Feels like the calm before the storm a bit, doesn't it? With the 32 NFL owners meeting Tuesday in Chicago, we should know soon how close a labor deal really is, and whether Roger Goodell and the owners' negotiating team will have any real problems selling a new labor agreement to the owners.
That's the big news right now. But there are other things in my final column before summer break. I take a shot on which playoff team would be a good fit for Tiki Barber's comeback. I write about Los Angeles being on the verge of being in the Super Bowl rotation, the leaders in the clubhouse for Nnamdi Asomugha, an NFL teacher of the year totally out of left field (fitting, because he teaches at Ted Williams' old high school), thuggery in Vancouver, the death of Bruce Springsteen's alter ego, emailing with Nick Charles, a soundly underrated Buffalo Bill, and Rex Ryan's baseball knowledge. So settle in. And by the way, I hope those this applies to had a swell Father's Day.
Now the league finds out if it'll have any problem selling the labor deal.
The meeting in Chicago is not going to be particularly momentous. What it will do, as Yahoo!'s Jason Cole suggested Sunday in his excellent analysis of the labor scene, is flush out the real feelings of the owners. It will take nine owners' no votes to scuttle any preliminary labor deal, so after the negotiating team explains where the league stands with the players and where they might end up on the key issues, then the league's going to find out if it'll have any real opposition to a prospective deal.
Just to clarify: Tuesday's meeting (a two-per-club affair, with an owner and executive from each of the 32 teams) will not feature an agreement to be voted on, but rather a good idea of where the major points may end up when and if the league and the players reach an agreement in the coming weeks. This will give all 32 teams the chance to give their thoughts on a variety of issues, from the shortening of the offseason programs by five weeks to exactly where the cap will end up.
While many in the negotiating process felt neither side would do much until the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals either ordered the opening of the league year or allowed the league to continue the lockout, the two sides know each has some risk here. That's why they went ahead and made some progress on the framework of a new CBA. That's not to say it's going to get done, period. But the longer the talks go -- the two sides have met for six days this month, there's a good vibe around the talks, and they're expected to continue later this week after the owners meet -- the better shot at a deal.
It's probably an overstatement to suggest this is the most important meeting of Goodell's nearly five-year tenure. But in my Goodell profile from last winter for SI, Carolina owner Jerry Richardson told me, "If Roger's in office for 25 years, this will be the toughest challenge he'll ever face. However it turns out, it's a resolution he'll have to live with for the rest of his career.'' So when he and the labor committee face the 32 teams, there's no question Goodell's sales job will be vital
I doubt many owners will be shocked by anything they hear Tuesday. Some won't like how far the league is planning to go in giving players a percentage of the profits. But Goodell will tell them it has to happen for there to be a deal. I think whatever the nuts and bolts of this CBA become, he has been working with these owners on the tenets of this deal for three years, and he may have some opposition ... but I can't see nine teams' worth of it. For nine owners to rise up and say, Whoa, I'm not buying into this, is unlikely.
"I think the reports of teams unhappy with how far Roger's gone in these negotiations are overblown,'' said one club official who will be in the room Tuesday. "No question, some people won't like many things in it. The small-market teams, in particular. But will there be nine teams up in arms enough to wreck it? I'd be really surprised.''
The small-market teams could well be upset because -- from what I'm hearing -- not much will be done in the final deal to address the concerns of the bottom-revenue teams that have been trying to narrow the gap with the haves. This is a problem, frankly, I don't see getting fixed. Too many of the high-revenue teams think it's fine to share network TV and ticket money, but chafe at expanding revenue-sharing in a more global sense. It's a well-worn saw around the league that if Mike Brown wants his Bengals to be closer to the high-revenue teams, he should sell the naming rights to Paul Brown Stadium instead of keeping his dad's name on it. One league veteran told the revenue difference between rich and relative poor in the NFL "might be addressed, but is simply not going to get fixed in this deal.''
You can expect the NFL filters to be on high this week. I'd be worried about the deal only if I hear a couple of richy-rich teams (Washington and Dallas, say) and a couple of low-revenue teams (Minnesota and St. Louis) threatening to withhold support of the deal. That would mean teams across the spectrum don't like the deal. And I don't expect that to happen. But we'll see.
