M.I.A. at Manning camp, Manziel putting his NFL reputation at risk

Monday July 15th, 2013

Johnny Manziel (left) was given the Manning Award, honoring the nation's best QB and named after Archie Manning (right), in May.
Gerald Herbert/AP

Good morning. Happy to be back after my annual summer break. The beginning of the training camp trip is five days away, in Oxnard, Calif., with the Cowboys. Always my favorite time of the year. Everybody's got hope, much of it legitimate, and the stories are new and fresh. Then there's the new project, The MMQB, I'm heading up. That's the new NFL-centric website that'll go live starting next Monday morning.

We've got three stories to cover right off the top, most notably Johnny Manziel's dehydration. Or "dehydration.'' Or so-called dehydration. Away we go with the start of a new season -- the 30th NFL campaign I've covered.


Just a kid sowing some oats? Or Ryan Leaf II?

First, the story about Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, the Heisman winner, getting sent home from the Manning Passing Academy in Thibodaux, La., on Saturday. It's an NFL story, at least in part, because Manziel is likely to play one more season at Texas A&M, then declare for the NFL following his second season in college. And it is because Peyton, Eli and Archie Manning run the camp, and they're the first family of NFL quarterbacks.

Understand the way the Manning camp works. Approximately 1,200 aspiring quarterbacks, grades eight through 12, go to Nicholls (La.) State University in Thibodaux, La., for a long weekend every July to be tutored by quarterback coaches, college quarterbacks and the Manning boys themselves. The campers arrive on Thursday, take the field Friday and Saturday, watch a throwing exhibition by the college and pro quarterbacks there Saturday night, then leave late Sunday morning. One of the draws is having some top quarterbacks come -- and not just the Mannings. Kids are excited to be in the presence of quarterbacks like Johnny Manziel, who was assigned to one group of between 12 to 16 young passers.

Manziel was spotted at a bar in Thibodaux early Friday morning, and he was late for one of the Friday coaching sessions. No one's sure where he was Friday night, but he was a no-show for a two-hour session Saturday morning, and the staff had to cover for him. (Imagine you're a high school sophomore, you're excited about coming to the Manning camp, and, as if that's not enough, you walk in for orientation Thursday night and hear, "Johnny Football's going to be your counselor.'' You're all jacked up, and then you show up Saturday for a two-hour workout with Manziel ... and he's nowhere to be found. Not good.)

Confronted by the staff early Saturday afternoon, Manziel said he wasn't feeling well and had to miss the Saturday session. Even if that were true, the staff wasn't pleased that Manziel never called and left the coaches short-handed. It was then that someone -- Archie, by some reports -- told Manziel it would be best for everyone if he went home.

Home, 400 miles away in College Station, would seem to be a good place to get some rest Saturday night and recover from whatever ailed him. But two Twitter followers tweeted out information early Sunday morning that Manziel was at a bar in College Station, and one tweeted a photo of a white-t-shirted Manziel in a bar there. At 1:27 a.m.:

On Sunday, Manziel's dad, Paul Manziel, texted Kate Hairopoulos of the Dallas Morning News that Johnny was "resting and recuperating from dehydration."

That's quite a tale.

So why does this matter? Manziel is a tremendous multi-purpose talent as a quarterback. But his size (6-foot-0 and 195 pounds, approximately) and suspect arm strength will work against him when the NFL studies him. The Russell Wilson and Drew Brees examples will help convince teams that short guys can play, but Wilson and Brees are Eagle Scouts. No team will ever have to worry about either off the field. Manziel's already been arrested at Texas A&M once, for a 2012 altercation. He's got a party-boy rep, deserved or not. When he's studied by NFL teams, either next offseason or in 2015, they'll dig in to all of this stuff. And the lack of responsibility -- letting down the Manning family in being a no-show for a commitment coaching kids -- is the kind of red flag every team will ask about.

