Not to be preachy, but in the IM/texting/twitterization of America, I'm going to give you five superb summer options, including the most vivid, riveting war book of our time. I'm not a history buff, but I'm a huge fan of books that put you in the middle of something historical, and you simply have to read Tears in the Darkness: The Story of the Bataan Death March and Its Aftermath. More about that later.
A lone paragraph on Favre first: He'll be on HBO tonight with Joe Buck on his new show, Joe Buck Live, and it's a good get, obviously. America might be totally sick of Favre, but everyone in the business wants to hear about his probable return to football. What he's likely to say is what we mostly know now: that after late-May arthroscopic surgery to detach a fraying right biceps tendon, he's giving serious consideration to returning to pro football if he can throw pain-free by late this month. I'm sure Buck will press Favre about why, and Favre will say it's not about revenge against the Packers. You have to decide if you believe that or not.
Now for a fairly quiet news week, for once.
The McNabb deal makes sense, there's nothing sinister about it. "Donovan's contract yelled out that it needed to be adjusted,'' said Eagles president Joe Banner.
Due $9.2 million this year and $10 million next year before the deal dissolved, McNabb had $5.2 million added to the next two years. That's it. As for the buzz over the past three months that McNabb was demanding a new deal, Banner contends it never happened.
"Donovan was great,'' Banner said. "It was never even remotely threatening with Donovan and [agent] Fletcher Smith. It was literally quite cordial. At the end of the conversation we had with them after the season, they said, 'Would you be interested in looking at the contract?' And we said yes.''
Banner said it took six or seven conversations with Smith to get done. The reason it hadn't been done earlier is because McNabb, from 2002 to 2006, missed 20 games due to injury, and the Eagles just didn't know if he could stay healthy. With McNabb missing two games over the past two years, the time was right to be fair to him.
Want to know why the Patriots are playing hardball with the Vince Wilforks of the world? Because soon they're going to have to pay very big for Tom Brady. Brady's due $14.5 million, total, over the next two years. Peyton Manning's due $29.8 million over the next two. Now McNabb's in line to make exactly $10 million more than Brady in 2009 and '10 combined. You tell me how laughable that is. Brady's not saying a word. His agent, Don Yee, is not saying a word. But they're taking notes about a system that's paying Matt Cassel the same money to play 2009 as Brady will make in the next two years combined.
Mark Sanchez did fine with his five-year, $47.5-million deal with New York, obviously. But there was no pillaging of the Jets salary cap. The only way to judge these things is the way you judge real estate, and when you do it that way, the Jets got more house for their money than Detroit and Atlanta got for theirs.
Let's look at the quarterbacks picked in the top five of the last two years -- Matt Ryan third by Atlanta last year, Matthew Stafford first by Detroit this year, Sanchez fifth by the Jets this year. Ryan and Stafford signed six-year deals, but since Sanchez signed a five-year deal, let's compare apples to apples. Five years to five years. The money each will get over the first five years of their deals, with minimum playing-time incentives reached:
Now, Ryan and Stafford both got picked higher than Sanchez. That's a factor. But it's interesting this deal got done now, when there wasn't any pressure to get a deal done, rather than five weeks from now on the verge of camp, when the Jets might have been forced to pay more.
There's a reason Roger Goodell's always on the elliptical trainer. At any league meeting or Super Bowl, you're bound to see Goodell, at 5:15 a.m. or some similarly early hour, dripping with sweat in the fitness center of some hotel. Now we'll see if all the sweat equity pays off. In three weeks, he and close to a dozen community leaders in Seattle will attempt to climb the 14,411-foot peak at Mount Rainier to raise --they hope -- more than $1 million for the United Way.
"I've been staring at that mountain since I was a kid,'' Jim Mora told me Friday, "and it's time I do something about it. It's great the commissioner will come along with us. He'll make it. We'll all make it.''
The climbing schedule would sound hellish for a world-class athlete, never mind a 50-year-old commissioner. On the morning of July 7, the climbers will trek to about 10,000 feet, set up tent, and sleep until about midnight. Then, beginning shortly after midnight, they'll attempt to go the final 4,400 feet in about eight hours and later make the much-quicker trek back down. The final 9,000 feet encompass about eight miles of climbing, and at that altitude, sickness, vertigo and nausea are not only possible, they're common.
