Achtung Loyalists! Your faithful narrator is being ripped by Sean of Rochester for being a copout and so wimpy that he's chicken to take a shot at the Personal Seat License scam. Coward, that's what he says I am, and what's worse, a coward with a weight problem.
OK, Sean, and since I'm in the midst of the blind trembles of rage, I'll provide your last name so people will know how to reach you. It's Sean Burke, who "can't believe this is happening and you're not talking about it."
I'm not asking you to lay out the full two bucks or whatever Sports Illustrated costs, but drop into the dentist's office and grab an Aug. 18 copy off the table and have yourself a free read. (Editor's Note: Or you can just click here). Although I'm not into quoting my own stuff, or poetry readings or street singing, this is an extreme case, so here's what I've said about the PSLs:
"The cynical among us see an underlying reason why the Jets created this monumental hoo-ha (the signing of Favre). Personal seat licenses. Fans buy season tickets, then suddenly have to shell out four or five figures for the right to continue buying them. The license fees cover the cost of all those extra luxury boxes and other amenities that will grace the Giants-Jets stadium. Fans of both franchises have been screaming about this heist. The Jets, trying to put a pleasant face on the issue, even sent out questionnaires to gauge fans' sentiments about the licenses, like polling death row prisoners on their preferred method of execution. Brett Favre is a near-hysterical distraction."
• Steve of Erie, Pa., asks this evil question: "Dr. Z, do coaches ever secretly wish for an injury to get them out of making a difficult personnel decision?" Ooh, that's a nasty one. I can't say that I've seen exactly that, but let's give it a real reach and play the devil's advocate, and I do mean this is devilish. I'm not accusing anybody of anything, I'm just reaching for a what-if. What if Brett Favre had been given grudging permission to practice with the Packers. The first day of drills he pulls a muscle. He's out. A quick decision is made to put him on injured reserve. He says, "Wait a minute, I'm not hurt that bad." Management says, "Well, you see..." OK, forget it. I've gotten carried away and obviously taken this thing too far. In answer to your question, ownership might have ordered an overpriced, unpopular superstar onto the coaching staff, and if he came up with a teeny weeny injury, well, no tears would have been shed. When I first started covering the sport, if a really tough personnel decision loomed, the club might stash some guy on injured reserve for a year.
• Two out of three now, for getting your poor narrator all riled up. The latest molester is called Volodya and he's from San Antonio, a conflict in terms if ever I heard one. I won't go through all the drivel he lays on me, word for word, but the essence is that he bids me to ditch my usual modus operandi and get on board the Fantasy Football Express. Not then, not now, not ever will I be a chronicler of this parlor game for the feeble minded. Next will come beanbag, then Lotto, then Name That Tune, all with a decided football motif, all designed to get the sub-90 IQ's all stirred up.
• Chuck of Athens, Ga., suggests sacrificing a victory by running a 60-minute punishment drill, an all-out maniac blitz, on the enemy's star QB, designed to put him out not for a play, not for a game, but, ssssh, for the season. Then they won't have to face him anymore. I once read a story called Rackety Rax by Joel Sayre, about how the mob gets itself a football team, and each game's action was something like what you described. Better yet, find out where he lives, and send over a couple of fellas with the heavy shoes. Then you won't have to sacrifice a game.
• Jacob from Baltymore wants to know which is better -- give the rookie QB a trial by fire, from which he'll emerge a better and tougher man, or break him in slowly, so he won't lose his marbles before he figures out what the game is all about. No sure way, Jake. If you're going to put the young guy under the gun, make sure there's a line in front of him. The Texans ruined young David Carr by failing in that regard. It also helps if you have a really serious mentor to teach the youngster what the game is all about. Bill Walsh and Joe Montana, Weeb Ewbank and John Unitas and then Joe Namath, Mike Holmgren and Brett Favre, Sid Gillman and John Hadl. There are ways to give extra protection, by scheme, to a rookie QB -- max protection, good variety of hot reads, etc. Giving him a good system in which to learn is critical.
• Damien of NYC can't understand how all the holding is allowed. Here's the way this thing has progressed. First they tilted the field by making sure the superior linemen played on defense. When they got out of control, the Competition Committee, co-chaired by a PR man, Tex Schramm, tried to even things by passing rules restrictive to the defense -- and allowing more holding on offense. Every year this was subject to more adjustment until what you've ended up with is a game in which the O-linemen can practice legalized muggings but at least the passers have time to get plenty of points on the board.
