By John Rolfe
March 25, 2009

My, a lot of folks are hot under the horse collar about the NFL's new Brady Rule, which continues the trend of making it costly to take the shortest or even longest route to the quarterback and arrive in ill humor. One site claims the league will require signal-callers to wear dresses, and ESPN's Mike Golic has suggested that players will get flagged for merely looking at a QB.

The bubble-wrap boom is all part of an ongoing safety debate in a number of sports where the modern athlete, for all the advanced year-round training and performance-enhancers, is looking like more and more like a world-class wussbunny compared to those rugged predecessors of yore.

In the NHL, there's an ongoing effort to crack down on hits from behind and shots to the head, and there's some sentiment to curtail or eliminate fighting for safety's sake. Like the NFL's latest don't-blow-on-the-QB rule, hockey's no-knuckles movement hasn't been particularly well-received by fans who like a little hair, and blood, on their sports. In the Major Leagues, pitchers used to routinely toss 300 or more innings a year without being carted off on stretchers while trainers followed with their freshly-detached throwing arms packed in coolers of ice. For the last decade or so, managers, coaches, GMs and broadcasters have been hyperventilating when a hurler tosses more than 11 pitches over two consecutive days.

But with athletes -- and most significantly, their paychecks -- bigger, strong and faster than ever -- it's necessary to protect these pricey investments. That wasn't the case when athletes needed winter gigs at car dealerships to make ends meet. Thus they had no qualms about rubbing some soil on a compound fracture and getting back out there to avoid losing their place on a team. But if the NFL goes to an 18-game sked, as is being contemplated, it will have to encase star players in mattresses or balloons. Players of every skill level are already dropping like flies during the brutal marathon of the current 16-game sked, but in our age of too much of a good thing is never enough, more games for the halt and the lame is what we're likely to get.

Speaking of too much of a good thing, New Jersey state Senator Raymond Lesniakhas filed a federal lawsuit to nix the nationwide ban on sports betting. Lesniak fails to see why Nevada, Delaware, Montana and Oregon should be the only ones with their greasy fingers in the $380 billion a year pie, and in this dicey economy, gambling is apparently seen as a way to make money in lieu of employment.

That's true -- if you're a bookie or a state lottery. If you're Joe Lintpockets with a wish in one hand and your last moist Abe Lincoln in the other, you have to pray your luck comes up cherries and stays there. Alas, luck can be a fickle thing, as this survivor of not one but two Atomic bomb attacks attests. (Was he profoundly lucky? Or horribly unlucky?) And if it weren't for this poor guy's bad luck, he'd have -- as they say -- no luck at all.

Speaking of luck, or lack thereof, the Phoenix of North Lawndale College Prep had the misfortune of being docked a technical before the opening tip-off of its Illinois 3A state semifinal against Champaign Centennial. The reason: wearing uniforms that violated "quick recognition, sanctity of the number" according to the National Federation of State High School Associations. (And you thought the NFL was neurotic about its duds.)

Turns out that Champaign converted one of its two free throws and went on to win . . . by one point. This space figures that if players and teams must pay dearly for confusing and offending the eyes, then these uniforms -- and these, too -- fit the bill.

If you're of a betting mind, your thoughts are likely turning to ponies with spring here and the Kentucky Derby only five weeks away. Herewith, another reminder of the wisdom of scoping out the nags first-hand before you lay your piasters. You might want to clutch your wallet to your heaving bosom if your intended bet comes out on the track looking like this. Pandora, a five-year old thoroughbred mare, is actually allergic to grass. This space, which has bet its share of plugs that fit that description in turf races, assumes Pandora is a better bet on dirt.

If Conan O'Brien ever felt even a little silly about wearing bunny ears for that bizzaro beer comnercial he made, he can take comfort in the ultimate reward. A group of students at South Carolina are trying to lure him to the campus in Columbia on March 31 to present him with a Cocky Award (named for the school's mascot) for Best Super Bowl Ad, which just happened to be directed by John Baker, a USC alum. The video invite is almost as amusing as the original ad.

You've surely heard the expression "a little bird told me" -- it's a staple of journalism in a world where "sources" are increasingly reluctant to speak on the record about anything. Well, this space is proud to declare that Pinkie the Parrot, who makes his perch above this space's desk, is never afraid to speak his mind. Today Pinkie told us that the reasonTerrell Owens missed the first day of the Bills' voluntary offseason conditioning program this week was because the mercurial wideout was attending the annual National Alzheimer's Gala in Washington, DC. We know. This space was flabbergasted, too, and has promptly sworn off the maple syrup.

Fancy yourself a man or woman (or both) of letters? Perhaps you have a few p's and q's lying around that you don't know what to do with. Well, why not stick 'em in the handy space-time portal on your right and send 'em our way. This space appreciates getting thought-provoking stuff, like this from reader Herman in Melville, NY:

Call me Ishmael. Some years ago -- never mind how long precisely -- having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen and regulating the circulation. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats off -- then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship. There is nothing surprising in this.

There certainly isn't. So grab your quill and join the vowel movement.

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