Speaking of the Seahawks ... It's funny in this game. We tend to believe so strongly in everything we see now that we forget what we saw a short time ago. Take the NFC West. We're all enamored with the Arizona Cardinals, their explosive offense and burgeoning young defensive talent. For good reason. They were great down the stretch of the playoffs and came within an 85-yard Steeler drive of shocking the world and winning the Super Bowl.
But a year ago, before Matt Hasselbeck's back injury and the lame-duck Mike Holmgren malaise and injuries to the best left tackle in football and to every wideout who could walk and chew gum at the same time, Seattle was a pretty formidable team. Who knows? The Seahawks could be again. But to do so the defense that was so sieve-like last year has to rebound to at least the middle of the NFL pack.
Seattle fell from 15th to 30th in team defense from 2007 to '08, surrendering 66 yards a game more last year then the previous year. New coach Jim Mora has put the D in the hands of a firecracker assistant, Gus Bradley, who made a meteoric rise from NCAA nether lands (North Dakota State) to NFL coordinator in four years.
"I feel very good about the direction of our defense,'' said Mora, "and I feel great about Gus Bradley. I sit in all the defensive meetings, and when they're over, it's like, 'We've been in here 45 minutes? I thought it was 10 or 15.' He's a dynamic teacher. Captivating.''
Early on, Bradley knows he's going to have to get top pick Aaron Curry to rush the passer better than he ever did at Wake Forest. Curry never was put in position in college to rush the passer, but you don't pick a linebacker fourth overall in the draft and tell him to eat space or drop in coverage. You tell him -- at least in some obvious passing downs -- to go get the quarterback. "I think Aaron's a good blitzer,'' Bradley said. "But until you put on the pads in training camp and see him in games, there's going to be some doubt.''
I asked Mora for a couple of defensive players who'd stood out in the offseason, and he said Darryl Tapp and Lawrence Jackson. Both defensive ends. Both former high picks. So maybe there will be less pressure on Curry to be a 12-sack guy if these bookend ends emerge and if Patrick Kerney can stay healthy and give Seattle the production he's used to giving.
Look for Bradley to bring some of the principles of Tampa Bay's classic two-deep coverage to Seattle, only with more aggression. He'll blitz more than Monte Kiffin did with the Bucs. Now he's got to find someone to get home.
A few years ago, I began highlighting some books the week before Father's Day, hoping to give you an alternative to the tie or the dozen golf balls for the man who has 300 of each. This year, I've scaled it back to five books -- books I can heartily endorse because I think every one is special.
I'm concerned about how little I've read the last few years. Maybe it's e-mail, maybe it's the voluminous easy sites that magnetize you to them four or five times a day when 10 or 15 years ago I'd have sat down and read something of substance. I'll pick up the latest Grisham (I've loved them all except Playing for Pizza, which seemed nonsensical to me) and have it done in two days. Harlan Coban's very good, too. But what I hoped to do this year is hit on some I think an audience of football and football/general interest readers would like.
I've picked one about the searing brutality of war, one thriller, one story of a little-engine-that-could high school football program in Michigan, one cautionary tale about trying to cover up a horrible mistake, and one spell-binding story I will never forget, about the death of a minor-league coach struck by a foul ball.
I'd love to hear from you about the books if you pick up one or two of them. I'll run your responses on my first Tuesday column back from vacation, July 21. In no particular order, here are the MMQB Summer Five:
1. Tears in the Darkness: The Story of the Bataan Death March and Its Aftermath, by Michael Norman and Elizabeth M. Norman (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, tearsinthedarkness.com). The Normans, husband and wife, are good friends of our family, and I tell you that to be upfront. It would be shame -- for you -- if you thought my affection for the Normans colors what I think of the book they worked on for the past 10 years. I don't consider myself anything close to a history expert, nor a fan of the military genre, but this is such a vivid slice of an important piece of American history that anyone with the slightest interest in where we have come from simply has to read this book.
