Last week: 1-1
Playoff record: 6-4 (sorry)

Super Bowl pick: Rams

Note: Please come to the Parkside Lounge, 317 E. Houston (at Attorney) in New York City on Super Bowl Sunday for a disappointing party.

Area populations divided by percentage of population involved in activity.

Provo, UT
24% — Watch Kennedyesque Osmond family football videos.
.01% — Watch game while repairing cardboard Roger Rabbit standee from video release.

Cambridge, MA
.071% — Sulk. Quietly finger yellowed Marlo Thomas autograph.

Fergus Falls, MN
4% — Take pet for walk. Kick slush across sidewalk. Look in picture window of neighbor’s house at an old science teacher hogging bean dip. Shake head.

Glasgow, Scotland
18% — Lance boils, apply various ointments and talcs.

Tulsa, OK
58% — Take toddler to emergency room for minor mouth burns from scalding fondue. 9% — Make sure fondue incident was properly recorded on videotape for submission to funny show.

Scranton, PA
.0801% — In the parking lot of a K-Mart tell a small child, “No, these are adult coins.”

Missoula, MT
.005% — Bid on old Celtics’ Tiny Archibald jersey on e-bay.

Greensboro, NC
9% — Take small field mouse out of Payless shoebox. Taunt cat.

32% — Dress wounds from harsh stick beatings, promise to do better next time.

Portland, ME
43% — Boil excess chum from old fish-retaining barrels. Eat.
35% — Television obscured by Stephen King’s buttocks.
1% — Argue about fog.

Marseilles, France
13% — Take nap.

Phoenix, AZ
9% — Utter phrase “Don’t go there,” to slightly chunky, morose friend who dragged you to a party and is spilling ginger ale in a poorly lit kitchen as she talks in hushed but animated tones about your old boyfriend, Rick.

Urbana, IL
14% — Make those one potatoes grandpa liked.

Miami, FL
32% — Make out with pillow dressed as Marc Anthony.
.00041% — Make out with pillow dressed as Jimmy Johnson.

New York, NY
85% — Ignore game and talk about genius script idea for “Sopranos.”
.008% — Hail cab for Evan Dando, who got into the sake early.
.0004% — Politely ask Charlie Rose to please get off your goddamned foot.

Albuquerque, NM
6% — Attend annual candlelight vigil at Days Inn held by depressed high school and college football coaches.

Paris, France
9% — At halftime finish shaving, ask for more coffee, and announce to no one particular, “Had I done my own sweeping, my heart wouldn’t be beating like this.”

Houston, TX
3% — Phone former spouse and reminisce about the day you gave Bum Phillips a ride because he had a flat.

Washington D.C.
58% — Watch Discovery Channel’s new Q&A show, “A Hot Bath With David Gergen.”

Kansas City, MO
38% — Complain to dry cleaner about delinquent return of stained Zubaz trousers.

Oslo, Norway
.29% — Discuss old truant officers who used to stare too much.

Banff, Canada
11% — Call local newscaster repeatedly about unfair odd-even parking rules.

Ann Arbor, MI
12% — Make one kid read the dictionary all night. Send the other out for more snacks.

Lake Charles, LA
44% — Repeatedly yell from crumbling steps of front porch of duplex, “When’s the good part coming?”

Pensacola, FL
.0672% — Put Christmas tree up in anticipation of the holiday.

Lawrence, KS
.02% — Pretend Super Bowl is not cool; rent “Angels & Insects” with bookish date.

Eau Claire, WI
41% — Watch the first quarter, then work on unofficial “Nash Bridges” homepage.

St. Louis, MO
5% — Worry about a wager and utter, “I’m only shaking because it is cold.”

- - -


Last week: 3-1.
Playoff record: 5-3.

This week:
Tampa Bay at St. Louis – St. Louis
Tennessee at Jacksonville – Jacksonville (I want Tennessee to win, but they’ve beaten the Jaguars twice this season already. A third time seems like too much.)

The pigskin prognostication will be ending soon. I am in a transitional phase and a lot of my side-projects have serious glitches. To wit:

1) The musical is failing. The gamble paid off initially—how does 35 bucks a week until St. Patrick’s Day sound to you? No kidding, that’s what I thought. That is not small potatoes. That’s cable, Reader’s Digest, and a bushel of caramel apples. Weekly. I am being paid this sum to “fix” some songs in an Ice Capades-meets-hard news fiasco called “Dawn Fratangelo on Hot Ice.”

