Show me, don't tell me, You've figured out the score...Show me, don't tell me, I've heard it all before...Show me, don't tell me, I don't care what you say...Show me, don't tell me...You can twist perceptions, Reality won't budge...You can raise objections, I will be the judge...And the jury...I'll give it due reflection, Watching from the fence...Give the jury direction, Based on the evidence...I, the jury...Show, Don't tell

Sep 24, 2009

Bumper Lanes, Rachel Hunter, The Dick Vermeil Bowl, Purple Jesus, Khadafi’s Face, Megan Fox’ Thumb, and a Dora the Explorer Sleeping Bag

It’s Sunday morning. I’ve got my cup of coffee, a couple pieces of toast and the newspaper sprawled across the kitchen table. My six year-old daughter asks me if I’ll do something with her. “Let’s do something today, Daddy”, she says. My first internal reaction is to question whether or not she’s kidding. I look back at her…. She’s not kidding. Does she not know that it’s Sunday? Have I not trained her on this already? She cannot be serious. Can she? Sunday is Football Day. I’ve got a full day of tv watching ahead of me. Pre-game shows, the Bengals-Packers at 1:00, followed by the 4:00 game, the Sunday nighter, then the wrap-up show on the NFL Network, etc, etc. When am I gonna have time to “do something”? Is she crazy? I look back at her again. Then it hits me. She’s not the crazy one, I am. I’m going to brush her off for the Bengals? That’s crazy. She’s never done anything to me. Well, not really. The Bengals, on the other hand, well, they’ve inflicted many a case of mental anguish upon me over the years. Plus, I really don’t know if I can handle witnessing another 0-2 start to a season. I look back at her cute little anticipating face and tell her, “Yes. Let’s go do something.”

After a couple minutes of pondering exactly what to do, a short consultation with the wife and a quick phone call to the neighbors, the plan is set. We’ll have lunch, my daughter and I will pick up a friend of hers, then spend a rainy afternoon at the bowling alley before meeting my wife and youngest daughter back at the house for dinner. I set the television to record the game (God bless the DVR) and I decide that I’ll watch the game later in the off chance that the Bengals win. If they don’t, I’ll delete it and limit my misery to an over-the-phone recap from my pal Johnny B. Either way the next four hours are going to be Bengal-free. We hop in the car, pick up my daughter’s friend and I steer the radio clear of the game, opting instead for some classic rock. After a fifteen minute ride which includes a lesson from me to the girls about the historical significance of Led Zeppelin on the genre of hard rock, we arrive at the bowling alley.

Bowling alleys are, how can I put this politely…. A white trash disaster. I say this while acknowledging that I spent a lot of my early teens hanging out around a bowling alley. Western Bowl was where I learned how to shoot pool, play video games, cup a cigarette, start a fight, avoid a fight, steal beers off tables from unsuspecting adults when they got up to use the bathroom, and various other wonderful talents befitting an adolescent in the late 80’s. I found it to be a fantastic place to spend a lot of my formative time, mainly because I didn’t know any better.

Have you ever noticed that bowling alleys all share the same smell? Kinda musty, nicotine-y, with more than just a trace of stale beer and a hint of despair. They all have low drop-ceilings, fifty year-old carpet, crappy bolted-down hard plastic seats, and some of the classier ones even have a “quality” surf & turf restaurant attached at one end. When I was young, I used to walk in and feel an energy from the place, like I was in the heart of the action. Now when I walk in, I just get a creepy vibe from ‘em. I can’t help but think that somewhere on the premises someone is selling someone else a baggie full of something while a couple of lonely guys sit in the lounge drinking away their retirement funds and a teenage girl decides whether or not to do something really stupid with some skinny dude who just failed his G.E.D., again.

I take the girls up to the counter, get them their bowling shoes and ask the guy to set up the lane for bumper bowling. He obliges while his fat, early-thirties co-worker who looks like he just finished reading a comic book and polishing-off a piled-high bologna sandwich, chimes in with “They’ll never learn how to bowl if they get used to relying on the bumpers. It’s just like you can’t learn to ride a bike if you don’t take off the training wheels.” I tell him, “Look at ‘em. They’re six years old. They each weigh about forty pounds and will have to roll six-pound balls. That’s like you rolling a fifty-pound ball. Just give me the bumpers.” So lane #29 gets set up with the bumpers.

