad Childress said. "It goes against every instinct a parent has, obviously, to see your child go into harm's way. It's tough. But I am so proud of him and the man he has become.''

For those of you not too familiar with Childress' interests, he's a huge military buff. I recommended a book to him last winter -- "Tears in the Darkness,'' a riveting tale about the Bataan Death March by two close friends, Michael and Elizabeth Norman -- and when Childress saw me at the league meetings, he raved about the book for five minutes. There can't be another coach in the league who knows as much about military history. So I asked him: What's it like to, basically, take a field trip into a war?

"It's terrifying,'' he said. "Let's call it what it is -- war. It's real, it's palpable, you feel it everywhere here. It has its own heartbeat. I'm not sure what you felt when you were over here, but it seems from talking to the leaders here that the intensity has really picked up.''

NFL coaches don't get many weeks to spend away from football, and I applaud these four for taking a week of their lives to raise the spirits of the troops. "One of the things that humbles us, all of us, is how excited they are to see us,'' Fox told me.

"It's not a sacrifice to come here,'' Lewis said. "It's a privilege. This might be the best battery-recharger for the season ever.''

Fox and Lewis both said -- and they weren't kidding -- that the troops told them they wanted NFL Network on their Armed Forces Network TV feed. See what you can do about that, Rich Eisen.

***

We should all have off-seasons like Drew Brees.

Brees and Payton have dueling books out this week: "Home Team,'' by Payton (Penguin Group), with Ellis Henican, and "Coming Back Stronger,'' by Brees (Tyndale), with Chris Fabry. America, it seems, can't get enough of the Saints. Now we'll find out just how much it can read -- and Brees and Payton have a little wager on who sells more books. Hey, they're competitors.

"We put a dinner, and a nice bottle of Caymus, on that,'' Brees told me Friday.

"It's funny. When I was first approached about doing a book, I thought, 'I want to sell a million books.' You know, you become a competitor about it. Then I starting thinking of it the way I thought of the draft. When you come out of college, you want to be drafted as high as possible. But after you get into it, you understand it's more important to go to the best team for you than how high you go. So now, I'm more concerned with how this book will affect people and maybe influencing people facing the same obstacles I had in my career.''

My buddy Don Banks had a very good profile of the Payton book on SI.com last week. The two books are different. Payton's discusses the four-year trek from Katrina to the Super Bowl, with great anecdotes particularly on the home stretch of the championship season. Brees' is more about overcoming the doubters (because of his size) and his devastating 2006 shoulder injury (which caused him to pick New Orleans over Miami) on the way to winning the Super Bowl.

The most enlightening thing about the Brees book, I thought, was the one final conversation he had with Nick Saban before he decided to pick the Saints over Saban's Dolphins in the spring of 2006. We've all heard that the Saints believed unconditionally in Brees' ability to come back from his shoulder surgery, while the Dolphins were skeptical about it. But we hadn't heard about Brees commandeering the situation from his agent, Tom Condon, which, at the end of the negotiations, apparently Brees did.

Brees had significant interest on the table from the Saints. But he wanted to find out if Saban had the same faith in him that Payton and Mickey Loomis had in New Orleans. So Brees picked up the phone and called Saban, who told him the Miami team doctors believed Brees had a 25 percent chance to come back and be the same quarterback, or better, that he'd been before the shoulder surgery.

According to the book, Brees said to Saban: "Coach, I know what your doctors believe about me. My question is, what do you believe?''

Wrote Brees: "Nick Saban paused. That was really all I needed to hear. His pause told me everything. 'Well, Drew,' he said, 'I would still love to have you, but I have to trust what our medical people are saying ...' He went on from there, like he was reading from a script. But I was starting to tune out. By then I had all the information I needed. I had made my decision.''

Brees told Saban thanks, and he'd be going to New Orleans, even though telling Saban that might kill his negotiating position with the Saints.

As Brees told me, "The impression I get from the Dolphins was I should feel lucky they were even looking at me. It just wasn't a welcoming feeling.''

