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Tales from the lockout: Thoughts on Lewis, Ebersol, Newton and more

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- The last time I swung a golf club was a year ago, at the 2010 Tom Coughlin Jay Fund Celebrity Golf Classic, in which, I'm sure, I was the worst golfer on the famed Stadium Course at Sawgrass. That is trouble for the foursome that gets me as a golfer this morning at the 2011 Tom Coughlin Jay Fund Celebrity Golf Classic. Let's just say Sterling Sharpe, one of the real golfers today, won't be looking for me on the leaderboard.

"I want to thank you for all being here tonight,'' Coughlin told the crowd at the banquet and silent auction Sunday night, "and for allowing me to see my players.''

Pleasantries were exchanged, not playbooks. For one night, normalcy reigned. Coughlin and current players (Chris Snee, Mathias Kiwanuka, Brandon Jacobs and others) and former players (Mark Bavaro, Mark Brunell) said hello and little more, so as not to put the Giants in fraternization jail with the league.

But it looks like it's going to be a while before Coughlin can say to his men any more than, "That's a bad slice you got there, Sage Rosenfels.'' We're headed for a period of nuclear winter for the next four or five weeks. There's no pressure on either side to move. There hasn't been any pressure since the March 11 deadline, which, not so coincidentally, is the last time either side made any sort of tangible move in the talks. That's 73 days without any real progress.

I don't expect Judge David Doty's ruling on the network-TV damages to sway the case enough to force the two sides to negotiate. I don't expect anything to happen until the three-judge appeals panel rules whether the NFL can continue to lock out the players, and by all accounts, that decision won't come until late June, at the earliest.

Two points before we begin our spin around whatever this game is right now:

I don't understand Ray Lewis' logic. I respect Ray Lewis, and I also do not travel in his circles. I don't know who has told Lewis the crime rate by the general populace in America is going to go up if there's no pro football this fall, but someone has, and he's buying it. Lewis told Sal Paolantonio of ESPN: "If we don't have a season, watch how much evil, which we call crime, watch how much crime picks up,'' he said. When SalPal asked why, Lewis said: "There's nothing else to do.''

It's a nice headline, but I'm not buying it. I suppose it could happen, but unless we get burglars and thieves saying they did it because the NFL wasn't on TV on fall Sundays this year, I'm not buying what Lewis is selling.

Yes, the NFL is a cartel. According to the Free Online Dictionary, "cartel'' means "a combination of independent business organizations formed to regulate production, pricing, and marketing of goods by the members.'' The NFL is a cartel, the NHL is a cartel, the NBA is a cartel, and Major League Baseball's a cartel. Sports leagues are comprised of teams that collectively set a lot of parameters that wholly independent businesses do not. I don't think it's wrong for the players union to attack the NFL as a cartel in a filing to the appeals court designed to help their case, because that's what happens in such filings. But I do think those in the media who make a headline out of it aren't serving their readers well. It's just more noise.

On with the column.

***

The end of an era.

I'm prejudiced, obviously, because I had a good working relationship with Dick Ebersol, chairman of NBC Sports Group, who parted company with his new bosses at Comcast, stunningly, last Thursday. He was a very good boss. A unique boss. Not long after my wife and I moved to Boston, Ebersol called, said he'd be in Boston in a couple of days with his wife, and would we have breakfast? Sure. The breakfast turned into a breakfast marathon of conversation, and then a walk to a video store not far from Boston Common; Ebersol had to find a Western he'd been raving about, The Sons of Katie Elder, so he could give it to us. That's probably the most interesting day I've ever spent with a boss. But that was him. I bet we talked about 10 percent football that day; 10 percent might be a stretch.

You'd think the most powerful man in sports television would flex his muscles around the employees sometimes, and I'm sure he did. But Heavy-Handed Ebersol's not the one I ever saw. He was more like a peer than the average boss. I bet I've gotten 20 texts or calls over the past three or four years, commenting on something in this column -- usually one of the pithy things, which he loved.

