FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – He walked slowly out of Gillette Stadium Sunday night, less than an hour removed from his worst defeat as a head coach, his team's most glaring flaws having been exposed for all the world to see. Given the Pittsburgh Steelers' breakdowns in performance and composure in a 34-13 defeat to the New England Patriots, Mike Tomlin had every right to be seething mad, perhaps even a bit despondent.
If so, the 35-year-old rookie coach did a hell of a job hiding his emotions. When asked shortly before boarding the team bus what he'd learned about his team, Tomlin answered calmly and thoughtfully: "It's more about how we respond to it – that's what will really be revealing. We know what happened (Sunday). We got out butts kicked. Now, how do we react?"
Before we tackle that issue, in the interest of closure, here are the five things I learned from the latest stop on the Patriots' "We Will Crush You" Tour:
1. So much for that blueprint for beating the Pats that the Eagles supposedly provided two weeks ago and the Ravens allegedly copied last Monday night: New England (13-0) is back to its indomitable self. The Patriots will become the second NFL team to complete an undefeated regular season, given that they, more than any team before them, care deeply about accomplishing such a feat – and their remaining opponents won't offer much resistance. First come the Jets and "Spygate" scapegoat Eric Mangini, who'll be wishing he were Alex Rodriguez by the time next Sunday's revenge-fest at Gillette is done. The following weekend the Dolphins, who'll either be 0-14 or 1-13, will come north to pay for the sins of former coach Don (Asterisk) Shula. Then the Pats are off to New Jersey for a Saturday night date with the Giants, who'll almost certainly have been locked into their No. 5 playoff seed and will wisely treat the regular-season finale as a glorified exhibition game.
2. Tom Brady will smash Peyton Manning's single-season record of 49 touchdown passes. Brady has 45 (against five interceptions) with three games to play. Don't ask whether he's the MVP – duh. Ask whether this is the greatest individual season in football history.
3. Randy Moss, barring injury, will break Jerry Rice's single-season record for touchdown receptions – though, with apologies to Shula, this one really does deserve as asterisk: Rice, in the strike-shortened 1987 season, caught 22 TDs in 12 games; Moss has 19 in 13, though he dropped what would have been No. 20 in the fourth quarter of Sunday's game.
4. Barring something strange, it'll be Brady and Manning, once again, battling for a Super Bowl berth on Jan. 20 in Foxborough. The Colts (11-2) were the big winners on Sunday as Indy moved two games ahead of the Steelers (9-4) in the race for the No. 2 seed in the AFC and a first-round bye.
5. Tomlin has the phattest ride in the history of his profession. (We'll get to that later.)
The Steelers may not be good enough to compete with the Patriots, and they'll probably have to beat the Colts in Indy to get another shot at doing so, but Pittsburgh, even after Sunday's disappointment, remains one of football's most upbeat franchises. That's because of Tomlin, a top candidate for Coach of the Year consideration.
The resignation of Bill Cowher last December after 15 seasons – less than a year removed from the franchise's fifth Super Bowl championship – could have ushered in an era of doubt and rebuilding. Instead Tomlin, a surprise choice of owner Dan Rooney after a deliberate coaching search, seized his opportunity and revived the Steelers with an infusion of intensity, sincerity, accountability and (though some of his players didn't reflect it Sunday) poise.
"He's cool," Rooney said Sunday night. "He handles things the right way. He's a good man. We're lucky to have him."
It's hard to criticize Cowher, a fiery leader who went 161-99-1 in regular season and playoff games and who has obvious motivational gifts. But it's clear that Steelers players – and especially Pittsburgh's franchise quarterback – have responded positively to Tomlin's obvious contrasts in style and personality.
"I just like that he doesn't yell during the game," says Ben Roethlisberger, who was often treated like a petulant teenager during his three seasons under Cowher. "He's not a screamer or a yeller. He respects the guys, and guys respect him – especially on Sundays. If this had happened last year, we'd have been yelled at, and guys would've remembered it long after the game. But Coach Tomlin is so much more laid back than what we were used to."
