The Wise Guy’s Offseason Funk Chronicles 2012: A Running Diary

Like so many of you, The Wise Guy hates the NFL offseason. Particularly this offseason. So, as advised by his sports (fan) psychologist, The Wise Guy will stop spending his days staring at the blank Sunday Ticket channel and start the healing process, by expressing his snarky despondency in a running diary.

July 20 (47 Days to Kickoff): Sympathy for Ed Hochuli

Dear Diary,

It appears that one my summer wishes has been granted.  As reported by @TheFootballGirl on twitter on Wednesday, the labor dispute between the NFL Referees Association (NFLRA) and owners has finally kicked into high gear with the referees holding a conference call to air out their grievances to the media.  And just as I had hoped, the hulk, Ed Hochuli was leading the charge with his guns ablazin’ in a too-tight fitting REO Speedwagon t-shirt (well, that’s how I imagined him, at least).

As a self-declared referee aficionado, I tend to side with labor here. The NFL is the hardest sport to officiate, and it’s not even close. No other sport requires the combination of precision calls (e.g., what is a catch, what is a fumble), judgment on inherent ambiguity (i.e., holding, pass interference), and, most importantly, the need to keep order among 22 violent men who are trying to kill each other until, apparently, the whistle blows and they’re supposed to go their separate ways.  As the union argues, this requires a unique degree of experience and specialization that cannot be replaced, particularly by scabs who aren’t even refereeing at the college level (college refs won’t cross the picket line). Hochuli said he spends one hour a day, seven days a week studying just to keep up with the degree of difficulty. It’s hard to imagine the owners jeopardizing their multiple billion-dollar industry, particularly with a new onslaught of player-safety issues, for mere peanuts–$100,000 a year per team, according to the NFLRA.

However, one thing is certain: the NFLRA is not going to win this fight in the court of public opinion.  Sure, the media elites have their back, and will write puff pieces like his story on Pro Football Talk. But the comments to the piece show a different and immutable viewpoint: fans think refs suck.  And they always will.  It appears, then, that being NFL refs are in about the same position as President Obama right now.  The argument, “yeah, things are bad, but they could be much worse if someone else was in there,” just doesn’t seem to resonate with the public.

So good luck, Ed, I hope you get that $10/hr pay raise you so deserve.  But don’t expect to have any support from the fans, because 99% of us still hold grudges for that bad call you made against their team that one time.

July 13 (54 Days Until Kickoff): How Joe Paterno Makes Me Appreciate the NFL

Dear Diary,

I know it’s not like me, but I’ve decided to take a day off from my usual petty snarkiness and try to express some real sincerity.  Having been captivated by yesterday’s release of the Freeh Report damning Penn State’s cover up of the heinous crimes of Jerry Sandusky, it is simply unavoidable.  There is no joke to be made about this national tragedy, only extreme empathy, rage, and a desire for vengeance against all who were involved.

When viewed in the broader context, this scandal also has to give pause to those who claim to be fans of college football.  I am not, mainly because my alma mater sucks.  But I’ve had countless discussions with friends who went to big-time football schools (including Penn State), and truly live for those Saturdays when they can put on their old sweatshirts, shotgun Coors Lights, and act like an idiot for the day (and well into the night).  Part of me is envious.  As much as I love the Bears, the excitement of a Sunday game is always bound to be a little tempered by the realization that I have to work the next day.

But today, I’m relieved to have chosen the NFL over the college game.  While there is certainly no shortage of scandals in the NFL, nothing has ever risen to this level.  Nor could it.  As much as we decried the lockout and the endless follow-on disputes between the owners and union, the sausage-making process that ultimately produces the NFL game is basically out in the open.  Everyone is a professional who is looking to get paid their market value in a lucrative industry.  And the media is more than happy to air out everyone’s dirty laundry.  This breeds accountability, and no one person is given so much power that they are above the law. Not even Goodell.

Contrast this to college football, which is similarly lucrative but operates in the shadows.  This is a necessity for the key stakeholders to exploits the talents of players through the fraud of “amateurism,” or my favorite term, “scholar-athletes” (scholar always comes first!).  Athletic departments, TV networks, bowl games, apparel companies, video game makers — they all get rich on the backs of highly skilled labor for 18-22 year-old kids by projecting the ruse that college athletics is not a business.  But the worst are the coaches.  Not only do they rake in the cash, but, to perpetuate the fraud, they are built up as not just tacticians but moral leaders who are shaping young minds. Though it’s a different sport, I’ll never forget that nauseating American Express commercial from Coach K, where he declares, “I don’t consider myself a basketball coach.  I consider myself a leader who happens to coach basketball.”