Tiki unplugged, and why he might be Steeler-bound.
My educated guess, and maybe a little more than that, is Pittsburgh will be Tiki Barber's landing spot this summer when he tries to return to football after four seasons away.
The Steelers have a head coach the Barber family knows well -- Mike Tomlin is close to twin Ronde Barber after coaching him in Tampa from 2001 to 2005 and also knows Tiki. Tomlin wouldn't be afraid of the sideshow Tiki Barber might create, nor would he be shy about pulling the plug if the 36-year-old back couldn't beat out the likes of Mewelde Moore.
The Steelers have a core of veteran stars; Tiki Barber would fit right in. The Steelers have a good back, Rashard Mendenhall, but no back-of-the-future type who Barber would be robbing playing time from. And one NFL source tells me Barber really wants a shot to play in Pittsburgh. I'm also told that wherever he goes, Barber won't be content to be a mopup guy or insurance policy; he wants to play a lot. We'll see where he ends up this summer, if and when football happens, but Pittsburgh's my guess.
More Tiki: Following up on Sports Illustrated's excellent Tiki Barber profile by L. Jon Wertheim comes a revealing interview Tuesday night on HBO's Real Sports by Armen Keteyian. "It's a story about [Tiki's] road to redemption, trying to make himself whole again,'' Keteyian said. "There was a richness, an honesty in the interview that I found riveting.'' The most interesting thing, according to Keteyian, was that after Barber's colossal failed marriage, taking up with a 23-year-old NBC intern, and getting dumped by NBC: "There was almost a level of self-destruction here -- he wanted to blow up this life he created and start over.''
The interview's good. I watched a review copy Sunday.
When I left football for TV, Barber told Keteyian, "People were trying to dictate what I should do with my life. And who I should be. 'You should be a football player.' 'I would cut off my left nut to do what you do. How dare you walk away from it?'
"I'll tell you how I dare, because I don't want to do it anymore," Barber added. "I don't have the passion to do it anymore. And so I walked away from it. And it rubbed people the wrong way."
That jibes with what I saw in the two years Barber was in the NBC studio -- I never once heard him say he missed football or would ever entertain the thought of playing again.
He says in the story he didn't begin training until February for another shot at the NFL, and now he's working with his old strength and conditioning man, Joe Carimi, in New Jersey. He says he feels he's on a mission of redemption. The team that will give him a chance? We'll see.
"There are a lot of coaches who I both have played against and played for who I think know what I'm about,'' Barber tells Keteyian. "And that gives me the belief that this opportunity is real. And not only am I going to be on a team, I'm going to be a big part of a team."
You mean we're already talking Super Bowl rotation for L.A.?
Two very good points from Al Michaels, who has lived much of his life in Los Angeles. He sees the NFL putting two teams in Los Angeles in our lifetime -- perhaps an existing franchise moving there, and an expansion team whenever the league wants to add to the 32-team quorum. And he says he "can't imagine'' once a team is playing in the city "that seven or eight Super Bowls in a 25-year period wouldn't be played there.''
"I probably won't be around to see that, and the league would never admit it,'' Michaels told me the other day, "but I feel sure L.A. would be back in the Super Bowl rotation once it gets a team. It's got the glitz, the glamour, the market.''
I called a few Angelinos last week to measure the fervor for the NFL there. "Do people in L.A. really want a team?'' said Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times. "That's really the question.''
My question too, though I've been partially assuaged by seeing the LA Live complex downtown (with Staples Center, huge JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels and good restaurants), which is fabulous, and the fact that USC and UCLA draw big crowds at the Coliseum and Rose Bowl, respectively.
"When I hear, 'L.A. people don't care about the NFL,' I think it's ridiculous,'' Michaels said. "When I moved here in 1958, I saw two Rams games at the Coliseum that drew 100,000 [each]. This is an event town. There's something about being at a Lakers game that's almost like a badge of honor. And look, if you've got 15 million people in the region, you can find 75,000 to go to an NFL game eight times a year.''