Now, not everyone is going to have the same memories as I have, because bosses in billion-dollar businesses have to be, well, bosses sometimes. I think what made him good -- and what will make him good again -- is his curiosity. Everything interested him. So I thought I'd ask a few people who knew him well in the business in the past few years for an observation or two about what made Ebersol good.

Roger Goodell, NFL commissioner: "Dick had this attitude that not a lot of people in the TV business have. It was, 'If we float all boats, it's good for everyone.' That's why you would see on the Thursday night kickoff game to start the season NBC plugging the FOX and CBS games the following Sunday. A lot of people would say, 'I'm not helping the competition.' Dick thought, 'I can help make kickoff weekend bigger for everyone.' And not many people have the creative ability and business sense to do what Dick could do. I remember meeting with Dick over dinner at the Isle of Capri [a Manhattan restaurant Ebersol loves], back when we were hatching the idea for a Sunday night network game, with the possibility of flex scheduling late in the year. It didn't take him long to grasp the concept, and then he kept adding to it and making it better.''

Peyton Manning, Indianapolis quarterback: "The thing I always felt about Dick was he was all in. We'd have the Sunday night game, and Friday at our facility, there'd not only be Al Michaels and John Madden -- or Cris Collinsworth now -- and the crew, but Dick would be there. Every single production meeting. He never missed, and that never happens in TV from what I've seen. It's always just the announcers and the crew. And Dick being there, you could tell how important it was. It was like a playoff-game feel. It's like, My name's on this show, and it's going to be the best show it can be, every week. And he'd have questions, just like John and Al would have questions.

"The other thing about those production meetings: He'd have great gadgets for us every time. You know, flip video cameras, iPods, whatever. It got to the point where we [players] wondered,' What's Dick going to have for us this week?' I remember a few times around those meetings we'd have conversations about philanthropy. He was very interested in the charities I was involved with, in my Peyback Foundation -- I think for a lot of reasons, but one was obviously to honor the loss of his son. You could just tell he and his wife had a lot of other interests in the world other than sports on TV, and they wanted to leave their mark in a positive way.''

Fred Gaudelli, Sunday night game producer: "Think what Dick did to the viewing habits of America. For 30 years, the prime time night for the NFL was Monday night. I didn't think it would ever change. Lo and behold, in five years, it's flipped to Sunday night on NBC. We're the number one show on TV. Not just the number one sports show -- the number one show overall. I don't know which one is which, but I would say Roone Arledge, Don Ohlmeyer and Dick will go down in history as the Father, Son and Holy Ghost of sports TV.''

John Madden, former Sunday night game analyst: "The years with NBC were the best years I ever worked in the business. Dick made it that way. We'd be together from Thursday night at dinner, to Friday at production meetings and practice, to Saturday watching film and doing more meetings with the visiting team, to the game. We spent so much time together, all of us, that we got pretty doggone close. In all the years I did the NFL, we had more owners come to practice on Friday in whatever city we were doing the game at NBC than all the others combined -- because Dick was there. He really understood partners. He'd get a lot of business done with those owners on the field and in their offices. To see the chairman out at practice every week ... it was a great thing.

"I remember on one of our road trips, we're staying in the same hotel as the Boston Celtics. You look at the marquee at the hotel and it says, 'NBC, film session, 9 a.m.,' and 'Boston Celtics, film session, 10 a.m.' Doc Rivers is such a good friend of everyone. He told us, 'If you guys want to come over and watch with us, come on in.' So I'm all excited about that -- breaking down film with the Boston Celtics! Dick goes over a little bit early, and I go over there around 10, and there's one player in there -- that Big Baby guy. They got all this food, and there's only one player, and I'm expecting to hear Doc talk about doubling this guy, trapping that guy, you know, watch one of the great basketball coaches teach his players something important. And I look over, and there's all the Celtic coaches at a table, and Dick's there, telling them all stories about the Olympics. That was a big deal for them.''