Much has been made about the damning evidence in the Freeh Report showing, with little doubt, that Joe Paterno and school administrators willfully covered up Jerry Sandusky’s heinous acts in order to preserve his legacy and the football program he built at Penn State.  And rightfully so, as there is no explanation beyond pure selfishness and (in the words of Freeh) callousness towards the victims.  But we should ask, how many other of the top college coaches would have made the right choice?  When not just your salary, but your perceived moral righteousness is on the line, how many coaches would fess up to complicity in the scandal of the century rather than sweep it under the rug and wish the bad things away.  I bet a lot.

In a sad way, this whole saga makes me appreciate the fact that my favorite sport runs on arm’s length negotiations, coaches whose legacy lasts only as long as their last season, and their bosses who care about nothing more than the bottom line.

July 9 (58 Days Until Kickoff): Breakfast with Kate and Pippa

Dear Diary,

Boy do I miss football.  Things have gotten so bad that for the past two weeks, I’ve been waking up at 4am to watch Wimbledon in the hopes that I might stumble upon some competition that might maintain my interest.  But it wasn’t until Sunday that I was able to find it.  No, I’m not talking about the Championship match between Federer and Murray; I’m talking about the much more interesting duel for “hottest Middleton” between accomplished veteran, Kate, and young upstart, Pippa.

Now before I’m accused of objectifying women, let me just say that I was merely minding my own business watching tennis when fuego wife posed this very question to me.  In her defense, though, it was kinda hard to ignore.  By my estimation, the percentage breakdown of Sunday’s post-point reaction shots goes something like this: 5% random Scottish bar, 9% Federer’s wife; 11% Murray’s girlfriend; 14% Beckhams, and 61% Middletons.  But who can blame the producers?  When two guys are spending three hours hitting a ball back and forth, you’re going to have to throw some eye candy in there to keep the people’s interest.

And interested we were, as the Middleton sibling rivalry is quite compelling.  On the surface, it’s the classic face (Kate) vs. body (Pippa…bum to be exact) debate, but it really goes deeper than that.  Kate is classically beautiful, has an understated style, and seems to be the true girl-next-door that every sensitive guy dreams of.  But on the other hand, Kate seems like the type of girl who would give you grief for visiting a strip club during your bachelor party.  Pippa not only has the bum but will flaunt it and loves to party, but she still can get it together in time to look presentable for the Queen the next morning.  On the other hand, I imagine that, at 8 am, when Pippa’s in her raggedy old t-shirt with all her make-up washed off, she nearly borders on ugly. Also, she’s really embracing this “sister of royalty” role a tad too much.

In the end, unlike the actual tennis, this isn’t a competition with a winner or loser but rather who fits your personal preference.  Beauty or sexiness? Grace or rebellion? Stability or excitement? Fortunately for me, I’ve found someone in fuego wife with the perfect combination of nighttime Pippa and morning Kate.  Meaning this debate is just pure sport.

Wow, I need to get a life.  When does kickoff start again?

June 29 (68 Days To Kickoff): Late Sunday Games Moved Back 10 Minutes, D.C. Sports Bar Managers Rejoice!

Dear Diary,

I am truly in a summer funk.  It was 98 degrees in Washington D.C. today, and here’s the forecasted highs for the next seven: 104, 100, 97, 97, 95, 97 and 95.  There’s nothing more depressing than a hot, sweaty, ornery group of Metro commuters in a heat wave like this. And of course, once I get off the train, I’ll be serenaded by either panhandlers or throngs of smiling summer interns in t-shirts and cargo pants asking me if “I care about global warming.” Put on some slacks, and then talk to me about global warming, hippee.

My only respite came from today’s surprise announcement that the NFL will push back the late Sunday afternoon games ten minutes, from 4:15 to 4:25.  This is huge for my remote control stress quotient.  There is nothing more stressful than having an inconsequential, yet down-to-the-wire, early game spilling over into the featured late game because it’s running long. Because of the incessant flipping between both, I can’t tell you how many Josh Scobee game winning kicks I’ve missed. Well not that many because Jacksonville only had five wins last season, but you get the point. In any event, this extra ten minutes is a victory for remote controls everywhere.