Some goofball at MSNBC called me on Christmas morning to recruit me for the task. But what rhymes with Fratangelo? Nothing. Plus there are no Tim Russert clones that can skate. It isn’t physically possible. I just try and concentrate on the songs, but I keep seeing the auditions. They were cruel. Fifteen would-be Russerts in a fake warming house with union jack suits on. The hind-flaps all open, the Russerts angrily warming their digits with garlic breath, sharpening figure skates and begging for seconds on porridge.

2) “Never You Mind” KingWorld optioned my game show idea for senior citizens and amnesia victims, but now they’re telling me they’re having second thoughts. Why? Because it’s a scavenger hunt involving house keys, family heirlooms and a “playing field” from Baltimore to Bogota? Because it involves the constant use of certified mail and various rubber stamps? Because it involves blindfolds and interstates and putting faith in truckers, cheesemakers, and city managers of towns with wooden lamps and abandoned lighthouses? This is not what the American people want, they say. Of course, they didn’t think they wanted football picks either.

3) Getting some spa appointments for Jets’ super fan Ed Anzalone.

4) Further development of a cyber version of “Sunset Boulevard” starring holograms of Martha Raye and a much younger, and svelte Alan Hale, Jr.

5) Further employment of the maxim, “Carefrontation, not Confrontation,” in my everyday life.

6) “The Hollandaise Affair,” a play about all the truth serum the CIA is putting in the pancake batter at several 24-hour restaurants in Eugene, Oregon, to combat Indian gaming. Ray Liotta, a frequent collaborator, stars as a gambling addict whose wife teams up with the government to get him away from the craps tables. Ruth Buzzi in a perfect cameo.

7) Prison Lecture Tour. See #5. That is how I open my speech. People want to listen. The chess sets all go under the folding chairs when the warden announces me. I am tired because I will only travel by bus. The inmates in the plains states will be the toughest. There’s no Riker’s Island posturing there, but they feel defeated by the weight of their sentences.

8) A series of toy ideas: Zuckles, the chimp with the 5 o’clock shadow. This is a toy for all the early shavers out there, because they are, in fact, out there. Why there was a boy in my third grade class who always came in from afternoon recess looking like Richard M. Nixon? There’s a stigma out there that involves facial hair and prepubescent kids who play with action figures, and I’m trying to end it. Directions: Kids, insert 6 AA batteries in Zuckles and put him in the fridge overnight. In the morning he’ll be ready for a shave, but don’t get any on his suspenders—he’ll be very angry. Zuckles’ facial hair is made from a magnesium sulfate byproduct. Keep away from toddlers and combustible materials. Zuckles comes with two razors, one can of Zuckles Shaving Cream and three pairs of suspenders.

9) Leather Dockers (with pleats).

- - -


Last week: 2-2.

Miami at Jacksonville – Jacksonville
Tennessee at Indianapolis – Indianapolis
Washington at Tampa Bay – Tampa Bay
Minnesota at St. Louis – St. Louis

Ditka’s Other Job

The phone rang. It was just after 2 a.m. It had been almost fourteen hours since the New Orleans Saints had fired Mike Ditka, and I wasn’t expecting a call, but there he was on the other end of the line.

“Ditka calling.” He sounded businesslike. Not angry — just to the point.

“Hey coach. Sorry about the bad news,” I said, propping an elbow up on my pillow and wiping the sleep out of my eyes.

“Never mind that stuff. I’m gonna need to use you for a reference. Tell me I can use you for a reference.”

“Of course. Jeez, you don’t waste any time. What’s the gig?”

“Wally’s Carpet and Tile. Down here in Slidell. There’s an opening at the berber counter. We’ll start there and see what happens. It is too early to make any predictions. Owner’s a real nice guy, though. Wants to win. We’ll take a look at the linoleum inventory first, then assess the rest of the situation. Rumor has it that they’re short on jute-backed carpeting, but other than that it sounds like a good deal.”

“Sure, no problem, Mike,” I said. “Give them my number.” Here we go again, I thought.

I first met Ditka when the Chicago Bears fired him after the ugly 1992 campaign. He had taken a job at Medieval Times in Schaumburg to humble and humiliate himself even further. He said he needed to relearn everything from the bottom up. He wanted to get back in touch with real people who were unspoiled by professional sports. Medieval Times offered a team-like environment, and even though he started out as a mere stable boy, the danger of the nightly joust and utensil-free dinner was too much of an attraction to turn down.