Were he so inclined, Tomlin had plenty to scream about on Sunday. Twice his secondary was burned for long touchdowns, and on each occasion safety Anthony Smith – who had set himself up for increased scrutiny by talking smack about the Patriots and their receivers last week (see below) – was completely out of position. Smith fell for a play-fake on Brady's 63-yard touchdown pass to Moss early in the second quarter and got badly fooled on the double-lateral exchange from Brady to Moss and back that preceded Brady's 56-yard scoring pass to Jabar Gaffney five minutes into the second half.
Think the Steelers' former coach, a legendary spitter, might have given the kid a Cowher Shower or three?
The frustration continued early in the fourth quarter, when Pittsburgh got stuffed twice on third-and-goal from the 1 against a Pats defense that has struggled in the red zone. And all game long several Steelers, including Smith, expended far too much energy getting in verbal and physical skirmishes with the ever prickly Patriots. With 1:51 remaining, reserve linebacker Arnold Harrison got flagged for unnecessary roughness for shoving Tedy Bruschi from behind on a punt return – not the classiest way of coping with defeat.
Any misgivings Tomlin had about such behavior were mitigated by the competitive fire behind it. "I don't want to be around guys who enjoy losing," he said.
Monday, when he breaks down film with his team, Tomlin, as is his custom, will be blunt and honest and will spare no one his criticism. But, as was not always the case with Cowher, Tomlin's players will be convinced he's speaking from the heart, rather than being driven by ego or image.
"He's straight-up," linebacker Clark Haggans says of Tomlin. "When he got the job, there was all that talk about how young he is, but he has that special quality that inspires players. He's the same whether we win or lose, and he doesn't sugarcoat anything; he has none of that in his blood. What you see is what you get. I dig him. I really like his style. I think he's cool as hell."
How cool? Well, when players see Tomlin cruise into the parking lot at the team's training facility, their brainy boss is sometimes behind the wheel of a Dodge Charger. "A souped-up Charger," Haggans says. "With rims."
Quick, call the producers of "Pimp My Ride."
Surely, this makes Tomlin the coolest coach in NFL history.
"Naw, man," he said, smiling broadly. "It just means I've got rims on my ride."
He headed out of the stadium to rejoin his team. Then he stopped and turned back to add a final thought.
" Cool is winning."
I'M HOT CAUSE I'M FLY …
• The Chargers have been a frustrating team this season, and even though San Diego had seized control of a weak AFC West before Sunday, its only victory over a team with a winning record had been that gift of a game against the Colts. Now, for the first time since Norv Turner replaced Marty Schottenheimer in January, the Chargers finally look like a legitimate threat to make some noise in the playoffs. On Sunday, San Diego, trailing by two touchdowns midway through the fourth quarter, pulled out a 23-17 overtime victory over the Tennessee Titans in Nashville. It was the Chargers' most impressive victory in more than a year, since coming back from 17 points down in the third quarter to beat the Broncos in Denver last Nov. 19. And, though I've certainly been as hard on Turner as anyone, I've got to admit he deserves some credit. Though Turner will never be a master motivator, he did hit the right notes with his players before Sunday's game, telling them that the Titans viewed them as a Southern California finesse team that hadn't beaten anybody and would fold up at the first sign of physical play. More important, Turner has adjusted his offensive approach to favor the power-running attack for which his players – and, not insignificantly, his most influential player, LaDainian Tomlinson – have been pining. Unfortunately for the Chargers, fullback Lorenzo Neal, one of the keys to the power running attack, went down with what may well be a season-ending ankle injury. But San Diego, staring at a probable first-round playoff game against the Jaguars, is starting to get its identity back. "There's a story that's going to be written about this team," an emotional Turner told his players afterward in the locker room. "Five or six weeks from now, we're going to win a game like this. And today was the day we found out we can."
• It seems strange to write that the Cowboys clinched their first division title in nine years Sunday, but the fact is the Team of the '90s hadn't really done anything of significance since the Jimmy Johnson/Barry Switzer halcyon days – until Wade Phillips rolled into town. Watching Tony Romo and Jason Witten come up huge in Sunday's 28-27 comeback victory at Detroit reminded me that, were it not for the Patriots, we'd be talking about the '07 Cowboys as potentially one of the most remarkable teams of this era. And were Witten single, I'm thinking that after his redemptive effort on Sunday –15 catches for 138 yards, including the game-winner with 18 seconds to go – Romo would have hooked him up with Ashlee Simpson on a star-studded double-date.