But do you know who is truly rejoicing this move? D.C. sports bar managers.  Before I was able to get the Ticket, my NFL Sundays were spent at a myriad of bars in this city, where a hungover Diet Coke, would invariably turn into 3 Bloody Marys, 5 PBRs, two slices of pizza and a plate of nachos. As D.C. is such a transient city, it was such a stressful experience heading to the bar unsure of whether you could get a proper seat at the one TV that would be showing your game (and don’t even think about asking for sound).  But as stressful as it was for me, it was 500 times more stressful for the managers, who literally had to cater to 32 competing interests every week.

And when 4:15 would roll around, all hell would be break loose.  As the early games ran into the late games, managers would endure complaints from all sides about which games to show and which ones to switch.  And of course, the local games would be blacked out in the 700 channels, causing the managers to scramble to figure out the relevant local channel.  Meanwhile, 50% of the bar is asking for their check, and the other 50% are angling for seats.  Frankly, the scene can be quite humorous (but only if the Bears are playing in prime time)

Of course an extra ten minutes won’t alter this underlying tension, but at least may give these weekend warriors a second to take a breather, and a shot of Jack, before manning the remotes.

June 22 (75 Days to Kickoff): In Defense of Chris Berman

Dear Diary,

It’s fitting that we begin our four score and negative five day countdown to NFL kickoff the day after the Miami Heat mercifully dispatched with the 2012 NBA season by taking care of the OKC Thunder.  Judging by the unavoidable backsweat on the patrons of the Washington D.C. metro, the dog days of summer are officially upon us.  And unless the upcoming WNBA features a breakout star ala Matthew/Martha in the classic sports movie “Ladybugs” or baseball, you know, gets interesting, I have only gridiron fantasies to keep me going for the next two and a half months.

Fortunately, there was a small nugget of news today that kept my homefires burning.  ESPN announced that for their annual “bonus” Week 1 Monday Night Football game on September 10th, they are replacing the famously “meh” crew of Mike&Mike with Chris Berman and Trent Dilfer.  Of course, this being 2012 and the Internet being the Internet, my twitter feed and regularly visited blogs immediately exploded  with snicker, derision, and snark.  But this is to be expected.  Chris Berman is not only the long-standing face of ESPN, but was a major factor in putting ESPN-watchdog sites like Deadspin, Kissing Suzy Kolber, and Awful Announcing on the map in the infancy of the blogsphere.  As Berman’s popularity grew, so did his pomposity, buffoonery and general creepiness, all but inviting these sites to come in and provide an outlet for sophisticated sports fans who couldn’t take it anymore. Leather lovers, too. These days, Berman is treated as a caricature of his former self, rivaled only by Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith as a foil for Internet mockery.

But beyond the silly nicknames and tired catch phrases, it is undeniable that Berman: (a) can call play-by-play; and (b) knows his football.  Let’s not forget that before NBC obtained exclusive rights to the 7-8pm Sunday night hour with its SNF deal, Berman, along with his sidekick Tom Jackson, owned that timeslot with the ahead-of-its-time highlight show, NFL Primetime.  Unlike SportsCenter or, for that matter, NBC’s Football Night in America, NFL Primetime didn’t just spew obvious scoring plays or turnovers; it showed you key third down conversions, no-calls, special teams plays….everything you needed to understand why each game’s outcome was what it was. And at the helm was Berman, relating each highlight sequence with dizzying speed and articulation that was impressive by any reasonable standard.  Before the age of the NFL Sunday Ticket, NFL Primetime was the only outlet for diehard fans (like me) to understand what happened in every game played each Sunday.  Basically, he was my generation’s Walter Cronkite.

I’m not going to deny that Berman’s larger-than-life persona can negatively affect broadcasts by becoming a sideshow and/or eating up valuable airtime from color analysts (read: the U.S. Open).  But in football, where there is so much downtime between plays, it can be very valuable for a play-by-play guy to function in a “combo” role, and interact with the color analyst in debating strategy, penalties, instant replay, etc.  The gold standard here is Al Michaels, but Joe Buck, Mike Tirico and to a much lesser extent, Jim Nantz also enhance their broadcasts by not just calling the game but analyzing it.  Mike Greenberg, not so much (and don’t even bring up Dick Stockton, who is bordering on senile).  Inserting Berman into that role certainly carries risk but, at least in this sport, we’ll have an opportunity for some reward.

