1. I think this is what I'll always remember about Kaye Cowher (wife of Bill), who died of skin cancer at 54 Friday: In the mayhem outside the Steelers locker room after their Super Bowl loss to Dallas in early 1996 in Arizona, one of the Cowher daughters was crying. Bill hugged her and said it was OK, and then he had to go, and the girl was still so sad. And Kaye told her her dad would be fine, and games all had winners and losers, and it would be OK because the Steelers played so hard. Just good lessons from a mom to a daughter who needed good lessons just then. The way Kaye was with the girl -- kind, gentle, smiling, letting her know the world wasn't over because one football game was lost -- showed the kind of perspective that helps kids grow up the right way.
The other point I'd make about Kaye Cowher has to do with skin cancer. I'm a melanoma survivor. I've still got what looks like a shark bite in my right forearm from having cancer cut out of there two years ago. I can't say it loudly enough, and I'm sure Kaye Cowher would want the same thing said if she could say it right now: Go get screened. I just had another mole cut off my back two weeks ago. Every four months I go to the dermatologist, and if you're fair-skinned like me, and you're pushing 45, I'd go get checked immediately. Kaye Cowher was a healthy, vital, tremendously fit person, but you can't beat skin cancer if you don't catch it in time.
Good luck to the Cowher family, Bill and the three girls, recovering from what will be a terrible blow. The family has asked that, if you wish, you may make donations to the Cowhers' favorite charity: Family Resources of Pennsylvania at www.familyresourcesofpa.org.
2. I think Johnny Jolly would have been one of the 10 most important players on the Packers this year and going into the future, but his yearlong suspension following his arrest in Houston makes it likely he'll never play for Green Bay again or for any other team in football.
3. I think I expect Wes Welker to be ready to play opening day for the Patriots.
4. I think there won't be a team in the NFC with more pressure every day this season than the Cowboys. You saw on their first practice day in San Antonio -- 19,237 fans in the house. I go to camps all over the country, and even the rabid fan bases don't get a third of that most days.
5. I think you might be wondering why I said "NFC'' in the previous item. Easy. There's going to be no team with more pressure, and it won't even be close, than the 2010 New York Jets. I hope Rex Ryan and Mike Tannenbaum knew what they were doing when they said yes to HBO for the Hard Knocks show because it sure seems more attention is just what they won't need in August.
6. I think the Redskins have to sign Donovan McNabb long-term. The question is, at what price? I could see McNabb playing like the seventh-best quarterback in football in Mike Shanahan's offense; I could see him playing like the 20th-, too. I don't envy Bruce Allen here. If I were Allen, I'd string this thing along until November.
7. I think Terrell Owens would be a good addition to any team -- if he's willing to be a third receiver, which, in some cases, he'd need to be. In St. Louis, he'd start alongside Donnie Avery for a bridge year. In Cincinnati, he'd have to be a three or four, and if he's a three, he'll stunt the growth of three receivers picked in the top three rounds of the last three drafts (Andre Caldwell, Jordan Shipley, Jerome Simpson) -- and he'd be one of three wides who wouldn't play significant roles on special teams, along with Chad Ochocinco and Antonio Bryant. I'd take him if I were the Rams, even if it's only for one year with a lot of money tied to incentives.
8. I think I love the fact that Dez Bryant, star rookie receiver for the Cowboys, wouldn't carry the pads of Roy Williams, fading veteran receiver for the Cowboys. Not that I defend a rookie showing up a vet in a harmless bit of rookie hazing. But it's just that I want a guy I think will be a big-time player to have some attitude to him -- so long as he shows up and practices hard every day. He's there to play football, not carry someone's pads. I love that. Now, he'll pay for it somehow, but he's drawing his own line there. Good for him.
9. I think these were the highlights of my vacation:
a. Read a couple of really good books. Hellhound on His Trail, a living, breathing history book recounting how the paths of Martin Luther King and James Earl Ray crossed. Riveting. And Murder in the High Himalayas, about the murder of a Tibetan nun by Chinese troops as she tried to escape her homeland for the religious freedom of India. Great thing about that book is I knew nothing about Tibetan culture and the Dalai Lama and the vital significance to every citizen there, in defiance of Chinese law. Fascinating.
b. Saw a game in the Wrigley Field bleachers. The last fun thing I did on my vacation was sit in the bleachers last Wednesday to see the Cubs and Astros play. I got to the game just as the park opened, to make sure I got a good seat; the bleachers are general admission. Turns out I didn't need to do that, because there were empty seats out there all game.
