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Showing up is half the battle (cont.)

Posted: Thursday July 6, 2006 12:04PM; Updated: Thursday July 6, 2006 8:22PM
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Ken of Nashville asks a medical question: "Aren't you a little too old to start smoking crack?" Nope, I've got two more years before I hit the magic number. How, Ken wonders, can I have any doubt about Bruce Matthews being a first-ballot shoo-in? And then he proceeds to list Matthews' roster of records and achievements. Gee, thanks. I never knew about all that. I believe I said I'll probably vote for him, did I not? What more do you want from a poor crackhead? I also said that if it came down to Matthews against Bob Kuechenberg I'd vote for Kooch because I think he was a better player, and you won't shake me from that one, no matter how many evil things you say about me.

Now we come to a point that I've answered, oh, maybe, 5,000 times, but for the sake of poetic integrity, let me repeat the e-mail that Jimmy, who learned his trade from the Marquis de Sade, saw fit to torment me with ... make that with which to torment me: "I hate you with a passion so deep, and I will continue to do so until you come to your senile senses, quit writing about wine in a sports magazine and put Art Monk in the hall." Dear Dan of Silver Spring, Md.: Catching 800 eight-yard hooks does not make a Hall of Famer, which is the same reply I've given your two or three other correspondences ... you remember, the ones you wrote on toilet paper in crayon.

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Last Hall of Fame question. YES! And it's a good one, from Gil of Raleigh. "How much does having a Super Bowl ring influence Hall of Fame selection? If Scott Norwood makes the field goal in Super Bowl XXV, is Thurman Thomas a lock for the Hall? Isn't that unfair to Thomas, to judge him based on someone else's mistake?" Absolutely. It happens all the time. I hate it. Thomas gets my vote without a second thought. Just as he did for MVP of that Super Bowl. The award went to the Giants' O.J. Anderson, although their statistics or contributions weren't close. I went up and down the press row in a kind of frenzy, screaming for Thomas. "Can't vote for a guy from a losing team," was what I heard from a few of the voters who had just woken up. "Of course you can ... there's nothing that says ... !" I screamed, and then I became incoherent. Next year I was removed from the roster of voters.

Why is it that Englishers ask such good questions? Jimmy, or Andrew, or somebody, please automatically open the gate for any e-mail with an England or Scotland or Ireland or Wales postmark, OK? Matthew of London says he is taking the opportunity of this dullest of all offseasons to catch up on some reading. Wants my recommendations, football-literature-wise. OK, maybe it's not the greatest question, but it's the kind of thing I enjoy answering, and when you're old and tired, that counts for a lot.

Football literature is a cozy harbor for clichés. The typical NFL novel, which then becomes the basis for a "Hard-Hitting Football Movie," is as follows: Tired old vet, preferably a QB, being pushed out by brash young star to be, mean owner, wishy-washy coach, blonde tootsie of a daughter who's in with the mob, which wants him to throw the big game ... blah, blah, blah. And yet people draw applause for writing this formula trash. "Great, you've told him what NOT to read," says the Flaming Redhead. Will you please return to your chair? I'm just getting warmed up.

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