As we settle in at the lane, I look up towards the scorecard screen and there’s a problem. There’s a television up there and it’s tuned to the Bengals game. I quickly scan left and right and notice that lane #24 has a tv that’s either broken or turned off, so I go up to the counter and request a lane change. From that point on, things went perfectly. The girls and I laughed and had a good time, we munched on some popcorn, and I only sparingly glanced over to the tv in the next lane to check in on the game. After a couple games, the girls were tired and ready to go. We left and headed over to Graeter’s to kill some more time. Knowing my daughter, I knew that one of their single-scoop waffle cones would occupy her for approximately twenty five minutes. That time plus the ride home should get me past the end of the game and keep the afternoon Bengals-free as planned (more or less). Graeter’s great, as usual, and my assumption of twenty five minutes was almost right on the nose. By the way, the girls highly recommend mint chocolate chip (which for the record is now white, not green) and I highly recommend trying the Elena’s Blueberry Pie ice cream. It was so good, I almost lost control of two bodily functions.

When we finally get back home, I call Johnny B to see if the game has ended. He tells me that it’s not over yet but that the Bengals have it in the bag. Based on his assessment, I feel confident in turning it on so I can revel in the glory of a kneel-down. I should have known better. Johnny should have known better. Instead of reveling, I’m watching a lost on-sides kick and biting my nails up to the final gun. So much for a completely Bengal-free, stress-free Sunday. But all things considered, it was a really nice day. The Bengals won, I won, my daughter won…. Everybody’s happy. Thanks to my daughter, the person who invented bumper lanes, the person who invented DVR technology, the good people at Graeter’s, and Antwan Odom, it was the most enjoyable Bengals Sunday I’ve had in recent memory.

Now, on with the matchups….

Browns at Ravens-
Do you think Baltimore misses Rex Ryan? Maybe just a little? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; losing him was the equivalent of removing Lee Marvin from The Dirty Dozen. The defense will still be good, just not scary, make the offense whiz-down-their legs good. So far, the proof is in the stats. After two games, the Ravens have allowed 50 points and have the league’s 29th rated pass defense. The good news for them is that the Browns, led by Brady Quinn, Medicine Woman, are dead last in the league in offense. That’s surprising. I mean, who would ever think that this guy would struggle in the NFL?

Skins at Shirts (Lions)-
My sleeper team is still sleeping. This could get embarrassing. If the Redskins fall to the Lions, it’s going to go down as my worst prediction since I placed action on Rachel Hunter to win Dancing with the Stars a couple of seasons ago. And no, I’m not gay. But I may have a gambling problem.

Jaguars at Texans-
The Jack Del Rio Farewell Tour heads to Houston!

Falcons at Patriots-
If it wasn’t for a horrible brain cramp by the Bills punt returner in week one, the Pats would be sitting at 0-2 right now. Baked Bean Nation is in a tizzy over their start and all I’ve heard from them this week are things like, “Brady’s hesitant ‘cause of the knee”, “He’s not stepping into his throws”, “Our offensive line is crap”, etc. If they lose to BC grad Matt Ryan this Sunday, everyone in Chowderland are going to lose their collective minds. Especially this guy….

Saints at Bills-
The Saints offense is just ridiculous. They’ve put up 93 points already in just two games. They’ve had 24 offensive possessions and have scored on 15 of them. I’ve been married for eleven years and I’ve only scored on five of our possessions-- our bed, the couch, the backseat of the car, the loveseat, and a Dora the Explorer sleeping bag. Although you probably can’t count the sleeping bag because I was alone for that one.

Packers at Rams-
Aaron Rodgers has been hit more than Rhianna after an awards show. The Packers have thus far allowed him to be sacked ten times in two games, worst in the league by a long shot. They’re missing their starting left tackle and their left guard & center each lack both experience and talent. It may just be another Mexican food lunch talking back at me here, but my gut tells me the Rams might take this one. My gut also tells me that there’s a cat stuck in a tree somewhere nearby. I’ll be right back. Here’s something to watch while I’m gone. Enjoy….

Okay, I rescued the cat from the tree. And by “cat” I mean bottle of Miller High Life. And by “tree” I mean refrigerator. We can move on now.

Giants at Buccaneers-
I may have been wrong about the G-Men missing Plaxico. I thought they’d take a step back without a legit deep threat but so far they’ve done just fine in the passing game. Much of the credit has to go to their O-Line for giving Eli all day to throw the ball. Meanwhile, the Bucs defense is, well, not good. They’ve allowed an average of 33 points and 450 yards per game. My God, if only their cheerleaders were as easy to score on.