June 12 (85 Days to Kickoff): Summertime Blues

Dear Diary,

I believe I was a bit hasty in my complaints about “bad sports” unable to keep me entertained during the offseason.  Turns out, the NBA Playoffs became pretty awesome theatre (I’ve finally gotten over my Derrick Rose depression), and now we get the climax with the match-up everyone wanted to see, a Lebron-Durant showdown. Meanwhile, this week we have the U.S. Open broadcast in primetime (insert hushed Chris Berman voice) over the weekend, since it’s played at Olympic Club in San Francisco.  Primetime U.S. Open coverage is seriously the most exciting golf innovation since knickers.  Maybe we’ll get that Tiger-Phil showdown we’ve all be pining for…aw, who am I kidding it will probably be Charl Shwartzel against Loius Oosthuizen.

But when these events are over, that’s when the real offseason funk begins.  Especially in D.C., which last year I believe had 106 straight days of above 90 temperatures and above 80% humidity during the months of July and August (my math might be a little off).  I seriously think summer is my least favorite season.  How crazy is that? When I was a kid, my summer countdown would start in about February, and the daydreaming about no class, sleeping in, and would be my only lifeline to get through the boredom of school and, well, the ridicule of my classmates.  But now that I’m all grown up, summer just means I have to stock an extra shirt in the office in case my pit sweat becomes too vile to bear, pretend I care about the hopes and dreams of naive interns, and go to the farmers market.  I hate the farmers market!

So once June hits, all I think about is just get me to September.

May 31 (97 days to kickoff): Positively Maynard

Dear Diary,

I’m sorry I’ve deserted you these last couple weeks.  It’s amazing how easily the inertia of mental laziness can take hold.  When I was young, expressing myself through writing used to come second nature, as my brain constantly churned through new information, dreams, and insecurities with a yearning to process this soup into some (mildly) coherent whole.

But then one day I woke up and was 33, with little time or energy to spend on such trivialities.  I have three basic modes: work, rest, and recreation (eating is included in recreation).  This diary is an attempt to break out of that mold, but clearly I underestimated the challenge.  I blame it all on May sweeps.  With all my favorite shows climaxing to season finales, there was simply no time the past two weeks to fit contemplation into my schedule.  Not when Leslie Knope is winning city council, Liz Lemon is trying to make a baby, Meredith Gray is mourning her dead sister, Philip Philips is crooning his way into preteen hearts across the country, and Donald Driver is….you know what, screw Donald Driver and his loser Packer fans.

But now all that is over, leaving me only with crappy summer programming and bad sports as entertainment.  I guess I could go to a movie, but then I’d actually have to interact with people.  And put on pants.  This situation really came to a head last Monday night, as I strained to find something about Bachelorette Emily Maynard and her merry band of hard bodied suitors to maintain interest. As I wrote two weeks ago, I was initially excited for this show for some bonding time with fuego wife, but Bachelorette Emily has turned out to be a complete dud.  She’s like the Brady Quinn of Bachelorettes: great to look at but absolutely no substance behind the façade.

Monday’s episode was so boring that, in the course of Emily’s cavalcade of platitudes about how each guy could really be “the one” or the “amazing journey” she was going on, I fantasized about the one thing that could save the season.  Are you ready?

Take Jon Gruden off mothballs and have him provide color commentary over each date.

Just think about it: During dates Gruden’s talking head could pop in at random times, like the old Blind Date thought bubble, to give his unique manner of hyperbolic compliments.  Or better yet, during “testimonials,” which are always so cliché, Gruden could come in and explain what Emily and her suitors were really thinking.

For example, let’s take a couple “testimonials” from Monday’s episode.  I’ll put Emily’s statement first and then follow up with what I envision Gruden’s commentary would be.

Real Maynard, on Chris, 25 year-old Corporate Sales Director:  “I know I’m going to fall head over heels in love with Chris.”

Now Hypothetical Gruden: “THIS GUY, Chris, is 100% pure beefcake.  6 foot, 2 inches, 220 lbs, with abs that you could grate cheese with.  Let me tell you Mike, some of the things I saw Chris do on film, like when he nursed that wounded squirrel to health and taught those under-privileged children how to play the ukulele, THIS GUY is a complete catch.  And the way he scaled that building (which was totally impromptu) during our first date: I haven’t seen vertical ability like that since Randy Moss played for the Vikings. I really like this guy, Mike. And I CAN’T WAIT to get into a hot tub with him.”

