Posted: Friday April 21, 2006 12:41PM; Updated: Friday April 21, 2006 4:52PM
Bengals wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh leads the parade of players with long last names.
OK, I'll adjust my facemask and limp over to where our E-mailer of the Week is waiting, computer in hand. Last week I promised I would bestow this award upon any individual who could go through the complete historical NFL register and try to find a last name longer than the Bengals' T.J.Houshmandzadeh's 14 letters. Well, like the good MIT senior that he is, TianHe ran this whole mess through a computer program and came up with four names that tied T.J.'s but none that conquered it. The foursome: Ben Roethlisberger, Chris Fuamatu-Ma-afala, Marty Schottenheimer and Bob "Hunchy" Hoernschemeyer of the old AFL Chicago Rockets (yaay!). Tian, I hope you realize the irony of what I'm going to tell you. New paragraph for this, please.
When I was in grade school, we used to have a contest every year to reward the student with the fewest total letters in his name, first and last. No nicknames allowed. For instance, the ballplayer Mel Ott would lose. It would have to be Melvin. The winner every year was Ira Cohen. Eight letters. The fewest I've ever seen in my life are six, Amos Oz, the Israeli writer. You have tied him at six. Congratulations. Linda, make me a glass of hot milk, please. I've got to calm down. Oh yes, your words of praise were appreciated, Tian. Especially this week.
Bob of Albuquerque, N.M., and again, I thank a loyal reader for his kind words, cannot understand the vicious way the Titans' Steve McNair has been treated by the club. Well, Peter King, who is much more familiar with the ins and outs of cap management than I am, has explained the finances of this thing very clearly in a recent column. All I can add is that when free agency was about to be ushered in, I was in Honolulu for the Pro Bowl, and Bruce Allen, who is now the Buccaneers' GM, made a very accurate prediction. "They're going to make more money," he said, "but the guys who are gonna really feel it are the old veterans. It's gonna be very rough on the back end. They won't understand the cold-blooded way their club will treat them, when cap issues are at stake."
A natural follow to this is the question of Zach of Charlottesville, who feels personally insulted when an old, loyal veteran ups and signs with the enemy. I used to be a baseball fan. I mean serious. Red Sox. Now I was all for Curt Flood and I was all for free agency. A working man has the right to choose his workplace, does he not? But despite all this, when Pudge Fisk, the heart and soul of the Red Sox, went to Chicago, it took the heart right out of me. As a fan, I collapsed. I've never recovered.
Note to prospective e-mailers. When you start a letter, "You'll never publish this," or "I don't expect that you would publish this," as Darren of Tampa did, your chances of seeing the light of this column are about tripled. If you would start it, "I admit that this is filthy and horribly depraved," you can double the chances again. OK, Darren, what's the secret behind the curtain? It's PaulGruber. A great Bucs tackle for many, many years, says Darren, and not one Pro Bowl selection to his name. I mean is this a shame or what? Yes, a shame. A bloody awful shame. The Pro Bowl is a shame, make that a sham. A popularity contest, an exercise in nonsense. Hell, Gruber was a Dr. Z all-pro. So was Jon Kolb, for many years the best offensive lineman on the Steel Curtain Steelers, at least until Mike Webster came of age. How many Pro Bowls? Zero. Who was the best defensive lineman in the NFL last year, actually the best defensive player in the league, to my way of thinking? Pat Williams, the Vikings' nose man. Pro Bowl? Nah, not even as an alternate. Oh, it's hard, mate, it's hard (Victor MacLaglan in Gunga Din).
I just got through yelling at an old friend, Regina Norman of NYC, for exactly the same question that Lee of Phoenix now asks me. The question is: What's a good wine? Aaaargh! Good wine for what? For his wife's birthday, while he's stuck at Fort Jackson, he says. White or red? With what kind of food? How much do you want to pay? OK, I'll bag all these questions. If you want to spend $25 or so, get her a Champagne, which is always festive. I'm not talking about a California sparkling wine, I mean a real grande marque Champagne from, well, the Champagne district in France. Look for this one, and not every liquor store is going to have it: Pierre Peters Brut. Yeah, I know, it doesn't sound French, but it is. If you can't find it, I'll give you a white wine that's very easy drinking, very easy to like, although it's a bit commercial. It'll set you back around the same number: Caymus Conundrum. Made with a blend of white grapes, including Muscat, which imparts a touch of sweetness to a normally dry wine. But I like it, and more important, so does the Flaming Redhead, and she's a better wine taster than I am. Good luck.
En fin: This one from Nathan of St. Paul, Min.: "For the love of Pete, why is there only one of you?" I am now in the blushing mode, so I will let the Redhead answer this one. Here it is: "If it were up to Pete, there would probably be more." No, I don't understand it, either. Is there something vaguely raunchy here? Nothing like a provoking final question.