Titans at Jets-
This is where I usually mock the J! E! T! S! cheer but this week I’m gonna cut them some well-deserved slack. They’re now 2-0, after having just knocked off the Pats, and Rex Ryan has their defense playing like a group of highly-trained rabid jackals. I don’t know what’s scarier right now, the Jets defense or Muammar Khadafi’s face.

Whoops. Easy mistake.

Chiefs at Eagles-
Hey, it’s The Dick Vermeil Bowl.
Winner gets a motion-activated bust of the old emotional coach that cries real tears. Loser gets a year’s supply of Pudding Pops. Oh wait, I got that backwards.

Niners at Vikings-
The Niners are ranked #30 in passing offense.
The Vikings are ranked #32 in passing offense.
The Niners have thrown just one pass for over twenty yards so far.
The Vikings have also thrown just one pass for over twenty yards.
Both teams have yet to throw an interception.
The Niners are ranked #3 in run defense.
The Vikings are ranked #1 in rushing offense.

When in doubt, always side with the Purple Jesus.
And Damn the Niners. Damn them straight to hell!

Bears at Seahawks-
The Seahawks pride themselves on their 12th man at home. Well, they’d better hope that 12th man can play quarterback. Hasselbeck’s out this week and maybe beyond after someone hassled his back (sorry) last week against the Niners. This adds up to an unwanted Seneca Wallace sighting in the Great Northwest. It’s kinda like a Sasquatch sighting only Seneca smells better but has a weaker arm and a flimsier grasp of the playbook.

Steelers at Bengals-
We’ve heard a lot about Roethlisberger and his alleged indiscretions with a young lady (Andrea McNulty) out in Vegas in the offseason. As Bengals fans, let’s not forget that we once had a player who also had some questionable morals….

Oh. My. God. That is AWESOME! I don’t know what was better, the music in the background or the line “I like girls who aren’t that bright….”
That being said, I’ll be the guy at PBS this Sunday holding up the sign that reads “That One Was for You, Andrea” each time he gets sacked.

Broncos at Raiders-
Time for this week’s pop quiz…

Which of the following is not true?
a)The Broncos are 2-0
b)Kyle Orton has yet to throw an interception
c)The Broncos defense is ranked second in the league
d)Kyle Orton has a better passer rating than Jay Cutler
e)Megan Fox does not have a disturbing physical deformity

Answer: Sadly, none of the above

Dolphins at Chargers-
It’s Cheerleader Posedown Time!

Colts at Cardinals-
The Colts beat the Fish on Monday Night despite only having the ball for fifteen minutes. That’s staggering. And it reminds me of a euphemism a college buddy of mine used to toss around. He used the phrase “Time of Possession” to refer to the amount of time he spent making his girlfriend happy and vice-versa, if you catch my drift. I remember one morning asking him how his night went. He said, “I dominated her in time of possession but a false start killed me.” I can’t remember half of my professor’s names or half of the papers I wrote back then but I’ll never forget that line.

Monday Night

Panthers at Cowboys
It’s not breaking news to report that Jake Delhomme continues to be an interception machine. He’s now tossed six of ‘em in his first two games to follow-up his five-pick performance in the playoffs last season. Here he is preparing for his new job. As you can see, the arm still needs some work.

Sep 17, 2009

The Wall, a broken McRib, a rogue onion ring, Pudding Pop Jazz Night, sixty foot-tall cheerleaders, Patrick Swayze, and a puppet show

So, this past Saturday was all set to be a banner day. Just me and my six year old on a mission to bring home a brand new tv for the newly finished man cave, with a quick detour to grab some lunch on the way. Light traffic, blue skies, windows down, we made it to Skyline in record time for a Saturday afternoon. After a few mustard-no-onion coneys, we headed over to the big blue box electronics store with the big yellow price tag sign. This was gonna be great. I figured I’d bask in the glow of a wall of flat screens while my daughter would preoccupy herself by playing drums on their Rock Band demo. All was going well as she found the drums unoccupied and I found The Wall. What a glorious wall! You know The Wall. At least forty, maybe fifty high-def televisions with crystal-clear clarity displaying images of college football games in lifelike color and contrast. Okay now, I thought, it was time to get down to work. I’ve done some homework, know the basics of what I’m looking for, this ought to be a snap. Uh….maybe not.