Went to the men's room in center field about 75 minutes before the game. In the middle of the empty place: a naked man washing himself, his pile of clothes off to the side. I did a double-take, and he was quickly soaping up his armpits with the hand soap out of the dispenser, then using a cup to rinse off. On a weirdness scale of 1-10, this was a 46. I said nothing. I looked the other way. For all I know, not another soul this far before the game entered the bathroom by the time this model citizen was washed up and dressed. I hope not. Good game, too, in the Midwestern broiler. Has Carlos Lee always been that girthy?
c. Saw Sox games with both daughters, along with a few home-brewed Watermelon beers at the Boston Beer Works across the street from Fenway. Wouldn't be summer without Laura and Mary Beth at Fenway.
d. Saw a couple of good movies. Loved Despicable Me, and yes, I'm an old softie. Even better: Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work You've got to see that. It's a documentary about how desperate the 75-year-old Rivers is to stay relevant. Painful at times, but a documentary that tells the real story of something interesting -- and Rivers is one interesting person -- is always worth two hours of your time.
e. Ran into Larry King at Nate and Al's deli in Beverly Hills. That's his breakfast haunt. "Who's your surprise team of the season?'' he asked me. I said, "Carolina.'' Expected him to say: "Charlotte, North Carolina ... Hello!''
f. Took a boat from Boston to Provincetown, on the tip of Cape Cod, with my wife on a beautiful summer day, on calm waters. Haven't been there in 30 years. Cool place.
g. Spent a few days in LA, culminating with the always fun "NFL 101'' deal at the L.A. Coliseum. Great to catch up with new civilian Mike Pereira, who joined me on the Andrea Kremer-led panel on the floor of the L.A. Coliseum. The former NFL officiating czar is relocating to Sacramento, will work for Fox Sports as a rules interpreter and dot.com columnist, and will also officiate some high school football games in the Sacramento area. I wondered why.
"I miss it,'' Pereira said. "I figured this would be a good way to get back into it.''
How intimidated would you be to be reffing with Pereira, having him look over your shoulder on a close call? I'll tell you this, though -- he'd put you at ease from the first whistle. That's the kind of team player he is. The NFL will really miss him.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. Thanks, Anne Hamilton of the Hartford Courant, for this tribute to my late brother Bob in Sunday's paper. .
b. I've got a sinking feeling that by the time Martinez, Pedroia and Ellsbury return to the Red Sox lineup, they'll be swimming with the fishes.
c. Amazing how many chances Manny Delcarmen gets, for a guy with a 29.46 ERA in his last seven outings. And Sunday's 4-2 loss in Seattle was an awful one for the manager. Daniel Bard hadn't given up a run since June 10. He rarely works a second inning of relief, but here he was, in his second inning in Seattle, with a 2-1 lead, having thrown 18 pitches, the 18th being a single to lead off this second inning.
Terry Francona has the slowest hook in baseball, but here he came to get Bard and insert Hideki Okajima, who has been a lost sheep for the past year or so. Single to left. Bunt single to the pitcher. Single to right. Bunt single to the pitcher. Single to right. And Okajima is still in the game. Double play, and then, finally, he got yanked.
Eight games out. There are only so many times you can play for tomorrow. Francona does it too often. Having said that, the hitting on this team is god-awful, and managing better is not going to vault them into the playoffs.
d. It's been a busy time for death. I really liked and admired Vic Ziegel, the New York sports editor and columnist, who died over the weekend, as much for his acerbic wit in the press box as for his irreverent writing.
e. Daniel Schorr, who died Friday, is a guy we studied at Ohio University in the seventies as a powerhouse in the Washington reporting business -- and he was still relevant until the last few weeks. Heard him two weeks ago in his regular spot on NPR talking about the Russian spies. This is a guy you had to listen to in the sixties -- and still 50 years later. How admirable.
f. In Lakewood, a neighborhood in Dallas, the neighbors are doing one terrific job for the Siegel family. Leah Siegel is the ace ESPN producer who is very ill with breast cancer, and if you drive down her street, you see every tree festooned with pink ribbons as a show of support by a neighborhood of people who care. Hoping the best for Leah and her family this morning.
g. Coffeenerdness: What is it about me needing hot coffee when it's 96 degrees and dripping humidity outside? I don't know, but I can count on one finger the number of iced coffees I've had this summer.
h. Caught a couple of episodes of The Bachelorette, unfortunately. And I can only say this: How can a girl profess undying love for four guys, one day loving one and the next flying somewhere else and loving another? And who thinks this is a natural, or admirable? What a dumb TV show.