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Posted: Thursday February 22, 2007 5:08PM; Updated: Thursday February 22, 2007 6:20PM
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Here's a good one, and the closest thing to a rip, out of the whole bunch. "Are you on happy pills?" asks Bill of Edgewood, Ky. I let him down because he felt that I was too gentle in my critiques. Not only that, but his wife was upset, too. And we get so few women correspondents in this column that I like to stay on their good side. And she's a loyal reader.

Here's how it is. I bounced the whole thing off the Flaming Redhead, who's a lot smarter than I am, just how rough I could be, how much ripping and slashing and maniac stuff would be accepted. What she said was, "If you look for the good things, then your criticism of the bad becomes more pointed. If you stay mad all the time, then you're just a guy pounding his shoe on the table, and you'll turn your readers off."

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What do you think? Does this make sense? I'd be interested in hearing your response. Send it to Andrew's individual attention and tell him it's got an entry pass from the Web site Chief of Police himself.

To Andrew F. of Fairbanks, Alaska -- I don't know how you did it, but you really got into the comfort zone of our own Andrew, because your missive was about the longest I've ever received ... well, anyway among the longest five. Let's do this by topics covered, OK?

1) ESPN announcers are goons, and I should have included Joe Buck in that category. I don't dislike him as much as you do, but I won't get into a serious argument on the point.

2) For affordable wines, try the Peter Lehman Shiraz and Fat Bastard Chardonnay. Yeah, I like 'em OK. No problems there.

3) Overjoyed that L&I decided to try to endure a second term under You Know Who instead of emigrating to New Zealand, as originally threatened. I'll tell you why we didn't go. 1) We've got so much collected stuff that we'd have to rent a container on a ship to bring it all, and logistically, it would have been a nightmare. 2) Even more important, they didn't want us. Make that, didn't want me. The Redhead would have been OK because she's not old, and she has a technical skill, which is photography, to go with her talent as an artist. See, that's what they want, folks who are not my age, and a threat to immediately invade their welfare roles, also people who have a technical or mechanical skill, such as heart transplants or spark plug maintenance. Writers? Feh! And you know what I told them when I heard this? I told them they were absolutely right. They have a great thing going, a great country, why clutter it up with riffraff such as myself?

4) Rather than call quarterbacks such as Michael Vick "coach killers," why not call most NFL coaches, "Black QB killers?" The wide open college game, the imaginative offenses that utilize the all around athletic skills of so many QBs, many of them black, have been neglected by the buttoned up NFL offensive mentality. But we'll see this change in the future.

Hmm, interesting stuff. The traditional argument against what you like, which included the Run 'n Shoot at one time, is that NFL defensive players are so agile and fast, such terrific hitters, that it would be only a matter of time until they'd have all those imaginative QB's on injured reserve. Well, Vick has managed to survive, you could say. True, but his movement was the result of improvisation, not part of a standard offense. I'm not really arguing ... I kind of share your feelings, especially since I'm old enough to remember the days of the single-wing and the triple-threat run, pass, kick tailback. I'm just trying to present the NFL's argument.

From Jerry of Chickasha, Okla. -- "Given that so many NFL Old Timers are broke, why doesn't the league donate all fines it imposes to these guys. The new motto: "Do some time for an old timer."

Not bad. "Give a dime," rhymes, too ... sort of. The fines go to designated charities. There is supposedly a group that is set up to help needy old timers. The old timers themselves will tell you that whatever has been done is grossly inadequate. It's an ongoing struggle that can't be solved by merely redirecting fine money. Or not so fine money.

Got to use a last name here. It's William Deaton of Denton, Texas. Or maybe William Denton of Deaton, Texas, Or maybe William Texas of Deaton Denton (Yes, Linda, you're right, it is getting late). Willieboy is following up on an exclusive ESPN report that after the Super Bowl, a two-back system, and I would assume this means not with both in the backfield at one time, but one replacing the other, has become a hot commodity. ESPN breaks another big story. Does that mean we should invest in this hot commodity?

Giving your feature back relief via another back always has been sensible, except that in the old days, the other back was the fullback, in the same lineup. Running one guy into the ground does not make sense. You'll just burn him out. Nor does it make sense to have a stiff as the back-up ... OK, that's too harsh ... to have a great dropoff in quality when you go from No.1 to No. 2. There are enough good backs coming out of college, or hanging around the fringes of the NFL, never really getting a chance...Reuben Droughns for a while, even Priest Holmes at one time ... that there's no excuse for a team not having depth at the position.

Whoops, there's a PS attached and it refers to, gasp, the Swim Suit Issue. "Tell the model, Irina, that she has the most beautiful eyes I've ever seen," says WD. I told her. She looked confused. "Which one, left or right?" she said. I think something was messed up by the interpretor.

Daniel of Chicago feels that A.J. Smith is sacrificing the Chargers' future for personal glory, as reflected in his firing of Marty Schottenheimer. San Diego has gotten hot in the personnel game over the last few years. I like Marty, he's a friend, but I just don't feel that he's going to outcoach anyone in a big contest. Nevertheless, the only proof of the soundness of this decision is ... all together now ... how they do in the future.

From the murky pages of history comes this one from Tom of Rockford, Ill. He read Mark Kriegel quoting me in his Namath book ... about the '68 Heidi game against Oakland ...a nd he'd like my recollections of the contest, especially the stuff about Weeb Ewbank showing us game films.

Well, we never knew about the Heidi mixup because we were in the press box, and later down in the locker room, from which we went directly to the team charter flight to San Diego. The freak ending, Preston Ridlehuber scooping up Earl Christie's fumble and running it in for the TD that iced the game, has been well documented. But I remember that it was a murderous contest ... it was the 19 penalties for 238 yards that caused the game to run over the three hour time slot, resulting in Heidi coming on at 7 p.m.

We stayed with the Jets in Escondido, prior to the Chargers' game, and in the early part of the week Weeb was bitching mightily about how filthy the Raiders were and how the worst stuff never was called. But Weeb always bitched about officials, so we didn't make much of it. And then one day he got himself all worked up and said, "Come on, I'll let you see for yourself."

So he brought all the writers into the film room and we watched the game close-ups, and oh my God, I'll never forget the lunatic violence I saw that day. The play I'll always remember was Raider DT Dan Birdwell winding up and landing a full uppercut to Namath's groin, after he'd delivered the ball. Jacknifed Joe Willie right over, but he staggered to his feet and stayed in the game. What was the AFL's reaction to this stuff? Fined the Jets for showing us game films.

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