Reggie Bush Bowl

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The NFL This Week:
Which team is best for Bush?

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It will be one of the most anticipated games of 2006, with fans riveted to every play.

No, not USC versus Texas in the Rose Bowl. It's the Bush Bowl on New Year's Day when the Houston Texans face the San Francisco 49ers in a battle to determine who leads the league in ineptitude.

Heading into week 15 of the NFL season (or weak 15 for the Texans and Niners), Houston is 1-12 and the 49ers are 2-11. If both keep losing, their showdown on January 1 could determine who gets the top pick in the 2006 draft, which figures to be USC tailback Reggie Bush if he turns pro as expected.

Imagine David Carr back to pass, the ball pops loose...fumble and players on both teams are thinking, "Don't touch it – let them recover it!" They could be scoreless going to overtime.

Now, suggesting that any pro teams would tank a game is taboo, but it sure looked like something funny was going on last Sunday. Kris Brown lined up to kick a 31-yard field goal to tie the Titans with no time left. The last time we saw a ball shanked this badly, it was a Charles Barkley tee shot. Texans lose 13-10.

Earlier in the 4th quarter, Brown had a 37-yard field goal attempt blocked by – guess who? Tank Williams. Coincidence? I think not.

Two weeks earlier, the Texans blew a 21-point lead against St. Louis...followed by a loss on a last-second comeback by the hapless Ravens.

"In 20 years, I have never been through three weeks like we have been through here," said Houston coach Dom Capers.

The 49ers are so bad, they don't have to try to tank. It just happens. Twice against the Seahawks last Sunday, Alex Smith went back to pass and pulled a Garo Yepremian, with the ball slipping out behind his head. This has led to a week of debate as to whether Smith's hands are too small.

Logic dictates that if they both finish 2-14, the loser of the epic Texans-Niners clash should be able to claim the title as the NFL's worst. However, the tiebreaker is not head-to-head meetings. It's strength of schedule. I'm already having BCS flashbacks.

The reasoning goes that if you have the worst record and a soft schedule, you really must be lousy. At this point, it looks like Houston is in the driver's seat schedule-wise.

Now, in the unlikely event that the 49ers or Texans win in the next few weeks, the Bush Bowl may be moot, but if the trends continue, they'll be battling it out for the top pick with fans in Houston, San Francisco and a petrified Reggie Bush, all watching.

Going, going, gone
Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire are lucky that Major League Baseball isn't ruled by the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland or they wouldn't even be footnotes in history – they'd be erased from it completely.

This week, the court banned former world 100 meter record holder Tim Montgomery from competing for two years and the sprinter's records were wiped from the books as if he'd never even run down the track.

Montgomery's name has been implicated in the BALCO scandal that has landed BALCO founder Victor Conte in jail and put many world-class athletes under scrutiny for using performance enhancers.

The most shocking thing about the Montgomery ruling is that he's never tested positive for steroids. The court based its decision mostly on the testimony of fellow sprinter Kelli White, who claimed Montgomery told her he had used the steroid THG.

We're in no position to judge White or Montgomery – there was a fair amount of circumstantial evidence linking Montgomery and his then-girlfriend Marion Jones to BALCO. But if the burden of proof for a prosecutor is hearsay testimony from another athlete who has previously pled guilty as White did, the bar is set pretty low.

Sad ending
Few athletes have the talent that Darrell Russell possessed. Talent that we'll never see again – the result of a car crash in Los Angeles on Thursday. Russell was a passenger in a car reportedly driven by former USC teammate Michael Bastianelli. The vehicle slammed into a bus and both men died.

Russell was 6-5, 325 pounds, a combination of strength and quickness that made him unblockable at times. He signed a $22 million contract with the Raiders in 1997. Given his skills, wit and personality, Russell should have been a star for years to come. But the former All-Pro defensive tackle (and No. 2 overall pick in the '97 draft) found trouble around every corner.

When Russell was with the Raiders, he lived about five minutes away from me. Every realtor in the neighborhood heard stories about the wild parties at Russell's house and the complaints from neighbors. Hey, Darrell just wanted to have fun with his friends. But there was too much fun.

In 2002 Russell was suspended by the NFL for one year for substance abuse and despite warnings from teammates that he needed to change his lifestyle, Russell could never get himself out of a downward spiral.

Now all that's left are the memories of a huge man with skills and a smile to match – GONE at age 29. What a waste.