There's more momentum for a team in Los Angeles than at any time since the league left after the 1994 season. If the city council approves a Memorandum of Understanding with prospective owner AEG by July 31, and if a 30,000-page Environmental Impact Report passes muster with the politicos, there's still one small problem -- a team relocating in time to play when a stadium downtown would open in 2016.
San Diego is the most likely because of its trouble getting a new stadium built. But don't overlook St. Louis. The Rams' lease at the Edward Jones Dome expires after the 2014 season, and if the league doesn't address revenue inequity in a serious way in this round of bargaining, the Rams might be in the discussion. The Los Angeles team would almost surely bolt into the top quartile of teams in revenue, which would be a temptation for any lower-revenue owner.
The race for the best defensive free agent since Deion Sanders.
I make the case lower in this column that the Houston Texans have to go after free-agent cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha when the shopping season opens. And I think the Lions should make a hard run at him too. But I don't get the sense either team will. My three favorites whenever teams can hit the market:
1. Philadelphia. Rumors (and they seem to be more than that) are flying that the Eagles are going to strike quickly and spend big money in free agency. Imagine pairing Asomugha with very good cover man Asante Samuel. It'd be money well-spent, even at a Bradyish $18 million a year.
2. Dallas. Go back in history. Remember when Jerry Jones, against the wishes of son Steven, gave Deion Sanders a $13 million signing bonus in 1995 to come to Dallas? (Jerry thought his son was going to punch him over it.) Jones has the ability to fit Asomugha under his cap. With Tony Romo and DeMarcus Ware the only huge-money players on the roster, the Joneses can find a way to shoehorn an Asomugha contract into the fold.
3. Baltimore. Everything says no -- the Ravens need to sign Haloti Ngata long-term, and how many megabuck defensive players can you have in a cap era? But Ozzie Newsome knows the only thing his defense lacks is a shutdown corner.
I could see the Jets being interested if they figure Antonio Cromartie is too big of a risk to sign long-term, but how can your starting corners, collectively, be 30 percent of your cap? That's what would happen if Asomugha and Darrelle Revis became teammates. And I could see Seattle kicking the tires. The Seahawks don't have a $10-million-a-year player, and Paul Allen's got the dough. We'll see, but my guess is Asomugha ends up in the NFC East.
By the way, I had every intention in this space of running down the top 20 free agents, but I looked at the list and it felt a little fruitless. We don't know what the rules are, and whether four- and five-year unsigned vets will be free. So I'll wait until we have more information.
Burt Grossman's a teacher, and apparently a darned good one.
Two decades ago, San Diego defensive lineman Burt Grossman was on the cover of Sports Illustrated for his mouth. "BIG MOUTH'' the cover shouted. Inside was one story after another explaining that Grossman did, indeed, have a big mouth, and used it regularly.
Now he's back in the news, sort of, as the NFL's 2011 Teacher of the Year. The award is given annually to a former NFL player who teaches in a distinguished way. It's amazing that Grossman's the man cited. He came across as bright but not the kind of unselfish type you need to be as an inner-city teacher.
What a strange trip to this award. Grossman told me the other day he never really liked football when he played for the Chargers and Eagles; his love of the game ended in college at Pitt.
When Grossman retired, he was a stay-at-home dad for about eight years before starting to try to figure out what he wanted to do with his life. Social work, maybe. Or teaching. Finally he got his teaching certificate -- he's so into it now he's going for a Master's in Education and Public Policy -- and got a dual job with the toughest of the tough. In the mornings, he works with kids coming off probation, juvenile detention or jail, mostly helping them get a high school diploma. In the second half of his day, he works at a melting pot school in San Diego, Hove High.
"We're the Ellis Island of education,'' said assistant principal Andreas Trakas. "We've got 2,200 kids here, and 35 different languages being spoken. At the same time, we've had about a third of our teachers cut in this state in recent years, most of them the young, passionate teachers we cannot afford to lose. So the no-child-left-behind kids are being left behind.''
