First, a tremendous moment Saturday night in the U2 show at Qwest Field, 10 songs in. Great atmosphere for a concert; imagine looking up a half-hour into the show, 9:35 p.m., and seeing a sky not yet dark, with the late sunset, and 60,000 or so singing along with Elevation. Fun times. A few songs later, Space Shuttle Endeavour commander Mark Kelly appeared on the video screen and held up some placards from space. Looked like he was going to introduce Beautiful Day, the favorite song of he and wife Gabrielle Giffords, the congresswoman infamously shot in Tucson in January.
"Imagine a man looking down on us from 200 miles up,'' said Bono, the leader of U2. "Looking down at our beautiful, crowded planet. What would he say to us? What's on your mind, commander Kelly?''
"Hello, Seattle,'' said Kelly, the crowd going wild. This was something he obviously taped before landing back on earth last Wednesday. "I'm looking forward to coming home. Tell my wife I love her very much. She knows.''
I've seen my share of cool concert moments -- beginning with Billie Jean King walking onstage in Foxboro on the Bicentennial to sing Philadelphia Freedom with Elton John. This one touched all the right chords. Brilliant.
The GM of the Seahawks, John Schneider, was in the house celebrating his 40th birthday with his brother, Bill, and wife Traci and friends, and they thought the same thing. "Blown away,'' Schneider said. "I love seeing people use their stage to do great works like that. It gave us chills.''
Quick hits on the events of the week:
The next month is crucial in the labor tussle. I wrote an essay for "Scorecard'' in SI that'll be out in a couple of days. It's about the importance of the owners and players getting something done (or making significant progress toward a deal) in the next three to four weeks -- before a three-judge panel rules whether the owners can continue to lock out the players. No spoilers here, but suffice it to say there are legitimate reasons for both sides to give a little, particularly with the ominous warning from one of the judges hearing oral arguments in the Eighth Circuit, Kermit Bye, that a ruling from the bench could be something neither side is going to like.
My hope is that both sides return to their secret lair and continue the bargaining that was begun last week in Chicago. It's a great idea. It's also an idea that needs to stay underground. There's a reason a gag order is a good idea sometimes. It prevents angry people from spoiling a chance at real momentum. There was no need, for instance, for the league's attorney, Paul Clement, to say Friday after the hearing in St. Louis that continued negotiations mean the union's decertification is a sham.
"How does that build any kind of trust?'' asked a players association spokesman. "Their lawyers risks crippling the process with remarks like that.''
Whether Clement speaks the truth is one matter; the point is, when the two sides are getting somewhere, why lob a grenade?
RIP, Tom McEwen. The longtime Tampa Tribune columnist, 88, died Friday night. He was from another time, when writers helped writers, when writers worked for community good as much as they were journalists. "Without him there are no Bucs,'' former NFL executive Jim Steeg tweeted Sunday. He was vital in pushing for an NFL franchise and counted three commissioners as close friends. Coach after coach in the area knew him and liked him; they knew all he wanted was for the local teams to win.
When I got on the Pro Football Hall of Fame voting committee nearly two decades ago, he was one of the first in the room to come up to me -- not I to him -- and say, "You'll be great at this. You've got a conscience. If there's anything I can do to help, you've got my number.'' McEwen had the power of a Will McDonough, only local. People in Tampa, and NFL people everywhere, will miss him.
Underrated Event of the Week. Simple -- the first meeting of the National Sports Concussion Cooperative, a group founded in March by the American Football Coaches Association, Rawlings, the University of North Carolina and the Matthew Gfeller Foundation. (The traumatic brain injury research center at UNC is named for Gfeller, a high school sophomore who died in 2008 from a head injury suffered in his first varsity football game.)
Two interesting things: An app for the iPhone and Android phones has been introduced to help non-medical people monitor head injuries when a medical professional isn't present (the Concussion Recognition and Response app, $3.99). "It allows people on the scene to witness what may be a head injury and walk them through a cursory exam of the athlete,'' said one of the app's developers, assistant professor Jason Mihalik of UNC.