I quickly realize that the big yellow price tag sign on the front of the building isn’t so much there for its design as it is a warning to all those who enter. After a quick scan up and down The Wall, it’s evident that my $2,500 isn’t going to be enough to cover the tv-surround sound-blue ray triumvirate with all the trappings that I’d set my heart on. It was clear that I was going to have to negotiate with myself. Do I sacrifice the size of the tv to keep the sound quality? Do I sacrifice the contrast ratio to keep the tv at a larger size? Do I drop to a lower quality sound system to get the perfect tv? Do I get an LCD instead of an LCD-LED in order to keep the sound and the blue ray top notch? Do I profit off my daughter’s Rock Band skills by setting up battles with other little kids in the store, then placing wagers with their parents until I raise enough extra cache to go balls-out with everything? My head was spinning. I had not properly prepared for this. I felt like Akili Smith staring into the teeth of a 3-4 zone blitz. I needed a timeout. And I got one.

A guy standing near me, in his late fifties and clearly on the Santa Claus workout plan, takes a step towards me and says, “You know what looks great in HD?” “Other than football?”, I ask. He says, “Those cooking shows. Saw one the other day. They was at a barbecue and it looked like you could just reach right in and grab the ribs right off their plate.” I politely nod and he continues, “You know what doesn’t look good in HD? My wife.” And just like that, I had a new friend. His name is Don. Don and I talk football, food, and televisions for a few minutes before his wife walks over and leads him off to go look at some laptops. He was right about his wife. She did not look good in high-def. Kinda like a heavier but (I’m assuming) less crazy Shirley McClain. And he was also right on with something he said about The Wall. With the exception of a few sets, the longer you stood in front of it, the harder it was to tell them apart. I know there are differences and that videophiles might berate me for saying this but I was having a really difficult time distinguishing the good from the better from the best. It was a lot like Week One of the NFL season.
I couldn’t trust my eyes.

Was what I was seeing correct? Are the Bills almost as good as the Patriots? Are the Chargers almost as bad as the Raiders? Are the Niners the Samsung PNB860 model of the NFC West? Are the Panthers the Sharp LE600 model of the NFC South? Or do I have that backwards? Hell, I don’t know. I think I need more information. On the televisions and the NFL. I grab one of the blue-shirted sales guys and try to pick his brain for a bit. He keeps trying to steer me towards the special sale-priced items and answers some of my tougher questions with the same look on his face that I surely once flashed to a certain Mr. Rohling when he asked me if I promised to respect his daughter on prom night. This kid was hiding something. Plus, he was wearing patchouli cologne. Rule #32, never trust anyone wearing patchouli. I wouldn’t trust this kid to park my car and I certainly wasn’t going to trust him with a $2,500 decision. I need some fresh air and decided to get out of there before I made a mistake. My daughter left with a Demi Lovato cd (whoever she is) and I left with a mild headache and a case of disappointment.

On the way out, I saw Don walking to the car with his wife. He yelled over and asked what I picked out. I held my arms out, palms up, and hollered, “Nothing. I couldn’t decide.” He hollered back, “You stood there too long.” He was right. But then again, what does he know. If he’s such a discerning shopper, how come he picked out a wife who looks like Shirley McClain with a water retention problem? Was that mean? I’m sure she’s a wonderful woman, with a heart of gold…. and a brand new laptop.

Let’s get on with the matchups….

Saints at Eagles-
McNabb broke a McRib last Sunday so now Kevin “silent L” Kolb has to come off the bench & put up enough points to fend off the high-scoring Saints. Good luck. Anyway, back to McNabb. Do you think McNabb refers to his body parts that way? I would if I were him. I’d have a McHead, a McNeck, two McKnees, ten McFingers, ten McToes, and one value-size McWiener.

Cardinals at Jaguars-
Last week I had five prophetic words for the Steelers. This week, I have five similar words for the Cardinals… Larry. Fitzgerald. The. Madden. Curse.
Sweet dreams, dreadlocks.