Grossman's job is not to teach. Rather, it's to take the 40 to 60 most troubled students and try to save them as a sort of guidance counselor and social worker, teaching problem-solving and critical-thinking. Typical student for Grossman: a girl who's always tired in school because her mother's a prostitute and makes the girl stay home at night to take care of the family while she works the streets. True story. "We don't find candy wrappers on campus,'' he said over the weekend. "We find condom wrappers.''
Trakas said Grossman has gotten some of his charges so enthused about taking school seriously that they've volunteered to go to summer school this year. "For Burt,'' said Trakas, "it's about changing lives and being one of the first adults many of these kids can trust.''
Grossman worked hard to get one of the kids to go out for football. Dame Ndiaye, from Senegal, played his first season of football in 2010 for Hoover High, and was so impressive that Arizona offered his a football scholarship.
Yet Grossman's not beholden to football. And he finds fault with both sides for the labor mess they're in now. "I found it asinine what Ray Lewis said about crime going up if there's no football,'' he said. "How small is the fishbowl you live in when you think that way? Just seems to me everyone in the NFL is so disconnected from the world. Everything is money, and they've all got so much of it.''
Top 100 Mania
Below, I'm unveiling numbers 21 through 30 on NFL Network's top 100 versus my 21 through 30. Since this is my last column for four weeks, you'll have to wait until late July to see my final 20. I'm sure you'll be counting down the days. (To catch up on 31-100, click here.)
Tidbits from this listing:
• I have Pittsburgh linebackers 23, 28 and 31 (LaMarr Woodley, Lawrence Timmons, James Harrison, respectively)
• Surprised at me having Kyle Williams 27 while the players, apparently, don't have him in the top 100? Watch some video of him. He consistently occupies two blockers. Always moving forward. A machine. I remember talking to Chan Gailey about him last year. This is a man who coached Emmitt Smith, Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin -- and I do believe I have never heard him rave about any player the way he raved to me about Williams
• For me, Ndamukong Suh over Haloti Ngata was very tough. The final straw was Suh being three years younger, though I could certainly understand if someone had them flipped on a list ... As with Ben Roethlisberger at 41, I believe Philip Rivers is exceedingly low for the players at 26. (For more on this, see No. 2 in 10 Things I Think I Think.)
Vancouver must be addressed.
We all saw the ridiculous display in Vancouver on Wednesday night after the hometown Canucks lost Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. A scarier view into the future I haven't seen in some time. The callousness of hundreds of people (it wasn't 10 or 20 or 60; we're talking hundreds of people taking the law into their hands and ransacking portions of a city) cannot be dismissed by saying, "Oh, it's just a bunch of drunks who got carried away after a game.''
What possesses people to BURN police cars? To slash firehoses so fires can't be put out? To pose, smiling and laughing, in front of burning cars and smashed plate-glass windows? That's what I found the most stunning Wednesday night. Video of the so-called normal people, 25ish fans, men/women, running to pose in front of a burning BMW, putting up thumbs-up signs, or victory signs, and smiling. Normal people think it's cool. Average people, maybe out on a date night or whatever they were doing out on the street, probably with normal jobs and lives, running to pose in front of a burning car ... What were they thinking? "Let me have a cool memory of the riots of 2011!''
It's encouraging that scores of volunteers showed up all day Thursday to clean up the mess. That's a hopeful sign. But those Wednesday night scenes left me as scared about our future as anything I've seen in a long time.
Gone, but impossible to be forgotten.
Clarence Clemons was an offensive lineman in college and once hoped to play in the NFL; a car accident after his senior year at then-Maryland State College foiled those dreams. So instead he became one of the great sax players of all time, a man I had the pleasure of hearing on the biggest stages of the mega-concert scene at least 15 times between 1976 and 2009. He died Saturday of a massive stroke suffered a week earlier.
The first time was the most memorable ... April Fools Day, 1976, in my freshman year at Ohio University. In those days, Springsteen and the E Street Band (the highlight of which was Clemons' wailing sax) was a touring machine. In this particular month, the band played 21 dates in some real metropolises -- Athens, Ohio; Boone, N.C.; Meadville, Pa.; Hamilton, N.Y.; Wallingford, Conn.; Johnson City, Tenn. -- before crowds in the hundreds. Imagine the travel.