It chronicles the story of the worst defeat in American military history through the eyes and emotions of young Montana soldier Ben Steele -- still alive today in Montana despite his harrowing 41-month imprisonment in the Phillippines and Japan in the 1940s. But it also tells the story of the war from the Japanese side, with incredible clarity and more empathy than any American veteran (particularly one such as Michael Norman, a former Marine who served in Vietnam) would normally show.
There is nothing anywhere like a book that transports you from the chair you're sitting in reading the book back to the time and place and into the heads of those who felt the story.
Pafko at the Wall by Don Delillo comes to mind, or one of the Halberstam pennant-race books. I raced through this book, fascinated by the minutiae and interesting detail; even the numbing military stuff was spell-binding, like this passage about what it's like to have your base, in this case Clark Air Base in the Philippines, hit by a warhead with 100 pounds of explosive:
"... a burst of blinding white, a sharp, painful crack! Followed by an enormous rip, a tearing of the air, then, finally, a deep shudder in the ground, the earth set atremble. A bomb blast is lethal science, fluid mechanics meant to maim. First, the shock wave, a surge of air that hits a man like a wall of wind, hits him so hard his cerebrum starts to shake concussively in his skull, swelling at first, then hemorrhaging, rivulets of blood running from his nose and ears ... The atmosphere turns hot and dense, high pressure sucking the low pressure from every recess around it, from a man's lungs and ears and eye sockets, leaving him gasping for breath and fighting the feeling his pupils are being pulled from their eye sockets.''
The temptation in a war book is to make one side full of good guys and the other side the bad guys, and the Normans could be forgiven for making the Japanese the bad guys in this war story. You'll see why; the Japanese atrocities still make my stomach turn even now, a couple of weeks after reading the book. But the Normans made the Japanese soldiers as human as the Americans, writing that on the morning of one attack, Japanese lieutenant Ryotaro Nishimura "woke his men at three o'clock and huddled with them at breakfast: miso soup and an egg over a thick porridge of barley and white rice. Japanese soup always reminded the men of home, but on this morning the troops complained the miso had a 'strange' flavor, and Ryotaro Nishimura knew that the men had awakened with the metallic taste of fear in their mouths.''
I mean, wow. It's like that for 398 pages.
2. American Youth, by Phil LaMarche (Random House, phillamarche.com/american_youth). Even if you had a happy high school experience, you'll be drawn in by this book's dead-on depiction of the angst of being a young teen struggling to fit in somewhere, somehow. In this case, a freshman with a dark tragedy following him.
LaMarche tells the story of Teddy, a boy growing up in a semi-rural northeastern community torn by the recession. Teddy is suffering from adolescent dislocation. His father had to move away to find work and Teddy stays behind with his mother and his few friends. The sudden accidental death of one of those friends by a gunshot propels Teddy into a lie and leads him eventually into a gang, which serves only to make him feel more threatened and alone.
Teenage problems at home, problems at school and problems with friends are nothing new in life or in fiction. But in the hands of LaMarche, the story is fresh and vivid and the characters feel real. Watching Teddy's life unravel is painful, believable and tragic. As a friendly cop tries to advise him: "I've seen other boys like you, Ted -- boys who never get it and they just keep screwing up and screwing up, just like you're doing now. If you don't come clean, you don't have a chance. I know it."
Anyone who's ever screwed up will understand Teddy's unraveling and his brave struggle to get back to the truth. A smart read and a compelling tale.
3.The Champions of St. Ambrose, by Rick Gosselin (August Publications).Gosselin is the well-respected NFL columnist for the Dallas Morning News and one of the most trusted voices inside the Pro Football Hall of Fame meeting room when the new class is elected each year. At the scouting combine in Indianapolis every year, he scurries from one player to the next, meeting all 330 prospects and coming away with a vivid opinion of each. When people ask me about the football writers who love the game the most, I mention Paul Zimmerman and Gosselin first. They don't just love the game; they live it.
So when I heard he was writing a football book, I figured it'd be good. Maybe something about the Cowboys, or the old teams he covered in Kansas City. But then I heard it was a high school story, about his old football team in Detroit. St. Ambrose High is a city school, and its story of greatness two generations ago bears retelling. Gosselin does it vividly.