Meanwhile, a Virginia Tech professor who has studied the efficacy of all helmets said he thinks the proper helmets and continued NFL vigilance of helmet-to-helmet hits could result in a 50-percent decrease in severe head injuries. "You can make a dramatic reduction in head injuries,'' Dr. Stefan Duma told me. "There's no doubt in my mind. If players wear the proper helmets, it would reduce the risk of concussions by a half.''
There's the rub, though -- forcing NFL players used to wearing a comfortable helmet to wear one with the most advanced technology. "We should look more aggressively at switching older helmets for the newer ones,'' Duma said. "It's pretty hard to defend not doing it. Let's face it: These players aren't driving Ford Pintos anymore. They shouldn't be wearing old helmets.''
The Top 100 update
Finally, we agree on something, me and the 415 players who voted for NFL Network's top 100 players: Brian Urlacher is the 49th-best player in football. We've had our share of disagreements as they've counted down from 100 to 41 so far (50 through 41 aired last night on NFL Network), and this week is no exception.
(See complete list here.)
How is Ben Roethlisberger the 41st-best player in football, unless his peers docked him some for his off-field misdeeds? He's won two Super Bowls, he's 29, has a big arm and ... well, there's no justification for having him 41st, in my opinion. But the lists go on. I may have Mike Wallace higher than you'd figure. The same goes for Justin Smith, who has been reborn in San Francisco after being mostly invisible in Cincinnati. Watch out for Wallace. With so much speed (Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown) in Pittsburgh's four-wide formations, you can bet Wallace is going to see less safety help over the next couple of years when Roethlisberger throws deep.
The Father's Day Book Section.
It's come to my attention that America doesn't read anymore. I know I certainly fall within that category. For that reason, I'm expanding the book recommendations of the past few Father's Days to a beefier list with longer explanations why I recommend them. My hope is you don't get Dad a tie, or another golf app for his iPhone. Get him a book. Let's get some reading done. Here goes:
End Game: Bobby Fischer's Remarkable Rise and Fall -- from America's Brightest Prodigy to the Edge of Madness, by Frank Brady (Crown). Actually, the name of this book could well have been, "Don't You Dare Ever Try to Tell Me What to Do.'' That's how Fischer lived his life. And thank you, Mike O'Hara (my old friend from Detroit) for telling me I positively, absolutely had to read the story of one of the most compelling figures of our lifetime.
This is the best piece of nonfiction I've read in a while. (Sorry; the Stieg Larsson trilogy is still the best in any genre.) End Game is a richly detailed, incredibly thorough biography of the child chess prodigy who should have gone down as the best chess player in history but was ruined by such paranoia that, page after page, you shake your head and wonder, Why didn't this guy get help? Why wasn't someone able to lasso him and get him some kind of therapy?
Many of you have heard of Fischer but don't know his story. At 13, and into his later teens, he was winning international matches against chessmasters the world over. I was 15 when a strange mega-event happened -- a chess championship between the two best in the world at the time, Fisher from Brooklyn and Boris Spassky from the Soviet Union. The attention it got was incredible. Richard Nixon talked about it often, Henry Kissinger called Fischer. Magazine covers. For chess.
But Fischer was the kind of guy you couldn't make a fair deal with. Because if you offered it, in his mind, you were screwing him and getting the better of the deal. Consider the arrangements for the championship, held in Iceland. It would offer the biggest purse in chess history -- $78,125 to the winner, $46,875 to the loser. Amazing. The winner would make in a month almost what the best baseball player in America, Johnny Bench, made in a full season. (Bench made $80,000 in 1972.)
But that wasn't enough for Fischer. The deal for the match was made, and then Fischer said he wanted 30 percent of the gate as well. The wrangling brought the match to the brink of cancellation, until a British millionaire said he'd give Fischer an additional $125,000 to play the match. He agreed. But he still couldn't accept the deal and live by the sportsmanship terms of the international chess community. To protest that he still wasn't getting what he felt was fair, Fischer didn't attend the pre-match draw. And even though he knew the match would be televised, he found the cameras intrusive and went on strike during the competition until all cameras were removed.