The show in Athens was at our multi-purpose venue for plays and concerts, Memorial Auditorium; I'd guess about 1,700 people showed up. But we were raucous. It was a general admission show, and we started lining up about 3 in the afternoon to get the best seats closest to the stage when the doors opened. I think they let the pushing and shoving mass of people in the place around 7, and the force of the wave of 800 or so people ripped one of the doors off the hinges. How crazy GA seating was.
I ended up in the third row, on the left aisle (which was convenient, because we stood for the entire show). Maybe 15 feet, max, from Clemons' sax. I'm guessing it was about six songs in when the bad played "Jungleland,'' which the crowd pretty much knew by heart. Clemons starred, of course, with his long sax solo, and about all I remember is the crowd got fairly quiet when he played that solo, then gave a huge ovation when he finished -- and Springsteen bowed to him.
He was the co-star to Bruce's star. He understood, we all understood, that he was number two. But like so many number twos in entertainment, he was vital to the overall success of the group. Clemons to Springsteen was Kramer to Seinfeld. A Springsteen show just wasn't the same without him (I know; I saw some), and now no Springsteen show will ever be the same, forever.
"My rock and anchor continue to be my Christian faith. I'm banking on these years being like grains of sand on the beach. I'm looking to eternity to see my wonderful family again.''-- Terminally ill former CNN Sports anchor and HBO and Showtime boxing announcer Nick Charles, in an email to me Thursday night.
We worked together for a spell at CNN, and what a gentleman he was. Is. Charles is in decline from bladder and lung cancer, and his emotional, grateful-about-every-last-minute-he-has email stopped me in my tracks.
May you have peace with your family, Nick. So many people I encounter are touched by your story and your bravery. Here's a piece from CNN's Sanjay Gupta after a visit to New Mexico to see Charles.
"I can still throw the ball as well as I ever have. No question about that. But I don't want to put my body through that anymore. I've been beat up enough.''-- Brett Favre, 41, at a football camp in Hattiesburg, Miss.
OK. Don't anyone start the rumors. Just don't.
"He can do almost anything he wants. He doesn't want to do anything. To me, that's the issue. He's one of those you walk into a meeting and tell him, 'Put the phone down.' The next day you have to tell him to put down the phone. The next day you tell him to put down the phone. It doesn't stick. It's an everyday thing.''-- Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett, to ESPN 101 radio in St. Louis, on the headache that is coaching Albert Haynesworth.
"This singing comic book is no longer the ungodly, indecipherable mess it was in February. It's just a bore.''-- Ben Brantley of the New York Times, after watching the first performance on Broadway of "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark'' after some 180 preview performances to work out the kinks. Mr. Brantley, from the looks of his review, believes the play is one large kink. And I don't mean Ray Davies.
The five reasons Bob McNair and the Houston Texans must go after Nnamdi Asomugha, and must go after him hard, whenever free agency opens:
1. Houston allowed a league-high 4,499 yards passing last year.
2. Houston allowed a ridiculous 8.22 yards per pass attempt. Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, combined, averaged 8.03.
3. Glover Quin and Kareem Jackson, the nominal starting corners, have five interceptions in 44 career games between them. The interception is a shaky and fairly meaningless stat, but suffice it to say that neither Quin nor Jackson is a shutdown corner. The Texans allowed foes to complete 64.7 percent of their throws last year, four percentage points worse than the secondary-challenged Browns.
4. A team with Mario Williams and Brian Cushing pressuring the pocket should not be sacking the quarterback an average of 1.9 times a game, which Houston did last year. Wade Phillips, with his pressure packages in the new 3-4, is going to need better coverage in the back end. Asomugha and Revis are the best cover corners in football, and Asomugha is the rarest of the rare -- a truly top cornerback, available for no compensation except money. It's going to be a big paycheck, but it doesn't cost a draft choice or a player.