One other interesting Brees note: He played golf with Jack Nicklaus, Dan Marino and Kenny G in March. It had been nine months since he picked up a club. And through 12 holes on a windswept day in Florida, no one had birdied a hole. On the 13th, a par-4, Brees smoked a drive, but he'd had trouble hitting balls into the wind all day. Nicklaus came up to him, dropped three balls and said, "Let me show you something about hitting an iron into the wind.'' Nicklaus choked up on the club, punched a line drive about 10 feet from the pin, then did it twice more.

"So there's a little bit of a gallery there, watching Jack Nicklaus give me these tips about hitting the ball,'' Brees told me, "and so I picked up my club and tried to do it exactly the way he showed me. I stood over the ball, held my club the way he held it, and I hit it exactly the way he hit it -- and then I birdied the hole. Talk about a great feeling. I'm standing there getting a golf lesson from the Golden Bear, I do exactly what he shows me how to do, and then I birdie the hole, with Jack watching. Incredible.''

Brees and son Baylen, together, threw out the first pitch on Fathers Day at Yankees Stadium. And he went on his seventh USO trip, training with the troops -- real training, not training for a publicity shot -- in Djibouti, Africa. And he found out he and wife Brittany are expecting their second child this fall. Nice off-season.

***

Brees on Favre.

I asked Brees if he thinks he'll be facing Brett Favre when the Saints and Vikings open the season Sept. 9 in New Orleans in their NFC Championship Game rematch.

"There's absolutely no doubt in my mind that Brett Favre will be quarterbacking the Vikings that night,'' Brees said. "No doubt.''

***

You would have liked my brother.

For many reasons, and not just because we had some infamous battles in our 16 years as roommates as kids growing up in Enfield, Conn., and Bob put me in my place and made me cry "uncle'' at the end of fights I always lost. (Yes, he made me say it, and I said it, most often bitterly.) He was 1500-on-the-SAT smart but never pretended to know anything more than anyone else. He was the ultimate family guy, a Scoutmaster to his son and all the boys in South Windsor, Conn, and an affable homework monitor and reader and cross-country fan to his daughter. He was a great, involved husband. He was a church deacon, and gave his first sermon about real happiness on the morning he died -- Fathers Day, fittingly.

What I admired most about him was his selflessness, which came through in the days after his death and will continue, I expect, for years to come. Of the 750 people who snaked around the building to pay respects at his wake in South Windsor (I've been to a lot of wakes, and the only one more crowded was Wellington Mara's), I must have heard this a hundred times, in various forms: "Bob was such a good person. He gave me so much, and never asked for anything in return.''

Bob was as likely to give me advice on a book ("You've got to read 'The Prisoner of Guantanamo!' '') as temperance ("You don't need that fifth beer, Peter!''), as prone to bird-watching (on our March spring-training tour in Sarasota, he looked for ospreys as much as home runs) as he was to old TV shows (we were "Leave it to Beaver'' addicts). I wasn't the only one who he tutored. One high-schooler who hadn't found a girlfriend in South Windsor asked him meekly on a recent scouting trip, "Can you give me some advice on how to pick up girls?''

And what he left in his wake continues to amaze me. Seven days after he died, two boys he mentored in the Eagle Scout program were at his home, unannounced, and mowed his lawn. The boys and girls of the town scouting program will be at his home Saturday for a day of yardwork and gardening (daughter Laila has already been tending to his beloved vegetables). Every day dinner shows up at their home; a meal schedule, unbeknownst to the family, has been prepared well into the future, so the family can go about the business of healing and planning for the future with one less worry on their plate.

Much of my great sadness has given way to a good feeling about the way Bob lived his life, and the example he set for this and the next generation. That example -- of how real communities should be and neighbors should live their lives -- would have Bob beaming, I'm sure.

***

What I learned on my (sort of) summer vacation.

