King for A Day

January 3, 2002
King for A Day
By Ric Sweeney

I know, I know… it’s been awhile. I hope you had an agreeable holiday in spite of my absence. Me? I’m still stunned it’s 2002. 2002! Remember, back before the Texans were the Texans; when they were known as NFL2002? Didn’t 2002 have this messiah, second coming-like vibe to it? I swear, I never thought 2002 was ever going to arrive; yet, here it is, in all its glory (though I must admit being a tad disappointed I didn’t awake Tuesday morning to angels signing “Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hall-e-juuuu-ah…” while the sun filled my room with a golden tint).

Everything just seems better now that 2002 is upon us. I even took the news of ‘NSync filming a cameo for Star Wars: Episode II better than I think I would have had it still been 2001. To wit, instead of drenching my childhood memories in gasoline and taking a match to them, followed by a period of raping and pillaging small, neighboring towns, I merely bit a hole in my tongue and kicked the wall. Twice. OK, three times, but see what I mean? Isn’t 2002 great?

By the way, I’ve watched more college football the past week than I have in my entire life combined. Did you know Brent Musburger no longer works for CBS? Anyway, with a tip of the cap to Peter King, here are just a few things I think I know about the 2002 draft after a week of (wink wink) bowling:

I think I ended my marriage by forcing my wife to watch the North Carolina game on New Year’s Eve, but that’s OK because I came away impressed with Mr. Peppers. It’s difficult to really get a feel for the work any lineman’s doing by watching a game on TV because they’re not the focal point of a broadcast, but here’s my impression of Peppers: relentless.

His motor never seems to quit. He got tremendous push into the backfield and always seemed to be around the football, even on those rare occasions when Auburn was able to move it upfield. And he was doing it against a very respectable Kendall Simmons.

If the Texans pass on him solely because he’s not an ideal fit for Dom Capers’ preferred scheme, then I’m telling you right now, I’m making that my first official anti-Texan rant. You find talent first; a scheme second, especially when you have a vacant roster. If Capers is incapable of amending his scheme to the talent available… he may very well prove to be the wrong guy. I’m more than a little worried about this.

Granted, we have no idea what Capers really, truly thinks of Peppers; this is all conjecture, rumor and idle speculation, but I think Peppers is going to become one of those rare players that forces an offense to always account for him; a later day Derrick Thomas. Seriously. Whoever we pick might end up becoming our version of Steve Stiponavich. Speaking of Oregon-based athletes…

I think David Carr’s still the best QB in this draft, despite Joey Harrington’s Fiesta Bowl performance and Musburger and cohort Gary Danielson’s orgasmic response to it. Seriously, those two acted like little schoolgirls at a 1976 Leif Garrett concert. It got so bad, I was anticipating; no, hoping — wait, praying for the following postgame scene to unfold:

Gary: Joey, Gary Danielson, ABC Sports — can I ask you a few questions?
Joey: Sure, Gary… wait a minute… that’s not a microphone!
Gary: Gotta go…

Yes, Harrington played well. Very well. But don’t forget: Major Applewhite tore up the same Colorado defense Harrington did, so I’m not sure Monday’s game was cause for celebration or overreaction (cough, cough, Mel Kiper, cough, cough). Speaking of Applewhite…

I think I’m going to have to issue a moratorium right now on all the “the Texans should draft Applewhite” suggestions. And don’t exasperate the situation by claiming Applewhite would help sell tickets. Selling tickets isn’t going to be a major (snicker) concern, and even it was, the 12 or so Applewhite would generate (how big’s his family?) isn’t going to solve anything. I mean, using that logic, we might as well drag Bucky Richardson out of retirement to placate Aggie fans. It’s really quite simple: when you have no roster, you don’t waste a draft pick on a player that’s not even good enough to break camp with you. Period. I said, “Period.” Let’s move on. Speaking of Texas…

I think Lee Corso is, hands down, the worst color commentator I’ve ever heard, and yes, I distinctly remember Sam Wyche’s tenure at NBC. For you Longhorn fans who had to sit through his setting of the profession back about 300 years during ESPN’s Holiday Bowl broadcast, well, you know what I mean. For those who missed it, let’s just say the LAPD made fewer mistakes in the OJ Simpson case. In fact, now, when I play NCAA 2002 on my Playstation 2 (a game that feature’s Corso’s canned commentary), I have to turn down the TV volume and listen to the radio broadcasts of my battles. Simply insufferable.

Well, look at me, I’m rambling. And the draft isn’t even my area of expertise. (Insert: “You have an area of expertise?” joke here) But see? This is what 2002 has done to me — I’m glad it’s finally here. OK, onto the questions…

1) Are the Vikings on the Texans’ schedule next year? If not, is there any way we can make this happen?

2) Was anybody hurt by flying debris from the Jets’ annual implosion?