5. Bob McNair paid $700 million for the Texans and chipped in much of the $425 million it cost to build Reliant Stadium for the team to play in. The one thing standing in the way of being truly competitive at a high NFL level is a significant upgrade on defense. Since the dawn of free agency, only one player, Reggie White, has been a better prize on the free-agent market than Asomugha. You cannot tell me that he wouldn't be worth $18 million a year to employ. I will not buy it.
My Boston urologist, Tony Luongo, is Roberto Luongo's cousin. That leads me to a few hockey factoids.
The moral of the Stanley Cup story, to me, was the Canucks were vastly overrated.
Vancouver was 12-10 in its last 22 playoff games .... Outscored 64-49 in those 22 games. Outscored 17-7 in the final four games of the first round against Chicago. The Bruins outscored them by 15 goals in a seven-game series. How does a team with the league's highest-paid goalie, Luongo, allow 21 goals in the Bruins' four wins in the series?
After the first 10 minutes of the first game of the finals, I just never saw the free-skating, fast, crisp-passing team I'd been hearing about throughout the playoffs. And the Sedins. I'm not going to call them names, but they came up smaller than LeBron when it counted in this series. In the final five games of the finals, when the game was on the line (the score within a two-goal margin), here was the Sedin twins' stat line: zero goals, zero assists, zero points.
Five Things I'm Not Looking Forward to on Vacation (Travel Section):
1. The middle seat in coach. It's going to happen sometime. But if I never have to sit in the middle seat in coach again, I'd be overjoyed. And on redeye flights ...
2. The summer airport security lines, when families wait in line for 35 minutes, get to the TSA gatekeeper and stare at him/her. "ID and boarding pass?'' the TSA person will say, and then the head of the family will rummage through some bag to find both. You mean you've been in a line for 35 minutes and watched how the drill works and you get to the front of the line and you're stunned to learn you have to provide tickets and IDs for every non-child in the group?
3. The $73 tank of gas.
4. Seeing seriously overweight 55-year-old women (and men for that matter) in airports with those barbed-wire tattoos encircling their ankles. That has to be one of the weirdest things to see. Saw one middle-aged woman with a fresh-inked one walking through the Atlanta airport recently and thought, You're kidding me, right?
5. Having pangs of conscience when the labor deal gets worked out and I'm into my fourth Harpoon summer beer (in the flashy yellow can), and saying, "Should I really go and bat out a reaction column right now?''
Five Things I'm Looking Forward to Doing:
1. Beating back said pangs of conscience and not working when the new labor deal happens.
2. Doing more of nothing, except walking and seeing a different world, in Trieste, Italy.
3. Finishing the Thursday New York Times crossword once. On my own, I never have.
4. Eating the scrambled eggs with cheese and the raisin toast at a Waffle House, somewhere in the United States. Now that's the all-American meal right there.
"I hope owners n players really hate this new CBA, with a passion, when we're done..then Fans r happy n the media will chirp n heroes crowned!''--@JimIrsay, the Indianapolis owner and resident ownership loose cannon, Saturday afternoon. I don't know what this means, but I think his point is that the fairest deal will be one that makes everyone unhappy.
"Vancouver please stop burning s---. We're a great city and have a lot of class. Our team is great and a championship will come. Soon.''-- @SteveNash, the Victoria native and the basketball player, as hoodlums ran roughshod over the city after the Canucks lost the Stanley Cup to Boston.
"Overrated n soft 3rd best d-line on his team honestly.''-- @CutonDime25, Eagles running back LeSean McCoy, criticizing Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora after it was reveled last week that Umenyiora accused Giants GM Jerry Reese of not following through on a promise to re-do his contract.
Umenyiora, in one of the great non-sequitur rips of recent NFL history, then called McCoy "Lady Gaga'' in response.
1. I think Chad Pennington will be a natural doing games for FOX this fall. His announcement to the Charleston (W.Va.) Daily Mail surprised me, but it makes sense that he'll take the season off because of shoulder and knee rehab and not wanting to rush back. The big question is: Will Pennington be able to talk critically -- if he needs to -- of a team that he may hope to play for in 2012?