Bengals at Packers-
Here’s hoping CBS’ Gus Johnson is nowhere near Lambeau Field this Sunday. What a carnival clown. Can you imagine hanging around this dude? He takes everything mundane and jacks it up over the top and everything exciting to Defcon 5. What do you think happens when he goes to Burger King and finds a surprise rogue onion ring mixed in with his fries? “OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD!! DO YOU SEE THAT?! IT’S AN ONION RING IN WITH THE FRIES!!! I CAN’T BELIEVE IT!! I CANNOT BELIEVE IT!!! HOLY JACK JOHNSON, THIS IS AMAAAAZING!! I WANNA KISS THE BURGER KING! WHERE IS THE BURGER KING?! OH MY GOD!!!!!

Oh hey, there he is….

Browns at Broncos-

(just in case you forgot)

Raiders at Chiefs-
Last week, the Chiefs almost hung in there with the Ravens. Last week, the Raiders almost took down the Chargers. This week, the Chiefs and Raiders have a chance to almost produce an entertaining game. Actually, I have a better chance of producing a hydrogen-powered automobile out of my garage using just cardboard, fig leaves, and the select parts of some unlucky water moccasins. But still, they have a chance.

Texans at Titans-
It’s Cheerleader Pose down Time!

Vikings at Lions-
Nice first two weeks of the season for the Vikes. Week 1 was a trip to Cleveland and now they’ve got road “test” number two in Detroit. As far as I can tell, the only two things softer than the Vikings schedule so far are my grandma’s homemade oatmeal raisin cookies and my grandpa’s ninety year old wiener. Actually, neither of those is true. My grandparents passed away years ago. Does this make me a bad person? I’m just trying to keep their memories alive.

Rams at Redskins-
My two sleeper teams squaring off here in week two. Well, not really. You see, I’ve made three executive decisions this week.

1)I’ve decided that my gut feeling about the Rams was definitely a result of that Mexican food coming back on me.

2)I’ve decided that every Thursday night at our house shall now be designated as Pudding Pop Night and Jazz night.

3)I’ve decided that each opponent of the Skins this season shall be referred to in this space as the Shirts. It just feels right.

Patriots at Jets-
Okay, let’s try this again. This time with a little more feeling…
J! E! T! S! Suck! Suck!! SUCK!!! That ought to do it.

Panthers at Falcons-
Poor Jake Delhomme. Trying to come back from that disastrous playoff loss last season only to toss four picks in the home opener and get benched. But this really shouldn’t come as any surprise. If his haircut is any indication, dude makes some pretty poor decisions. As tragic as it is, it could be worse. He could look like the Elk & Elk guy.

Buccaneers at Bills-
Poor Leodis McKelvin. Fumbles away the game on Monday night then goes home to find his front lawn spray painted with obscenities. http://msn.foxsports.com/nfl/story/10076556/Bills-CB-McKelvin's-lawn-vandalized-after-Pats-loss
Does he not have a quality security system for his perimeter? Would someone please get Mike Vick on the horn and have some watchdogs shipped over to Leodis’ house?

Seahawks at Niners-
Damn the Niners. Damn them straight to hell!

Ravens at Chargers-
Last week, I referred to the Chargers as an unbeatable electric sperm army. That choice of words caused me to receive a little flack from my wife. Apparently, that’s not very mature. Well, in my defense, I didn’t think she’d read this blog. And secondly, I find the characterization not only mature but complimentary. However, to keep domestic relations in good order, I shall stop referring to the Chargers as an electric sperm army. Never again will the words “Electric Sperm Army” by used by me. Other people are free to say or type “Electric Sperm Army”, and hopefully give me credit, but I will not continue to say or type “Electric Sperm Army”. Electric Sperm Army is no longer a part of my lexicon. Electric Sperm Army is off the board. Never again shall I even think the words “Electric Sperm Army”, or any variation of the term “Electric Sperm Army”.
You know who has their own little sperm army? The Ravens…

Steelers at Bears-
Over-Under on the number of times Ben Roethlisberger gets flushed out of the pocket this week: 10

Over-Under on the number of times Ben Roethlisberger gets flushed out of the pocket this week and I yell at the television “Kill him!”: 10

Over-Under on the number of times Ben Roethlisberger gets flushed out of the pocket this week, I yell at the television “Kill him!” and he escapes: 10

Giants at Cowboys-
Time for this week’s poll question.
Why did Jerry Jones say he decided to purchase his $40 million scoreboard?
a)“It’s a chance to see sixty foot tall cheerleaders jiggling in high def.”
b)“Because this is Texas, bitches.”
c)“It will allow me to post subliminal messages to over 80,000 people at the same time in the hopes of selling off our back stock of T.O. jerseys.”
d)"I was conned by a slick-talking, blue-shirted sales kid wearing patchouli.”
e)All of the above.