3) Is there a bigger waste of time than figuring out playoff scenarios? Seriously, I’ve taken K-level trigonometry tests that were not only less complicated, but more fulfilling. (OK, OK, K-level geometry. Fine! L-level algebra.) On a time wasting scale of 1-to-10 (with 10 being the biggest waste of time), figuring out playoff and/or “if the season ended today” scenarios would score an unprecedented 71 with me.

4) With all the talk about the Texans’ QB situation, why hasn’t anyone commented on Jeff George’s availability? Anyone? Bueller? (Note: the tongue is digging a small hole in my cheek, so please: save the emails.)

5) Is anyone else getting a John Jenkins, circa 1991-vibe from Mike Martz?

6) Wouldn’t you love to see someone like Comedy Central resurrect the old game show Make Me Laugh just so it can have Mike Shanahan and Jon Gruden on as its first guests? Seriously, I bet coaxing a smile out of an Enron employee right now would be an easier task.

7) Is there anything funnier than Berman-Jackson’s Chris Fuamatu-Ma’afala shtick on ESPN’s PrimeTime? (“And there goes Fuamatu-Ma’afala…” “Watch your mouth!” “Hey, man, I’m just talking ’bout Ma’afala.”)

I have to admit… Berman’s been hovering at or near the top of my list of most annoying personalities the last few years, but kick me sideways if I’m not enjoying the heck out of him this year. If you’re a football fan, PrimeTime is your Holy Grail; it’s that good — I’ve done a complete 180. But what do I know? I’m the only man on the planet who enjoys Bill Worrell’s work, so… grain of salt time.

8) What’s Brett Favre’s record when it’s 35 or below? Huh, huh? Seriously, when it comes to meaningless stats, Brett Favre’s career record when it’s 34 or below has to be football’s version of the movie Titanic.

9) I wonder who has more career stability right now: Kevin Costner or Colts’ head coach Jim Mora?

10) Do you get the feeling, when they break for commercial, that the entire set of CBS’ NFL Today goes completely silent? I imagine RuPaul and Jerry Falwell would have better, less forced chemistry than Nantz, Cross, Ditka and Glanville.

11) (Non football-related question of the Week) Am I the only person in America who found Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Chat Room Nerds, or whatever it’s called, to be an epic bore? (BTW, if you’re like me and my friends, and you derive hours of fun from thinking up what a mainstream film’s title might look like if it were a adult movie, well, Lord of the Rings is like a godsend. Was that out loud?)

12) What was the point of drafting Michael Vick first overall if you’re going to put the game in the hands of Bob Christian?

13) Isn’t Tampa Bay the team “no one wants to play in the postseason” every year? That windbag of hype usually starts up annually about this time, and yet, year after year, Tampa’s home by New Year’s (or, in the case of this year, the NADA convention). I’m telling you, they’re the Houston Oilers of the new millennium.

14) Am I the only one who would happily play an entire game with either a) a huge clump of grass stuck in my facemask, and/or b) my shoulder pad pulled out of the neck of my jersey? Why do teammates always offer to clean out the grass and stuff the shoulder pad back into the jersey? In fact, I think I’d probably emerge from the tunnel for pregame warm-ups with a clump of grass in my facemask and my shoulder pad exposed. I just think those kinds of things are cool…

15) Anyone else beginning to wonder if the Texans can make a move without turning it into an elaborate, overblown production? I’m dreading the day one of their office assistants successfully changes the toner in a copier – and we get a downtown parade to celebrate it.

16) Does anyone play harder than Emmitt Smith when an individual honor is within reach?

17) I wonder what kind of celebration we’d see if a Gramatica brother actually hit a field goal that meant something? I’m guessing “onfield orgy” would some how work its way into the equation. By the way, I’ll say it, I’m not afraid: the Gramatica brothers are to the NFL what the Sheen brothers (Emilio and Charlie) were to 80’s cinema.

18) I wonder what would be more crushing news: learning your daughter just accepted a summer internship with Gary Condit or hearing your favorite team just signed Elvis Grbac to be their quarterback? I just hope HBO cameras catch Trent Dilfer delivering a Nelson laugh (“HA-ha”) to Brian Bellick so we can see it in next year’s edition of Hard Knocks.

19) Does CBS have to run the score ticker or advertising during the last two minutes of a close game? What about during a Saturday contest, when no other games are being played?! I mean, do I really need to know when JAG is on? This is kind of a tired topic, a lot of other columnists have touched on it, but seriously, NFL broadcasts are starting to look more cluttered than a Taliban safe house.

20) Remember when Carolina-Arizona meant something? Those were the days…

Amazingly, Ric Sweeney did not receive a single, solitary Texan-related item among his Christmas haul. But have no fear, Robert Stack is already on the case.