"This isn't the last you'll hear of Dick Ebersol,'' Madden said.

I should hope not.

***

Cam gets a very apt mentor.

Remember Ken Dorsey? Big career at Miami (Fla.) a decade ago, with some limited success as a (mostly) NFL backup quarterback. Interesting that he just finished eight days working with the first pick in the draft, Carolina quarterback Cam Newton, and they'll be back at it again today in Bradenton, Fla.

There's a good reason Dorsey and Newton have become workout and classroom partners. In 2001 and 2002, Dorsey, at Miami, was coached by Hurricane offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski. In 2007 and 2008, Dorsey, with the Cleveland Browns, was coached by Browns offensive coordinator Chudzinski.

Newton was able to get a Carolina playbook, with Panthers offensive coordinator Chudzinski's encyclopedic offense, to take with him during the lockout. Dorsey spent last week instructing Newton in the finer points of the offense, in addition to telling him the expectations and coaching methods of Chudzinski.

"The best way to describe it,'' said the quarterback coach who readied Newton for his pre-draft workouts, George Whitfield, "is it's like an old pilot grooming a new pilot to take over his plane. The old pilot's teaching him about every one of the controls in the cockpit.''

It sounds smart and valuable. Compared to the other highly drafted quarterbacks, Newton ought to be as advanced as he can be when the lockout ends. How important will that be? We'll see, because there's going to be a tremendous amount of pressure on the Panthers to play Newton early.

***

You really need to read this story.

If you read nothing else today -- even if it means stopping right here and not finishing this column -- you need to read Lars Anderson's cover story in this week's Sports Illustrated. It is the story of the physical and human damage left by the tornadoes that struck Alabama on April 27, particularly in the area of the Alabama campus in Tuscaloosa.

It's written by SI's Anderson, who taught a sportswriting class in the spring term on the Alabama campus, commuting from his home in Birmingham once a week to mentor 14 students. One of them, Allyson Angle of St. Louis, helped him with the reporting of this story. It's one of the best stories I've read in the magazine in years, and it makes me proud to work with someone like Anderson.

I'm not the only one who was moved by it. Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive left Anderson a long voice mail Saturday, thanking him for "one of the most powerful things I've ever read.''

I'm writing about this today because it seems like we've too quickly moved on from this incredible disaster. Two days after the tornado, the Royal Wedding happened. Two days after that, bin Laden was captured and killed. And we just seemed to move to the next story without the full understanding of how horrendous the storms were that hit the deep south. So please read it.

Anderson and Angle got the minute-by-minute account of one of the most tragic parts of the story -- about a long-snapper from the Crimson Tide football team and his honor-student girlfriend --and told it well. So well that when the snapper, Carson Tinker, read the story, he texted Anderson and said: "I wouldn't change a single word.'' Anderson told me Saturday it's the best text he's ever received.

"I lived in New York City during 9/11, and this event brought up a lot of the same feelings,'' Anderson said. "There was so much emotional trauma with it. I felt so strongly about wanting to get the story absolutely right.''

One fact Anderson couldn't fit in the story, from Tinker: When he was born, in Decatur, Ala., the hospital had to be evacuated and he and his mother moved because of a severe tornado threat in the area.

And one NFL-related thing: Anderson had nothing but praise for SI cover subject Javier Arenas, the Chiefs cornerback and former Alabama star whose home was shredded during the tornado. "He's been in the thick of it every day, helping whoever needs to be helped,'' Anderson said of Arenas. "No PR people telling him what to do -- just a good man doing what needs to be done in the middle of a disaster.''

***

Tweeto Stellino.

Saw longtime and well-respected football writer Vito Stellino's Twitter take on the curbing of offseason programs due to the lockout this spring. I liked it well enough that I asked the former Steeler glory-days beat man, now with the Florida Times-Union covering the Jaguars, to expand his thoughts for MMQB. Here they are:

Is it going to make any difference that the lockout is wiping out the NFL's offseason program?

