By Dr Z
March 28, 2008

All who missed me, raise your hands.

Thank you, sir.

Gosh, and I had to miss all the action around here, like that Spitzer stuff ... I thought they were talking about one of Santa's reindeer. But, gosh, black socks at $4300 an hour. Wow! They never taught us that at HM.

At what? Says which?

Horace Mann. The high school from which both the ex-Gov and your faithful narrator graduated. That's right, we're both alum of the same school, although not at the same time, obviously. Both Hilltoppers. But please keep it under your sock, uh, your hat.

Good God, will the bloke ever get on with this Mailbag column or is this the Halfwits' Comedy Hour? Sorry folks. Just getting warmed up for upcoming skirmish.

Let's start with Jeff of San Francisco, who right away focuses on the key issue that will be addressed at next week's NFL meetings. Hair. As in, length of. Must not obscure uniform name or number was the proposal that will be voted on, or at least discussed. This was presented to us at the media conference call Wednesday.

Hey, wait just one minute. Length of hair is in the Bill of Rights. It's God given. Besides, in some cases it interferes with ethnic persuasion, such as hermaphroditic.

"It doesn't mean players have to cut their hair," said Atlanta's Rich McKay, co-chairman of the Competition Committee, which will brush up on this matter before the meetings begin. "They would have to keep it under their helmet." Or bob it, braid it, curl, perm or tease it.

And if all this tells you merely that it's been a deadly dull offseason, listen to what's coming:

Bri of Sanibel, Fla., voices some stiff criticism of the commercialism in pro football.

"Hey, Z," he writes. "How do you feel about the money-grabbing NFL shamelessly marketing products like Viagra and Cialis without regard for children in the audience. When watching a game, my four-year-old daughter asked me what an erection is. Should kids not watch football?

Advice from Doctor Z -- Keep an alert monitoring position on the remote control, and mute out all commercials, which probably is a good idea anyway. How times have changed. When I was a kid we had erector sets, you know, those metal things you'd build an Eiffel Tower with. And that's as far as we'll take the analogy.

Warren Sapp, of all people, comes flashing across our board, a delayed reaction to the piece I wrote a couple of weeks ago before escaping to Mendocino, Calif. Two out of the three selected praise my stance that he was an underachiever as well as a cheap shotter, and I thank you gentlemen, namely Carlos of Aguascalientes (hot water, right?), Mexico, and Juan of Woodbury, N.J. And as for Josh of St. Pete, an equally serious negative vote, I will give you full voice because you address an interesting topic.

"I never saw you out there handling 300-pounders (you didn't look at my first marriage). Get off of Warren's ass. Show some love to a real player who'll never be forgotten."

The interesting point is one that we hear every 20 minutes. Only an ex-player has the right to criticism same. It means that only a 300-pounder can take a rip at Warren, right? You can only wince when a singer hits an operatic wrong note if you can sing grand opera yourself, correct? You can't call an egg rotten unless you can lay one. Ball's in your court, Josh. Your serve.

This is getting too heavy, so I'm going to lighten it up with a loose, frivolous E-mailer of the Week Award to Adam Walburger of Johnson City, N.Y., who submitted the following:

"Was there ever a time that you were not brutally honest with your opinions? What happens when the Redhead spends all day cooking and it tastes bad?"

You know something, I'm going to let La Flamboyante answer this one herself.

"We'd been going together about six months. I brought him, as a gift, a lasagna I had cooked. Frozen ... a 20-pound block of it ... it was hell, shlepping it on the plane. I'd gotten the recipe from an Italian chef. It had a touch of cinnamon in it. It's a trick they do in Italy. We thawed the thing out, and as soon as he tasted it he started making fun of it.

"Cinnamon in the lasagna, ha ha ha, cinnamon in the lasagna. How long did I hear that? I'm still hearing it. Now I don't take a chance with anything. I make him things I'm sure he likes. Like meat loaf."

Tom of Fairless Hills, Pa., brings up a topic I've heard discussed for almost 60 years and I'm not kidding. Ruggers vs. football players, skill in one sport as it translates to skill in the other. This piqued my curiosity as a 17-year-old freshman at Stanford. Footballers played rugby in the offseason. Great fun, you could carry the ball, thrash around, take a cheap shot here and there. Many of our good football players, such as All-American end Bill McColl, also were serious ruggers.