• Speaking of great quarterbacks, let me wrap my head around this: Peyton Manning now has 302 career touchdown passes, ranking him fourth all time, and putting him ahead of John Elway ? Already? That's just scary. Before Manning and Brady came along, I'd have put Joe Montana, Elway, Johnny Unitas and Otto Graham on the very top tier of the greatest-quarterback-of-all-time discussion. But by the time those two are through, I suspect I'm going to have to do some serious reevaluating.
• If you're wondering why the Vikings, who won their fourth straight on Sunday to improve to 7-6, are now steaming toward the playoffs, look no further than the middle of Minnesota's defensive line. Defensive tackles Kevin and Pat Williams aren't related, but they do form a brotherhood that is almost impossible to penetrate. Teams simply can't run inside against Minnesota, and these guys are playmakers, too. On Sunday in San Francisco, Kevin Williams intercepted Trent Dilfer on the 49ers' first play from scrimmage and returned it 18 yards for a touchdown. Pat also had an interception, along with four tackles and a sack. And I could have sworn they switched uniforms and played for the 49ers' defense, too. How else to explain Adrian Peterson being held to three yards on 14 carries?
• Congratulations are also in order to the Seahawks, who clinched the NFC West by rolling to a 42-21 victory over the Cardinals. Cornerback Marcus Trufant had three of the team's five interceptions, including one he returned 84 yards for a score, and defensive end Patrick Kerney had his third three-sack game in four weeks. "He's a beast," Seattle safety Brian Russell says of Kerney, a fellow free-agent signee who leads the NFL with 13½ sacks.
• Stalking Kerney is the Giants' Osi Umenyiora, who has 12 sacks, including one Sunday in New York's 16-13 victory over the Eagles. Remember, in the Giants' first meeting with Philly, Umenyiora had six sacks. You know how some players, when selected to the Pro Bowl, fly the teammates who helped them get there to Hawaii as a way of saying thanks? I'm thinking Umenyiora should invite the Eagles' offensive line.
• While we're at it, is there any way we can finally get Jaguars halfback Fred Taylor to his first Pro Bowl? I know it's not supposed to be a lifetime achievement award, but the 10th-year veteran looks like one of the best backs in football right now. He had his third consecutive 100-yard game on Sunday and bowled over Carolina safety Chris Harris for extra yards on an 18-yard reception. He owns two of the three longest touchdown runs of the '07 season, including an 80-yard burst against the Panthers. And he's the biggest playmaker for a very good Jacksonville team.
• As for the Giants' top offensive stud, receiver Plaxico Burress, here's a message for one of my favorite receivers: Dude, I love the way you're sucking it up and playing on that injured ankle, and your seven-catch, 136-yard effort on Sunday was truly inspirational. But, Plex, two words: Ball security. It's cool how you can palm the pigskin and tote it around like it's a wee little object, but it scares the hell out of me, and I imagine Tom Coughlin has an even stronger reaction.
• If, while writing a book or screenplay, you were trying to come up with a name for a star quarterback, Sage Rosenfels might be the absolute last option imaginable. But the longtime backup, who'd started just two games in seven seasons before '07, improved to 2-0 in relief for the Texans on Sunday, sparking a 28-14 upset of the Bucs. Facing the league's fourth-ranked pass defense coming in, Rosenfels completed 27 of 36 passes for 209 yards and three touchdowns, as Houston converted 10 of 17 third downs. Could it be that the Texans, who didn't have a legitimate quarterback during the first five years of their existence, now, in Rosenfels and injured starter Matt Schaub, have two?
• Lastly, congratulations to the Cal women's volleyball team, which swept defending national champion and second-ranked Nebraska in three games Saturday to advance to its first-ever Final Four. The Bears, keyed by 5-foot-8 senior Angie Pressey – her father, Paul, played 11 years in the NBA, and her hops are Jordanesque – return home to face No. 1 Penn State in Thursday's semifinal match in front of what should be a wildly supportive crowd at Sacramento's ARCO Arena.