Real Maynard, on Kalon, 27-year old Luxury Brand Consultant: “I do feel like Calon is a gentleman, and I do think his mom raised him well.”

Hypothetical Gruden: “This guy, Kalon, is an enigma wrapped in a riddle.  Sure, he’s got a few off-the-field issues, like not wanting to be a stepfather to Emily’s daughter, but his measurables are off the chart, Mike. Kalon wears his own line of monogrammed French cuffs, ran a 4.3/40 at the Bachelor combine, and made his entrance in his own private helicopter.  A HELICOPER, Mike.  I haven’t seen a Bachelorette contestant burst onto the stage like that since Bob Guiney almost took the Season 2 prize by making weird faces out of his fat gut.  I really like this guy, Mike.”

Tell me this wouldn’t be television gold.

May 16 (112 days to kickoff): Dating Brandon Marshall

When I was a freshman in college, there was this girl on my dorm floor, Rebecca, who, against my better judgment, I had a huge crush on.  On paper, she was total package: beautiful, athletic, smart, witty…you name it, she had it.  But she was also nuts.  Particularly in the relationship setting, when conflict arose and when she did not get her way, it seemed like a switch flipped and she would become irrational, dramatic and, well, a diva.  I watched her chew through boyfriend after boyfriend, always wondering what it would be like to be that guy, always with a 50/50 combination of longing and fear.

Then one night, it happened.  I was at a party hitting on a couple girls (third round talents, at best) when Rebecca came over and started making overtures that signaled she was interested.  Not interested, like “hey let’s get some Boone’s Farm, listen to Rusted Root and I’ll vent about my boyfriend for three hours,” I mean interested.  I immediately traded away those two girls without a second thought, and went with Rebecca for our inevitable, long-awaited (at least on my end) hook up.

The next morning, much to my surprise, Rebecca did not immediately flee to her dorm room with an awkward “see you around,” but actually wanted to date.  Since I had been overtly pursuing her for the entire year, I had no choice but to say yes.  But once she left, I immediately began questioning my decision.  How was this going to work? It’s one thing to fantasize about a tumultuous affair, but it’s another to deal with it on a daily basis.  Still, she was the total package.  If only I can avoid the drama, this opportunity is too good to pass up.

I’m writing this story because this is exactly how I feel about Brandon Marshall.  For years, I’ve pined for a legitimate #1 receiver for the Bears, almost as much as I pined for a quarterback.  While Douchey McDouchinstein (aka, Jay Cutler) is certainly a top flight talent, Marshall really is the total package.  Not only a great talent, but absolutely charming the pants off of me and the Chicago media.  I remember watching the CBS pregame show a few years back, and listening to a new analyst adding insight, cracking jokes, speaking articulately…basically the opposite of Shannon Sharpe.  Turns out it was Marshall, making a cameo.  Wow, I thought, if only we could get him on the Bears.

Well, now we have him.  Of course, the difference between Marshall and Rebecca is that  Brandon recognizes he has a problem–borderline personality disorder–and has been admiringly public about his need for treatment.  It gives me great cause for hope, but I’ll never escape the fear that, at any moment, he could snap and do something like, I don’t know, punch a girl in the face outside a bar. (allegedly!).

As you know, diary, Rebecca did not turn into fuego wife, but we had a great two week run.  Hopefully, Brandon and I will stick it out a little longer.

Assymetrically green striped tie with checkered pink shirt? Complex, confident, cool.

May 15 (113 days to kickoff): Emily and Roger

Dear Diary,

I can’t tell you what a good mood I’m in today.  In the midst of my basketball-related depression, I overlooked a major development in my tv schedule.  Yes, The Bachelorette is back!  This is  one of the few series that fuego wife and I can sit back and enjoy together.  Yes, The Bachelorette is the ugly stepsister of The Bachelor–because 25 catty, insecure women fighting over one dude who just wants to get it on is much more fun that 25 playing-it-cool dudes fighting over one woman who actually wants to get married–but the show still has enough unintentional comedy to get me through my Monday.  And before I know it, Bachelorette Emily will have found her “soul mate,” and it will be only be a few weeks before mine (Jon Gruden) returns.

Another reason for my good mood is I had another epiphanamatic shower this morning where I realized another offseason storyline that would keep me in a lather for the next 113: that Roger Goodell loses the Bountygate appeal.

