1. I think I still can't believe Blaine Gabbert will go number one. Well, maybe I can, if Ben Dogra and Tom Condon represent him, because they've had pretty good luck with first-round pick quarterbacks recently. I found it interesting, and perhaps telling, that Condon/Dogra, who never pursued JaMarcus Russell in 2007, never pursued Cam Newton this year either. Not to say Newton won't go number one, and not to say that he's in any way the next colossal failure in the NFL. Just simply making the observation that Condon and Dogra didn't like something about Newton and left him alone.
2. I think I couldn't give a care whether the top draft picks will be in New York or not. Agents, as you know, may keep them away in protest of the current labor situation. It's not going to affect anyone's enjoyment of the draft one bit, except maybe ESPN's or NFL Network's. The cameras will find these guys, wherever they are.
3. I think I don't want to hear either side say another word about how much they care about the fans. Meaningless prattle. The owners care about the fans turning in their season-ticket money. The players care about the fans not thinking they're greedy carpetbaggers. The fans don't want to hear anything other than, "We've got a new labor deal.''
4. I think I could feel Robert Kraft's consternation, through a very hoarse voice from Israel, on Saturday. He's been the most optimistic owner of them all, even though most often he's had nothing to be optimistic about. Imagine how Kraft will feel when he reads the antitrust lawsuit that will forever become known as Brady v. National Football League. It'll make him sicker than he already is.
5. I think I'd put my money on Tiki Barber being in training camp with either Tampa Bay, Oakland, New England or the Jets.
6. I think the player with the best chance to extend the olive branch over the next four months is Jeff Saturday. Owner: John Mara. Patient, very well-respected guys.
7. I think if the league year begins sometime in the next month or so, which I think is most likely, the big winner will be Nnamdi Asomugha. Because the NFL's 2011 system is most likely to be based on the 2010 league year, with no salary cap, and with Asomugha the best player, far and away, on the free market, I wouldn't be surprised to see him challenge Brady's $19-million average salary.
The guy just finished making $14.1-million, average, for the last two years, and he's one of the best two cornerbacks (along with Darrelle Revis) in the league, and he plays one of the most important positions in the game. Why wouldn't some team, in a possibly capless year, pay him $20 million a year? Or at least $18 million?
8. I think if I were Scott Pioli or Mark Dominik, running the contending Chiefs and Bucs, respectively, and with the aforementioned puny team salaries, I'd be on Asomugha. Very, very hard.
9. I think if the players and owners go back to the mediator in Washington, George Cohen, I'll be conveniently on vacation then. That's really fun stuff, standing outside for nine hours on a sidewalk in 42-degree wind chill.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. So proud of my nephew, Evan King of South Windsor, Conn., for taking the Eagle Scout oath Sunday afternoon. It was a touching ceremony with one of his good friends and fellow Eagle Scouts, Brendan Russo, because it was my late brother, Bob, who shepherded Evan through much of his scouting life. (With help from many other scouting dads in South Windsor, too.)
When Bob died last summer, he was knee-deep with Evan in all things scouting, including his Eagle project of building a boat launch on a beautiful lake in town. How he would have loved to see his son Sunday afternoon, not only in accepting proclamations from the governor in absentia and the state representative and the mayor of his town (in person), but in standing in front of a big room of people and handling himself like such a fine young man. His speech left us pretty choked up. He ended with this, with a shred of emotion in his voice:
"To my extended family, your support and generosity, especially in recent times, has given my mom, my sister and me the comfort that the loss of my dad has not been a loss of hope. And I can't forget my parents when it comes to this, or any part of my life; my mom's constant encouragement, especially toward the end, to get the project done and my dad's presence in every way through my years in scouting.
"I can't thank my mom enough for her strength in the face of loss and tireless continuation of what she has always been for our family. The same goes for my sister. And my dad has defined so much of who I am, or who I try to be today. Scouting was a huge part of my dad's life during his last years, and he loved it, he was truly happy being a leader and a scoutmaster. If he were here today, he would have the same gratitude as I do, as he often told us he did.''
If he were here today, Evan, he'd be beaming. I'm sure he was, without even being in the room.
b. Love NCAA Tournament geography this time of year. Temple, in Philadelphia, and Penn State, in central Pennsylvania, meet in the first round of the tournament, 2,300 miles away in Tucson. In the West Regional.
c. Good for Newark. If form holds -- it rarely does, of course -- the Prudential Center would host a super regional in a week and a half: Ohio State, North Carolina, Syracuse and Kentucky. Scalper's paradise, given the fan bases of each.
d. You're happy if you're a Boston University Terrier this morning, to be sure. But then you look at the bracket and ask, "What are we, chopped liver?'' Wofford, Bucknell, Belmont, Morehead State, Long Island and Northern Colorado all are seeded higher.
e. I still don't understand why, if USC, Virginia Commonwealth and Clemson are all better than a quarter of the field, they're playing, in essence, play-in games.
f. I always get a kick out of the NIT schedule. I believe -- though I'm not positive -- that in the NIT the home team in every game now is the better-seeded team. If that's the case, look at the paths Fairfield and Harvard would have to take to get the NIT Final Four just down the road at Madison Square Garden, Fairfield about 45 minutes away, and Harvard four hours in a bus.
Fairfield would have to win in Fort Collins, Colo. (against Colorado State), then in Moraga, Calif. (against St. Mary's) and then in Boulder, Colo. (against Colorado) -- if Fairfield won and played the best-seed teams along with way. Harvard's route: at Oklahoma State in Stillwater, at Washington State in Pullman and at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. I've been to all three places, and let me just say: You can't get there from here. Especially Pullman. That is one incredible haul.
g. Wow. UConn. Five wins in five days to win the Big East, the first three played at noon. What an accomplishment.
h. First at-bat of his Boston Red Sox career Saturday in Fort Myers, against the noted Josh Johnson: Adrian Gonzalez took the first pitch he saw and served it on a line onto the grass in left field. Have a feeling there's more where that came from.
i. So the Devils have 14 games left, and they're 22-3-2 in their last 27, and they just can't gain fast enough on the bottom dwellers of the NHL Eastern Conference playoff race. They're eight points back of the Rangers and Sabres, and though they have two games in hand on New York and one on Buffalo, they have three teams to jump and have to hope one of the incumbents goes into a tailspin. Looks like Jersey just dug itself too much of a hole in the first two months.
j. Devilnerdness: Last nine games have been decided by one goal.
k. Coffeenerdness: Great, great lead in the New York Times SundayBusiness section story on Starbucks: "Raise your hand if you remember when Starbucks seemed cool. Anyone?'' Claire Cain Miller is one heck of a writer. She went on to pen: "During the depths of the recession, Starbucks nearly drowned in its caramel macchiato.'' She said CEO Howard Schultz has a "trenta-sized ambition.'' Good job, Claire.
l. Beernerdness: You know Washington's a good beer city when you go to two straight places and find the same great beer -- Prima Pils, the Victory Brewing Company's excellent pilsener.
m. It goes very much without saying, but our hopes and prayers are with everyone in Japan. Can't imagine what you're all going through over there.
n. I have to credit Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports for being clear and very well-explained in his NFL labor coverage. He really gets the economic issues. And Don Banks has been irreverent and tough on both sides for letting it get to this point.
o. Kudos, Albert Breer, for working for the NFL's TV network and working as hard as you can to be a real journalist, getting both sides of a tough story.
p. I wish whoever invented the Thin Mint girl scout cookies had invented something else. Like Brussels Sprout cookies. Either that or come get them out of my house. I inhale those things.
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