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Predicting that Chris Rix will lead Florida State to a win over Miami is kind of like declaring that Eddie Murphy will make another good movie in the next 20 years. And, no, animated donkey portrayals don't count.
Rix is 0-4 against the Hurricanes during his three years as FSU's starting quarterback. And as bad as that record looks, it doesn't begin to describe his putrid play in those four games. We're talking wretched here, folks. Like Gigli bad. Arli$$ bad. The Orange Bowl halftime show bad.
During his four meetings with the Hurricanes, Rix has completed 42.7 percent of his throws, tossed seven interceptions and lost four fumbles. An old Oklahoma option quarterback could run a passing attack better than that. Things were so awful during the teams' 2003 regular-season meeting (they played again in the 2004 Orange Bowl) it looked as if Rix were some sort of gridiron double agent. He threw two interceptions, fumbled four times -- losing two. Granted the field was as sloppy as Rix's play, but he generally played like Paul Crewe in the third quarter of the Guards vs. Cons game in The Longest Yard. (An Hombre aside: Please, please, PLEASE stop Paramount from issuing the remake next May.)
But Crewe had a fourth quarter to redeem himself, and Rix has one more shot at the 'Canes. With Hurricane Frances bearing down on Florida, the game will be pushed back to Sept. 10. But guess what? He's still going to lead the Seminoles to victory. What's more, Rix will take FSU to the BCS title game (such as it is) next January, back in Miami. And here's the kicker:
CHRIS RIX FOR HEISMAN!
Now that's some heavy stuff, especially since Rix has not only stunk it up against the Hurricanes, he has also committed some off-field gaffes that belong in the Knucklehead Hall of Fame. He has slept through an exam (a gem so egregious even FSU head coach Bobby Bowden couldn't overlook it; Bowden suspended Rix for the '03 Sugar Bowl) and has parked his car in a handicapped zone. Is it any wonder the guy has made so many bad on-field decisions when it's 50-50 whether he'll remember not to bring the toaster into the bathtub with him?
But enough about the past. Rix is a new man. A changed man. In the past, we could count on him to mess up in spectacular fashion. "It's a known fact he's inconsistent," Clemson linebacker LeRoy Hill said at ACC media day in July. "He knows it. Everyone knows it. Going into a game against Florida State, you want to make him beat you. You want to put it on his shoulders."
That was Chris Rix, 2003. And 2002. All right, 2001, too. This year, he's going to play consistent, intelligent football. And when that happens, look out, because there are few (if any) quarterbacks in the country with as much pure physical talent as Rix. He's big (6-foot-4, 210), with a man-sized arm and wheels that make him a threat to gallop if things get too crazy in the pocket.
All that leaves is exactly why -- besides the fact that he is omniscient -- El Hombre believes Rix will be consistent this year. There are several reasons. First, Rix spent much of this summer in Tallahassee, leading workouts, throwing to receivers and continuing what has become the longest acclimation period in history. Four years to adapt from life in L.A. to 'Hassee? Come on. Next, this is the best talent that has surrounded Rix during his time at FSU. There are great receivers, talented backs and an experienced line on offense. The defense is fast and mean. This is a national championship-caliber outfit.
Finally, there is Rix's attitude. He has learned hard lessons during three years as a starter. He knows that taking off upfield too often against a predatory defense such as Miami's is dangerous and often fatal. He understands the need to be more patient in his reads and to concentrate on his mechanics. He's 23 years old now and certainly mature enough to realize that he must execute his responsibilities efficiently and reliably. Rix is confident in his abilities and his situation drawn comparisons to Carson Palmer, who went from erratic USC whipping boy to Heisman winner and the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft. But he knows that kind of transformation is an every-week type of thing.
"At the forefront for me this year is staying consistent every week and avoiding the peaks and valleys," Rix said Monday during a conference call. "I want to be a rock for the offense each week so my teammates know what to expect for me, just doing my job."
Monday night in Miami, Rix will clock in. Expect a full three hours' work.
And then some.
Life's a beach
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As a service to his legions of fans, El Hombre watched as much women's beach volleyball as he could during the Olympics, hoping to answer one of the burning questions of the Athens Games: Why are those bikini bottoms so short? Alas, hours of in-depth research -- that Sweden-Denmark game should have been a beer commercial -- and countless replays of lithe women rolling in the sand did not reveal an answer.
So, a call to USA Volleyball was in order. It turns out the FIVB (Federation Internationale de Volleyball) sets strict parameters for the size of those bottoms, "down to the millimeter," according to USA Volleyball's Jennifer Joseph. Such a microscopic measurement would explain the thong-like conditions of most competitors' outfits. (Not that too many of the spectators who jammed the venue were complaining.)
Joseph went on to say that "the FIVB does encourage femininity in the players." That means -- and Patricia Ireland and the ERA crowd will love this -- players are urged to wear jewelry and makeup and fix their hair. In other words, while men's and women's indoor volleyball players wear uniforms that resemble basketball togs, and the men's beachers usually don a tank top and shorts, the women are wearing tiny bikinis on the sand and dolling up like they're headed for a night out on South Beach.
Now, this next sentence is hard for El Hombre to write, but here goes: This is just wrong. By setting strict uniform parameters that feature thongs, the FIVB is taking away from the accomplishments and the athletic skills of the players. Admit it, were you marveling at Misty May's digs and Kerri Walsh's spikes or rooting for more sand on their backsides? Let's hope the FIVB wises up soon. And don't go whining or complaining if it does. Just buy next year's Lingerie Bowl on pay-per-view if that's what you want. It was one thing when Olympians competed naked back in 700 B.C. It's quite another to have it happen now. ...
EL HOMBRE SEZ: The onset of college football season is one of the greatest things in all of American culture, with one exception -- the uniforms. Last year, Oregon debuted its "Salute to the urinal" yellow costumes and last Saturday, Virginia Tech took football fashion down another notch with those orange-striped pants. Pretty soon, all college unis will look like the god-awful stuff Ollie Stone concocted for Any Given Sunday. ... Bob Knight the subject of a sitcom? Let's see, an abusive, intimidating coach with little regard for the feelings of others bullies and sues his way through a brilliant career that will be known as much for his oppressive behavior as for his myriad on-court accomplishments. Hilarity ensues.
AND ANOTHER THING: All hail Ichiro. In a game obsessed with the long ball, the Seattle singles machine is cranking 'em out at a pace that would break George Sisler's 84-year old record for hits in a season (257). Ichiro had two hits Wednesday night, but he was also intentionally walked in the seventh with two on and two out. "It's part of the game," he said afterward. That's pure class. As the season winds down (he has 30 games left), Ichiro may cool off (he had 56 hits in August) or lose at bats to more free passes. Don't expect tantrums. And don't look for too much celebration if he breaks the mark. But take your eyes off the pumped-up sluggers for a while and appreciate an amazing hitter who also has tremendous speed and great fielding ability. Chicks may dig the long ball, but real fans love a great ballplayer.