Answer: e) minus c)

Monday Night

Colts at Dolphins
This game seems like it should be fun. Monday Night Football in South Beach with Manning and his happy feet tossing it around and the Fish hopefully unveiling the Girls Gone Wildcat offense for the first time…. And even though I think Miami’s going to take a step backwards this season, I never underestimate the home team in early season Monday Nighters. Too bad I don’t have the new tv yet. I may need to go back to The Wall and make a decision.

Before I do, I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the passing of someone this week. Patrick Swayze passed away on Monday. By all accounts, he was a good guy who lived a good life, so of course he was taken too soon. He may not have been a great, or even very good actor, but he was just good enough to provide us with what I think are two of the best bad movies of my generation. If you’re still reading this post, then it says something about you and among other things, it tells me that you’re likely to have watched all or parts of both of these flicks at least a couple dozen times. Nevertheless, in memory of Patrick Swayze, I’ll leave you this week with a little of both…

Sep 5, 2009

John Facenda, Andy Dick, Pavlov's Dog, the Madden Curse, Girls Gone Wildcat, a Cambodian river basin plague, kettle korn, and an electric sperm army

Professional football in America is a special game, a unique game. Played nowhere else on earth, it is a rare game. Pro football is a mirror of early America, reflecting toughness, courage, and self-discipline. The game is perpetual motion, a swirl of flying bodies and constant collisions. A two and a half hour carnival of color, sound and action. There’s glory in the legends of this hard-muscled life, and there’s poetry in each season made of sweat and strife. Do you fear the force of the wind? The slash of the rain? Go face them and fight them, be savage again. A time for achievement. A time for purpose. A time for glory.”

Listening to those words as read by the legendary John Facenda over the hard-charging rhythms of a full orchestra sends chills marching down your spine. If it doesn’t, well, then I'm afraid you’ll need to take your Man Card to the front desk where you can exchange it for a smoothie machine, a Bedazzler, and a signed copy of Celine Dion’s Greatest Hits. For the rest of us non-homosexuals, finally, football is back! And not a fucking moment too soon.

It’s been roughly seven months since Kurt Warner decided to hit James Harrison in the numbers right before halftime and hand the goddammed Steelers the Lombardi Trophy. Seven months? Is that all? Feels like forever. Sure, there were a few things to divert our attention here and there. We had the NFL Draft in April. The NBA Finals were mildly entertaining. The Reds stayed in the race until mid-June. What else happened?... Oh yeah, Jon dropped Kate and now just visits the Eight. Chris Brown TKO’d Rhianna in the front seat of his car. Big Brother 11 kicked off this summer (my money’s on Kevin....and no, I'm not gay). A foul-mouthed, insecure, wax-faced robot calling itself Joan Rivers won Celebrity Apprentice. And of course the big news was the death, er, murder of an alien-faced pedophile with a penchant for moonwalking. We also lost Farrah Fawcett, Ted Kennedy, Ed McMahon (Hey-Oh!), David Carradine (Oops), Paul Harvey, and, of course, Billy Mays. Okay, so a lot has happened. But it’s all just biding our time from Super Bowl Sunday to the beginning of the next NFL season.

I’m pretty jacked-up about this season. You could say I'm just about as excited as Andy Dick at a bratwurst festival. Probably because of all the activity in this past offseason-- Brett Favre is a Viking, Jay Cutler’s a Bear, Mark Sanchez is the new poster boy in NYC, T.O.’s in Buffalo, Housh is in Seattle, Vick is back from the joint, Plaxico is on his way to the joint, Madden is out, Collinsworth is in, Gruden replaces Kornheiser on MNF, Dungy, Shannahan, and Holmgren are watching from home, the Cowboys have a new $1,000,000,000 house, and Brandon Marshall is now, well, kinda unstable… Or maybe I’m excited because of all the things that haven’t changed-- Mike Vick still has street cred, Tom Brady’s still married to a supermodel, the Browns are still having quarterback trouble, Jeff Fisher’s still sporting a ferocious cookie duster, Bill Belichek’s still rockin’ the hoodies, the Jaguars still can’t sell enough tickets, the Broncos and Dolphins still have smokin' hot pom pom wavers,Chris Berman is still working with material from 1993, and Al Davis is still, um, completely insane.