Eagles coach Andy Reid recently said the less practice time a team has (because of the lockout), "the worse the product. We don't do those minicamps, those OTAs, and all those sessions just for the heck of it. There is a reason why we have those things ... We try to get the utmost out of it.''

Reid may not realize -- he's only been coaching in the NFL since 1992 -- that the real reason for these things is Parkinson's Law. Work expands to fill the time available for its completion.

They have these things because the players make so much money that they don't work in the offseason and are available to practice.

As recently as the 1970s, there were no offseason workouts. Teams had one minicamp an offseason. Tony Dungy even worked in a Pittsburgh bank after he signed as an undrafted free agent in 1977. And Terry Bradshaw used to talk about not picking up a ball in the offseason. And maybe the players were more refreshed after having an offseason away from the game. All these offseason workouts may just wear down their bodies.

Did the product suffer because of the lack of offseason workouts? You can argue the players are bigger, faster and stronger today and it is a more sophisticated game. But was it any better for the fans?

Remember in the 1970s, two Super Bowls in four years pitted Bradshaw vs. Roger Staubach.

Yes, the offseason workouts -- combined with free agency and cable TV -- have kept the NFL in the news all year round and helped make the game more popular than ever. And that has meant football writers don't have to cover things like golf the way they used to. I know you can't live in the past, but I would debate the game isn't any better for the fans. Too bad Andy Reid was only a teenager in the 1970s. He would understand the NFL did just fine without OTAs and offseason programs.

This will certainly be a good year to check out Stellino's theory.

***

An early Fathers Day story, courtesy of Mark Schlereth.

I went to Fenway Park Wednesday night and sat through a highly entertaining game of fogball. Red Sox 1, Tigers 0, with the fog and mist rolling in from right field making it seem like March in Scotland. Unfortunately for ESPN football analyst and three-time Super Bowl champion Mark Schlereth, sitting in the stands behind home plate, his son, Daniel, gave up a walk and double in the bottom of the eighth, handing the Red Sox the only run of the game.

"Somewhat bittersweet,'' Schlereth said. "But Wednesday night was one of the great sports moments of my life.''

Huh?

"That night completed a great trifecta in our lives,'' Mark Schlereth said. "Daniel was a very good ballplayer from a young age, an excellent pitcher. I wasn't a big baseball fan growing up, but I got to be a big fan as Daniel grew up. And when he was 12 years old, I told him, 'I will never step foot in Wrigley Field, Yankee Stadium or Fenway Park until you play in them.' ''

One: As an Arizona Diamondback, Schlereth, a lefty reliever, suited up for a season-ending series at Wrigley in 2009, though he did not pitch. Two: Traded to the Tigers that offseason, he was up-and-down in the minors and majors in 2010, and got into a game at Yankee Stadium Aug. 17. Three: Fenway, last week. "He actually put this picture together for me with us on the field at Wrigley,'' Mark Schlereth said, "and he wrote how much he appreciated me pushing him over the years. That was really nice.

"He's 25 now, and so it took 13 years for the trifecta to be completed. But it's incredibly rewarding. After the game the other night, he was kind of pissed off about it, but we came back to the hotel, got some room service and just talked. What a neat moment. He's really done a great job.''

I made the point to Schlereth that I watched his son walk off the field after giving up the run, and wanted to see his reaction in the dugout. None. No glove-throwing. Totally professional. Reminded me of a good cornerback who gets beat for a touchdown in man coverage -- and has to forget it and come back and play the next snap.

"I could not do what he does,'' dad said of son. "The amount of failure you have to stomach in baseball ... it's just so hard. I couldn't have been a cornerback or quarterback, where you have to shrug off mistakes. They used to just eat me up.''