The World Cup is such an addictive thing for a first-time attendee, like I was in South Africa for two weeks. I fell for the event, and not just being in stadiums to watch American dramatics, artful Brazilian passing and South African fans in full Zulu dress. Lasting memory for me, as I wrote in this space three weeks ago: watching four reed-thin, bare-chested Namibian tribesmen walking wide-eyed through a ritzy outdoor mall in Johannesburg -- to stand alongside a thousand fans from five continents watching Germany play Australia on a big screen in a neighborhood square. Only at the World Cup.

I'll sound like the Know-It-All American -- if not the Ugly one -- giving FIFA advice. But from my 26 years covering the NFL, and from traversing our country watching games of all sports, I not-so-humbly offer three suggestions to make the greatest sports month in the world better. I've seen three maddening things in South Africa that show FIFA to be fat, happy and figuring if it isn't broken, why fix it? Kansas City Chiefs owner Clark Hunt, attending his ninth World Cup, told me outside the USA-Slovenia match in Johannesburg: "FIFA historically has been criticized for not being particularly innovative or progressive.'' To put it mildly. I'll start with the thing that still makes me burn.

1. Make the game officials accountable. Imagine late in the fourth quarter of that intense Saints-Vikings playoff game Brett Favre threw a go-ahead touchdown pass, and referee Peter Morelli waved off the TD and handed the ball to the Saints at their 20, announcing nothing about the negated touchdown. Afterward, imagine Morelli spoke to neither team and walked out of the stadium; no explanation. And imagine the NFL saying nothing, and 120 million fans around the country being left to wonder: "What was the call, and why didn't the Vikings win?''

Whatever referee Koman Coulibaly saw when he disallowed the go-ahead United States goal with five minutes left in America's 2-2 tie with Slovenia, he told no one. A worldwide audience estimated at 800 million asked the same question in unison: What was the foul? The official gamesheet listed the violation on the negated-goal-scorer, Maurice Edu, but replays showed Edu was one of the few players in the box not committing some sort of foul. FIFA doesn't require an explanation from Coulibaly. "That's the sport we live with,'' U.S. defender Jay DeMerit said afterward, shrugging his shoulders resignedly. Why? You've got nearly a billion people around the world on their edge of their seats watching this game, and it's acceptable to abuse their trust and not explain the game-deciding call? "We're all accustomed to the fact that if it's an NFL playoff game, if there's a call in question, there will be a statement from the referees,'' U.S. coach Bob Bradley said. "Soccer's different.'' Not in a good way. FIFA should institute the NFL's pool-reporter concept for the World Cup, and force officials to answer to the masses who live for these games.

2. Improve the stadium experience. I'm not talking about the vuvuzelas, either. (Though with the cacophonous horn-blowing, you lose out on the traditional chants and songs from the crowd, because those are simply drowned out.) The least these stadia could do is show the elapsed time and score, which none of the World Cup venues do, except occasionally when the international TV feed shows up for a short spell on the small stadia scoreboards. FIFA's got a great racket going, because when I complained to a couple of English writers -- and my Twitter followers -- all I got heard back was: Use your wristwatch, you dope.

Some things, like the hand-operated scoreboard at Fenway Park, are cute traditions. Some things, like not knowing the time left in the game, are stupid annoyances. The scoreboards could be so much better too. At either end of Johannesburg's Soccer City, the new $700-million palace built as the jewel stadium of this World Cup, are mindful of what NFL stadiums had in 1980 -- small, hard to see, and very often turned off. Bizarre. Put the elapsed time and score up in every stadium. It's not hard.

3. The TV product, too often, is cookie-cutter brutal. The international feed of the games, which we see in South Africa, is the same for almost every game: helicopter shot of teams arriving, players getting off bus, players marching out to the field from the tunnel, Anthems and closeups of players, the game, bad studio halftime and postgame, quick on-field interviews with a player from each team. Lather, rinse, repeat. No in-depth stories on players or coaches, no players or coaches on the set, no locker-room interviews (blasphemy ... media in the locker room!), no accommodation to follow news stories of any sort that arise out of the games. You want to know the U.S. reaction to the waved-off goal? Wait till the papers the next day, or the internet that night. Because that's the way it's always been done. FIFA needs to let stories happen, and needs to let fans around the world see them.