When the Bountygate suspensions came down, there was shock around the league.  Sure, we all knew the hammer would come down on Gregg Williams, but the other suspensions, particularly one-years for Sean Payton and Jonathan Vilma, seemed a bit draconian.  We’ve seen this with prior Goodell suspensions–Michael Vick, Pacman Jones, and Cedric Benson come to mind. A good rule of thumb I use is to think of a fair suspension that I would give…and then double it.  60% of the time, it works every time.  With no oversight over Mr. Goodell’s harsh view of justice, it’s hard not to wonder if the power has gone a bit to his head.

And then this story about the Bountygate investigation came out.  This story provided compelling evidence that the NFL is playing dirty lawyer tricks (I should know, I’m a dirty lawyer) with its supposed “smoking gun” tying Sean Payton to the bountygate scandal: an email from super-agent turned felon, Mike Ornstein, to Payton informing Payton that “Greg Williams put me down for $5000 on Rogers.”

Now we learn that the email wasn’t actually sent to Payton, but rather the team’s spokesman who forwarded it to Payton with the comment, “email from Orny (he asked that I send it) the dude is in prison so I told him I would.”  Yes, in prison.  Thus, it’s a bit of a stretch to think that Ornstein is legitimately contributing to a bounty fund instead of, as the Saints claim, adding his commentary to the team’s “running joke” about the NFL’s investigation.  I mean, the dude was in prison, and he’s a white collar criminal, not Avon Barksdale.

It’s clear that the Saints, including Payton, were significant culprits in Bountyage and, at a minimum, this email clearly indicates a brazen attitude towards the NFL’s investigation.  But if this evidence–and who knows what else is out there–is being manipulated by the league, without disclosure of exculpatory information to the other side to let it make its case, well that is a serious violation of due process.  It might not be illegal–since the players and coaches seemed to have bargained away their due process rights in their contracts/CBA–but it’s not right either.

This is the problem of allowing Goodell to be prosecutor, judge, and jury regarding the league’s enforcement of immorality.  When difficult decisions like this are to be made, which have far ranging consequences for the league, there must be some transparency to the process or else abuses will occur.  So I’m hopeful that Goodell loses the appeal is taken down about a peg from his increasingly precarious “holier than thou” position.  You should never trust a moral authority without accountability to anyone else.

May 14 (114 days to kickoff): Michelle Beadle for SNF!

Dear Diary,

What a brutal weekend.  I was just about to head out the door Friday for a little happy hour and date night with fuego wife, when a partner walked into my office and told me he needed a summary judgment brief by Monday morning.  So just like that, my weekend was shot.  Fuego wife was pretty upset, but once I explained to her that these are drawbacks of marrying a BTL, and that she should appreciate how my salary helps pay for her Zumba classes, $150 haircuts, and trips to Anguilla, she understood.  For five minutes anyhow, at which time she locked me out of the house for the weekend.

On the bright side, being estranged from my wife all weekend freed me up completely to reorient myself with the latest NFL offseason news (during work breaks, of course).  With a never-ending rollout of stories (Peyton/Tebow sweepstakes, Bountygate, Junior Seau, etc.) that eclipse news from other sports in-season, there had to be something.  But as I refreshed ProFootballTalk on Friday, then Saturday, and finally Sunday, I came to a sad realization: all the good stories are probably over.  With the draft complete, with all marquee free agents finding new homes, and with Bountygate largely resolved, it seems highly unlikely that we’ll have many more compelling offseason stories until the games actually start.  Last I counted, that’s 114 days of serious dead air.

But the way I see it, the NFL offseason is kind of like “The Bachelor.”  We know it’s all meaningless, but we still enjoy the ride. Sure, the media will be doing their damndest to create “news” out of nothing to stir up controversy (see Tebow/Sanchez), and the local media will provide (mostly false) hope for each fan base by trumpeting their team’s rookie development, revised coaching schemes, and resurgent veterans (I particularly enjoy hearing about offseason weight loss programs by cutting out the likes of tequila and Taco Bell).  But, in the words of great Allen Iverson, “we talkin’ ‘bout PRACTICE.”  From now until kickoff, 99% of our football “news” will be manufactured speculation that can only truly be vetted by actual games.

