Work in Sports
A proper football feast
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My rankings got ripped, my sackers' list got ripped, my pants are ripped. Been a tough week, folks. Yes, I'll answer all your letters but let me begin with the easy ones, OK?
Earl of Louisville, Colo., is concerned about which foods go with NFL TV-watching, and the etiquette thereof. Afraid you're asking exactly the wrong guy. My style is NO FOOD. Clutters up the charting area. Strictly coffee and cigars, non-stop, through the early and late-afternoon games. At 7:30 or so (Eastern time), whenever the second round of games is over, I hit the downstairs TV for the ESPN highlight show, taking notes where applicable, eating dinner off a tray that has been prepared by the flaming redhead.
The meal never varies. A 12-ounce New York strip steak she has marinated for 24 hours in her special Arizona Flame Sauce, a raw onion to go with it, a salad to show I can be as healthy as the next guy. More coffee. There's a method to this. No starches (i.e., pasta and the like), no sweets. Why? Because I've still got to do the late game, or if it's a dog, I put it on the taper and watch a few earlier games I've recorded. Five Sunday contests are my limit. Most of the time it's four -- which runs me into 5 a.m. or so, and my piece for the magazine is due around eight. Starches and sweets (alcohol, too, for that matter) retard all-night sleeplessness. Earlier protein, plus the greens, keep you going.
All this, incidentally, is what happens when I'm home. When I'm at a game, I generally catch that and another one on Sunday, then take the rest of them off the tape during the week. This is a long, tiresome answer to a simple question.
Always pleased to answer questions about Lady Flame.
Anthony of Langhorne, Pa., wants to know the secret of how I found her. Long story. Blind luck. Some day I'll do a full revelation. All I can tell you is that when we meet people socially, we get follow-up calls inviting us to come down and spend a weekend. In the 10 years or so that I was on the beach between marriages, I got invited to zero.
From Mike of Brookfield, Ill: "Your flaming redhead is gorgeous." I pass these kinds of comments onto her and print her replies, unedited. Her reply:
OK, now the gloves come off. All rippers, form a double line over there and step lively, I don't have all day.
Big volume of mail for leaving Derrick Thomas off my list of top 10 all-time greatest sackers. I thought long and hard about this. My next three were Thomas, Alan Page and Doug Atkins. I don't want to take anything away from Thomas, who certainly rates as one of the greatest in history, but what decided it for me was that he spent most of his career as an open-side rusher, whereas most of the other guys I named had multiple responsibilities. My two most-criticized choices were Mark Gastineau (No. 7) and Kevin Greene (No. 8), and I feel their personalities had something to do with the way people evaluated their ability. I had to do a real soul-search about Greene (who also did a lot of his work from the open side) vs. Thomas, 160 sacks over 15 years against 126 1/2 in 11. I broke it down year by year, team by team, even by the kind of blockers they faced, based on many charts. Maybe I was wrong. I get the feeling that I'll have to re-think the whole thing, but of course, it's too late now.
Now we get to the ratings. I think I told you how I arrive at the projected records. I go down each team's schedule, game by game, and give it a W or an L, figuring in things like long road trip, short work week, possible look-ahead to a game the following week, etc. My final tally becomes the team's record. If one is too far out of whack, I do a game-adjust (never adjust more than one game), which is a euphemism for changing the result by one to get something more reasonable. I hope you realize I'm telling you my innermost secrets here. But the bottom line remains the same. At this point, all is mere conjecture and shouldn't be taken that seriously. Let's wait until things start happening, O.K.? (A remark you will be hearing for the next three months or so).
Noach of New York feels I've picked the Bears too low. On this one I agree. When I saw it in print, I slapped my forehead and said, "Oh God!" Too late to change now. But just to make up for it, I picked them to upset the Vikings Sunday.
To Ian of Phoenix: I don't hate the Cardinals. Bob Ferguson's a friend, or at least he was until my ratings came out. Three things I don't like: 1) Arizona's O-line, 2) the D-line, 3) the way Jake Plummer has regressed under Marc Trestman's tutelage. My wife, incidentally, who is from the same town as you are, also does not like the record I've attached to the Cardinals -- no, she doesn't like it at all. And what's more, she has let me know her feelings.