They call soccer The Beautiful Game. Being in the middle of the World Cup, I understand the madness, and I hope to be in Brazil in four years. But the jewel could use some polishing.

"It was the way he treated players. I think that was something that was missed. We tend to jump right to the coaching part, the offensive part, and the passing game. But his number one thing was his handling of the team. He was a master of it. As an assistant, he treated you as an equal. Players were always the most important thing to him. I think he had more respect for his players and coaches than anyone I've ever known."--John Madden, to Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times, on Don Coryell, who died Thursday after a lengthy illness.

Great point by Madden in Farmer's excellent deadline obit, about how Coryell treated people. That's lost so much today, but so many of the good coaches are men other coaches want to work for and players want to play for.

"There's no third chances and we know that. If it isn't fulfilled the way we expect it to be, then it will be the end.''--Philadelphia owner Jeffrey Lurie, last August, when the Eagles signed the troubled Michael Vick to a non-guaranteed two-year contract.

So now what does Philly do? There's little doubt in my mind that, in the wake of the shooting of Vick's former co-defendant at his birthday party last week in Virginia, the Eagles will consider cutting ties with Vick. I doubt they will, in part because of NFL reality -- it exposes the Eagles to a very thin quarterback situation three weeks before training camp. The only other quarterback aside from starter Kevin Kolb on the roster is Mike Kafka, the rookie from Northwestern, and the Eagles will surely second-guess themselves now for not being more involved in the Marc Bulger derby before he signed with the Ravens.

One of the mitigating factors here will be the involvement of Andy Reid, obviously, and Reid has been in the Middle East on the USO's coaches tour of Germany and Afghanistan for the past few days. He is scheduled to return home today. Vick and Reid have spoken by phone already. My biggest question for Vick would be a simple one: Why, after you were warned to not have contact with Quanis Phillips, was he allowed entry to your birthday party, and how can you say you've changed your life totally when Quanis Phillips thinks he can saunter into your birthday bash in the first place?

With the death of Don Coryell, the 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame voters will be on the spot in the coming months to give one more long look at his candidacy. Coryell was one of the 15 modern-era finalists for Hall induction last February, but he didn't make the first cut when the voters (including me) voted to reduce the list from 15 to 10. I felt that day, and still feel, that Coryell's candidacy was scuttled by his coaching record with St. Louis and San Diego, which follows:

That's not the record of a Hall of Fame coach -- if all you're looking at is wins and losses and playoff résumé. Marty Schottenheimer (205 wins), Dan Reeves (201) and Chuck Knox (193) all have at least 79 more victories than Coryell, and they can't get a sniff. But there are mitigating football-architecture factors with Coryell. SI's Jim Trotter did a very good job of enumerating them during his presentation of Coryell's case.

When I spoke with Dan Fouts the week of the vote, the one thing that stood out in the stories he told about playing for Coryell is what a thinker he was. When the Raiders began playing bump-coverage with corners at the line of scrimmage one year, Coryell said fine -- we'll just make the tight end a weapon too. They can't bump everyone. He moved the tight end everywhere on the field. When the tight end got covered, he started advancing the concept of a hot receiver for the first time. He'd tell his quarterback, Fouts, that when his wides and tight ends were covered and the pressure bore in on him, look for the back veering away from his block at the lack second. "Don had an answer for whatever the defense threw at us,'' Fouts said. "And pretty soon, you started seeing other teams feature the tight end a lot more, and you'd see other teams use backs at hot receivers instead of the quarterback just throwing the ball away. Don hated giving in to the defense and we rarely did."

You'd think maybe Coryell's playbook was encyclopedic. It wasn't. " 'Simple' was a big word with Don,'' Fouts said. "He liked to simplify and clarify.'' If his first-half plays were killing the opposition, he'd say, "Flip it in the second half.'' In other words, run the same plays in the second half -- just run to the other side of the field, in opposite formations. How hard was that to learn? Not very.