St. Ambrose was the Hoosiers of football, a school of 200 students that won five city championships in an eight-year span, beginning 50 years ago ... despite not having a football field to its name. They did it with talented, driven coaches such as Tom Boisture and GeorgePerles, both of whom had careers that culminated in Super Bowls. But ask them about their happiest times in football, and St. Ambrose High will be mentioned before the Giants or the Steelers. Gosselin tirelessly explains why.
There are some things that can happen only in high school, like the bus ride home from a winning road game for St. Ambrose. A block away from the school, the team would sing the school fight song. Pulling up to the school, most of the parish, plus the nuns, plus the priests, plus three-quarters of the student body, would be there to welcome home the team, loudly. "Then the players would troop that half block up Hampton for the final prayer of the night -- and the week -- at the church steps,'' Gosselin writes.
That's the feel you get from the book -- a community with football and the parish as the glue, as so many communities in America were in the last 50 years.
4.Heart of the Game: Life, Death and Mercy in Minor League America, by S.L. Price (Ecco). Surely you remember the story of Mike Coolbaugh, the minor-league first-base coach killed by a line drive in a 2007 Texas League baseball game. The retelling of the story was tragic and horrible enough to send shudders through me, but then, in pages and pages alternating between misery and tremendous hope, I couldn't stop misting up and/or bawling. So strange. I knew the story some, but the way Price -- a tremendous writer for SI -- tells it is perfect, because he doesn't try to toy with your emotions, which would be easy. It's like he takes all the adjectives out of the story and just tells it, and the telling of it crashes you against the wall then lifts you up because you realize there's hope both for the killer and the killed.
The book alternates between the lives of Coolbaugh and Tino Sanchez, telling the melodramatic stories of how each classic baseball lifer got to the diamond in North Little Rock, Ark., where the foul ball struck Coolbaugh in the neck and killed him almost instantly. Price puts you there. He puts you in the first-base coach's box with Coolbaugh, in the batter's box with Sanchez, on the pitcher's mound with the hurler feeling guilty for throwing the pitch resulting in the fatal hit and with the trainer who, months later, still can't forgive himself for a coach on his team dying on his watch. Powerful, powerful stuff.
But the redemptive quality of the story is also powerful. The family forgives Tino Sanchez almost instantly, something that may have saved his life. The parent Colorado Rockies brought Coolbaugh's two boys to Denver to throw out dual first pitches at their playoff opener that fall -- then gave the family a full playoff share of some $230,000, even though Coolbaugh had been working for the organization for just 18 games. Price hasn't written a good book here. It's a great book.
5.Gone Tomorrow, by Lee Child (Bantam Dell, bantamdell.com). I challenge anyone to read the first 19 pages of this book -- and then put it down. The first four sentences begin to reel you in, and it never stops. Writes Child: "Suicide bombers are easy to spot. They give out all kinds of telltale signs. Mostly because they're nervous. By definition they're all first-timers.''
This is my first of this series of Jack Reacher books -- he's the tough-guy, genius-type who solves every crime-drama known to man -- and I plan to read more. Armen Keteyian turned me on to Lee Child, and he's very good, very detailed. He grips you. "Taut'' and "page-turner'' would be two apt ways to describe this book. It brings together the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the rise of the Taliban and Al Qaeda and the behind-the-scenes maneuvering of Washington politicos that eventually brought terrorism to this country. Reacher unravels the mystery of the suicide bomber, going through and over and around Al Qaeda thugs, hapless feds and the NYPD. Warning: graphic, horrific torture scenes in New York are tough to take. I just wish Jack Reacher was real and on our side.
Tweetup Updates. I'll be having four of these before the start of the football season, assuming I can figure out what they are. I'd tentatively figured out my training camp trip, and I tried to build in some time when I'd be able to meet with fans along the way, so we put the six sites up to a vote. Here's how it came out: Indianapolis 2,921 votes, Albany 2,062, Kansas City 312, State College 259, New Orleans 166, Denver 134. So Indy and Albany have won. I'll also be doing one in Los Angeles and one in Boston. Preliminarily, I'll be at the Los Angeles Coliseum on Monday, July 13 (with Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times); in Albany on Monday, Aug. 3; in Indianapolis on Monday, Aug. 10; and in Boston in early September at a site to be determined.