… YOU AIN'T CAUSE YOU'RE NOT
• I tend to treat the postgame quote sheets that teams pass out to reporters in the press box as little more than extra computer-bag cushioning, but upon closer inspection, an excerpt from the pile I took home from Gillette Stadium was too absurd to be ignored. In the stupid-question, stupid-answer department, someone apparently asked Patriots cornerback Ellis Hobbs, in reference to Anthony Smith's long day after his ill-advised guarantee, if "God has a sense of humor when things come around on people for something they say." And, even more ridiculously, here's how Hobbs replied: "My God does, me being a Christian believer and everything. 'Lower yourself so that he may be exalted.' There's nothing wrong with confidence, don't get me wrong. You have to have a swagger out on the field. But there's a fine line and he definitely crossed it. He was definitely knocked down when he crossed it today." So let me get this straight: According to Hobbs, God a) cares deeply whether Anthony Smith guarantees a victory over the Patriots; b) is so offended by such a proclamation that He decided to smite the Steelers, and the young safety in particular, with abject humiliation? Right. I'm guessing that true believers of all religions and atheists alike can agree that Hobbs is just a bit unclear on the concept.
• One question about that first-quarter Dolphins gaffe that ended with the Bills' George Wilson scoring Buffalo's third touchdown in Sunday's 38-17 victory: Was that Jon Beck, or Garo Yepremian?
• Who was the fool who, for the third consecutive year, picked Arizona to win the NFC West? Oh, yeah, that was me. I know the Cardinals are still in playoff contention, but their failure to compete in Seattle Sunday – against a team they'd defeated earlier – was yet another depressing December moment for a woebegone franchise. Arizona hasn't been above .500 after 13 games since 1988. Think about that. It was troubling that the Cards (6-7) had some breakdowns in poise and discipline on Sunday, with a personal foul on defensive tackle Darnell Dockett extending the drive that led to Matt Hasselbeck's fourth touchdown pass and a 34-14 lead in the third quarter and another on tight end Ben Patrick putting the Seahawks 15 yards closer to the Arizona end zone after Deon Grant's 34-yard interception return.
• It's cold out there when you have no shot at the playoffs, as the Dolphins, Ravens, Raiders and Chiefs reminded us Sunday by laying down in lopsided defeats. I expect the Dolphins and Ravens to play harder next Sunday in the far warmer confines of Dolphin Stadium – Miami because it's trying desperately to avoid being the first NFL team to go 0-16, and Baltimore because it wants to avoid the embarrassment of being the only team to lose to the Dolphins.
• Yeah, the Raiders were atrocious, losing 38-7 in Green Bay, but give 32-year-old coach Lane Kiffin credit for avoiding the world-is-against-us crap favored by his boss and so many of his predecessors. Asked about the 18-degree weather by reporters after the game, Kiffin replied, "I don't think the cold threw incompletions today. I don't think the cold had nine penalties. We did." And after giving No. 1 overall pick JaMarcus Russell his first taste of the NFL last Sunday in Oakland's victory over the Broncos, Kiffin wisely resisted throwing the kid out onto the frozen tundra in a hopeless situation.
• The Lions' collapse continued, but at least Detroit ran the ball against the Cowboys, gaining 152 yards on the ground after having run for a combined 164 yards over the previous four games. Why do I have a sneaking suspicion that coach Rod Marinelli, overtly or otherwise, had his fingerprints all over Mike Martz's game plan? As for all your Lions fans who've been on me for prematurely burying the team, here's a postgame locker-room quote from kicker Jason Hanson after he shanked that 35-yard field goal: "You don't say it's over, but that was the season."
TWO THINGS I CAN'T COMPREHEND
1. My handwriting – so atrocious it's a miracle even that I can read it.
2. The NFL's relentless pursuit of blandness, the latest example occurring in the Broncos' 41-7 rout of the Chiefs, when wide receiver Brandon Marshall received a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty (with a fine sure to follow) for using snow as a "prop" during his gleeful touchdown celebration. Marshall later explained to reporters that he scooped up three handfuls of snow from the piles outside the end zone and flung them into the air "for all my family and friends in Florida. They don't get to see snow much." Leave it to the No Fun League to put the deep freeze on Marshall's spontaneity. "I was surprised they called it a prop," Marshall said. "You've got to have fun sometimes. That's what it's all about. It's like I always said: This is like playing Pop Warner football and drinking Kool-Aid and eating Pop Tarts." Oh, it's like drinking Kool-Aid, all right.