Just thought that was a good story about a father who played one sport at the highest level agonizing (but with pride) over a son competing at the highest level of another.

***

The NFLNet Top 100 vs. Me: 61-70.

Last week, I began to compare my 2011 list of the top 100 players in football to the players' list, as voted by 413 current players, who rated their top 20 players in the league. NFL Films and NFL Network compiled the results and scored the lists on a 20-19-18-17-etc. basis. I'll give my 10 each week compared to the NFL Network's 10 that was revealed on TV on Sunday nights this spring.

I rank players based on status today, current impact and future impact. I find it hard to believe the players' list does not include one of the best punters of all-time, Shane Lechler, who I've included here and who does not show up on the NFL list at all. But we came pretty close on Atlanta pass-rusher John Abraham -- 69th on the player list, 72nd on mine. And, by the way: Do not make a list of the top 100 players in football without having pile-pushing, game-changing defensive tackle Aubrayo Franklin of the 49ers on it. It won't be valid.

.

"It would have forever severed the players of the NFL from a fair share of the revenue.''-- NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith, to Brian McGovern and Maurice Jones-Drew on their Sirius XM NFL Radio show, on the last offer owners made to players, March 11.

Well, I guess. But it's hard to imagine the NFL offer -- $161 million per year per team in salary and benefits in year four of the proposal with no backside if the NFL's revenue estimates were higher than projected (when the players wanted $161 million per year per team PLUS backside revenue) -- was so monumentally, impossibly difficult to bridge. It's why I maintain that the difference between the two sides is not so great that some real negotiations couldn't bridge the gap.

"As far as returning to the NFL ... How do I put this? I'm not what you call an entertainer, man. I don't want to sound mean or attack the NFL, but I'm not an entertainer. I see football as being the same as being a singer, being a dancer or something along those lines. When we fill out our W2s, we're in that category of entertainers, man. That's not me. I want to be doing something to better myself, to better someone else. Glen Coffee's not an entertainer ... I want to love what I do. I don't just want to get paid.''-- Former 49ers running back Glen Coffee, who surprised the 49ers by retiring last August when he was sure to make the team as the lead backup to starting running back Frank Gore, in a superb and revealing interview by 49er beat man Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee.

"It felt like a normal game. Is that bad? It felt like a normal game.''-- Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers, to ESPNMilwaukee, on his feeling on the sideline as the Super Bowl was nearing kickoff last February.

That is certainly not bad, Mister Rodgers. That's when you know you've got this game licked, when playing in the biggest game of your life feels totally normal. And then going out and playing like it.

"Yes. Fluidly bad.''-- Arizona wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, asked by Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times if the NFC West, with three uncertain quarterback situations out of four teams, is the most fluid division in the NFL.

In the Wall Street Journal Friday, author George Will said he wanted to see baseball expand the playoffs, so more teams would be playing for something in the last month of the regular season. "It's important for baseball to take back September,'' Will told Matthew Futterman.

Well, I'm a fairly big baseball fan, and even I would say that ship sailed ... about 25 years ago. Take back September? You must be kidding. Much to my chagrin, baseball on TV has been dying for years, except in some very strong local pockets. Let's look at September 2010, to the two national windows for baseball (FOX on Saturday afternoon, ESPN on Sunday night) for proof. The rating I give you here is the overall rating (percentage of U.S. households watching the event) and share (percentage of households with TVs on watching the event).

On average for the NFL games, pro football got 22.3 percent of the TVs in America that were in use to watch the NFL on Sunday nights last September. Baseball got 2 percent. Baseball might move the needle by adding another wild-card team to the mix and keeping more teams interested late in the year. And football might idiotically shoot itself in the foot if it continues lockoutball, but this is no gap to be made up by changing scheduling or playoff format. It's a chasm.