Years later I was one of the founders of the Old Blue RFC at Columbia in New York. We played a lot of international matches, which included a month-long tour of the UK, Ireland and Wales. I never felt that ruggers would be able to play pro football, but I did feel that a good American college football team, with about a month's training, would do very well in the British sport. But I had never really seen rugby at the very top level.

Until Red and I went to New Zealand two times and watched some Super Twelve matches, which featured many internationals. I saw a lot of guys in the 235-250 range who were serious hitters -- and faaast! With a little training I think they could convert to effective linebackers or pass rushers. And many thanks, Tom, for the nice things you wrote.

Daniel of La Paz, Baja Calif., is confused by all the NFL position coaches who played a different one during their own careers. I think this can be accomplished by a coach who knows the game itself, is willing to learn about other skills and is a good natural teacher. With one exception: kicking and punting. Many punters and kickers' heads are messed up by coaches with big egos and little inside knowledge of the skills involved.

Ian of Hamilton, Scotland, wants to know where the real blame lies in the firing of Denver GM Ted Sundquist. Looks like they made a scapegoat out of him, after the Broncs missed the playoffs two years in a row. I haven't been wild about their player acquisitions for the last few seasons, but I don't know how much of that was Shanahan's doing. Late in the season Sundquist openly criticized John Lynch in a Denver paper, Then they pulled the plug on his TV appearances. Then he was gone.

Whoops, I overlooked further mention from an earlier e-mailer, Juan of Woodbury, N.J., who mentions that he's also a wine and opera lover. Well yeah, I like wine, too, and now I'm going to tell you something about opera you're not going to believe.

In the old, and I really mean old, Metropolitan Opera days in New York, kids could do something called Suping an opera. You went down there early, lined up for possible selection as a "Super," short for supernumerary, and if you were one of the lucky few who was picked, you got to be on stage in the crowd scenes. That's right, you were actually in the thing. Seems incredible, doesn't it, that they would take a chance on some loony kid acting crazy and messing up a performance, but I never remember it happening. Which opera do I remember best? The last one I successfully Suped, Lucia di Lamermoor with Patrice Munsel.

From Wayne of Burlington, Ontario -- "Dr. Z, settle a bet for me. Who was better, Lawrence Taylor or Bruce Smith?" Smith should be in the Hall of Fame. It's a joke that he isn't. But I'd call LT the greater player. Turned more games around by himself. You ask for top five D men of all time? You're asking for too much. Much careful thought would have to go into this answer, but definitely in there is JJ of the 49ers, Jimmy Johnson, their great left cornerback.

Howard of Toronto gives me the kind of right wing analysis I don't like. Would Brady Quinn be any closer to the No. 1 job in Cleveland if he hadn't held out in camp last year? Granted, the privilege has been abused at times, but the only legitimate weapon of the working man, in any field, is the right to withhold his services. You're talking to a veteran of four newspaper strikes here, but management is always coming down hard on anybody who stays out of work, be it a football player or pipefitter or, yes, a newspaperman. Anderson is better than Quinn right now, holdout or no holdout.

To end this piece, before we partHere's something dearer to my heartFood and wine, and lodging, tooSo let's get to it, ere we're through.

Scottsdale's Jeff enjoyed one wineSo much he said, "By God, you're mine.A German grape called PortugueserMuch class for sure, no common sneezer.

But from the Doc it got a "Fooey,"Poor call at best, a lot of hooey.This doc was merely showing off,Next time more care, before I scoff.

No care now, just scoffing. In 1991 Armand of Downingtown, Pa., stayed at a Russian Gothic Inn south of Mendocino called St. Orr's. He remembers it fondly. I remember it with clanging of gongs, shrieks of maniacal laughter and weird little things that jumped off the plate at you.

We visited the place around five years after you did, Armand. It was like the Mad Hatter's tea party. Everything was cuckoo, from the costumes they were wearing to the food they were serving. Which tasted odd. Strangest innovation of all was the redhots they put in the salad, those little cinnamon candies that gave your palate a zzzzap! with each bite. Actually the evening was so goofy it was funny. A few months later we told someone about the redhots.

"You're lucky," she said. "When we were there, we got popcorn in the salad."

Ding dong and let's hear it for Bedlam by the Sea.

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