Weird man. Very weird.
Yet like so many young and great athletes, his brilliance made everyone kowtow to him, and Brady's excruciating detail reels you in from the first page to the last. Fischer turned down $5 million to play the next Russian champ, Anatoly Karpov, in Zaire after the Ali-Foreman fight there ... because it was less, he said, than Muhammad Ali got.
Brady takes us down the long, ruinous path of Fischer, to Skid Row in Los Angeles, to his hatred of Jews, to his hatred of America. An incredible story. After the Twin Towers were destroyed on Sept. 11, Fischer told a radio interviewer, "This is a wonderful day. [Expletive] the United States. Cry, you crybabies! Now your time is coming.''
I wouldn't exactly call End Game uplifting. But I'll be surprised if it takes you more than three or four days (or very late nights) to read it. And the good thing about getting it for your dad -- in many cases -- is he'll remember Fischer, and have a perception that the guy was off-center. But Brady will make him, and the era, come to life.
In the Long Run: A Father, a Son, and Unintentional Lessons in Happiness, by Jim Axelrod (Farrar Straus Giroux). Got an urgent "you've got to read this book'' note from buddy Armen Keteyian, and I'm glad he was insistent. I can quibble with a few structural things in this valuable-to-today's-world story of a CBS News correspondent (who lives in my old hometown of Montclair, N.J.) who gets beaten down by his job and rediscovers the important things in life ... and who sets as a life goal running a marathon. Too much running minutiae, when I wanted more of the nitty-gritty of how he almost blew life with a wonderful wife and family. But there's quite a bit of that, and it's occasionally riveting. Like the time his wife broke a rib and Axelrod, who'd been a career-chasing nimrod way too much, stayed out on a weekend with the boys while the wife was in agony.
Most riveting to me was how Axelrod had to be slapped in the face a few times to understand his priorities were badly misplaced. We've all been there. We've all had to make choices about family and work. I've regretted some of my choices; we all have. Not that working a 60-hour week isn't important in many weeks of your life. But Axelrod got on the treadmill of work and never got off until it was very nearly too late.
What Axelrod does best in the book is to get slapped around, exposing a side no one would want to show. Like the time CBS institution Bob Schieffer was getting set to retire, and there appeared to be an opening on Face the Nation that Axelrod badly wanted. He went in to sell himself to CBS News president Sean McManus, and as Axelrod writes of McManus: "He raised his hand to cut me off, like a traffic cop irritated by a new driver who was still unclear on the rules of the road. 'Jim, even if Bob does retire, and I'm not sure he will, I'd need an established star to replace him. I'm talking about someone who can carry that broadcast ... I'll be frank. I don't mean to be hurtful, Jim, but I don't want to waste anyone's time. There's no way I would consider you.' ''
In the prime of your career, you're told the prime of your career ain't good enough. But the home run Axelrod hits is in these 11 words deep into the book, and deep into his career, about coming to the realization that he was killing his own family: "I was lucky. Before I did any irreparable harm, I failed.''
Good read, and some very good lessons.
A note about football books. There are a couple of them I recommend very highly. Both have been out since late 2010. Please read Blood, Sweat and Chalk. The Ultimate Football Playbook: How the Great Coaches Built Today's Game, by SI's own Tim Layden (SI Books), if you have not already. It's been out almost a year now, and I've had readers and people in the game tell me how impressive it was in finding the real coaching geniuses and what they've meant to the long-term history of the game.
Layden extols the virtues of Don Coryell as perhaps the most influential coach in pro football history, because it's he who was most influential in installing the downfield passing game we see everywhere today. And I hear Layden when he says, "Coaches and athletes like talking about their jobs more than their lives, and we probably don't ask them enough about their jobs and too much about their lives.'' When you ask about their jobs, you're liable to get 45 minutes with Bill Belichick discussing the Single Wing offense.