The fine folks of Salisbury, N.C., acquitted themselves like champions in their annual hosting of sportswriters and sportscasters from around the country. As new Hall of Fame inductee Bob Ryan said when a peer asked him if he should attend the three-day gala during which kids ask for autographs from radio play-by-play men from the Dakotas: "Only if you want to be treated like a king for three days.''

One of the charming features of the stay was a trolley tour of Salisbury, a small city about an hour north of Charlotte. On the tour, we passed a cemetery and were informed of this oddity: Many years ago, a religious man in Salisbury suffered a horrible accident and lost his foot in a train accident. He survived, but the foot could not be reattached. Being a Christian man, he wanted to have it buried, and it was, with a tombstone on the plot, in the southeast corner of the cemetery. When the man died, he too was buried in the same cemetery ... but not in the same plot. He was buried north of the foot, with another tombstone commemorating a good man gone. So this man was buried twice, in the same cemetery, in different plots. Now that's something you don't see every day.

Hertz Should Be Ashamed of Itself Dept.:

I rented a full-sized Hertz vehicle for my two-day trip to North Carolina and the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Awards. Two days, $44 a day. Drove the car 169 miles. The tank read 5/8ths when I pulled into the Charlotte Douglas International Airport's Hertz lot at 5:35 a.m. Tuesday.

"Did you fill the tank with gas?'' the courteous check-in gal asked.

"No, sorry,'' I said.

She noted the mileage and handed me the receipt.

The receipt for charges of $249.31.

The gas for driving less than a half-tank cost more ($89.40) than renting the car for two days, minus taxes ($88). Hertz charged $8.99 per gallon for refueling. That seems fair (he said sarcastically).

Then there was the $17.98 for NeverLost GPS (which did its job; I was never lost on the trip) and the usual collection of cloudy charges -- "concession fee recovery,'' $11.92 ... "customer facility charge,'' $7 ... "vehicle licensing cost recovery,'' 62 cents -- that makes the renting of cars in America so joyous.

Three-eighths of a tank of gas for $89.40? If that's not price-gouging, I don't know what is.

Hip To Be Square Dept.:

I will never get used to a person at 9:58 a.m. -- as happened Sunday in the row in front of me on a Boston-to-Washington United flight -- saying to the flight attendant with the beverage cart coming down the aisle: "Two Stolis on the rocks. No water.'' And then, by 10:13, both of the little vodka bottles, and the plastic cup, empty but for the ice. Vodka shots are something I can't do at 11 at night, never mind when Cheerios should be on the tray table.

"Remember: if you're walking around disoriented, half-naked bodies, screaming about the End of Days, it's just The Preakness.''--@jasongayWSJ, sports columnist Jason Gay of the Wall Street Journal, on Saturday, with Rapturemania in full bloom.

"Carson Palmer intriguing. 2005-2007 3rd best QB in NFL behind ManningBrady. Arm strength, pocket roughness, accuracy for a power thrower ..."More Palmer. Based on film study arm strength has decreased since injury. Not the same passer he was. Can't drive ball and make stick throws.''--@gregcosell, NFL Films NFL Matchup show executive producer and student of the game, in a double tweet on the (apparently) retiring Bengals quarterback -- if the Bengals do not trade him. Or something like that.

"RIP, Jim Corbett Sr., best dad, my best friend and reason I love and write sports for a living -- a 1947 Yonkers (N.Y.) boys club founder and coach.''--@jimcorbettUSAT, on the death last week of his dad, a 23-year Little League coach, founder of a parish basketball program in his New York City suburb, and the kind of father we dads should all aspire to be.

1. I think if you want to play football with Tom Brady, this your chance. As part of his annual weekend helping the Best Buddies charity, which pairs intellectually and developmentally disabled people with volunteers from the larger society, Brady will quarterback one of the teams in a flag-football game in Boston June 3. He'll then take part in the annual Best Buddies cycling event between Boston and Cap Cod.