Once, Coryell and Fouts were trying to figure out the smartest primary target for a pass play called 844 Ricky, with Charlie Joiner running a post, Kellen Winslow a shallow cross, John Jefferson a deep cross and Lionel James a short route in the flat out of the backfield. They debated the quality of the defenders likely to cover each man. Finally, Coryell said, "Screw all that. Make it simple. Just take the snap and throw it to JJ.''

Part of the job we have as selectors is to see through the numbers and look for the people who really made a difference in the game. It's easy to induct Bill Walsh and Paul Brown, men who innovated and won titles. Coryell is one of the men in the deep cracks. He won some, but not enough. And he innovated quite a lot. He's a candidate we should consider strongly, again, this year.

"I realize Don didn't win a Super Bowl,'' Fouts told me that night. "Super Bowls are important, obviously. But I ask you this: Is it more important in football history to win one Super Bowl, or to influence the way the game is played for decades to come as much as any man?''

I tweeted this in June while at the World Cup, but I found it a rather interesting do-as-I-say, not-as-I-do factoid: In a country where the president, Jacob Zuma, has 20 children, is a polygamist and has admitted having sex out of his marriages (one of which has resulted in a love child with the daughter of a good friend), there were free condoms distributed in the men's rooms at Soccer City, the 90,000-seat stadium in Johannesburg where the World Cup kicked off June 11.

I've traveled to the Far East, the Middle East and quite a bit in Europe, but this trip to Africa was my first. And one thing I give the folks in South Africa credit for is their consistent friendliness. Example: My wife and I walked into a liquor shop to get a bottle of wine and some beer for an SI dinner hosted by the inimitable Grant Wahl one night at the house he was renting for the month. I noticed a Peroni beer glass in the front window of the place.

"Great glass,'' I said to the proprietor. "Are they for sale?''

"No,'' the man said. "But can you wait for a moment?''

The man went to the back of the store and was gone for two minutes. When he came back, he had a 12-inch-square cardboard box with him, and handed it to me. I looked inside. Four Peroni glasses.

"Fantastic!'' I said. "I really appreciate it. How much are they?''

He waved his hands. "No, no, no,'' he said. "Free for you. You wanted them, and I want you to have them!''

Drivers, hoteliers, wait staff, total strangers at the venues ... just terrific people trying to show off their country to the world. There was someone in my press seat five rows from the top of the stadium for Brazil-Ivory Coast June 20, and an usher took my ticket, talked to several of his peers, pointed to the occupied seat, and took me to an empty seat a few rows closer and said, "Will this be satisfactory?''

"Calm down thomas jefferson. it's just hot dogs.''--@obit_rice, Chris Delgado of El Paso, on Sunday, after I'd gone on a rant about the idiotic and wasteful Nathan's hot-dog-eating contest that mars Independence Day in America every year -- and that ESPN glorifies by making TV stars of the doofuses whose great talent is shoving meat tubes and watery buns down their throats for 10 minutes. Oh, your mothers must be so proud, competitive eaters.

I had the audacity to mention that 4.8 million American households have to visit food pantries regularly to feed their families, and 11 million children regularly go to bed hungry. And we put this gluttony-celebrating crap on TV. ESPN should be ashamed.

1. I think I teased the Steelers up at the top of the column, and I should tell you why. When I re-did my NFL Top 100 current players in June for the paperback version of my MMQB book due out this fall, I put Pittsburgh tackle Willie Colon at number 48. He's now out of the top 100, because he suffered a torn Achilles and will be lost for the year. But I had him rise so far so fast in this list because when I watched the Steelers last season, he was a borderline road-grader, and a very good pass-blocker, and clearly the best offensive lineman for a franchise that values them so highly. I don't care who the Steelers replace Colon with. That's a big loss.