• My quickie obit on Gene Upshaw last week drew thanks from Casey of Alexandria, and I thank YOU sir, ditto from and to Tim of NYC...and finally, from Steve of Naperville, Ill., a suggestion to award Gene a second Hall of Fame bust, for his work as a union leader, as well as a player. That one hit the tilt button. One bust per man, Steve. We're into monogamy. We don't change 40-year old rules just because it might make us feel good. Remember when Reggie White died and there was some sentiment for scrapping the five-year waiting period and getting him into the Hall early? Nope, no can do. Part of the dignity of the honor depends on its tradition.
• From Mike of Chicago: "I'm happy as hell Favre got traded to the Jets so you have more crap to bitch about." Huh? I'm having a little trouble coping with this one. Time for a superior brain to handle this, if I can tear her away from the Democratic primary for a minute. Linda, honey, what's this guy want from me? "Oh, he's just cutting you down," she says. "Now will you let me get back to what I'm watching?" Why yes, of course, sorry, Linda. You happy now, Mike? You've got the Flaming Redhead mad at me, along with you.
• The sublime follows the ridiculous. Joe Joseph of Raeford, N.C., is my Emailer of the Week for this question: "Why was the NFL so much more enjoyable to watch when the playing fields were not so perfect and the league wasn't so corporate?" Gosh, I don't know for sure, Joe, but it sure was more human, wasn't it? I know you don't want to hear an old sportswriter crying about how we actually got to know the people we were covering, and how we actually felt welcome instead of hated. I mean when you're around a team such as the Patriots you feel as though you're in an enemy war zone. In the really old days, not many players were making much money, but there was a certain joy involved in what they were doing. Now you've got a bunch of millionaires who are always in a sour mood, whose every other utterance is, "Get out of my face." And corporate? How many ordinary fans can afford a season ticket for their family, or those dreadful Personal Seat Licenses? And yet...and yet...the game itself is still magnificent. They still haven't figured out a way to ruin it -- yet.
• If the season were extended, would resulting records bear an asterisk, asks Kyle of Gaithersburg, Md. No. Never have in the past. They'd just step in and elbow the old records aside, without so much as an "excuse me."
• Nat of Augusta, Ga., got annoyed, watching Joe Buck on TV, confusing an end around with a reverse. "Why don't the play-by-play guys ever get it right?" he asks. Because getting things like this right is a very low priority with them. Projecting their own personality is much more important. To answer your question: An end around can be a reverse if the flow has been one way, and then the path of the runner goes against the flow, reverses it, in other words. If there hasn't been a misdirected flow, then it's just a plain end around. Another dumb one, courtesy of the network announcers, is the call of a "double reverse" most of the time, when they're describing merely a simple reverse. A double reverse is a rare play that I've never been able to understand in the first place. You start a run right, hand off to someone reversing it and running left, then he does the same thing and gives it to a guy running in the original direction, which is right. The play never made sense to me. A reverse is helpful against a defense that pursues hard. But those defenders who are lazy, who merely stay at home, are in perfect position against a double. Doesn't make sense. But a lot of things don't. Personal seat licenses, for instance.
• From Dan of Yonkers, N.Y. Two of the three Patriots' marches to the Super Bowl title led to rule changes, and a runner-up run was marked by Spygate, ergo will people remember the Pats as a dynasty with an asterisk? No. Too much to remember.
• A second comment from Tim of NYC, who thanked me for my Upshaw piece. Hmmm, a complicated one, dealing with Felix Jones, Darren McFadden's running mate at Arkansas. OK, right...a dozen carries a game...a little shorter, stockier...mmm...heavier...imagine that? Tim, you're a good guy, so I'm not going to try to snow you, as I do so often with people I don't like. I haven't seen the guy play. I promise I'll say something wickedly intelligent when I do.
• Jimmie of Benton Harbor, Mich, asks, "Do you think the Lions finally have a decent enough team to possibly contend enough to win the NFC North?" What are you talking about? My school? Columbia? The Lions, the Light Blue? What are they doing in the NFL?
"There, you've done it, you've come up with the single weakest, lamest attempt at humor that you've ever done," says Red Flame, who has finally torn herself away from politics for a minute. I knew I could do it...get her attention. As for your question Jimmie...no, I don't think they've come far enough. Jon Kitna's more of a warrior than a QB.
• "How can hell be beach volleyball when they look so darn hot in their bathing suits?" asks Erik of White Salmon, Wash. Do you mean the men or the women, Erik?
• Carl of Winnipeg laces into the Raiders with some Canadian clown humor, bulb nose, white face paint, 30 Raiders piling out of a car, etc. You know what this tells me, Carl? It tells me, and correct me if I'm wrong, please, that you're an old Pride and Poise guy who has had his heart broken by this team. Don't try to deny it. I've got you nailed, haven't I?