You remember how Ryan Leaf became such a shaky pick after Peyton Manning in the 1998 draft. Leaf's immaturity and drinking doomed his NFL career. It's unfair to compare Manziel to Leaf -- at least now. But you have to understand NFL GMs and scouts. Things like this passing academy gaffe will stick in their minds, and they'll wonder how much of an off-field chance they'd be taking with Manziel. If Manziel doesn't want to make his stock plummet, he'd better start partying a little more carefully, and with some hydration.

BURKE: 2014 Mock Draft

The lessons of Aaron Hernandez.

There are so many. But I'll write about three of them.

1. If I were New England owner Robert Kraft and coach Bill Belichick, I'd be asking my security people (and I am sure these questions are being asked now), "Are you telling me you knew nothing about Aaron Hernandez off the field? You're telling me your moles in the Boston Police didn't tell you anything about Hernandez a year ago, when a car Hernandez rented was the car of interest in a double murder in Boston? You're telling me you never heard anything about Hernandez and the people he was associating with -- because he sure wasn't hanging with Tom Brady?'' I know the Patriots can't tail 53 guys. Or one. But the organization seemed to have dropped all suspicion in the last couple of years about a guy so many teams questioned before the 2010 draft -- a guy who had very few close friends on the team, and who always seemed to go his own way when he left the facility. Kraft has to know that if Belichick is going to continue to draft from college football's All-Risk Team, he'd better improve the quality of private eyes he employs.

2. Since Scott Pioli left the organization in 2009, Belichick doesn't have anyone to argue him off troubled players. Not that Pioli won all the time. "But,'' someone with knowledge of the Patriots front office told me, "there's no one there with Scott's balls anymore. Bill needs someone to challenge him, and I don't think he has that now." Would Pioli have challenged Belichick on Hernandez, or on Alfonzo Dennard, the seventh-round corner who will have to leave camp in August to go to a probation trial in Nebraska and who last week was arrested for DUI? I don't know, and there's no guarantee those picks wouldn't have been made anyway. But this isn't the first time I've heard the Pioli thing.

3. Belichick had better give the Urban Meyer guys a harder look in the future. He's had either trouble of some kind or abject disappointment with Florida picks Hernandez, Chad Jackson, Jermaine Cunningham, Brandon Spikes and Jeff Demps.

ROSENBERG: Meyer's attitude on Hernandez is disappointing

I still think the Patriots are going to be a double-digit-win team this year; tight end Daniel Fells should be athletic enough to provide Tom Brady a trusted alternative -- if not one as athletic or versatile -- to Hernandez. But in New England's world, making hay in the weak AFC East isn't what matters. Beating Baltimore and Denver and Pittsburgh and Houston is. And with the mayhem of the last month, winning the AFC is very much in doubt.


The Broncos have to come down very hard on Matt Russell and Tom Heckert.

You hate to think morbid thoughts like this, but really: With how wasted Russell and Heckert, both team executives, were when driving-while-impaired, it's very fortunate someone wasn't killed. As the Denver Post reported, Russell's blood-alcohol content was .246, more than three times the legal limit, when he was picked up after hitting two cars earlier this month; Heckert's BAC was .162, double the limit -- and Heckert was tested seven hours after being picked up. As club president Joe Ellis said a couple of times since the disturbing arrests were made public, their apologies ring hollow.

It's unlikely the Broncos will fire director of player personnel Russell or director of pro personnel Heckert today when the organization meets to decide what punishments to levy. I'm told the sanctions on both men will be significant in terms of time away from the job and financial punishment. But as important will be treatment for alcohol abuse if that's what the team feels is most important to the future of both men -- and the organization. I could see each man being assessed for the depth of alcohol problem and being away from the team for as long a period as the professional examining them deems right.

But the league is noted for giving first-strike (but serious) offenders a path back to their jobs, if they mend their ways and do just what they're supposed to do. That's why firings aren't likely. Rehab and a serious smack on the wrist -- for both men -- are more likely.

Entering training camp, John Elway will have to find another trusted member of his front office to scan the waiver wire and help him run personnel meetings. That's not the way you want to enter a season that dawns with such promise. But it'd be foolish for anyone to think the Broncos could go on with business as usual. They're likely to have to make do without Elway's top two lieutenants for much, if not all, of the summer.


