For good times, there's nothing like inviting a car full of lip-readers over to watch Sunday's NFL games.
Lipreading is a feverish topic in the NFL these days. Coaches are covering their mouths when they send in plays because they're suspicious that thieves are watching. The coaches look like they had onions for lunch or just graduated from the Istanbul Spy Institute. "We hear rumors all the time about [opposing] coaches hiring guys to read our lips," says Cardinals offensive coordinator Rich Olson.
It's no rumor, pal. "Our guy keeps a pair of binoculars on their signal-callers every game," says Broncos coach Mike Shanahan. "With any luck, we have their defensive signals figured out by halftime. Sometimes, by the end of the first quarter."
Giants coach Jim Fassel thinks it's all lip service. "If someone is that smart," Fassel grouses, "he should be curing cancer, not coaching football."
To check it out, I hired three lip-readers, all women, all football fans and all either hearing impaired or profoundly deaf, to come by the house last weekend. Nice people. They didn't even complain when my younger son tried to sign good morning, but wound up signing screw you instead.
The first game was the Colts' easy win over the Broncos, and the one guy who should've covered his mouth was not a coach but a player, Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning. He's Dudley Do-Right in public, but on the field Manning seems to have the vocabulary of a dyspeptic carnival employee. The lip-readers counted nine televised f—-s, many dammits, and, once, just for variety's sake, a "f——-'dammit!
In the first quarter, after a replay had overturned an apparent touchdown pass to wide receiver Marvin Harrison, Manning was seen to say, disgustedly, "Why'd they show the f——-' replay?" When a running back short-armed his screen pass, he yelled, "F——-' get in there!"
After the game, when our correspondent went to the locker room and told Manning the lip-readers had nailed him, Manning took the stringer's cell phone and called me.
"They got me, huh?" he said, dejectedly.
"Nine times," I said.