The playmakers and newsmakers move and change constantly. An ebb & flow not unlike the momentum of each individual game. No one is bigger than the game yet everyone is bigger for being a part of the game. The game draws a crowd due to its look, its sound, its speed. The NFL is, as Facenda said, “a carnival of color, sound and action”. It’s a gorgeous blonde pulled alongside in a cherry red Mustang with the top down and the engine purring. You can’t help but to look… and keep looking. And then follow her for approximately 8.2 miles before being pulled over by a policeman dispatched after a frantic 911 call from the blonde about a creepy dude following her in a late model Honda Accord. *sigh* We watch, we leer, and we follow. We follow because we’re conditioned to follow. We truly cannot help ourselves. When I hear those first four notes of the Monday Night Football theme, I can appreciate what Pavlov’s dog was feeling. We’re conditioned to respond to this game, this league, because it thrills our senses and feeds our need to experience, albeit vicariously, violent competition. They are the gladiators, we are the Romans.

So friends, Romans, countrymen, please join me in a ceremonial lighting of the grills. Fill your coolers, unpack your finest meats, don your colors, and prepare to revel in yet another glorious season of NFL football. To steal a line from a badass fictitious gladiator, “At my signal, unleash hell.”

Now, on with the matchups….

Thursday Night

Titans at Steelers
For the Titans, the part of Albert Haynesworth this season will be played by Tony Brown. That’s the bad news. The good news is, if Lendale White can add just one more buttered pancake to his breakfast table each morning, he should be able to make the move to nose tackle. As for the Steelers and Troy Polamalu, I have just three words for you: The. Madden. Curse. Sweet dreams, pineapple puncher.


Dolphins at Falcons
Two of last year’s biggest surprises squaring off here in Week 1. Last year, Miami whipped out the Wildcat offense and made a bunch of defensive coordinators whiz down their legs. This season, word has it that Sporano & company have a new weapon they’re set to unveil. They call it the Girls Gone Wildcat formation. They line up eight hotties from South Beach to distract the other team and put the Kardashian sisters in the backfield to run the option. I'll let you go ahead and guess which sister is going to lead block.

Eagles at Panthers-
To say that Jake Delhomme’s playoff performance went okay last season would be akin to saying that Amy Winhouse’s rehab has gone well. It’ll be interesting to see if he can shake those ghosts or if that playoff game was the beginning of the end for him.
Now let’s see, any other quarterback plots in this game? Hmmm….thinking, thinking…. Nope, I got nothin'.

Broncos at Bengals-
Who’s had a worse first eight months on the job, Josh McDaniel or Barack Obama? Obama initiated Cash for Clunkers which, arguably, was at best a moderately successful short term solution. McDaniel initiated Cutler for Clunkers which, arguably, was at best a horrible trade. Obama unveiled an expensive stimulus package which seemingly has yet to do anything to help the ailing economy as he promised. McDaniel unveiled a new 3-4 defense in Denver, seemingly without the proper personnel to pull it off. Obama’s health care reform bill has been greeted by angry protestors at town hall meetings across the nation. McDaniel’s Brandon Marshall reform plan has been greeted by a now angrier wide receiver mouthing off and punting balls away from ball boys in practice. All in all, I’d say it’s a tie.

(And yes, I know that I probably just jinxed the Bengals.)

Vikings at Browns-
Everyone in Minnesoooota is seemingly happy now that the gray-haired interception machine in on the ship. By all reports, he’s settled in, drinking his Ensure, eating his tapioca pudding, and curing sick children with just a wink and a smile. Meanwhile, the Browns are still trying to decide if they would rather have Brady Quinn throw interceptions for them instead of Derek Anderson. Isn’t that kinda like pushing away a plate of brussels sprouts in favor of, well, a plate of brussels sprouts?

Jets at Texans-
J! E! T! S! Suck! Suck!! SUCK!!!

Jaguars at Colts-
The bad news for Jags fans is that their team will have to start the season on the road against Peyton Manning.
The good news for the Jags fans is that their team gets to start the season on the road against Peyton Manning and therefore the game will not be blacked out.