The Talented Mr. Author pens a good one.

Matthew Berry, the ESPN fantasy-meister, has a book coming out tomorrow called Fantasy Life. Of the many stories in there -- and he has funny and strange ones from around the fantasy world, from the famous and unfamous -- this could well be my fave. In the words of Berry:

As many people know, Maurice Jones-Drew is not just a star running back for the Jacksonville Jaguars and a perennial first-round pick, but he is also an avid fantasy football player himself, hosting his own fantasy football radio show on SiriusXM. MJD is the first active NFL player to be both an athlete and a huge advocate for fantasy.

So the fact that he plays in a lot of fantasy leagues and, as an athlete, is a no-brainer first-round pick has led to situations where, because of where he's picking, he doesn't have the chance to draft himself. Normally, people in the league are understanding and let MJD draft himself. But not always.

One year, in order to promote fantasy, the NFL Players Association had a fantasy league with a bunch of NFL players, including MJD and Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte. And who did Forte select with his first-round pick that year? Maurice Jones-Drew.

It was a good pick, as MJD was going in the top three in fantasy drafts across the country and Maurice had a low draft pick in the first round. Naturally, he tried to trade for himself. And Matt Forte was having none of it.

As the season went on, MJD put up monster numbers, making his fantasy owners happy. And making it impossible to get himself back in a trade. "Come on," Maurice texted Forte one week. "You gotta trade me to me."

Forte texted back. "Hell no. I'm gonna beat you with you."

Quote of the Week I

"Did you see who I was with?"


"NFL. Just so you know."

-- Text message exchange between Odin Lloyd (the first and third messages) and his sister (the second) on the night Lloyd was murdered. Chillingly, the last text was sent at 3:23 a.m., and Lloyd was killed with multiple shots to the head less than three minutes later.

Quote of the Week II

"He was a good dog. He was always good with the bat. He never left teeth marks on your bat."

-- Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano, to the New York Post, on the death of 13-year-old Trenton Thunder bat dog Chase, who died on July 3. Cano played for the Thunder in 2003 and 2004, when Chase was in his prime.

Quote of the Week III

"Opposing players would verbally abuse and berate that openly gay player. Plain and simple. It is not a politically correct world out on the gridiron. Quite the contrary. In fact, opposing teams' players would go out of their way to take that openly gay player OUT. And I do mean with extra hard hits, illegal hits and head-to-head hits. No, not because of gay bashing but simply for the reason that the perceived meek or weak are preyed upon in the NFL.

-- Chidi Ahanotu, former Tampa Bay defensive lineman, to Thomas Kaunzner, of SportsBlog.com.

Stat of the Week

There's been much discussion about the spate of offseason arrests in the NFL, highlighted by the Aaron Hernandez murder charge, of course. And, of course, one arrest is too many. But it's probably unrealistic to think that men with more money, on average, than the general public wouldn't get into some trouble, regardless how much preaching the league does about it. The question is, is the NFL's rate of arrest much higher than the general public's?

I looked up the FBI's arrest data and used it as a means of comparison against the San Diego Union-Tribune's database of NFL player arrests. The paper lists 40 since Jan. 1 this year, but I believe it's 42.

Now, where I think there's been a bit of statistical confusion is in the interpretation of total number of NFL players. I've seen some people list 53 per team, and thus 1,696 total. That's not an accurate number of NFL players; you'd have to add eight more per team in-season, plus players on injured-reserve ... so you'd probably have to estimate about 65 per team. But wait. In the offseason, teams employ up to 90 players per team, including undrafted rookie free agents. Cleveland's Ausar Wolcott, for instance, charged with attempted murder for punching a man outside a New Jersey nightclub in June, and then cut, was an undrafted free agent. So if you use 90 per team, the NFL control group rises to 2,880, almost 1,200 more than if you'd measure it by in-season active-roster players only.

So let's use the larger number, and to be mathematically fair, let's use a one-year period: July 15, 2012 to July 14, 2013, which was Sunday. By my count, there have been 55 arrests of NFL players in that year.

