1. I think I've banged on the replacements, and the inability of the league to make a bridge with the regular officials in the negotiating process, so much in the past few weeks that I thought I'd give it a rest this week. Mostly. But it doesn't diminish the fact that it's incumbent on Roger Goodell and the NFL's negotiators to attack the process anew this week, and make sure there are real officials in place when a game vital to the playoff race is played nine day from now -- Cowboys at Giants -- in New Jersey.
I'm reminded of one famous Jerseyan, Bill Parcells, when he once picked up a Giants media guide when I covered the team in the '80s, and he began flipping back through the records section. "No one cares who was hurt, or what problems you had before any of these games,'' Parcells said, pointing at the Giants' year-by-year record. "All people care about is the 'W' or the 'L.' Did you win or lose? All the other stuff, nobody cares. Don't tell me how tough it was during labor. Just tell me: Did you deliver the baby or didn't you?'' Keep that in mind this week, NFL and the real refs, as you enter the most important negotiating week of this whole mess.
2. I think the 49ers, after seeing Ted Ginn Jr. go down with an ankle injury Sunday in Denver (X-rays were negative), could be staring Kyle Williams-as-return-man in the face early in the season. The team's been uber-supportive publicly of Williams, who had a costly turnover in the NFC Championship Game. If Ginn has to miss a little time, we'll see if the 49ers proceed with Williams returning punts. I say Jim Harbaugh will, if necessary.
3. I think I appreciate the work of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Senior Committee, in part because I see an effort to try to even out the offense-defense disparity in the Hall. We've tried on the regular committee to hear the cases of more defensive players in recent years, because the selection had been weighted toward offensive players. And with two defenders being nominated this year, that means seven of the past nine Senior candidates are defenders.
4. I think my wish-I'd-written-that line of the week belong to Mike Florio, of ProFootballTalk.com, on likely Cleveland owner Jimmy Haslam sitting with the fans Friday night at the Eagles-Brown preseason game: "Prospective Browns owner Jimmy Haslam spent some time in the Dawg Pound on Friday night. (Fans recognized him by the Steelers jersey he was wearing.)" Of course, another Saturday line by Florio was a close second: "The Indy car driven by JR Hildebrand had been painted to honor the 49ers and coach Jim Harbaugh for Sunday's race at Sonoma. (If Hildebrand loses, he should say he wasn't 'pursuing' victory, only 'evaluating'' it.' "
5. I think if you read one thing this week about why you love the NFL, you should read this, by Steve Almond, a Raiders fan.
6. I think the Chiefs are very lucky they don't have many mobile quarterbacks on the schedule this year. That defense was pitiful against Russell Wilson, continually losing gap discipline and letting a third-round rookie dictate the tempo and control of the third preseason game. Very bad sign.
7. I think I read something smart from Joey Harrington, the former NFL quarterback (he was on the Falcons during the Michael Vick dog-fighting debacle) to the New York Post on Friday, concerning how difficult a time Penn State will have winning this year. "I was in Atlanta when Michael Vick was arrested,'' Harrington said. "I have seen how teams function when they are under intense media scrutiny. As much as you want to put up this shield, it's not easy. Whether or not guys transfer [from Penn State] it's going to be an extremely tough place to win. I don't want to say winning is secondary, but winning is secondary at this point. There's too many other things to worry about and too many other things people are focusing on to have the type of performance on a week-in, week-out basis. I don't think any team can have the mental makeup to withstand the experience that's coming at Penn State.''
8. I think the Jets look worse than they did last December, when they lost their last three games by an average of 14 points a game. I didn't think it was possible. Mark Sanchez is having his accuracy issues again, and his receivers certainly aren't helping (I mean you, Stephen Hill). And now, with tight end Dustin Keller out with an ouchy hamstring (why exactly is preseason football worth playing?), it's another setback. And I do not see how they keep Wayne Hunter. Another horrible non-block by him allowed Tebow to get sacked in the fourth quarter. Hunter's not an NFL-caliber player.
9. I think the blue-suited guy who does NFL Network ads has to go. Weird, not clever, dumb. Any other pejorative words you can think of? Just add them.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. Journalism of the Week award goes to Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times, for posting this story on the paper's website about 28 hours before news of the biggest trade in baseball in years leaked Friday night. I mean, look at it -- Dilbeck had it all, right down to the minor-leaguers involved for the Dodgers. Great work.
b. As far as the deal goes, I like it as a Red Sox partisan -- particularly the part about the Dodgers taking $250 million or so (96 percent) of the remaining salary of the four Red Sox vets. Adrian Gonzalez is a big loss. Carl Crawford might be, but he also might be a player who isn't suited for the big-headline places, and who won't be able to play until next April or May because of elbow surgery. And Josh Beckett, well, you can have him. Never met him; don't know any of these guys. But he strikes me as one of the most miserable people ever to put on a Sox uniform -- and that encompasses a lot of miserable people.
If you pitch well and you're miserable, people have to stand you. If you pitch horribly (as he had this year), and you play golf the day after you've been scratched from a start with a bad back and then are bitter when people have the audacity to question you about it, then people say, "Good riddance.''
The Sox have paid $46 million for Beckett to go 24-24 over the past three years. Maybe he'll be good in the spacious parks of the National League West, but that won't make this trade any worse. He's spent the last 12 months helping drag down a franchise that was paying him like a king. In the New York Times, Peter May called Beckett "reviled and remorseless.'' Perfect.
c. Gonzalez's first at-bat for the Dodgers: three-run homer. James Loney's first at-bat for the Red Sox: double play. And so it goes.
d. This is no little slump Boston's in. Red Sox in last 162 games: 73-89.
e. Pirates in last 162: 80-82.
f. The Pittsburgh Pirates are seven full games better than the Red Sox in the last full season.
g. How must the Rays feel? Hottest team in baseball last Monday. Coming off an 8-2 road trip and a four-game sweep in Anaheim. Breathing down the Yankees' necks. They come home on Monday night and draw 9,913. Is Tampa-St. Pete trying to lose an excellent franchise?
h. I mean, I hate the Trop as much as the next guy -- it's a bad place to watch baseball -- but that is a pathetic showing by that fan base.
i. While I'm on the topic of baseball box scores, is it too much, USA Today, to wake up in my hotel in San Diego and see the results of the East Coast games that end around 7:30 p.m. Pacific time?
j. RIP, Jerry Nelson. Throughout my Sesame Street-watching career, your Count Von Count voice was my favorite.
k. Regarding Lance Armstrong, for a guy who fought so hard for so long proclaiming his innocence, it's pretty uncharacteristic to throw hands up in the air and give up. Not like him -- unless he knew there was no way he could convince anyone of his innocence.
l. Coffeenerdness: Good to be home and have my daily Italian Roast fix. Tough times on the road without it.
m. Beernerdness: Safeco Field is a great stadium for beer nerds -- 23 variety of beers sold in the concourse, by my count, the last time I was there. But Petco Park ("Petco! Where the pets go!") will give it a run for the money. I was there with the Cowboys media contingent and Dallas PR czar Rich Dalrymple Tuesday night (thanks for the tickets, Troy Aikman) and we found an alley behind our seats of five local microbrewers with their wares on tap. How considerate.
n. As that wise owl Brian Hyland texted me after seeing the front page of the New York Daily News (with Neil Armstrong's photo and tribute, and this headline above it about "Snooki'' going into labor: "Cameras roll for Jersey's little meatball"), "I think if Neil Armstrong knew that when he passed he'd have to share the front page with a person called 'Snooki' he would stayed up there."
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