Posted: Friday June 3, 2005 3:53PM; Updated: Friday June 3, 2005 5:07PM
Still more rugby, courtesy of Andrew, who was named meanest player during the Northern England's professional League, in the days when he was a mill worker in Leeds. Wait a minute, it's not a rugby question, it's a Kiwi travelogue. Ed of Lone Tree, Colo., suggests the Botanic Gardens in Dunedin. Missed that one, but we did see the albatross breeding colony and the yellow-eyed penguins in the nearby Otago Peninsula. Then he hits me with a bungee jump from a cable car in the Queenstown area (No way, friend. It's not a sport for a 500-pounder). Then a fjord trip (did that three years ago) and a side trip to the power plant near Doubtful Sound. Now we're just getting silly. I make doubtful sounds when I'm near power plants, most of which grow in our backyard. And yes, I was being real silly before, with that stuff about Andrew.
And that's it for rugby and New Zealand, all you faithful NFL fans who have had to wade through all this ... but tell me honestly, isn't it still more interesting than this dullest of all offseasons? Randy (no last name given, or I'd print it) wins our E-mailer of the Week award because he touches on a topic ... well, more than touches on; his query and observations run more than a full page ... a topic that I love to yack about. Odd strategies. Gadget plays. Weirdies. Fringe-illegals. OK, gimme room, everybody. I'm off and running.
Randy presents me with a lot of gadgets, some of which I've heard of before, but I'll tell you my favorite. You're in fourth down. You pull your offense off the field, but instead of sending on the punt team, you come in with a back-up offense and run a quickie play at a defense -- actually a punt-return unit -- that's trying to figure out what's going on. I think the ref might blow the whistle on such a deceptive thing, but even if he didn't, the other guys probably would call time out. So you've forced them to burn one. Big deal.
Yes, the fumblerooskie is legal, but for some reasons only the collegians call it, and very rarely. When he was the Steelers' offensive coach Mike Mularkey did zany things, such as having his QB step away and yell at someone, and then having the ball snapped, etc. Haven't seen the Bills do it, though.
When Donald Trump owned the New Jersey Generals of the USFL he ordered more gadgetry, so they ran an off-balance goal-line muddle huddle thing they called the Trump Tower. Doug Flutie was the QB, and if ever a man was born for this type of football, it was Flutie. Once he told me about a bunch of his ideas he called "Ways to win a game that a coach would never think of."
My favorite was this one: "What do you do when you're down by a point and you're near midfield and you can call only one more play? Line your kicker up on the flank, run him across the field, throw him the ball and have him try a drop-kick." A drop-kick? During the live action? "It's legal," Flutie said. "Three points." Yeah, but who knows how to dropkick in this day and age?
"I do," Flutie said. "I practice it."
I don't want to flatter myself into thinking that the subsequent story I wrote had anything to do with it, but a few years later the league ruled the downfield dropkick illegal during the course of play.
Once I watched a night game between Newport Beach High and the school's alumni. A friend of mine was coaching the alums and he said I could do a guest number and call one play. I called one for the end of the half -- a pass off the quarterback kneel. It didn't work because the QB didn't sell the kneel hard enough, but once I spent some time asking coaches about such a play.
"Absolutely ridiculous," Bill Walsh said, and everyone else agreed.
So what happened? A few weeks later Walsh actually called one, at the end of a game against the Cardinals. Which didn't make sense, because a team kneeling at the end had won the game anyway. I was talking about at the half, when the team was backed up deep. Walsh's play was a deep pass and the ball was knocked down, but Cardinals coach Jim Hanifan was so mad that he gave chase to Walsh after the game. God knows what he would have done to him if he'd have caught him.
I called up Walsh on Monday and asked him what in the world he was thinking. "Oh, I don't know," he said. "Point differential or something like that. It was a very poorly thought out decision."
My E-mailer of the Week has many more observations, mainly about clock management, and I agree with them, but we've had enough, right? And thanks for the compliment.
Now being served in the main dining room -- humble pie. Mike of San Diego severely takes me to task for my phrase, "plagued by deafness," when referring to the family of Panthers rookie QB Stefan LeFors. It's far from a plague, Mike says. It's a challenge and many people emerge more strong from it. Please accept my apology. It was one of those throwaway phrases you use without thinking. There was absolutely no malice intended.
I'm having trouble typing this because the dunce cap keeps falling down over my eyes, but if I'm seeing right, Andrew has lined up two Francais in a row, Gilles from Paris and Matt of Toulouse. Et le premier est Gilles. "Hope your trip in NZ is going well and you enjoyed the Super 12 game." Merci and oui on both counts. And now we move on to ... no, just kidding. Gilles likes the fact that I admitted I knew little about the guys the Patriots drafted and commends me for admitting it and asks if there's a general consensus among writers that the Pats are such smart drafters that they are above criticism.
Thank you. It just meant that I didn't have enough time to watch enough college football last season. And yes, I won't argue about anything the Patriots do, personnel-wise, because they've been so successful at doing the unusual, but a few other people take occasional shots.