Similarly, you'll get educated, though not lectured to, by The Games That Changed the Game, by Ron Jaworski with Greg Cosell and David Plaut (ESPN Books). I wrote about this book last December, and will repeat part of that here. There's a chapter on Buddy Ryan and the rise of the 46 defense, and another on Belichick and his game plan that beat the 14-point-favorite Rams in the Super Bowl a decade ago. Jaworski didn't like Buddy Ryan, the man who yanked him as the Eagles' starting quarterback, but he recognized Ryan's genius in molding what was important in today's game -- intense defensive pressure. And he lauded Rex Ryan for taking his dad's defense further.
"I think Rex has expanded the scope of the 46 in ways his father could not have envisioned. Rex will take a linebacker from one side of the field and move him to cover a wide receiver and rotated his down linemen in unconventional ways, with coverage concepts I've never seen before. Rex is vigorously responding to the many new looks he sees from offenses, figuring that he needs to be aggressive in order to stay ahead. In that respect, he's a chip off the old block. Mike Singletary has noticed the resemblance, saying, 'It's obvious Rex is carrying on his father's legacy. He's so much like Buddy, it's frightening.' ''
As Jaworski concludes, Buddy Ryan, and now his son, so well understood how the game was headed toward an aerial showcase. Buddy was ahead of everyone in creating schemes to stay ahead of the smart offensive guys.
I haven't read When the Cheering Stops: Bill Parcells, the 1990 Giants, and the Price of Greatness, by William Bendetson and Leonard Marshall, but I know it has some insightful stuff not before revealed about the game plan of Belichick in the 20-19 Super Bowl upset of the Bills by the Giants. That should make it worth the price for Giants fans 20 years later, and for Pats fans who can't get enough of their zenmaster.
And a few notes about baseball books. I'm a big fan of those too. I really liked The Last Boy: Mickey Mantle and the End of America's Childhood, by Jane Leavy (HarperCollins) ... and not because of the unending string of events where Mantle acted like a bum. It's because Leavy explained why. The crushing expectations of his father, the free-alcohol and love lifestyle of the New York star, and the lifetime of pain caused by the severe knee injury he suffered before he ever got great. Because orthopedics weren't advanced 60 years ago, the horrific knee injury tormented him for the rest of his career -- yet he still won three MVPs and was the most feared American-Leaguer of his day once Ted Williams retired. Leavy bashes Mantle enough. She also understands him.
Jonah Keri's The Extra 2%: How Wall Street Strategies Took a Major League baseball Team from Worst to First (ESPN) was fascinating to me as a follower of the Red Sox. I'd wondered about Tampa Bay's strategy of spending a fifth of the Red Sox and Yankees, yet competing with them evenly ... and this book was revelatory in explaining it.
The Rays valued defense more than most teams. They began talking with Evan Longoria about a half-a-lifetime contract when he was still in the minor leagues, and what resulted was a nine-year deal worth up to $48 million, which today looks like an incredible bargain. Could it have backfired? Certainly, if Longoria stunk the place up. But if the Rays did nothing, Longoria surely would be gone when he could first test free agency.
Very smart book, and well set up with history about how incompetent the franchise was for years. I'm not smart enough to see how it translates to other businesses, but there have to be some allegories about how Alamo competes with Hertz, etc.
Box 21, by Anders Roslund and Borge Hellstrom (Picador). My thriller of the summer actually came highly recommended by Ravens director of player personnel Eric DeCosta, who was a huge fan of the Larsson trilogy and passed along this Swedish thriller. DeCosta said the book was more realistic than Larsson's sometimes incredible flights into physical unreality with Lisbeth Salander. He's right. This story has some gore and some gruesome elements to it (more than some, really), and name after unfamiliar name with the funny accent marks makes you concentrate hard until you've got the characters down pat. One more thing: I know nothing about the sex slave business, but it's explored in depth here with a key character, and let's just say it's not for the faint of heart.