With that solid foundation, I’ve dared to dream about potential “Courtney” level storylines that will keep my attention for weeks on end.  This first one, like all great ideas, came in the shower.  Something about the combination of Oil of Olay body wash and a loofah that really gets the old noggin’ humming. [Ed. Note: ewwwww]

Here’s my idea: Michelle Beadle should join the NBC SNF coverage.  Beadle is such a unique combination of sports knowledge, quick wit, and cuteness, that she took a stupid idea from ESPN (SportsNation), the most unlikeable personality on their network (Colin Cowherd), and somehow made it a rousing success.  Now that she’s gone to, er, “spread her wings” with the NBC peacock, I have one suggestion for the programming honchos: add Beadle to the “Football Night in America” crew.  Yes, I know that NBC failed miserably when it had similar multi-platform designs for Tiki Barber, and yes, I know that NBC has now settled into decent flow of hard commentary led by Tony Dungy and Rodney Harrison, but I think it’s time for NBC to take a risk.

Dungy and Harrison are great, but the show will never be NFL Primetime, the gold standard in TV highlight shows in terms of breaking down film to let you know how each game actually played out (not just the highlights of turnovers and scoring plays).  If FNIA can’t be that, then it needs to be more fun.  Dan Patrick can’t bring the fun on his own, and Bob Costas certainly isn’t going to take valuable time away from thinking up SAT words for his pompous halftime “essays” to lend a hand.  Beadle would make a perfect foil for Patrick by injecting modern, pop culture life into what is, currently, a pretty cookie cutter broadcast.  Give her a segment to go through highlights of the day’s absurdities/bloopers (there’s always a few), and let her spend the rest of the time riffing off the others.  It won’t be like Tony Kornheiser, who bombed by futilely trying to force himself into actual game action, battling the constant scorn of Tiricio and Jaws.  My best guess is the conversation will come naturally…because every guy wants to talk to the cute/funny girl who knows her sports.

The result would be pure TV gold.  Damn, I’m in the wrong line of work.

May 10 (118 Days to Kickoff): C’mmon Man!

Dear Diary,

I’m pleased to report that I’ve started on my road to recovery.  After getting a jolt from a quintuple skim latte, I realized that a little retail therapy was in order.  So as I was on my way to the Republic for some overpriced slacks and muted v-neck sweaters, I stumbled upon a sweet surprise.  Yes, a TJ Maxx had opened right in my own backyard!  I quickly changed plans and headed down the escalators to my little slice of heaven.

And the Maxx did not disappoint.  Fifteen minutes later, I was walking out of there with eight articles of clothing for less than $130.  That’s the great thing about the Maxx: you don’t need to waste time trying clothes on because if you get home and shirt doesn’t fit, you’re only out like the $15.  Fuego wife doesn’t usually approve of my impromptu Maxx outings.  She says the shirts have an “irregular fit” and apparently “chafe my nipples” (those are sarcastic air quotes I’m making).  But this year I have a trump card: my go-to Maxx brand, the Heuse (Van Heusen), has been given the stamp of approval by none other than NFL Hall-of-Famers Jerry Rice and Steve Young.  So now I’m not just getting great deals, I’m taking a trip through the Institute of Style.  This is a game changer, folks.

After a great evening session of dharma power flow yogalates namasted me into a great night’s sleep, I woke up this morning completely revived and ready to take on the day.  That is, until I turned on VH1 Jump Start and was serenated by this abomination by Colbie Callait.  Is this what passes for popular music nowadays? What record executive listens to this song and thinks, “this is a hit!” Or do record companies just think we’re stupid enough to listen to anything with a bubble gum sound from a known quantity? I guess we are.

Let me lay out the hook in case you didn’t catch it:

I want to be your favorite song / You can turn me up play me all night long

I want to be your favorite song / la la la la la la la la la la

Wow, who were the lyrical wizards that came up with that poetry?

The only solace that I’m able to take from this song is that Donovan McNabb has rebounded from his humbling forced NFL retirement to start a second career as a cameo pop rapper.  Oh wait, I’m sorry, that’s Common!  The same Common who recently criticized other rappers for being soft.  In the words of Keyshawn, C’mmon Man! Even Color Me Badd thinks this video is cheesy.  Spots like this are for pseuso-rappers like Heavy D and Ja Rule.  Not you, Common.  Not you.