Last year, Bill Belichick rode; this year, some of his Patriot mates will come along, as will Andrea Kremer, who has made this an annual fundraising cause. And a good cause it is, founded to encourage friendship and create employment opportunities for mentally handicapped people. The group helps to mainstream those with intellectual and developmental disabilities while helping them develop friendships that are often rare in their lives. Brady got involved from friendships with agent Brad Blank, who lived in his Boston neighborhood, and the group's founder, Anthony Shriver.

2. I think I saw two things I really liked this week:

a. I love the Raiders asking their employees (including coaches) to sell tickets in an attempt to make sure their salaries aren't cut. Jarrett Bell wrote about this in USA Today last week, and I wanted to shake my head and say, "Typical Raiders.'' But I couldn't. It's actually pretty smart. And don't you think coaches would be great ticket sellers out in the community, particularly when they can regale some Chamber of Commerce audience with stories from the gridiron. Nice job, Amy Trask.

b. I like the Giants' contest (at giants.com) to determine their 10 best fan stories, with the 10 winning fans getting their pictures on game tickets this year. If I were a fan, I'd love to win a December game. I'd be afraid the others might be endangered.

3. I think it was good to spend 45 minutes in a car from the Jacksonville airport to the Ponte Vedra Beach with the Taucher family (Green Bay tackle Mark, wife Sarah, baby son Max) Sunday. Tauscher's recovering from rotator cuff surgery and feels good enough to swing a club now. Good also to spend some time with Pack defensive coordinator Dom Capers at the event Sunday night. Coaching Factoid of the Week: Capers owns two homes in Florida (where he doesn't live) while working and living in Green Bay (where he does live).

4. I think this is This Week's Sign The Lockout's Gone On Too Long: The Baltimore Sun wrote a story Sunday on Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff competing in the Preakness Cornhole Tournament in the infield before the race Saturday. Don't know what "cornhole'' is? Your loss.

5. I think some clarity is in order for Hall of Fame Weekend in August. It's happening. Regardless of the state of the labor situation, the 2011 class will be inducted on Aug. 6 at 7 p.m. in Canton. Can't wait to see Ed and Steve Sabol and their extended family and friends that weekend. Promises to be an emotional and memorable weekend.

6. I think it's looking more and more like Kevin Kolb to the Cardinals whenever football returns, as SI's Jim Trotter set the table for last week in the magazine. Certainly not a done deal, but no one will be surprised if it happens.

7. I think it's still a mistake, especially if no No. 1 pick comes in return for Kolb. The Eagles may well get a Matt Schaub-like pair of second-round picks for Kolb, if Andy Reid chooses to pull the trigger.

8. I think I've been late in recognizing Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in this space. He's the 2011 winner of the McCann Award, which is given annually by the Pro Football Hall of Fame to a writer for long and meritorious service covering pro football.

Lauding McGinn is long overdue. He's one of the first beat writers to analyze game tape to give readers a deeper understanding of what they just saw. He has contacts throughout the league, on virtually every coaching and scouting staff, which is rare for a local beat guy. But McGinn does it to give his readers an unvarnished look at how the Packers are playing.

He also has as good a crystal ball as any football writer I know. The morning of the draft, in his Packer draft-preview, he wrote of Green Bay GM Ted Thompson's leanings, "Thompson has high regard for Mississippi State's Derek Sherrod.'' Sherrod was the first player he listed in his story. Of course, Sherrod went to Green Bay with the 32nd overall pick. It's the type of smart reporting Packer fans have gotten used to over the last quarter-century with McGinn.

9. I think I teased you with the best Q&A of the week with one of the Quotes of the Week, above, but here's the whole interview of an interesting retired 49er, Glen Coffee, by a smart beat man, Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee.