Number of arrests of NFL players in the last year: 55.

Estimated number of players currently under contract in NFL: 2,880.

Percentage of players arrested in the last year: 1.9 percent.

Now for the general population. Look at the last year the FBI has complete stats for, 2010.

Number of arrests of American adults: 11,479,500.

Estimate number of American adults living in 2010: 235,205,700.

Percentage of American adults arrested in 2010: 4.9 percent.

The numbers would be skewed almost any way you did it. The pool of NFL players for an eight-month period is less than 2,880, obviously, because undrafted free agents are not signed until April and thus there wouldn't be the huge pool for the entire 12-month period -- probably only about five months. But if you cut the difference in half and used, say, an estimate of 2,200 players, you'd still be at a significantly lower percentage of arrests compared to America at-large. And you also would be more accurate to compare one control group, football players, to males aged 21 to 35 in the larger society.

My point is, we know the arrests are an ugly part of football the league and the Players Association need to constantly work to reduce. But it's not so easy to simply say, "Too many players are getting arrested." Compared to what, exactly?

Factoid of the Week That May Interest Only Me I

Harry Kraft, the high school junior and son of Patriots president Jonathan Kraft, finished his third Manning Passing Academy camp Sunday in Thibodaux, La. He's a quarterback for his suburban Boston high school, and those at the camp have noticed his steady improvement from year to year since Harry first attended as a rising frosh in July 2011.

Chase the Dog was 13, and started working for the Trenton Thunder in 2002.
Kathy Willens/AP

Factoid of the Week That May Interest Only Me II

Chase the Bat Dog died two weeks ago. (See cutest Robinson Cano quote of all time, above, in Quotes of the Week.) Chase was a golden retriever, working parts of 12 seasons with the Double-A Trenton Thunder of the Eastern League, where he'd jog out to retrieve the bat after a player finished hitting, then balance it in his mouth and return it to the dugout, where a bat boy would put it back in the bat rack.

Chase had two male puppies, Derby and Ollie. They have grown up in the family business. Derby is the bat dog for the Thunder, succeeding Chase. Ollie has migrated north in the Eastern League. Ollie's the bat dog for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats.

Mr. Starwood Preferred Member Travel Note of the Week

Ten Favorite Things of My Summer Vacation:

1. Experiencing Vancouver with my family. Some of you -- yes, you especially, Donny Brasco -- have knocked me over the years for hyperbole. But I found Vancouver, on my first extended trip there, to be the most underrated city in North America. We rented a home for a few days (via Airbnb) in the Kitsilano Beach neighborhood, and the beach, restaurants and walking ... just a lot of fun there. Strongly recommend Local Public Eatery. Strange name, great food and drink. You do it right, Vancouver.

2. Throwing a snowball off a glacier at 7,500 feet. Our biggest vaca extravagance: We took a helicopter to the top of Rainbow Mountain at Whistler, north of Vancouver and the place that hosted the ski events at the last Olympics. Amazing thing: It's July 6, it's 62 degrees up there, I'm wearing shorts, and we're standing on eight feet of snow atop a glacier. My daughter Laura went sprinting on the glacier. Cool stuff. Now that's something you don't get to do every day.

Courtesy of Peter King

3. Catching a fish at Pike Place Market in Seattle. No. I mean, really catching a fish. We bought a 12-pound Copper River salmon as a gift for some friends, and the guy there asked if I'd want to catch it as he threw it from where the fish were iced to where they got cut up for delivery. "Of course!'' I said. So I went behind the counter and he threw the slippery guy, and I caught it, letting it thump off my hands and slide into my chest. Then I held it up triumphantly.

4. Boating on a lake north of Vancouver. When I killed the engine and we floated slowly past a group of 15 or so seals sunning on a rock in this big lake, I realized the value of flying across the continent. I can't see sunning seals in the Central Park reservoir.

5a. Just being with my family. Golly, it's great to argue at the dinner table again! Kidding ... kidding!

5b. Just being. Doing nothing is fun.