What the Dog Saw: And Other Adventures, by Malcolm Gladwell (Little, Brown and Company). This compilation of 19 of Gladwell's long-form magazine pieces is great for the train, the beach ... anywhere you think you don't have time to read a book, and then you look up after spending four days on and off with it, and you're done. The book is two years old, and I'd read a few of the essays (including a great one on why it's so hard to pick quarterbacks in the NFL, featuring then-Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel) in the New Yorker. But I'd missed his piece on dog-trainer/dog-psychologist Cesar Millan of Los Angeles. It's spectacular in its thoughtfulness. Gladwell points out that dogs are students of human movement, and no matter how unruly a dog is, he'll always respond if the human is in control of the situation and moves confidently. You'll be stunned when you read about a Chihuahua that's taken a family hostage. Sort of. Even if you've read some of these, Gladwell's so good that a half-hour with the Chase Daniel essay is like a half-hour with "The Nip'' episode on Seinfeld. It's just as good the second time.
Moonwalking With Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything, by Joshua Foer (Penguin Press). The premise of Moonwalking With Einstein is that we can all be better, perhaps hugely better, at remembering if we just learn the ancient techniques that have been all but discarded over time. Foer, a magazine journalist, stumbled upon memory athletes who compete in U.S. and European championships that involve memorizing the order of shuffled decks of cards, long lists of digits, poems and other random lists of information. Imagine one champion, Ben Pridmore, who memorized 1,528 digits in one hour and the order of a shuffled deck of playing cards in 32 seconds.
Some of Foer's journey into memory is a bit too academic. Most readers will want to get to the techniques -- the how-to part -- which is ultimately too brief. Most interesting was Foer's discussion of overcoming plateaus in learning what separates amateurs from professionals and good athletes from elite athletes. He says people plateau at a level of competence and don't go beyond that unless they're willing to do the tedious work to improve the things they don't do well. He writes of his father, an average golfer who loves the game but never improves ... because he doesn't work at the weak points of his game over and over.
The author tells us early on that he routinely forgets where his car keys are or why he opened the refrigerator door, and describes his memory as "average at best." Foer asks one international champion to teach him to be a memory athlete, and Foer makes it to the U.S. Championship. I won't spoil the outcome for you. But be forewarned: Memory training, especially competitive training, is tedious, exhausting work and it could very well be humiliating too.
In the Garden of Beasts, by Erik Larson (Crown).If there's a father on your list who loves history, especially World War II, add this book to your shopping cart. It's a compelling story of the personal lives of the U.S. ambassador to Nazi Germany in the '30s, William Dodd, and his family, most especially his bright, beautiful and flirtatious daughter Martha, and their years in Berlin observing the disturbing rise to power of Adolf Hitler. As Larson points out in the book's prologue: "One has to put aside what we know now to be true, and try instead to accompany my two innocents through the world as they experienced it."
Dodd was a history professor called on by President Roosevelt, after others turned him down, to be the German Ambassador. Dodd was surprised by the harsh militarism and covert brutality he encountered in Berlin when he and his family arrived in 1933 and believed that Hitler would likely not survive as Chancellor for very long. He was restrained in his criticism of the Nazi regime by a State Department in Washington more concerned with Germany's ability to repay American banks its enormous debt than with Hitler's anti-Semitic campaign.
The book shows the disconcerting ability of humans to look away from evils displayed right before their eyes. And it is ultimately about a man who draws on moral courage in the face of all those in denial about Hitler around him. "In the end," Larson writes, "Dodd proved to be exactly what Roosevelt had wanted, a lone beacon of American freedom and hope in a land of gathering darkness."
I'd intended to get to Albert Brooks' new book, 2030: The Real Story of What Happened to America, and I have to apologize for not doing so. I spent the last couple of weeks cramming these books in, and I just ran out of clock. I have the book, and I'll get to it on vacation.
"I always felt like you really do a better job with less time than more time because when you have less time you focus immediately on what's of the utmost importance. Whereas when you have a lot of time to deliberate as to what to do, a lot of times you kind of get off on little tangents.''-- Former coach Bill Parcells, to ESPN101 in St. Louis, via sportsradiointerviews.com. Parcells says he doesn't think a possible short window of preparation will be crippling to NFL teams if a new labor deal is late in coming before the start of the season.