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

a. To those who hate interleague play in baseball: I respectfully disagree. The biggest complaint is from those who have no desire to see Houston-Toronto, Detroit-Pittsburgh, etc. Fine. You're in Toronto. Instead of getting three with the Astros, you'd get -- let's say -- three more with Kansas City, Oakland or Seattle. Whoopee! There are some ho-hum matchups, but there's also the Cubs at Fenway for the first time in 93 years, the Yanks at Wrigley Field, the good fans of Cincinnati getting a chance to see Jose Bautista in their little bandbox, Albert Pujols taking his shot at an equally homer-friendly Camden Yards, Roy Halladay's return to Toronto, the Red Sox throwing the fans of the woebegone Pirates a three-game weekend series. Interleague play's a no-brainer. It's different. It's fun.

b. In my other life, I'm a ninth-place rotisserie baseball owner. (The Montclair Pedroias lineup: Berkman, Pedroia, E. Aybar, McGehee, Avila, Quentin, Ellsbury, Zobrist, Smoak (DH); Lester, Cahill, Kuroda, Hellickson, Marmol, Madson, League. You see my problem.)

Anyway, if I can't win, at least I can chuckle a bit. I've gotten to enjoy the daily musings of the terminally clever Grey Albright on razzball.com. Such as this comment on Rockies leadoff man Dexter Fowler: "Caught stealing twice. Now has 5 caught stealings in 7 attempts. Good thing he didn't choose a life of crime.'' And on the brittle Grady Sizemore: "To the DL. I wonder if he has one of those punch cards so he gets a free sandwich with this DL trip.''

c. Really fun to be in Fenway Park Friday night for the Cubs' first trip to the park since the 1918 World Series, when Babe Ruth roamed the land for the BoSox. Sat behind four Cub fans out in right field, and in front of two others who'd never been to Fenway and were Cub season-ticket holders. All very interested in Fenway, all seeming down-in-the-mouth about their Cubbies ... and all quite polite. Pleasure to have you in the house, Chicago.

d. Very nice job by Joe Posnanski on his Dick Ebersol encounter.

e. I'm an innocent bystander in the competition between the Globe and Herald in Boston, subscribing to both. But this might give you some idea of how the little guy, the Herald, feels about the more established paper, from a column this week by the Herald's Howie Carr: "Herald readers work for a living. Globe subscribers are like the Kennedys -- they've had everything handed to them. The Herald is for people who didn't move here from New York to look down their noses at everyone who has calluses on their hands, who aren't consumed by guilt about the trust funds that support them in their leisure.'' Yowza.

f. Am I the only person in the United States who never watched Oprah?

g. You can add Desperate Housewives, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings and Dancing With the Stars to that.

h. How much longer for The Office, Ed Helms? Seriously hope you're not getting too big for the show. Nice tattoo, by the way.

i. And come on. That Tysonesque tattoo can't be copyrighted.

j. The South Windsor (Conn.) High spring concert the other night, with the lovely Laila King playing violin, was one of the social highlights of my spring. I can't believe how many kids are so good on so many string instruments. Joyous music.

k. Coffeenerdness: What a tremendously pleasant airport you have, Jacksonville. Two Starbucks about 10 gates apart too. Nice job.

l. Beernerdness: I've got a good bar for the craft-beer-nerd crowd. (And don't you dare call Blue Moon a craft beer on Twitter, which I made the unforgivable mistake of doing the other day. The craft-beer-nerd crowd jumped through the Twitterverse, into my laptop and right down my throat, indignant that Blue Moon's no craft beer; it's brewed by that evil empire out at Coors. Sheesh.) The bar is called Bukowski's, on a little sidestreet off Dalton Street, wedged into a corner of Back Bay in Boston, about an eight-minute walk from Fenway Park. Homey, a grade above Hole-in-the-Wall, and one of the best selections of beer on tap in Boston.

m. Dave Goren, thanks for making so many people feel so at home in North Carolina last week at the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association event. Great time was had by all, particularly by the beaming extended family of Mike Tirico. Nice to see.

n. Thoughts, prayers to the good people of Joplin, Mo., as they cope with the tornado damage. Donations, too, if you've got it in you.

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