6. Walking across the Williamsburg Bridge, from Manhattan to Brooklyn, and experiencing Brooklyn. Cool experience, just walking aimlessly through Williamsburg on a stormy Friday night, seeing a neighborhood I'd never seen.

7. Watching batting practice, and a ballgame, at Safeco Field. On a sunny late afternoon, walking from downtown to Safeco and settling into your seat at 5:45 for a 7:10 game with a cup of Manny's Pale Ale on a perfectly beautiful cloudless night ... that's something you folks in Seattle simply have over the rest of the country. We just can't compete. Splendid times six.

8. Four Sunday nights without MMQB responsibility. The column's a labor of love, folks. You know that. But watching junk-food TV, reading Inferno by Dan Brown, napping in the chair or going to see a play (we did score seats to Lucky Guy one night, the play with Tom Hanks in it), and not obsessing about Aaron Hernandez or Matthew Stafford's contract and thinking of an angle is a very good and relaxing thing.

9. Reading every word about the death of James Gandolfini. Don't know why it fascinated me so. It just did.

10. Seeing the Red Sox sweep a waterlogged twinbill at Fenway Park over the Rays. That three-hour rain delay sure was fun. The train trip back and forth on the Acela is always good. Except on the ride back, we had the displeasure of sitting across the aisle from two Manhattan realtors, husband and wife, who spoke at normal conversational volume for 3.5 solid hours into their iPhone 5 headsets and drove most of the rest of the car out of its mind. A sample -- and I am not kidding you; I wrote this down, as close to word-for-word as I could, somewhere between New London and New Haven hugging the Connecticut coastline:

Jewelried woman: "I'm on a conference call right now. I don't have time for this. I just don't. What is the price?'' ...

Suited slim man: "I'm only saying their decisions are interfering with my lifestyle. Can't you do something about it?''

Jewelried woman: "That doesn't help me ... That doesn't help me.''

Suited slim man: "I may be totally off base but I've been meeting with a bunch of people ...''

Jewelried woman: "Listen, listen, listen ... Are you listening to me? I am about to lose my patience. If you don't know anything, then why don't I have a conversation with Spencer. He'll know.''

Suited slim man: "Hold on, call waiting. JUST HOLD ON ... Hello? ... Yes, this is he ... Not interested, but thanks ... No. Nope ... Yes, I am in that business but I don't need -- ... Listen, I am going to hang up now ... No, please listen carefully to me. I don't want it, I don't need it, and I am going to hang up right now but I do not want you to think I'm rude -- ... Bye. BYE! ... JESUS! ... Okay. Back. Sorry.


Jewelried woman: "No one seems to know where the contract is ...

Suited slim man: "Tuesday would be better, if it's better for you ... Doesn't matter. Awesome ... Thanks buddy. Really look forward to seeing you.

Jewelried woman: "Sorry, you still there? Connection's not great. Sorry ... I'm going to repeat: I am about to lose my patience. You don't have the answers for me. You know what that property is worth, and I know what it is worth. You can't BS me ... So should I go through those files? Should I allocate those numbers elsewhere? ... You think it's not necessary ...''

Suited slim man, thinking he can be heard through a bad connection if he screams: "On a TRAIN. YES. SORRY! ... YOU GOT ME? YOU GOT ME?'' ...

Frustrated hangup. RINGGGGGGG.

Suited slim man: "Sorry, you know, the connection. I am ON A TRAIN!''

Jewelried woman: "Call you then, okay. Bye.''

Suited slim man: "We have to do a credit check. Yes, Brad has all that ... No, it's not your decision or my decision. It's the government ... I would love it. I would SO love it. You have no idea how much I'd love it ... Oh, you do?''

Jewelried woman: "I got that in play. Correct ... We're moving forward in good faith.''

Not even to Bridgeport yet. How did we survive?

Tweet of the Week I

"All them jurors should go home tonight and kill themselves for letting a grown man get away with killing a kid"

-- @roddywhiteTV, Atlanta wideout Roddy White, after George Zimmerman was acquitted of all charges in the death of teen Trayvon Martin in Florida Saturday night.

