What is it about the Cowboys that seems to capture so many people's fancy? Capture so many fancy people? Fancy capturing so many people! I mean, is it the arrival of rodeo season or what? Personally I find it kind of a rich boys' team with an apathetic fan base.
I mean, I've gone through the stands there, as a sociological project, to find out how many working people attend their games. Doing the research wasn't easy. I'd stop and ask a person, "Do you work?" wouldn't get a reply and would move on to someone else. Actually, I got one response. I asked this gentleman, "Do you work?" and without looking at me he said, "I'll call Security." This puzzled me because I am not familiar with the gentleman he named. At any rate, sociology is not a meaningful study in Texas Stadium.
But here it is! You bet. Just listen to these folks all stirred up about the Cowboys. Bob from Las Vegas: "Let's get the Cowboys rated for what they are, 20th or lower, not 9th. Be fair." We call him, " Bob One Week Behind."
Benton from Fort Worth: "Hate to break it to you but the Cowboys need to be at No. 10. You know they are a much better team that lost far too many players to actually look at this as the same team." Wow, what a sentence! Came equipped with two traveling bags and a steamer trunk. My view: Cowboys deserve not ten be until maybe in season other part straightens out things and then see we will.
Here's one from James Stewart, "No city given." Hollywood maybe? Or maybe Pottersville. Wasn't that the bad name they gave his town in It's a Wonderful Life? No City James tells a poignant tale about how, as a 16-year old in Killeen, Texas, he watched the Cards slaughter his Cowboys, 38-0. And then and there declared his allegiance to this woebegone team. And now thinks I've ranked them too high. He feels that 24th would be the correct spot.
Tell ya what, James. I'm gonna make you my E-mailer of the Week, just for the kibbitz of it, or maybe I have to since I used your last name already. Or maybe it's because that game brought back so many happy memories...of Dandy Don Meredith, one of ABC's Cosell Gang doing the game, and how, as a former Cowboy, he was practically in tears. Oh, I was loving it, as America's Team got it right where Nellie wears the beads. And every time Dandy came up with one of his mournful, "Folks, I just don't know what to say," I let go with this tremendous Bronx cheer, PHHHTTT! Until my ex-wife finally came in to see what all the noise was about. "Are you crazy?" she said, a question I still have trouble dealing with.
• Gosh, I'm having such a good time doing this Mailbag that I simply must turn to a mournful dirge of a letter submitted by Bret of London, who has "always had the sense that you do not enjoy doing the Power Rankings." And then he set up this gloomy scene involving a whip-cracking editor looking over my shoulder and "threatening to have you replaced with a young hot-shot J-School grad fresh out of Columbia."
Bret, I'm going to tell you something about yourself that will amaze my readers. You, yourself, are a graduate of that fine institution, are you not? Nobody outside those hollowed walls of ivory calls the Journalism School the J-School unless he went there. I did. So did everybody else. Admit it, I have flushed you out, right?
Now to answer your (tee-hee) question. I enjoy doing the Mailbag, as long as they don't cut off my quota of risqué woids I can use. Editors don't come around here because the house is booby trapped. It's been at least three weeks since anyone threatened to fire me. Now that the Redhead is in Venezia, the only audience available, to take in the sight of my labors, is Little Jake, the feral tabby. Speaking of Jake, about an hour ago she brought in the remains of a mouse, or being in the country, perhaps it was a mole or a vole -- or a roll. You couldn't tell. That's how much she had savaged it. She is, after all, feral, and you don't want to mess with their hunting instincts.
La Flamboyante Rousse is not present, but you should see what SHE brings into the house. Just kidding, honey, wherever you are. I didn't mean it. Just working the crowd for laughs. When present, she is perched nearby while I write, that's the Redhead, not Jake, occasionally dropping over to check the nonsense and offer salient points. So anyway, Bret old sport, does that answer your, ahem, question?
• "You are one crafty old dog, Z," is the lead sentence from Jonathan of Maysville, Ky., who has me terrified because I feel an IRS audit coming on. No? Whew, that was close. I mean what the hell else do they do in Maysville except audit people? Well, to summarize the long yarn he has spun, he's a Browns fan and detects considerable animosity toward this team from your faithful narrator. But then, low and behind, what happens last week when they lose to the Ravens? For some odd, quirky reason I raise them a notch. Why? Pourquoi? Por que?
"Because, that's why." I used to fly into an uncontrollable rage when, as a child, I would receive that answer from an adult. I take it back, Jon. Fins! Fingers crossed. I had them at 24th and had gotten blistered for ranking them so low. I felt bad about it. Then the Ravens beat them. So I raised the Ravens two spots. But what to do about poor Cleveland? Ready to take the descent into the maelstrom was Jacksonville, whom I had way too high to begin with, who had just lost to winless Cincy, and earlier in the year had lost to Cleveland. Jacksonville was going to pay dearly, and I already had assigned a slot below the Browns, wherever that might fall.