OVER-THE-TOP, EPHEDRINE-LACED DIATRIBE AT 4:19 A.M.
Anthony Smith, that victory guarantee of yours last week was laughably lame, and the Patriots predictably gave you the Freddie Mitchell treatment, torching you en route to victory and mocking you afterward (even Bill Belichick talked trash in his postgame press conference, saying the Pats have "played against a lot better safeties than him, I'll tell you.") I would even suggest that New England's two long scoring passes, to Moss off the play-fake and Gaffney on the trick-play, seemed especially designed to exploit and humiliate you. Heaven knows that the Patriots, who've mastered the motivational art of avenging perceived slights, relished the chance to punk you. Still, I was going to let it go, because none of that had much to do with New England winning the game; the Pats rolled because they're flat-out better, more focused and more disciplined. But then, after the game, when I heard that you had tried to weasel out of your comments by blaming the messengers – well, Anthony, allow me to join the chorus of people calling you a blowhard. "If I had been quoted right," you said after the game, "it wouldn't have come out the way it did." Oh, really ? You mean your comments were, like, taken out of context, the trendy excuse for any public figure who says something he or she would like to take back? Listen closely, Anthony: There is no other context! You said what you said to various reporters in the Steelers' locker room last Wednesday, at different times, over and over. There was no ambiguity. You told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Ed Bouchette, perhaps the finest beat writer in America, "Yeah, I can guarantee a win." Later, speaking of the Bengals' receivers, you added, "I think we were facing great receivers last week, too, and we shut them down. We've already seen the best." Remember the old Eddie Murphy riff about getting caught in the act with another woman yet still denying to his wife that he was cheating? That was hilarious. This is pathetic.
TRIPPIN' ON E(MAIL)
"First off, as many have already said, thank you for highlighting my Monday mornings with insightful NFL analysis … check it out, I can spell. Great article on Favre's 'Secret to Success.' As much as I love Brett Favre, I could see his constant downplaying of the success of this year's Packers team being a little biting to a youthful club that obviously has a lot of potential for future seasons. I would love to see Mike McCarthy's reaction every time Brett says 'I don't know if we (this team) can stay here.' Doesn't seem like such an inspiring thing for the leader of such a great organization to be leaking out to the media. Any thoughts? By the way, The 'Boys suck (someone should tell Romo Jessica Simpson is a QB jinx)! Packers will take this year's NFC title baby!"
I think Favre, among other endearing qualities, is relentlessly honest – and his coach and teammates can probably deal with it. And for the record, I have a high regard for the Cowboys. As I've noted before, I have 32 babies and I love them equally.
"You column for Brett Farve today started off sound, but what is with the Malibu and other giberish. Are you paid on a quantity of wording for each post? I think that following the Farve piece, I got dumber from reading this column. I love your work, but this is weird."
Post Falls, Idaho
Evidently it did affect your intelligence, as the misspellings of the word "gibberish" and the surname "Favre" (among other errors) attest. I love your feedback, but this is weak.
"Really enjoy reading your column. However, you have a credit error on 'Passionate Kisses.' That would be Mary Chapin Carpenter's song, not Lucinda Williams. No biggy, but thought a correction was in order. I think the Vikes are going to continue to make some noise, but this is the Pack's year."
Actually, it is a biggie, and it is Lucinda Williams' song. Mary Chapin Carpenter did a lovely cover of it back in 1992, four years after it was written, which helped Williams – one of the great songwriters in music – begin to gain some of the popular acclaim she so richly deserved.
"You rock because: 1. You are usually right on the money and always entertaining. 2. Christ, you just did Lucinda as your altered lyrics. 3. You can admit you are a Cal fan; believe me I know how you feel. (Let's go Mountaineers) 4. Thank God Aaron Rodgers pulled a hamstring after you wrote your last article, probably jumping for joy someone actually wrote a column on him. 5. Your definantly not a stuped ediott. I know how you feel about grammar, it drives me insane also. Jeez, did most people stop their schooling at the third grade?"
Sam Black Church, W.V.
Thanks, Al, and I hope you didn't keel over after reading the above email from Tom.