"When we were looking at taking Mark, I studied all the great generals to see what those men were like early in their careers, see how they reacted. It's all about how they reacted in battle, what happened when the action was really live. You see that in Mark, his calm.''-- New York Jets owner Woody Johnson on rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez, who agreed to a five-year, $50-million contract with the team on Wednesday.
I realize you get excited about your players, particularly about the man you believe is the next long-term quarterback in franchise history, but that is one of the dumbest things I've ever heard an owner say. I can name 300 quarterbacks lauded as great leaders with terrific field presence who have come out of college football in the 25 years I've covered the NFL.
In fact, if a quarterback WASN'T a strong leader with a good presence about him, he shouldn't have been picked high in the first round. If indeed Johnson "studied all the great generals,'' and looked for traits of Sanchez in them, I hope he kept his thoughts to himself. The following quarterbacks in recent years have been well-respected by teammates, calm when the action began and renowned as terrific leaders:
1. Charlie Batch2. Patrick Ramsey3. Tim Rattay4. A.J. Feeley5. Andrew Walter
I remember being in Washington the day Heath Shuler was drafted in 1994, and Norv Turner raving about his leadership. In fact, Shuler was a terrific presence, well-liked by his mates, and couldn't play a lick. But he went on to win a Congressional seat in North Carolina. I'm sure he'd have fit in superbly in military command.
One man's opinion: You don't help your rookie quarterback in the largest city in the U.S. by building him up as some combo platter of Ulysses S. Grant, Joe Namath and Jonas Salk. The expectations being set up for him are almost Brady-like. I really like Sanchez a lot, and I think he has a good chance to be a very good NFL player. But the first time he throws five straight incompletions, the fans are going to look at him and say, "This is the bum we're paying $10-million a year?''
"It would be incredibly tough. I know when you're at the end of the 16-game schedule, it's a super grind. Through the middle there you're really sluggish. Toward the end, when you're working toward the playoffs, you can pick it up. The thing I would worry about is the compounding effect of adding two extra full-speed games where you're in there the whole time ...
"You have to think of player's life in the league, which is short enough as it is, and obviously we want to keep that the same or make that longer. Adding two extra games adds probably more potential for injury because you're tired, the body's not quite firing as it was Week 1 or 2. Toward the end of the season, there's probably more injuries and you add two extra weeks, it's going to be tough to get through the playoffs with anything resembling a regular roster."-- San Diego center and player representative Nick Hardwick on XX Sports Radio in San Diego, via sportsradiointerviews.com.
"I love Favre and I think he's been a phenomenal talent for a long time. But when I think about it now, I say, 'Stop it already.' I don't mind that you still want to play football, but do you want to play so much, and do you want to get back at Ted Thompson so much, that you're willing to go back into Lambeau and hurt those fans who supported you for so long?''-- Michael Irvin, to Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times, opining on Favre's desire to return to pro football, in part, Irvin thinks, for vengeance against Green Bay GM Thompson.
"Do the Colts wake up every morning and go, whew -- look how close we came to taking Ryan Leaf?''-- John Wilson of Nashville, who goes by JWspeaks on Twitter.
Picked No. 2 in the 1998 draft behind Peyton Manning, Leaf is scheduled to turn himself in this week to face drug and burglary charges in Texas.
Comparing the rookie contracts of Joe Namath and Mark Sanchez, 45 years apart for the New York Jets:
Part of the value of Namath's contract was jobs for his three brothers and a brother-in-law, and a new car. Namath's average compensation per year was one-70th Sanchez's average pay.
MMQB hero of the month Austin Wood, the Texas left-handed reliever who threw 13 scoreless relief innings in the NCAA Tournament, was rewarded for his pluck last week. The Detroit tigers selected him in the fifth round of the Major League Baseball draft, making him the 150th overall pick in the draft.
So how much did throwing his 169-pitch outing against Boston College, with 12-and-one-third no-hit innings, have to do with it? It helped, but Detroit assistant director of amateur scouting James Orr told me over the weekend it's because Wood changed his arm slot before this season, adding a tick to his speed ("We've clocked him at 93,'' Orr said) and making him tougher on left-handed hitters. Wood went undrafted out of high school, then after his junior season at Texas. His theory is it's because he's got only an average (91-92 mph) fastball.