Parcells on his coaching future, by the way: "It's a young man's game. It's for someone else now.''
"There are thousands of people who were impacted by this great man and we'll all carry pieces of him for years to come.''-- ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas, who, like so many in our business, was mentored by Tampa sportswriting legend Tom McEwen. Death came Saturday night for McEwen, who was 88.
Ditto ... and I wasn't particularly close to him. But I saw it on every trip to Tampa over the years.
"If I had known in the late seventies it was okay to pig out on human flesh, I would have eaten Guy LaFleur.''-- NBC hockey analyst and former player Mike Milbury, from Neil Best of Newsday, after Vancouver's Alexandre Burrows wasn't suspended for an apparent bite of a Boston Bruin and then scored two goals in the Canucks' 3-2 Game 2 Stanley Cup victory.
Sad to hear of the passing of Hall of Fame running back John Henry Johnson of the 49ers, Lions and Steelers on Friday, jut six weeks after the death of his friend and former San Francisco teammate Joe "The Jet'' Perry. It's not often that two Hall of Famers come from the same backfield. But what about four? The 49ers, from 1954 to 1956, had quarterback Y.A. Tittle and three backs -- Johnson, Perry and Hugh McElhenny -- all playing in tandem. Amazingly, the Niners in those seasons were a composite 16-18-2.
Anyway, the accomplishments of Johnson and Perry got me thinking about how fleeting statistical marks have been in NFL history. Let's draw a line of demarcation in 1966 and call that the midpoint of NFL history, for purposes of this argument. That was the NFL's 47th season; 2011 will be the 45th season since then. Johnson's last pro football season was 1966, with Houston. (Even though the Oilers were an American Football League team, AFL stats were incorporated into the NFL when the two leagues merged in 1970.) When Johnson retired after the '66 season, he was the fourth-leading rusher in pro football history. How times have changed in statland since. The top five rushers in history after 47 years, and where they rank on the all-time list of rushers today:
1. The game and length of season have changed drastically. In the three years this backfield was intact in San Francisco, the season was 12 games long. Now it's 16. It might be 18 someday soon.
2. There were 12 teams in pro football in 1955. Now there are 32, and for much of the '70s through '90s, most teams believed in the running back-as-workhorse. Not so in the '50s. Johnson played 13 years. He carried 200 times just three times in those 13 seasons.
3. Eight backs carried at least 10 times for the Niners in 1955. San Francisco had 408 rushes. Perry was the only back with more than 100 (he had 156). So huge stat lines were pretty foreign in those days with the Niners ... and with quite a few other teams who spread the running load.
Woman at Starbucks in downtown Seattle, across from the big Westin, gave me the real meaning of multi-tasking Saturday. She cradled her cell phone to her right ear with a scrunched-up right shoulder, engaging in an animated conversation. At the same time, she cradled her iPad in her left hand, using her left thumb to access icons and letters on the screen.
Well, you say ... why wasn't she using her right hand to either hold the phone to her ear or type on the wafer of a computer screen? Because she was holding the coffee she'd just picked up from the barista at the counter in the right hand.
And she was walking. As she got to the front door of the place to leave, no one was walking in or walking out, so no one could get the door for her. She'd have to do this on her own. Deftly, she turned and backed into the door, pushing it open with her rump, and then walked up the street, never breaking stride. At the corner, when she stopped for the DON'T WALK sign (they are serious about not jaywalking in Seattle), she managed to get a sip of coffee.
Checking email, talking on the phone, walking briskly, drinking coffee, simultaneously. Wonder what she does in her spare time.
"Losing I believe.''-- @ochocinco, Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocinco, responding to this tweeted question by @JMonser: "u and carson palmer are really good friends, so what is it about the bengals he hates so much?''
1. I think if I were an NFL team watching Plaxico Burress walk out of prison today in upstate New York, I'd be thinking, "How can we get him at a reasonable price?'' As I wrote last week, he's going to be supremely motivated, and for not franchise-receiver money, to be a star again. It's a long shot that he can be one, but the risk is well worth it, particularly in a sport where you can control guaranteed money so well.