Tweet of the Week II

"I understand my tweet last nite was extreme. I never meant for the people to do that. I was shocked and upset about the verdict. I am sorry.''

-- @roddywhiteTV, 12 hours later.

Tweet of the Week III

"Aaron Hernandez's lawyers just filed a motion to have his trial moved to Sanford, Florida.''

-- @HubbuchNYP, Bart Hubbuch of the New York Post.

The Zimmerman trial was in Sanford.

Tweet of the Week IV

"the broncos had a chance to make a difference. they chose not to and deferred to the NFL. cowardly, not taking that chance''

-- @tomnalen, the former Denver center and now a Denver talk show host, on the drunk-driving arrests of top scouts Matt Russell and Tom Heckert within the last month.

That could change today.

Ten Things I Think I Think

1. I think the most over-covered event in the football media business is quarterback contract news. Now, Joe Flacco's contract -- that was a big deal. He played out his deal, turning down a sure $17 million a year last September, gambling on himself that he'd earn a deal as the highest-paid passer in the game, and did it. But all the rest of these deals? Matthew Stafford signing a three-year, $53 million extension when he already had three years left on his existing deal? To me, it's a story only in its comparison to other deals for established quarterbacks. Why? Stafford's not going anywhere. He's just not.

2. I think we report on the money too much. Sometimes, as with Flacco, it's a significant story. Other times, no one cares. The only time someone cares is when, as in the case of Wes Welker, it means he won't return to play for the Patriots. That's big. But whether a guy makes $3.6 million or $4.9 million only matters if it affects what happens to a team's cap.

3. I think if it's true the Pouncey brothers wore hats with "FREE HERNANDEZ'' on the front, as Deadspin reported, some responsible person in their lives needs to have a long talk with them -- like, now. That's offensive bordering on the obscene. Disgraceful. Here's a man who, evidence shows, may very well have murdered someone. And they're either funning around with it or being ignorant. Either way, it's incredibly disrespectful to the memory of a dead man, Odin Lloyd.

4. I think when I read the 30 or so headlines over three or four days about Colin Kaepernick wearing a Dolphins cap, I thought: "The football media needs a longer vacation." Is it a good idea to wear another NFL team's cap? No -- marginally. But it might be cause for the mildest rebuke in media history, not cause for long columns to be written.

5. I think $10.5 million a year sounds about right for top-three left tackle Ryan Clady.

6. I think if Mark Sanchez wasn't out-front confident and convincing about being better than Geno Smith, now that would be a story.

7. I think I agree with Mike Florio on this one: I may not agree with Donovan McNabb saying the Matthew Stafford contract is a bad one, but I appreciate the fact that he has the stones to rip the establishment and to say Stafford hasn't earned his new big dough -- something too few former players and coaches do.

8. I think the free agent I'd sign today if I could get him for no more than $3 million total this year is John Abraham. Incentivize the deal, and you've got a chance to get 10 sacks out of your nickel pass rusher.

9. I think the best thing about this obituary is how matter-of-fact it is in delivering the best line in an obit I can ever recall. This appeared in the Columbus Dispatch 10 days ago: "Scott E. Entsminger, 55, of Mansfield, died Thursday, July 4, 2013 at his residence. Born January 8, 1958 in Columbus, Ohio, he was the son of William and Martha (Kirkendall) Entsminger. He retired from General Motors after 32 years of service. He was an accomplished musician, loved playing the guitar and was a member of the Old Fogies Band. A lifelong Cleveland Browns fan and season ticket holder, he also wrote a song each year and sent it to the Cleveland Browns as well as offering other advice on how to run the team. He respectfully requests six Cleveland Browns pall bearers so the Browns can let him down one last time. Scott was a fun loving, kind and caring man who enjoyed gardening and fishing but his greatest enjoyment was spending time with his family. He is survived by his wife of 16 years, Pat Entsminger; a son, Aaron Entsminger of Columbus; a brother, Bill (Kathy) Entsminger of Grove City, Ohio; a sister, Lois Courtright of Galloway, Ohio; a sister-in-law, Carol Ferrall of Georgia; four nieces, Kristi Nunamaker, Allison Courtright, Emily Ferrall and Ashley Ferrall; a nephew, Benny Entsminger; his three dogs, Blackey, Shadow and Jezebel ...'' Can you pick out the line I'm talking about?