2. I think for the players who voted Philip Rivers the 26th-best player in the NFL and Ben Roethlisberger the 41st, I give you these little facts:
Won-lost record: Roethlisberger 69-26, Rivers 55-25.Playoff record: Roethlisberger 10-3, Rivers 3-4.Super Bowl wins: Roethlisberger 2, Rivers 0.Touchdowns: Roethlisberger 144, Rivers 136.
I mean, just saying.
3. I think the best football nugget relating to the late, great Clarence Clemons came from Rich Cimini Sunday: Clemons and Emerson Boozer were college football teammates. Clemons blocked for him.
4. I think I continue to be mind-boggled at the fact that there will be such a lack of interest (unless a lot of people I speak with about it are lying) in the unemployed, inexpensive and supremely motivated Plaxico Burress when free agency opens. Just stupid. In the right offense he'll be the big target many teams lack, and, if healthy, he'll catch 60-plus balls and be a good deep threat. At worst? He's not going to cost much. What's the downside? Rams, Browns? Tell me. I'm dying to know.
5. I think I understand the contract dispute between the Giants and Osi Umenyiora is at the base of all of his dissatisfaction over the last two seasons, and the thing might be standing in the way of getting what a good player may rightly deserve. But I don't understand why it has a place in the Brady vs. NFL antitrust lawsuit.
Don't players and teams have a difference of opinion on the value of players all the time? Aren't there disagreements about what is said in the privacy of a room all the time? Umenyiora said he was deceived by Giants GM Jerry Reese. Maybe he was, maybe he wasn't. But what place does it have in a global suit between players and owners about some of the loftiest issues in sports? I don't see it.
6. I think I'd happily recommend for your summer football pleasure (assuming the dark cloud of the labor thing isn't still hanging over our heads) the NFL 101 All-Access show at the Los Angeles Coliseum on Monday, July 18, hosted by my friend Andrea Kremer.
I'll be there (on a panel discussing the events of the day and projecting the events of the season) with former Super Bowl quarterback Kurt Warner, Bengals coach Marvin Lewis, former Titans coach Jeff Fisher, Raiders executive Amy Trask, Arizona president Michael Bidwill, 49ers CEO Jed York, NFL rules czar and FOX analyst Mike Pereira and Packers equipment manager Red Batty, who always puts on a good show setting up a locker room like a real NFL one. (Others guests are to be announced prior to the event.)
It's a fun evening; I guarantee you'll learn some things about football you didn't know when you arrived. For ticket and other event info, contact Aubrey Walton at firstname.lastname@example.org. Hope to see you there.
7. I think, lest you think Rex Ryan is an altogether one-sided sports person, I'll take you into a little view of Ryan's sports brain. I ran into him the other day outside of Boston, and the talk turned to how hot the Red Sox were, and Ryan, who is not a Red Sox fan, said to me, "Yeah, but they gotta get Crawford going.'' I suppose someone who tangentially followed baseball would know Carl Crawford is off to a so-so start in his Boston career, but I was impressed that Ryan knew what a relatively weak link he'd been.
8. I think, just to clarify for those who missed it, there was a story out the other day that claimed Baltimore coach John Harbaugh was not in favor of taking rap-sheeted cornerback Jimmy Smith from Colorado with the Ravens' first pick in the April draft. Not so. Actually, Harbaugh and new defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano were very much in favor of the pick, Harbaugh getting convinced in part by a two-hour private meeting he had with Smith before the draft.
9. One year ago today, my brother Bob died. Thinking of you today, bro. Father's Day will never be the same.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. Yes, I did mistake Mark Wahlberg for brother Donnie at the Stanley Cup game in Boston last Monday night. Does it help to say I loved The Fighter? Or does that simply make me look like more of a doofus?
b. Thought so.
c. Mark Cuban seems a lot more human than he did three months ago. He did a heck of job disappearing in the playoffs, and then, in tough economic times, paying for the parade and celebration for the Mavericks title himself. That's what a good citizen does. How many owners tell a city, "Never mind, I'll pay for the parade?''
d. I told Bob Wallace, the longtime Rams vice president and attorney, that I'd help out in publicizing a worthy autism cause in St. Louis. Wallace did three webcasts on business and legal aspects of the National Football League. Featured on the webcasts will be 30-year NFL executive Wallace, Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum, high-profile agent Tom Condon, attorney David Cornwell and coaches agent Bob Lattinville.