2. I think the more people I talk to, the more people are excited about getting to the crop of undrafted college players as they are about the veteran free agents. "There are three avenues we're all going to have,'' said Seattle GM Schneider. "Your own free agents, free agents from other teams, and the rookie undrafted guys. When the draft ended for us, we still had 20 to 22 draftable players on our board. We're moving toward a younger team, so obviously those guys are a very attractive option for us if we can get some of them.''
3. I think it's silly to think Dan Rooney will ride in on his white horse and broker the labor talks. He's given his word to the president he'll serve out his term as Ambassador to Ireland. Barring a surprise, or President Obama wanting him out, Rooney's job this year is in Dublin, not Pittsburgh.
4. I think it's too early to guess what round Terrelle Pryor would be drafted in ... if he were to make himself available for an NFL Supplemental draft that may or may not be held this summer. But he's a strong kid, and a more accurate passer (61 percent for his career at Ohio State) than many of the running quarterbacks coming out of college football in recent years. One head coach who hadn't seen a play of him on tape yet said the biggest thing he'd be looking for when he studies Pryor is anticipation in the pocket and staying back to read his second and third option before taking off.
5. I think you'll all be happy to know Mike McGuire, the Army sergeant and friend of this column, will be writing the July 4 MMQB, live from Afghanistan.
6. I think those who watched Tom Brady move around the field Friday night in a charity (Best Buddies) football game in Cambridge, Mass., say he looked terrific and totally over his winter foot surgery.
7. I think I couldn't care less if the Packers hold their Super Bowl ring ceremony in public, in private or on the moon.
8. I think I appreciated the column by Yahoo!'s Mike Silver ripping teams for cutting pay to staffers, even though many teams are actually not behind in ticket sales or ticket-sales collections compared to last year. On the teams that are ahead of last year's pace, it seems particularly cruel to cut or furlough workers before it's necessary -- and it wouldn't be necessary until games are not played. Lost in the shuffle are NFL Films employees, who continue to do the jobs they normally have to do, but at a cut in pay as well.
9. I think congratulations are in order to Eliot (son of Ron) Wolf, promoted last week to assistant director of player personnel with the Packers. Heady stuff for a 28-year-old scout who learned the ropes in the family, but has never once tried to use his name to climb the football ladder.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. You forget how far from everything Seattle is until you spend most of a day getting here. How did those people on wagon trains do it?
b. Way to go, Li Na.
c. Could The Hangover 2 be getting trashed any worse by reviewers?
d. Spain 4, U.S. 0. Now that wasn't very friendly.
e. Vancouver up 2-zip in the Stanley Cup Finals. Can't see the Bruins winning four out of five unless Tim Thomas stands it on his head.
f. Adrian Gonzalez can't be hotter at the plate or cooler in his approach.
g. Good to see Peter Gammons get exercised about the umpires. Too imperious. Best thing that happened to umps is Jim Joyce being shown as human instead of pompous after blowing the perfect game with the bad call at first a year ago.
h. The home court means nothing in Heat-Mavs.
i. Dirk Nowitzki's no Larry Bird, but he can play in his league any day.
j. Coffeenerdness: It's not rushed, which is part of the positive experience at Fonte' Micro Coffee Roaster on First Avenue in Seattle, a mile downtown from the ballparks. And if you get a latte with an extra shot of espresso, as I did over the weekend, be prepared for the hair on your neck to stand up. Excellent latte, as strong a drink as I've had in a while.
k. Beernerdness: Two memorable ones from a quick, surprisingly sunny and warm weekend in Seattle: Pyramid Hefeweizen (with a lemon), a smooth and delicious wheat beer that's always one of my favorites on a trip to the Northwest; and Maritime Pacific Islander Pale Ale, a citrusy draft at Safeco the other night.
l. I don't know why more teams don't do what the Mariners and Seahawks do, which is essentially make the ballpark a brewpub with all kinds of local brews. I know these teams get a lot of money from the big breweries to feature the standards, but Safeco's got to have 20 varieties of beer. Heavenly for a beer guy.