"Re. 'Rollin' with the Royals', its great to hear you taking an interest in what goes on over here (in the real and original game of football, dare I say it), but here's a bit of advice: if you'd rather not get mocked/abused/ridiculed, when talking about football I'd forget using terms like 'three-game losing streak', '4-2-9; win-draw-loss' and 'sits tied' … I appreciate you are writing for a US dominated audience, but to anyone this side of the pond you just seem like a clueless prat. Nothing against your NFL column, I love it and you are by far and away the most entertaining columnist on here."
Edinburgh, Great Britain
Bear with me. I'm a slow learner. And that's Sir Clueless Prat to you.
"Michael, I enjoy your articles. I don't always agree with you, but you're always entertaining. Thanks. I have been stewing over the Patriots' 'Spygate,' wondering why it bothers me so much. I think it's mainly because the Patriots (aka Cheaters) act in public as if they are the injured party. I wrote the following as an example of the Patriot Way in action … A conversation between a New England Patriot and their child: Patriot: 'Hi son how was school today?' Son: ''Good Dad, I got an A on my spelling test.' Patriot: 'That's Great!' Son: 'But I sort of cheated …' Patriot: 'What? Cheated. How?' Son: 'Well the teacher told us not to copy off of other kid's work.' Patriot: 'And?' Son: 'And I wasn't sure how to spell a few of the words so I kind of peeked at Suzy's paper.' Patriot: 'Hmmm, the teacher told you not to copy, but did she say anything about not verifying your work?' Son: 'No, I guess not.' Patriot: 'So you weren't cheating, you were just verifying your answers.' Son: 'I guess you could say that.' Patriot: 'You weren't cheating son. You were just interpreting the rules in a way so as to give you the maximum advantage. That's not cheating, boy, that's competing with your classmates the New England Patriots Way!' Son: 'Gee Dad, when you put it that way, it sounds great! Thanks Dad.' Patriot: 'You're welcome, son.' Son: 'I only got a C on my math test though.' Patriot: 'Next time sit next to someone smarter.' Son: 'I will Dad.' Patriot: 'I'm proud of you boy."
If I admit that this email cracked me up, will hundreds of Patriots fans (and their boyfriends and husbands) express their desire to see me thrown in a dumpster? All I know is, when the Jets visit Gillette Stadium next Sunday, you may want to cover your eyes … and ears.
"Holding an English degree from IU gives me the extra pleasure in your mild call-outs of people who butcher the language in their feeble attempts to insult you. You are my favorite NFL writer for a number of reasons, not limited to the fact that I am 90 percent sure your friend Malibu is also my friend Malibu (Venice beach baby! Townhouse!). Keep up the good work, and for those Dallas fans that think they are better than Indy because they only have one loss, please do a thorough column on the ineptitude of the NFC compared to the AFC, and be sure to add why it is borderline insanity to proclaim (Tony) Romo to be better than (Peyton) Manning. Thanks!"
Thanks, but you've got the wrong Malibu. My friend doesn't live on Venice Beach but is very muscular.
"Um, you have a friend named Malibu? There is only one answer that will redeem your manhood, and that is that your friend Malibu got her nickname from drinking too many fruit infused rum cocktails and dancing on tables. Shouldn't have let that cat out of the bag."
Sadly, you've also got the wrong Malibu, though my friend is into excessive drinking.
"Every time I think it is okay for me to enjoy watching Dallas win, I read something written by Dallas fans. 'Dalas is number three? Your a moran!' You'd think that the Silver rankings decided the Super Bowl. Do they forget the once in an eon win Dallas had against Buffalo? I just really hope that not all of 'America's Team' fans are like that"
The Silver rankings don't decide the Super Bowl? What the … Get me Roger Goodell on the phone.
"Wow, I know some people get annoying and we sometimes say things in spite or anger, but dude, you are Evil! Yes, people still complain about Rodgers and don't want to accept the fact that Favre won't play forever. But how could you wish David Carr on any team, regardless of how unreasonable or ungrateful some of their fans can be? That must be up there in the evil list with drop kicking a nun or boiling live kittens"
Perhaps I went a bit too far.