Readers of MMQB can view each webcast they desire for $89 (savings of $10 off the normal price) and a portion of the proceeds from that amount will be donated to benefit Giant Steps, a program dedicated to helping children with autism integrate into mainstream society. To learn more and to register, go here. This is the kind of programming young law students and those wanting to get a foot in the door of an NFL front office would be wise to watch.
e. Good-bye and good luck at NFL.com, Dom Bonvissuto. You have been one hell of an editor, and you will do great at whatever you do, wherever you do it. Watch out for LA. It's a great big freeway.
f. Re the Stanley Cup: Just like in the NBA, the better team won.
g. Brad Marchand, you can play for my team anytime. You too, Dennis Seidenberg.
h. Ross Tucker asked me on our SiriusXM NFL Radio show the other day what position is the most important position in sports. I said quarterback, followed by starting pitcher. He said quarterback, followed by hockey goaltender. That's what watching Tim Thomas for two weeks will do to you. Well done, Bruins.
i. I see saboteurs opened up fake Twitter accounts to try to lure Anthony Weiner into relationships. Another great day for America.
j. Coffeenerdness: I think about a quarter of the items on the Starbucks drink list now contain coffee. I'm guessing frozen daiquiris are next.
k. Beernerdness: From my SI compatriot Tim Layden -- My new favorite: A red ale called ``Cascazilla'' from the Ithaca Brewing Company (in the home of the Cornell Big Red). First sampled it on tap at Dinosaur Barbecue in Rochester(where Kevin Layden is in college) and this week my daughter bought me 12-pack for my 55th birthday. Not as good as on tap (what is?) but still mighty fine. Hard to find outside central N.Y., though.
l. How great is that! Contributors for Beernerdness!
m. My Beernerdness: I told you recently that I'd gotten to know the Bukowski Tavern, a few long fungoes from Fenway Park, and liked the beer menu. Good variety, and not too reverential. Speaking to the non-reverential part, this is what the beer menu says about the lower-calorie selections in-house, and those NOT in-house: "Light beer refers to beer which is reduced in alcohol content, or in calories, compared to 'regular' beers. Sorry, but we do draw the line when it comes to losing taste, and therefore we proudly do not carry MIC ULTRA. Have a glass of f-----' water.'" I see.
n. I don't know LeBron James. Have never met him. And I don't cover the NBA, so I'm not positive what Gary Washburn wrote the other day in the Boston Globe is right or wrong. But it sure sounded very smart.
Washburn's take on James' playoff flameout: "The resentment toward James stems from not only 'The Decision' but the fact that he doesn't maximize his vast natural talents. James is more of an athlete who plays basketball than a true basketball player. Unlike Jordan and Ray Allen, who spent hours during sweltering summer days working on their games to not only keep up with the oncoming rush of talented youngsters, but exceed them, we're not really sure what LeBron does on his offdays besides stay physically fit. He enjoyed a spike in his 3-point shooting during the playoffs but has yet to develop a consistent midrange or post game. And when those points are brought up by the media, he responds by becoming sensitive and not showing humility.
"And we have yet to see LeBron fully respect his coaches, pursue guidance, or admit that this life that he chose and its demands are overwhelming him. Instead, we are witnessing mental breakdowns on the court, stretches of ambivalence followed by uncertainty, and finally desperation. He needs help, an older person to pull him aside and explain that bravado and arrogance are not always appropriate. And big paychecks, large houses, and extravagant parties on South Beach will do nothing to camouflage the pain and embarrassment that riddles him.''
Pretty good stuff.
o. Happy next month, people. See you right back in this space on July 25 ... and possibly before that somewhere in the SI empire, if the labor negotiators come to their senses and my conscience gets the best of me.
p. There will still be MMQB. In my absence, I'll have guest columnists. Stay tuned for their identities and good reads on the next four Mondays.