May 9th (119 Days to Kickoff): Calling an Audible on the Bulls

Dear Diary,

What a mistake I made last night.  Instead of sticking with my usual TV trifecta of The Voice/DWTS/Real Housewives of the OC, I gingerly switched the channel to NBATV to check out my (once) beloved Bulls.  And of course the first shot I see is Derrick Rose, sitting expressionless with his mom as he looks out onto the game from his suite.  The Derrick Rose face is always expressionless (as is his speaking voice, frankly), leading us fans to easily project our own feelings onto him.  Usually his blank stare says to me, “I’m going to rip out the other team’s throat with my bare hands and dunk on somebody’s head,” but now, with a torn ACL and entire career in jeopardy–see Baron Davis, Gilbert Arenas, Bernard King, and all the other would be greats who never fully recovered from serious knee injuries–that face takes me to the depth of depression.  It’s just so not fair for a once-in-a-generation athlete like Rose to be cut down before we could find out how good he could be.

Then the TV pans to Carlos Boozer bricking another jumper.  Ok, back to the OC.

So that’s it, no more basketball for this guy.  It’s only going to cause me pain.  Only football, because nobody gets injured in that sport.

May 8th (120 Days to Kickoff): Putting Gregg Williams’ Evil Genius to Good

Dear Diary,

It’s 9:39am and I’m already pissed off.  Every morning I follow the same routine: wake up at 6:30am, pound a sugar free red bull, hit the gym for spinning and reformer Pilates, metro to the office, grab my coffee and fat free muffin from Starbucks, and plop into my ergonomically friendly chair for BTLing: all by 9am.  Not 9:39am.  Those wasted minutes means I’m not billing, and when I’m not billing, I’m not getting that bonus, and when I’m not getting that bonus….well, you’ve seen that DirecTV commercial.  All because I had to run through a gauntlet of d-bags who, first, took up my mat space at the gym, then, blocked me from the metro, and finally, held me up at Starbucks by INSISTING on a “short” cappuccino at Starbucks when they didn’t have the cups in stock.  Look, if you want a properly made cappuccino, you don’t friggin’ get it at Starbucks!

All this got me thinking: Gregg Williams is going to have some time on his hands now that he’s been suspended indefinitely by Das Fuhrer Goodell.  What if he used that sinister mind for good by setting up a vigilante “bounty” system for d-bags like “excessive abs workout guy”?  Seems like a tall order when you don’t have a ready supply of 53 highly trained athletes who are paid to hurt people anyway, but we have a blueprint: the movie, Fight Club.  I KNOW that there are good people like me, at the gym, on the metro, in the Starbucks line, who want to take matters into their own hands and teach these d-bags a lesson in social etiquette.  It doesn’t have to be physical either–I mean, we’re not savages (looking at you, Jonathan Vilma)–it could be simple verbal intimidation like going up to a d-bag insisting on ordering off menu and barking like a dog.  And after that, we all meet the basement of some dilapidated house, collect our rewards, and pummel each other for sport.

But, as we all know, the first rule of the bounty system, is you don’t talk about the bounty system.


May 7th (121 Days to Kickoff): The Journey Begins

Dear Diary,

I’ve missed you, old friend.  Not since Elisha Watkins laughed in my face after I asked her to the 8th grade mixer have I needed you so.  It may come as a surprise, but I’ve recovered from those days of pubescent awkwardness to build a pretty sweet life for myself.  I’m 33, nabbed a super fuego wife, make some serious bank as a BTL (that’s big-time lawyer), and have never had a stronger core.  But last Saturday, it all came crashing down when Derrick Rose, my favorite athlete, tore his ACL with one fateful misplaced jump stop.

And just like that, I now have to wait four months (FOUR MONTHS!) until the NFL season starts, when I can be a real sports fan again.  Sure, there’s baseball, hockey, golf, even the Olympics this year.  And don’t get me wrong, I’ll watch every major event and even find some bandwagon to hop on for each (this year, I’m thinking Albanian water polo).  But only basketball and football inspire that hang-on-every-play/high-fivin’/wall punchin’/ passion that, frankly, gets me through work every day.

So here, diary, is where you come in.  When Derrick Rose went down, I lost two solid months of balls out fanaticism from my calendar.  With the NFL season beginning on September 5, that means I have to occupy myself for a full 121 days until I truly care about another sporting event.  That’s just too long to sustain myself on sports talk radio, tv shout shows, and the occasional piece of actual news.  So I’ve resolved to take matters into my own hands and chronicle my restlessness in the hopes of turning my pain into art.  If it worked for Doogie Howser, it can work for me.


The Wise Guy is a Washington D.C.-based columnist for His signature series,“Positively Gruden,” will make its 2012 debut on August 9th.