"He's an interesting player,'' Orr said. "He showed unbelievable guts and poise in that game, pitching the 13 innings. Our area scout, Tim Grieve, has scouted Austin six or seven times, and he was there that night. Stayed for every pitch. That night cemented for Tim that the kid had the heart of a champion. For us, he could start either in high A [Lakeland of the Florida State League] or Double A [Erie, of the Eastern League], and maybe he'll be a situational lefty or a reliever you could stretch out a little bit. Right now, for a left-handed hitter, he looks like the last guy you'd want to face.''
Texas began play in the College World Series on Sunday night. I wouldn't expect it to be a very long negotiating process for Wood to reach an agreement with the Tigers after the series.
You want to know a nightmare for every business traveler. It's this recent headline in the Wall Street Journal: "Airlines Are At It Again: Less Legroom.'' Seems the new 737-800s manufactured for American Airlines have the same space in the cabin as the old ones. But the old 737-800s had 148 coach seats. The new ones have 160.
Delta and Continental, too, are raising the number of seats in economy to 160. The seats are being made smaller and thinner, and the airlines are saying the "seat pitch'' will be such that you won't notice the reduction in space in coach.
Yeah, right. What I say is I'm flying JetBlue as much as possible this summer and fall. The WSJ says JetBlue has the most legroom between coach seats, 34 inches, of any carrier.
1. I think the more Tennessee's Vince Young opens his mouth, the more I'd be scared witless if he was the quarterback of the future of my football team. "I didn't want to play no more,'' Young said -- and he meant forever -- Sunday on ESPN, referring to his dark period early last season when the Titans were worried he might harm himself when his football career was headed south.
That's not the first time I've heard Young talk about not wanting to play football anymore. When he missed the plane to Philadelphia as a rookie and got disciplined by coach Jeff Fisher, he went into a funk and had to be talked into even playing in the game against the Eagles. Dude: You're a professional football player. There are ups. There are downs. Face them. Take them.
2. I think you're going to see an announcement soon that Matt Millen is joining Bob Papa in the Thursday night NFL Network booth. Assuming it happens -- and I'm sure it will -- ESPN is getting busted in the chops by this in almost the same way the NFL Network got busted in the chops when Jon Gruden jilted the network for ESPN. The big difference is, Gruden left the network high and dry; Millen will still be doing the work he previously agreed to do for ESPN.
So Millen, assuming the NFL Network agrees to the deal, will work Saturday college games (I hear with either Sean McDonough or Brad Nessler) on ESPN, then the Monday night NFL pregame show. Then he'll add the NFL play-by-play gig.
You might ask why ESPN agreed to allow Millen to do the Thursday night games and beat himself up by giving himself three separate jobs, at least in November. Good question. I'm told it's because he really wanted the Thursday night gig and wouldn't have been a happy ESPN camper had he gotten turned down.
3. I think Derek Anderson beating out Brady Quinn for the starting quarterback job in Cleveland would be only slightly less shocking than the Lions making the playoffs.
4. I think, speaking of quarterback "controversies,'' did anyone really expect Chris Simms to beat out Kyle Orton for the Denver quarterback, or to even compete with him on an even keel? Simms hasn't started an NFL game in 33 months, and he had a healthy spleen the last time he did, Josh McDaniels dealt for Orton, in part because he was convinced Orton would be more accurate than Simms. None of that changed since the Jay Cutler trade. Orton starting has been pre-ordained for 11 weeks, since the deal got done.
5. I think it will be downright insane if somehow, some way, Plaxico Burress beats the legal system (and please explain to me how he can, based on the eight-month-old charge he faces for discharging an unlicensed, loaded weapon in a public place in Manhattan) for now and is allowed to play football in 2009. It's unfair, and I'd love to know -- as I'm sure Michael Bloomberg would -- how a judge in New York can continue this case yet again so Burress might be allowed to play football at some point in 2009.