Barry of Orlando thinks I've been too generous with the Bucs. Perhaps on the regular season won-lost, but they'll be in the thick of it at the end, just watch.
Ruth of Palouse, Wash., feels I have the Seahawks much too low. Here's my thinking: Mike Holmgren shouldn't be getting so involved in contracts and stuff like that, and maybe after this season he'll cut back. He's a fine coach, but I really don't like the way Seattle's personnel situation has gone.
To Harry of Webster City, Iowa: Agree with you about the blah nature of the Packers. Don't get very excited about the Vikings, either. As far as the posting schedule for the Internet stuff, I can't answer that. Please address your query to Aimee Crawford and congratulate her on her recent marriage. [Editor's note: Beginning next week, Dr. Z's Power Rankings will appear on Wednesday, his column on Thursdays and his Mailbag every Friday throughout the season.]
Joel of Denver and Jeff of Huntsville, Texas, think I've been too rough on the Saints. I wish Jim Haslett well. He was a neat guy to talk to as a player and I think he'll be a good coach, but right now there's too much wreckage to clear away. And those injuries didn't help.
George of Poolesville, Md., reminds me of my anti-Skins bias. It's not anti-Skins, George, it's anti-Danny. And I never wrote a line about Chris Samuels' "up-and-down" training camp. Find someone else to flog for that one. I have Washington at No. 6 instead of odds-on to go all the way because there's something that makes me nervous about all that ego under one roof. Suggesting a retirement for me in Miami, incidentally, is tantamount to a death sentence, and I would never treat you that way, George.
From Anthony of Langhorne, Pa., parts two and three: So the Philly media is lambasting me, huh? Good. Let's hear what they say when that young, feisty Eagles talent springs a few upsets, including Sunday's over Dallas. Finally, your uncle and grandfather are still moaning about the games being fixed, eh? That's why they bear the titles "uncle" and "grandpa." Young folks are too sophisticated for that nonsense.
Here's one I will absolutely beat in court: Kevin of Park Ridge, Ill., is ripping me for player rankings. Do you see my byline on that stuff? No, and neither do I, because I did not, repeat did not write it.
Robert of Quebec, wants to know if Ryan Leaf will become a star QB if he matures. Hate to be so lifeless, but I can only say that we'll have to wait and see how he does against real competition instead of against the exhibition season vanilla defenses. Oh, hell, that's no answer. No, I think he's the kind of guy who'll never really be able to rally a team around him.
To Tony in Antioch, Tenn: Yes, I think the NFL's standard of justice re: Jumbo Elliott and Ray Lewis is ridiculous. The league office is at its weakest when it tries to play judge. It's at its finest when it's selling T-shirts.
To Susan of Newport, Conn., who wants to know which coaches will be fired: Wow, two letters from women. That's what I like to see, and so does Linda. Susan, I will not get into the coach-firing game. These are hard-working people with families. Owners are a different story.
Many nice words from Joe Zastrow in Mooresville, NC, who bears my Dr. Z moniker and seems to handicap games as I do. Send me a complete set of your charts, Joe, and I'll critique and grade them for you.
Mike of Brookfield, Ill., wants to know if Morten Andersen and Ray Guy are Hall of Fame-bound. Andersen, yes. Guy? Not as long as I have anything to do with it. Very low-ranking on the net. Flashy, but not in the class of others, particularly ex-Niner Tommy Davis, the greatest punter I've ever seen. Davis ranks second all-time to Sammy Baugh, and he didn't pad his average with a lot of quick-kicks, as Baugh did. Plus, he was playing in terrible conditions in windblown Kezar.
Sam of Knoxville wants to know Tee Martin's chances of quarterbacking the Steelers at some point this season. Hey, why not? Seems to be a democratic situation there, in which everyone gets a chance.
Finally -- I've had queries from time to time regarding the true pre-season odds of a team winning the Super Bowl or ever reaching it. OK, I talked to a guy who just returned from Vegas and he quoted me the real price, not some nonsensical 5,000-1 that people such as Danny Sheridan dream up. Longest-priced teams to win the Super Bowl are the Saints, Bengals and Browns, at 150-1, which is as high as a number will go. The Saints are 70-1 to reach it, Browns and Bengals are 100-1. Shortest priced team to win it is Washington at 3-1, and the Skins are 9-5 to reach. That's 9-5 against, not for.
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