Quote of the Week I
"You've got to take your hats off to the Dolphins. I've been watching football for a long time, and I've never seen a Miami Dolphins team having all these gadgets.'' -- New England wideout Randy Moss.
Quote of the Week II
"Gramatica declined to talk about his big miss, darting out of the locker room without even showering.''
Quote of the Week III
"From this point forward, you should be clear on the following point: Any conduct that unnecessarily risks the safety of other players has no role in the game of football and will be disciplined at increased levels, including on a first offense. Playing by the rules shows respect for your fellow players. No one wants to see unnecessary injuries.''
To be clear on this, the NFL doesn't just mean helmet-to-helmet hits on the quarterback will be penalized. It's for every player and every position, and every kind of hit the league rules out of the realm of normal contact. That takes in a wide swath, and you can bet players will be howling over it.
Stat of the Week
A couple of weeks ago, brilliant columnists like me talked about how much the game would miss Tom Brady. The game does miss Brady's class and greatness and star power, but the fans, apparently, have moved on. Either that or the NFL is the best league in history at creating new stars and new stories. Or both.
Let's examine the TV ratings for two football games: New England at the Jets on Sept. 9, 2007, and New England at the Jets on Sept. 14, 2008. Both games were played at 4:15 p.m. Brady played in the first one and missed the second.
Now, naysayers will say: The second game had Brett Favre in it. He's as big an attraction as Brady. Bigger, maybe. Maybe. But what I would say is this: The first game was the rematch of the 2006 wild-card matchup at Foxboro, and the season-opener, and how can you get more fired-up about a game than that? I do think having Favre in the game would add juice for the New York market, because he's still a player of far more fascination than Chad Pennington for the locals; and I'm sure Favre ratcheted up interest nationally a bit, because the Jets with Favre are going to be a bigger attraction than the Jets with anyone.
The comparative ratings follow. The first number is the rating -- the percentage of all households in the market tuned into the game. The second number is the share -- the percentage of all households watching TV that had the Jets-Pats game on.
I am reminded of what Bill Parcells once told a young rising star named Drew Bledsoe, to try to keep Bledsoe from getting a big head: The fans root for the uniform, not the player. And to think there was an appreciable rise in ratings the first game without Brady seems to prove that more than ever.
My theory: The Patriots were such a steamroller last year, and this year there's a little more drama every Sunday; that may make up for the allure of watching one of the best quarterbacks of this era. Think back 10 days. The country -- and the northeast, certainly -- thought the Patriots had fallen back to the pack in the NFL, and the Jet game was the first major test to see if that was true. Adding Favre to the game would significantly juice the local rating in New York, and would be a motivation to watch nationally too. Those are the two things I think made the ratings go way up.
Stat of the Week II
At 5:14 p.m. ET on Sept. 21, on their 28th offensive possession of the season, the St. Louis Rams invaded the red zone of an opponent for the first time this season.
Stat of the Week III
Ohio and Missouri are 0-12. Cincinnati, Cleveland, St. Louis and Kansas City, I mean, in a combo platter.
Factoid of the Week That May Interest Only Me
For a single seat to the final game at Yankee Stadium on Sunday night, StubHub had a ticket between the dugout and home plate, lower level, for sale at $12,348.
Enjoyable/Aggravating Travel Note of the Week
All you Westins out there that charge for things like health club use and don't value your frequent-stayers? Check out the Marriott Denver City Center.
The health club is free, with 24-hour-a-day cardio equipment and gym along with pool usage 18 hours a day. Free water, free cold towels in a mini-fridge for post-workout comfort, mini-TVs on all the cardio equipment. Not enough elliptical trainers, but that's a fight we travelers will never win, even in places where you pay to use the gym.
My summers at Courtyards and Fairfield Inns in the training-camp towns of America have built me up to some big status at Marriotts, so I have the good fortune to get the breakfast deal at the room on the high floor, with CNN on the TV and a nice buffet laid out, gratis. Special K and Granola mixed, with lowfat milk, topped by a banana, with fresh-brewed Starbucks House Blend and one of the very few times I'll check out the Wall Street Journal. Why? Because it's there.
Last Friday there was a great story headlined "Wall Street's Ills Seep Into Everyday Lives,'' with a quote from a 56-year-old Chicagoan Bradford Roth, who refused to look at his retirement account this week. "The less you know,'' the story quoted Roth as saying, "the better you feel.'' Exactly. I don't have the heart to look at anything my wife and I have saved since finishing paying for eight years at Tufts and Colgate, because I know it'll make me sick.
The point is, that's a heck of a full-service hotel.
The Way We Were
Hines Ward vs. Bill Dudley.
From one Steeler to another, Ward and Dudley have much in common. Dudley is one of the most versatile players of all time. Ward is one of the most versatile players of his time.
In post-war 1946, Dudley, a 5-foot-10, 182-pound halfback-defensive back, led the NFL in rushing, interceptions and punt returns. He played nine war-interrupted seasons, moving from Pittsburgh to Detroit to Washington, and when he retired, one of the problems in judging his legacy is he had a sort of a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none label. "People just didn't know what he was,'' said Pro Football Hall of Fame VP and historian Joe Horrigan.
Well, I'll tell you what he was -- an all-around player who, along with Sammy Baugh and Chuck Bednarik, should be in a separate Hall of Fame wing for all the ways he impacted the game. Dudley scored nine ways. He threw for a touchdown, ran for a touchdown, caught a pass for a touchdown, recovered a fumble and ran for a touchdown, returned a punt for a touchdown, returned a kick for a touchdown, returned an interception for a touchdown, kicked an extra point and kicked a field goal. Digest that.
Ward, an inch taller than Dudley, isn't as accomplished across the board, obviously. No player in the last 50 years has been. But Ward is 28th on the all-time receptions list with 734, has run the ball 55 times in his career (many on quirky Cowher-era trick plays), returned nine punts and kickoffs, and had 42 special-teams tackles.
He's even a threat to pass, having been a college quarterback at Georgia, and is among the top blocking receivers in the game. At 32, he is still Ben Roethlisberger's go-to guy, leading the Steelers in reception with 15 -- five more than first-round prize Santonio Holmes.
Asked once if he wished he was known as a franchise receiver rather than a gritty possession receiver, Ward responded the way Dudley would have. "I just want to be known as a good football player,'' he said.