2. I think the Saints should be applauded for being such responsible local citizens. They've raised $500,000 so far raffling off one of the great raffle items I've ever heard of -- a genuine Super Bowl ring, the exact same ring every player and coach will get for winning the Super Bowl. "It allows the individuals, families and small businesses that are dealing with the fallout of the largest environmental catastrophe in the history of the United States to once again have the promise that people care about them and their futures,'' owner Tom Benson said. If you've been in New Orleans recently, you know how valuable the Saints are to the community, and the thing I appreciate is how they don't shirk the responsibility. In many ways, they're more important to greater New Orleans and to the entire Gulf Coast than any team is to its community, because of the battering the region has taken from natural and economic disasters in recent years. To buy raffle tickets ($2 per tickets, minimum purchase of five, deadline 11 a.m. EDT Sept. 9), visit here.

3. I think I'd love to see you at the annual NFL kickoff event Monday, July 19, in Los Angeles, NFL 101, hosted by the Los Angeles Sports and Entertainment Commission and by Andrea Kremer, my NBC pal. I've been attending for the past three years, and this year's cast at this great variety show of an event is the best: Pete Carroll autographing his new book and answering all your NFL questions, visiting a real NFL locker room and getting your picture taken in a real locker, hanging with Philip Rivers on the floor of the Coliseum, cocktails with NFL know-it-alls like me, Andrea, Herman Edwards, Brian Billick, Mike Pereira and Amy Trask, and on-field football tutoring by Jerricho Cotchery of the Jets, Shaun Phillips of the Chargers, ESPN's Marcellus Wiley, and past-and-present Raiders Rod Martin and Sam Williams. There's also a Business of the NFL roundtable with Rich Eisen of NFL Network and three prime agents -- Marvin Demoff, David Dunn and Jerome Stanley -- that I will not miss. I'm going to encourage a pre-event Tweetup if we can get it together, so please plan to come and meet me and all of us to get your 2010 NFL season jump-started on the hallowed Coliseum grounds. For ticket info, contact Aubrey Walton at awalton@lasec.us.

4. I think you should Tweet me -- @SI_PeterKing -- and let me know if you can come July 18. I'd love to see you.

5. I think I'd be remiss if I didn't wish a happy birthday to Al Davis. Born one year to the day before George Steinbrenner, Al turned 81 yesterday. I've had my frustrations with Davis' handling of the Raiders over the years (surprise!), but he's an American classic, and one of the reasons the NFL is such a fascinating league to cover and observe.

6. I think I'm sticking with Green Bay and San Diego in the Super Bowl. For now. Maybe I'll get more wisdom while on vacation. I doubt it.

7. I think you've got a future in this business, Eric Winston. The thing I liked most about Winston's MMQB was his suggestion that the NFL play the Super Bowl on Saturday night -- to maximize the event-ness of it all. Totally agree.

8. I think I'm shocked Brazil lost in the World Cup. I like Germany now. Now there's a curse.

9. I think I'll never forget -- ever -- the kindness hundreds of you have shown me in the past two weeks about my brother's death. That's no cliché. That's real gratitude. Thank you.

10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:

a. Joey Votto got robbed. Votto in, Ryan Howard out.

b. The Padres pitching staff got robbed.

c. Let me tell you about my terrific lunch with Paul Zimmerman and Dick Vermeil last week. Dr. Z looks better than he's looked in 20 years. Fit, great cholesterol count, superb blood pressure, eating well, battling his butt off to try to beat the effects of the three strokes he suffered in November 2008. His recovery has plateaued, but he is not deterred. He's still working hard at rehab, and he and Linda still hold out hope that he will have a breakthrough that will get him back to being the one-of-a-kind, premier football mind that we all miss so much. When we got up from the table, Vermeil looked at him and said, "You're an inspiration.'' I agree.

d. Fireworks on the Esplanade in Boston were cool last night ... but when they begin at 10:37 p.m., geezers like me tend to be nodding off during the crescendo.

e. I'm 45 pages from finishing the third in the trilogy of Stieg Larsson crime thrillers. I can't wait for those 45 minutes.

f. If the Red Sox get one more injury, Johnny Pesky's playing.

g. Happy July, everyone. Can't wait to hit the camp trail in three weeks. Well, I can wait, and the next three weeks should be warm and fun. See you later in the month.