6. I think this is a very slippery slope for Roger Goodell. He's on record as being opposed to discipline for a first-time offender until that offender has his case adjudicated in a court of law. So on the surface, he seems bound to have to give Burress his day in court before bouncing him. The mitigating factor here is that it's such an open-and-shut case; Burress has never argued he didn't possess the gun, and he has never argued he didn't fire the gun. But if Goodell lives by his precedent, he'll let Burress play until he's tried. I'm not trying to be a cop here. I'm just saying this continuance for Burress, on all sides, might be legally justifiable. But it stinks. That's the only word for it -- it stinks. The team that makes the most sense for Burress is the Jets, because New York clearly would be the place Burress could tend to both professional and judicial matters the easiest.
7. I think the Rex Grossman signing in Houston says one thing to me: The honeymoon's over for Dan Orlovsky as the walk-in, no-doubt backup to Matt Schaub.
8. I think I knew it was getting to be summer vacation for football players yesterday when, after 1 in the afternoon, Kerry Rhodes of the Jets Twittered that he wondered if he should get out of bed yet.
9. I think the next interesting football-related journalistic battle line might be how many clicks NBCSports.com can take away from the field by acquiring profootballtalk.com. Today, NBC will announce it has reached a deal with PFT that will allow the site to exclusively license its content to NBCSports.com. Mike Florio, the dogged founder and writer for the site, is giving up his day job (lawyering) to devote more time to PFT, so NBC could be getting even more valuable content than PFT has been publishing. The move is effective July 1. PFT's best month had 1.7 million unique visitors to the site; that's going to skyrocket now.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. I must be un-American. I hate Sweet Caroline in the bottom of the eighth at Fenway. How'd that dumb song ever get picked as a fan anthem?
b. Jon Lester is pitching pretty well. Of the last 65 batters he's faced, the Boston lefty has allowed four hits and struck out 29. Koufaxian.
c. What a bullpen the Red Sox have. The other night against the mighty Phils, with Papelbon resting after two straight Yankees nights, Boston pitched five relievers in the last six innings, allowing one run and striking out nine. The fifth, Daniel Bard, hit 100-mph on the gun twice and struck out Ryan Howard, Jayson Werth and Shane Victorino for his first save.
d. Have you noticed a lot of baseball players look like they're wearing pajamas, not form-fitting uniforms?
e. Amazing but true in Saturday's New York Times: The Yankees have sold out one game out of the first 30 home games this year at the new Yankee Stadium.
f. How on God's green earth can Washington cut Americorps? It's one of the best federal motivators for kids out of college to give a year of their lives to volunteer with some of the neediest agencies and people in our country. Wake up, Washington.
g. How does Luis Castillo show his face Friday night when the Mets play at home for the first time since the drop? Not just the drop, either ... how about picking up the ball with two Yankees steaming around the bases and throwing it to second instead of throwing it home? Insane.
h. Great hustle, Mark Teixeira. I hope every baseball player from Little League to MLB saw the replay of you scoring from first on that Castillo drop.
i. Coffeenerdness: Settled into a good routine here in Boston at night, working or TV-watching in the last couple of weeks before vacation, and brewing a small pot of Peet's Major Dickason's Blend decaf. That's some great coffee. Sounds like the script for a commercial.
j. Mike McGuire, back in Germany, is beginning to focus on his favorite pastime, the NFL. "Saw a segment on NFL Network about the Rams. I really hope the new coach makes us a defensive team. I believe we have some really good defensive pieces. and Bulger/Jackson are both healthy, hopefully hungry to show everyone that changes can be made in one year. I will be rooting.
"Jay Mohr was on NFL Network yesterday and I had to turn it off, I want news and updates, not jokes. He ruined the show ...
"So you know I was a Drill Sergeant for three years and a Drill Sergeant Leader. My thought is that with all these in-shape super-hard NFL players, we should take a couple of them, work them out and do a two or three day In the Life of a Basic Training Soldier. That would be awesome. I talk with my wife all the time about what I would do to them and see just how good of shape they are in. People would watch that. I know that NFL fans would be interested. Take care ...
"Hey, is Cris Collinsworth ready for the new year? I think he will be awesome. You know what I dug out of my closet the other day? A Collinsworth jersey from when I was a kid, I keep all my jerseys and I had to laugh at how long ago that was.
k. Mike McGuire, NFL Network programmer. You've got a retirement job, Mike.