The Rams were another team that went into the weekend ahead of the Browns, and they got trashed by Arizona. So they were destined for something below Cleveland. Add to that the usual denizens of darkness and you've got the Browns, slowly rising like a bubble in the bathtub. No, there was no crafty, ulterior motive involved. It was just the way it worked out.
• Douglas of North Carolina is congratulating me because I picked the Panthers to lose to the Bucs and then wrote, "Relax, Panthers fans, it won't hurt so bad when you're 8-2." I wish I could remember writing that, but I don't want to take your praise under false pretenses. Frankly, I seldom remember exactly what I write from week to week, although the Redhead keeps careful score. I mean, there's so much other stuff to try to remember, such as who won the presidential election.
• Adam of NYC has jumped on the Kris Jenkins bandwagon bigtime. Says he can't wait to see how he handles his old whipping boy, Kevin Mawae of the Titans. Not so fast, podnuh. Mawae is the epitome of the crafty old vet. Grabs, holds, whatever it takes. He might lose the battle, but he won't get trashed.
• From Ralph of Mentor, Ohio: "How does one spend his time without the Flaming Redhead to keep one in loin...make that in line?" I'm picturing fridge full of beer, sink full of dishes and bookies banging down the door. Am I close?"
No. I'm not a big beer drinker, although I'll have one occasionally. Haven't been since college. Actually don't do much in the way of alcohol at all when there's no one to share it with. The sink's not full of dishes because I do quickie foods, a steak, a chop or two, some greens, although I must admit that I celebrated Obama's victory with a bowl of spaghetti and the beautifully crafted sauce the Redhead left for me in this big jar.
Bookies at the door? Nope. I handicap the games but I don't bet 'em. That's all I'd need...for my employers at Sports Illustrated to find out that I was breaking the law by, ssshhh, having a book handling my action, and I'd be canned goods so fast it would make your heart stop. And I'm sorry, Ralph. I piped that loin-line line myself because I am desperate to have people regard me as clever.
• From Vamshi of Flanders, NJ: Eli Manning's game has been going down, since Plaxico Burress came back, he writes. Is he intimidated by him, as he was by Shockey last year? Before I get into that, let me ask you if the Silver Spring Farm in Flanders is still in business. Years ago I had a terrific Burgundy there, and it wasn't very expensive.
No, I don't think that's happening. Plax doesn't lean on QB's the way Shock tried to. I don't think the guys on the team would let that happen. So what's the reason, then, once we assume that his game has been off? The kid's a streak thrower. He's not naturally accurate. I think it's as simple as that.
• Justin of Ithaca makes a case for assistant coaches in the Hall of Fame. Shouldn't they also be considered? he asks. Of the names you mentioned, I like Dick LeBeau's the best. But I don't like any of them as well as my guy, Clark Shaughnessy, who developed the modern T-formation with man in motion -- 68 years ago! I keep trying to convince people to vote him in. I can't crack the wall. After he makes it, I'll start working for LeBeau.
• Rick of San Francisco by way of Oak Ridge, N.J., wants to involve me in a handicapping pool. The very idea! OK, let's hear how it works. As a wild card pick, you want me to respond to Wales, five point underdogs to the Springboks of South Africa, in the big rugby match. You're right, the line should be higher, which is precisely why you can put me down for the whales... I mean, look at the size of them. Ha ha. I'll take Wales with the five.
Nice country Wales. Linda and I spent some time up at the great book marketplace at Hay on Wye. I also played on an American side that held Bridgend to a 0-0 tie. OK, it wasn't the good Bridgend team, with the internationals and everything. It was the Bridgend Sports Club. But I'll tell you what they could really do. Sing. I guess everybody in Wales is blessed that way.
The night before the match, when the two teams had the traditional sing-song, us against them, we tootled those dopey little rugby songs, "If I were the marrying kind...well, thank the Lord I'm not sir..."you know those trashy little things. They let that sink in and then they mortally embarrassed us with a collection of Welsh hymns that tore the roof off the place. I mean, every damn one of them was singing his or her head off. Talk about embarrassment. And it's into the beer we go, m'lads.
• Daniel of Chicago takes me to task because I made a thing of the chance of Jacksonville making history by losing to two winless teams in a row. He points to a bunch of teams that lost to 0-1 and 0-2's. Oh come on now. I'm not talking about dinky little streaks like that. I'm talking about sevens and eighters, serious stuff, you know.
• John of Ellensburg, Wash., is dreaming of a scenarios that will put a good QB into Seahawk livery. How about Vince Young? I veto that. That would be, as Weeb Ewbank used to say, taking on other people's problems. Who then? How about Derek Anderson, if the Browns feel committed to Brady Quinn? I get the feeling, and I could be wrong, that Anderson is not coached that well.