Lions at Saints-
So let me get this straight. The Lions are coming off the worst season in the history of the league, failing to win a single game. They select a potential franchise quarterback with their well-earned #1 pick in the draft. They sign him on draft day, get him in camp, get him his reps, and instead of easing him in after watching for a few weeks, they’re gonna’ throw him to the wolves by facing this schedule to start off the season:
@ New Orleans

I think it would be prudent, at this juncture, to put the entire Lions fan base on a suicide watch.

Cowboys at Buccaneers-
Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait another week to watch professional punters drill the Cowgirls new 2,160-inch high-def scoreboard. But at least we get to see the Bucs. Hell, I haven’t heard a word about this team since Gruden got axed. I thought maybe they all decided to hop in a van and tour the country as a traveling carnival. I sure hope they bring me back a candied apple and some kettle corn. I loves me some kettle corn. What’s that? They just fired their offensive coordinator the week before the season? He probably stole someone’s kettle corn.

Chiefs at Ravens-
So, KC follows the Bucs lead and also fires their offensive coordinator the week before the season starts. What in the heck is the deal there? I mean, how in the world does that-….. Their offensive coordinator was Chan Gailey?.... Nevermind.

Niners at Cardinals-
Damn the Niners. Damn them straight to hell!

Redskins at Giants-
That creaking sound you hear is me going out on a limb. It’s creaking because I’m about to disclose that one of my two “sleeper” teams this season is the Washington Redskins. For me, the math is simple. They’ve added Haynesworth and Orakpo to what was already the #6 defense in the league last season. Offensively, Jason Campbell now has a chip on his shoulder the size of Jay Cutler. Head coach Jim Zorn is seemingly on that sweet spot of being desperate yet confident. Add in the always underrated talents of Clinton Portis, Santana Moss and Chris Cooley, the personnel losses of their divisional foes-- T.O. in Dallas, Plaxico in New York, and D-coordinator Jimmy Johnson in Philly-- and you’ve got the ingredients for a nourishing-yet-delicious fall upset treat.

Rams at Seahawks-
That even louder creaking sound you hear is me going out further on an even less-stable limb. Yep, I’m picking the Rams as my other “sleeper” team this season. I don’t have a whole lot of argument to support this one, it’s just a gut feeling. Then again, I did have Mexican for lunch, so maybe it’s more indigestion than anything else. I’ll pop some Tums and get back to you on that one.

Bears at Packers-
Time for this week’s pop quiz. Without cheating, what is the name of the Packers current head coach?
a)Mike Smith
b)Mike Nolan
c)Mike Myers
d)Andrew McCarthy
e)None of the above

Answer: e) ....The Packers head coach is named Mike McCarthy.
Mike Smith is the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons. Mike Nolan is the former head coach of the San Fransisco 49'ers. Mike Myers is the creepy killer from Halloween. And Andrew McCarthy is a washed-up actor who reportedly has spent his last two decades of obscurity as a janitor at Lambeau Field and is still on the payroll despite the strange yet understandable habit of carrying around an attractive female mannequin while singing Starship’s Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now.

Bills at Patriots-
Yep, Tom Brady is back and healthy. Yep, they still have Randy Moss and Wes Welker. Yep, they added Fred Taylor and Derrick Burgess. Yep, the hoodie still has magical powers. To quote Al from Happy Days, “Yep, yep, yep, yep, yep, yep…” (Hey, if Chachi can make a comeback, so can Al. He’s dead? No, Arnold’s dead. Al’s dead, too? For real? Well then who in the hell is running Arnold’s!?)

Chargers at Raiders-
Nice choice, ESPN. The most talented team in the league vs the least talented team in the league to provide the nationally televised capper for Week 1. And for the record, my early pick for AFC Champs is San Diego. Despite the presence of Norv Turner, they do seem to be deepest, most talented team in the conference. Plus, ever since they’ve gone back to the white helmets, they look like an electric sperm army. You can’t stop an electric sperm army. Not unless you’re the Spokane Sponges. And they dis-banded back in the fifties.

Update: Shawne Merriman was apparently just arrested for allegedly assaulting a woman. Apparently that woman is his girlfriend. Apparently his girlfriend is a reality tv star. Apparently that reality tv star is….wait for it……Tila Tequila. Yep, he took a shot at Tila Tequila. In his defense, however, she was allegedly out of control and trying to break his kick-ass Cheerios necklace. Elves love Cheerios.

Yep, the NFL is indeed a carnival. And we all know you can’t have a carnival without a quality freak show.

Good luck, wiseguys.