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I was never a big Seinfeld fan, but I always enjoyed the episode in which Jerry is dating a masseuse who refuses to give him a massage. I can identify with her reluctance; when you massage people all day, the last thing you want to do when you come home is massage someone else. (With a few exceptions, no doubt.)
Sometimes working for a sports magazine blunts your desire to watch sports in your spare time, but last Sunday proved to me that my sporting libido is just fine. I watched the entire Browns-Dolphins game start to finish.
I was there at the bitter end, watching as Browns coach Terry Robiskie sat on all three of his timeouts instead of trying to ice Dolphins kicker Olindo Mare with 10 seconds left, then gave it the ol' "We're still in this" clap after Mare nailed the go-ahead field goal, then instructed his kick returner to take a knee on the ensuing kickoff, thereby setting up what would have been a potential game-winning Hail Mary if Luke McCown could have mustered up the arm strength to throw the ball 97 yards.
My buddy Danny,a Browns fan living in Alabama, said it was like watching two kids who don't know how to play a video game play a video game -- they'd find one play that sort of worked and run it over and over. Perhaps that explains why the Browns gave the ball to Lee Suggs more than any Browns team ever gave the ball to Jim Brown.
The broadcast wasn't without its pleasant moments, though. The ESPN crew did an outstanding job relating the depth of their ennui, and Paul Maguire and Joe Theismann got a chance to polish their "We don't like each other" routine. Example: Maguire, upon looking at a shot of the blimp: "I've been up in that a couple of times." Theismann: "Who cares?" (If these guys don't really dislike each other, they're putting on a pretty good act. There's nothing worse than broadcasters acting confrontational just for effect -- are you listening John Clayton and Sean Salisbury? Another aside: SportsCenter had a bit the other day in which Salisbury donned a Donald Trump wig and did an Apprentice take-off. It reminded me of the Cheers when Sam is moonlighting as a sportscaster and he raps an editorial -- when he throws it back to the anchors they have horrified looks on their faces, looks I really hope the ESPN higher-ups were wearing.) The ESPN crew tends to take some heat, but I find them very enjoyable in a crazy, avuncular kind of way.
Three more things jumped out at me:
1) More than a coach, the Browns need a GM, someone who knows NFL talent. According to Danny, usually a reliable source on such matters, the Browns have just two players on their roster who have ever been to a Pro Bowl.
2) Nice of Jeff Garcia to throw Robiskie under the bus in his interview with Suzy Kolber. It's been apparent since Day One that they're not on the same page, and Robiskie hasn't exactly covered himself with glory in his stint as head coach or even in his role as offensive coordinator. But Garcia has been one of the biggest busts in recent memory, and no one has accused him of rallying the troops or behaving like a leader -- you know, things a quarterback does.
3) Dolphins interim coach Jim Bates has a knack for swearing as soon as the camera isolates on him. It's a rare gift.
At any rate, it felt good to know I could sit through the whole game. The spark is still there.
Idiot of the Week
Joey Barton. The Manchester City midfielder was chilling at the team Christmas party when he decided to burn a teammate's eyelid with a cigar. Granted, said teammate tried to burn Barton's clothes, but still. Joey, you're an idiot.
Top Christmas songs
Submit a comment or question for Mark.
As discussed, I'm in Alabama for the holidays. Going to mass on Christmas Eve with the family, and on the radio is the worst garbage I've ever heard. (We're not always big conversationalists, we Bechtels.) It was a bunch of songs about Christmas that weren't necessarily traditional Christmas songs, sung by what appeared to be subpar country singers. We started discussing Christmas songs, and I got to thinking about my favorites. So here are my top 5:
5. Little Drummer Boy. Just a fine, fine bit of sonic holiday cheer.
4. Linus and Lucy, by Vince Guaraldi. Strictly speaking, not a Christmas song. (It's the Peanuts theme.) But it's on the Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack, and it's the song I most associate with it. It just feels very wintery, so it's in.
3. Christmas in Hollis, by Run DMC. Any song that rhymes Hollis, Queens, and collard greens is OK in my book.
2. Do They Know it's Christmas?, by Band Aid. For all its ridiculous bits ("There won't be snow in Africa this Christmas?" What, unlike those other years when blizzards were the order of the day? And why were Kool and the Gang invited to participate? They're not even British.) it does have Bono screaming, "Well tonight thank God it's them instead of you." The only thing keeping it out if the top spot: The song prompted other artists to nobly take up causes, a trend that, alas, manifested itself in the inferior We Are the World and the woeful That's What Friends Are For. You know what real friends are for? Switching stations when songs like that hit the radio.
1. (Christmas) Baby, Please Come Home. Not the U2 version, which is fine, but Darlene Love's. Every year she sings it on Letterman, and it's always fantastic.
Happy New Year. May it be a classy one.
Mark Bechtel covers NASCAR for Sports Illustrated and SI.com.