10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:

a. Went to Yanks-Twins Saturday. Last 44 percent of New York batting order: Zoilo Almonte, Luis Cruz, Alberto Gonzalez, Austin Romine. Yikes. It's been that way most of the year. Amazing they're only six out at the break.

b. Isn't the All-Star Break supposed to be the halfway point of the season? Or reasonably close? Boston's season is three-fifths done: 97 down, 65 to play.

c. It'll be in the 90s Tuesday, with oppressive humidity, at Citi Field, as dusk falls before the All-Star Game. Not sure I'd want to be trying to dump a couple of upper-deck back-row seats on StubHub during the day Tuesday.

d. Love watching Yasiel Puig.

e. Congrats on getting married, Lindsay Jones. And at Red Rocks? Cool stuff. Marrying is a fun thing to do, isn't it?

f. I hope I'm wrong, for the sake of the fine people of Houston. But after being the most tangential NBA fan in America for the last couple of years, I would not want to hitch my wagon to Dwight Howard. Not for a third of what the Rockets paid him.

g. Just wondering if Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov watched the slide of the ancient Celtics down the stretch, as they lost 15 of their last 22, and about how he came to the conclusion that Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce -- proud warriors, yes, but also 37 and 36 this coming season -- would be able to turn the clock back. I love how NBA fans say the three first-round draft picks the Celtics are getting in the deal are meaningless. How meaningless will they be if one or more is in the lottery if the Nets flounder?

h. Not a big golf watcher, truth be told. But I watched some over the break, and I really need to figure one thing out: What is it with screaming "GET IN THE HOOOOOLLLLE!!!!!'' after every tee shot? It was cute when Bill Murray did it, dweebs. It's dweebish when you do it on every tee shot.

i. If you don't think I'm telling the truth, ask the annoyed-looking person next to you at the next PGA event you attend.

j. Okay. Reading. Did some of it while away, and I have a very strong recommendation if you like real crime stories, or very well-told biographies -- or if you like both, which I happen to. If you have not read Whitey Bulger: America's Most Wanted Gangster and the Manhunt That Brought Him to Justice, by Boston Globe columnist Kevin Cullen and reporter Shelley Murphy, get it now. You'll thank me. It's riveting, graphic and a great tale of real life in South Boston, one of the most compelling neighborhoods in American history.

k. Will McDonough visited Bulger in jail once. Now that's something I never knew.

l. Coffeenerdness: A week ago, I was walking near the big market in downtown Seattle, and I passed the original Starbucks. What a strange site. A long line in front, maybe 40 to 50 people, including one Japanese tour group with 15 or so people wearing headsets and the tour leader explaining into a microphone-headset why this historical building was so vitally important to Americana. (I guess. I don't speak Japanese. But they all seemed to be having a good time.)

m. Beernerdness: Five good ones from my vacation ... 1: Manny's Pale Ale (Georgetown Brewing, Seattle). Just one of my all-time faves. So flavorful. 2: Hoppyum IPA (Foothills Brewing, Winston-Salem, N.C.) Very pleasant surprise. 3: Driftwood American Pale Ale (Driftwood Brewing, Victoria, British Columbia). One of the best ales I've ever tasted -- just the right bitterness. 4: Driftwood Farmhand Ale (Driftwood Brewing, Victoria, British Columbia). Spicy and incredibly different. 5: Monarch White (Two Brothers Brewing, Warrenville, Ill.). Another well-done witbier.

n. Wish I could review the first episode of The Newsroom, but I didn't quite finish this in time to watch last night. Next week I'll have some thoughts ... next week, when the next column is the first thing you'll read on our new site, The MMQB.

The Adieu Haiku

Getting nervous. Why?
The MMQB cometh.
New site. Next Monday.

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