Is the fun gone from your NFL office pool? Are you tired of poring over plus-minus turnover ratios, of analyzing the Titans' tight end play, of computing how well the Panthers perform during nonfelony weeks? Then you might want to visit two NFL picks sites on which winning certainly isn't the only thing.
Suburban Boston thirtysomethings Stephanie Lee (above, at left) and Becky Smyrnios are a gridiron Cleavage and Butthead: They have a smirkingly prurient interest in what they are watching. " Jeff George is perfect proof that size isn't everything," wrote Smyrnios as she handicapped Sunday's Chiefs-Vikings matchup. The Minnesota quarterback, she elaborated, "has the biggest gun around but a crappy disposition."
"Football players are celebrities," says Lee, who with her partner launched the site last July after investing approximately $10,000 in start-up costs. (They're hoping to turn a profit from the ads on the site.) "We approach the NFL as E! or PEOPLE might."
More like Cosmopolitan. Besides picking winners, the Chicks bestow a "Big Johnson Award" (Redskins quarterback Brad has supplanted Jets wide receiver Keyshawn) and continually update a "Studs" section. "Our favorite section is 'Spankings,' " says Smyrnios. "We've had to spank Brett Favre a few times this season. We're getting sick of his being a drama queen. It's so unmanly to cry."
Season to date (no spread): Lee 99-92; Smyrnios 95-96.
His name is Jeff Johnson. He comes from Wisconsin. He never worked in a factory there, but somewhere in his past Johnson must have inhaled mind-altering fumes, as attested by the many, and often lengthy, digressions with which he peppers his picks.
"I think there should be a movie that's called Who's Kissing the Great Running Backs of the NFL?" he wrote in his Week 5 preview, pitching a character—togged out in a salmon-colored unitard—who dashes onto the field and plants smooches, Morganna-style, on running backs. "And know what else happens? They find out that the daffy son of a bitch can throw a block! And the Chiefs sign him up, and everybody's happy."
Equal parts Garrison Keillor and Hunter S. Thompson, Johnson's humor makes The Far Side's Gary Larson seem as deranged as an actuary. His game previews are often hidden amid wacky tales, such as one in which actor Scott Baio quarterbacks the Gdansk Catastrophe (an NFL Russia squad). "My column's not really about the NFL," says Johnson, who daylights as the music editor for Jane magazine, "but my record's better than most."