"With regard to the whole force-out rule issue. While I do see your point, if you eliminate the force-out rule, I foresee a potential problem that could crop up. What would prevent a linebacker or largish defensive back from hitting a smaller receiver who goes up to catch a pass, and in a properly wrapped up tackle, running the receiver as much as five yards or more to the sidelines and out of bounds before his feet hit the ground. It may sound odd, but you do occasionally get good solid tackles that can displace the tackled party yards before they hit the ground. I think there has to be a force-out rule of some sort."
In my NFL, such a move would be known as "making a play."
"First, I realized as I was getting ready to write this that I never see comments from females … sad. My mom is the reason that I am a huge football fan. While my dad played in high school and watches to humor us, when we are yelling like maniacs at the television, he tends to sit there telling us to shut up. Second … I feel that the level of inadequacy in written English that is shown by so many of your readers is really depressing. Pay attention in school people! I very much enjoy reading your articles each week, regardless of how I feel about what you say about the Packers and the Seahawks. It's nice to read something that has personal feeling rather than the blather that is designed to keep the lowest common denominator happy. Kudos."
I'm surprised you haven't noticed the many emails from female readers in prior columns. In your honor, it is now officially "Ladies Morning" here at Trippin' … .
"Even though I may not agree with all of your opinions, I always enjoy reading your columns and comments to ridiculous emails. Thank you."
No, thank you . Let's stick with the women …
"I would be satisfied if they just tied your hands behind your back permanently instead of breaking your legs. It's your horrible slant on things when you write that irritates … not the fact that you can walk."
Tarpon Springs, Fla.
And yet, uncontrollably, you keep reading. OK, guys, on that note, I'm reopening the floor ….
"No question, just a request that your emailers attend my grammar class at Pitt. I cringed, am cringing, will cringe and have been cringing, and actually laughing, at the use of language in the emails you post. It is obvious you could not make that stuff up if you had to."
All I can say is, you should see some of the emails that don't make the cut.
"Well now I like S.I. just because they don't have a idot like you on there staff. If Yahoo! was smart, they would fire you. Your the worst writer ever. Way to go at least your the best at something sucking as a writer."
Rapid City, S.D.
I'm not exactly sure what an "idot" is, but I take it you didn't mean "really prolific writer and reporter." Oh well. Here's a proposition: If I send you a bus ticket to Pittsburgh, will you enroll in Brian's grammar class?
"You are brutal, before writting about football how bout you watch it. Just a little bit. Ideserve more money for complaining then you do for writting. God, I hope this ends up with Yahoo instead, cause this Micheal Silver has no place to be making money writting about football, oh and he looks and sounds like I (expletive), Im thinking he is."
In fairness, this email is a testament to consistency: Even my name is butchered.
"Ever been a less impressive turd then yourself?"
Huntington Beach, Calif.
I can think of at least one.
"'A man occupied with public or other important business cannot, and need not, attend to spelling'' – Napoleon Bonaparte. 'I don't give a damn for a man that can only spell a word one way.' – Mark Twain. I enjoy reading your column, but men far greater than you and I have understood the trivial subject of spelling for a while now. Mark twain would never judge a man based on his spelling in his writing … so how do you have the audacity to do it?"
Here's another Mark Twain quote, from 'A Tramp Abroad': "You may say a cat uses good grammar. Well, a cat does … but you let a cat get excited once; you let a cat get to pulling fur with another cat on a shed, nights, and you'll hear grammar that will give you the lockjaw. Ignorant people think it's the noise which fighting cats make that is so aggravating, but it ain't so; it's the sickening grammar they use." I'm not 100 percent sure what that means, though it does remind me of the John Barlow line from the Grateful Dead's "Looks Like Rain" ("Did you ever waken to the sound of street cats making love/And guess from their cries you were listening to a fight/Well you know, hate's just the last thing they're thinking of/They're only trying to make it through the night"). Bottom line: I'm pretty sure Mark Twain, if he had to put up with the same type of noise from some of these ignorant people in the cyber-era, would be on my side.
"Dude. The Texans over the Bucs? Dude."
Muscle Shoals, Ala.
TEXT/IM/EMAIL OF THE WEEK
"u r right. In that case u gotta come in like wk 2 next year"
– Text from Fred Taylor Sunday night after being reminded that, since my long-awaited return to Jacksonville, he has run for more than 100 yards in three consecutive games (after not having done so all season).