Posted: Wednesday June 22, 2005 1:49PM; Updated: Wednesday June 22, 2005 1:50PM
Two things that I like best are ripping the established stars or basic untouchables who seldom get that treatment, and praising the unknowns. Here are a couple of major league rips.
Eli Manning: "One of the things I can't stand as an analyst is hype. Some of the PR in this league simply bugs me no end, and the Eli Manning PR probably bugs me more than just about any other. Eli played so poorly last year that at one point I pulled out the thesaurus, as I simply couldn't find the words to describe how poorly Eli Manning was playing ... Abominable, appalling, deplorable, ghastly and unsightly all seemed to hit the spot. Eli's list of mistakes was nearly as long as MikeVick's."
Or Kurt Warner, not a star anymore but considered, in some quarters, as some kind of miracle fix for the Cardinals: "If Warner brings that blind bull in a China shop pocket presence to Arizona, he'll have a very long season. Arizona doesn't have the RB that the Giants had, or the TE. Their receivers are long on press clippings and short on performance and their offensive line will likely be a big issue. Warner is going to have to adjust to his circumstances."
Finally, a nice little plug for Philly's right cornerback, Sheldon Brown, who was not a Pro Bowl choice and made only one all-pro team last year: mine. "I knew Brown was good, going into this review, but when I saw his stat lines my jaw dropped ... he only allowed one TD, despite facing 117 passes ... Brown allowed a mere two completions on 24 deep passes, which ranked second in the league...I don't get a commission for his Honolulu plane ticket and hotel room, but I like to see justice served. If he plays this well next year, he ought to not just go to the Pro Bowl. He should be an All-Pro."
Eventually, I placed a phone call to KC Joyner. Why, I wanted to know, didn't his stats match the official NFL ones?
"Hurricanes and blackouts," he said. "I was quite upset about the hurricanes. They made me miss six games. I got my brothers and my dad to record some others for me.
"Jacksonville's home games are blacked out where I live because they don't sell out. They don't even sell out for playoffs. But you'll find my stats are different in other areas, too, because I tape all games, including playoffs."
I asked him how many games he could tape in a single day. He said "All of them." And how many DVDs did he have all going at once? "Twelve, if I need them," he said. I asked him how that all worked and I was immediately sorry because he launched into a long explanation of splitters and A and B switches and toggles (Did I write that correctly? Maybe he meant Jesse Tuggle, the old Falcons' linebacker) that gave me a case of the stupids.
Finally I asked him if he were happy, putting himself into a meat grinder like this.
"Once I got worried because I was so consumed by football," he said. "I asked my step-sister, Melissa, 'Is it a curse that I love football so much?'
"She said, 'Most people go through their lives without finding any one thing to love so much ... a person, maybe, but not a thing. Be thankful. You've found it.'"