So he signed on with them. It was by no means an easy deal. He had to sit down with Paul Gullickson, the assistant stable manager, and do a proper interview. A couple of days later he went back and met Duane Rivera, the day stable supervisor. It was a good chat. They shook hands, and Ditka produced his driver’s license, a second form of ID, filled out a W-2, the whole works. They gave him a pail, a wire brush, some soap, a book on horses, a laminated guide to hoof and mouth disease, a video on dressage techniques for Spanish Andalusian horses, and an apron. He said he didn’t want to cause any trouble about the apron, but that he preferred aprons that were cut wider through the middle because he was older and had some excess girth through his belly. Kitchen aprons and stable aprons have a different cut, and Ditka was used to kitchen aprons. They said that was okay. Then they told him to report at 8 a.m. the next Saturday.

Ditka was in charge of easy stuff at first: morning scrubbings, morning feedings, hay and oats stocking and shit shoveling. Ditka took pride in shoveling shit, but he was very shy and kept to himself. He briefly flirted with growing a medieval mullet, like so many of the flashier knights had taken to wearing, but gave up when his wife said that he looked like the lead singer from the Scorpions. After three weeks, he was promoted to stable manager, which is par for the course at any medieval-themed restaurant that features jousting knights and horses.

He still kept climbing though. Later, he took over the kitchen, did the nightly deposits, hung those window-clingy decals, did the tournament line-ups (There was no way 306-lb Anthony “Frog” LaGrubkke was riding against 114-lb Pierre Pimperson—Ditka didn’t care if the guy had a Bola, a Lance, and an Alabarda, it was just unfair.) implemented “Wench Night,” and was forever working bargains on bulk shipments of turkey drumsticks. He even coined the term, “Dinner & Tournament.”

He had hired probably the best fry cook in town, this hotshot high school sophomore, who had really done some innovative stuff at Taco Bell. Ditka saw a prodigy and wanted him bad. He laid off a bunch of workers to get the kid in at the price the kid’s parents wanted. By the time Ditka left, the kid had invented like six or seven of his own bastes for fowl, pork, beef, you fucking name it. He didn’t stop there. Ditka had his wenches and serfs blacken their teeth and dirty their fingernails before serving meals. “If you’re running a restaurant based on a feudal society, all I know is the servers had better be ugly and filthy, otherwise it is a sham,” he’d scream.

Moves like that were not uncommon during Ditka’s regime at Medieval Times. He pulled the company out of an Elgin community college job fair, losing the potential for a lot of very cheap, docile labor. Ditka was betting it all on the crew he had at the time. It was dangerous, sexy and insane. Ditka was juggling management, cooks, a wait staff, a janitorial staff, the jousters, jockeys, the stable boys and one freelance veterinarian. He often put in 16-hour days. Mondays were the worst. He’d deconstruct videotape of the last week’s tournaments. “Who is that pansy with the purple shield? You call that a Levade? That bastard couldn’t do a Levade on a merry-go-round!”

Anyway, when the trouble surfaced (with Ditka, the trouble always eventually surfaces) I was a cub reporter with the Schaumburg Shopper, and a huge Bears fan. Naturally, when a Medieval Times employee called us one afternoon about a press conference, I begged to go. On the phone, the woman mentioned something about a small incident involving broken armor. I said I’d be right over.

When I got there, the last ambulance was leaving. A woman shuffled me and a few reporters (the Elgin Tattler, the Kenosha Bugle, the Marengo Town Crier, and even a guy from the Muncie Telegram) to the VIP seats in the arena stands. Behind us stood a few jowly customers (fathers and sons) in Bears paraphernalia.

Ditka walked in wearing a yellow cape, and maroon silk trousers. His set of fifty-odd keys were dangling from a U-ring on his belt. His face was covered with light soot. He sat down at a folding table on the arena floor in front of the stands. There was a pitcher of water, and each reporter got a napkin and a giant carrot. Each carrot must have been ten pounds. A Medieval Times employee put all of our tape recorders in front of Ditka. The Bears fans shushed their kids. Ditka said, “Well, let’s go.”

Me: Mr. Ditka, could you talk a little bit about the armor incident?

Ditka: Well, I’m not here to talk about rib specials.

[nervous laughter]

Ditka: One of our knights, Gary, had been using a Bola that hadn’t been inspected for quite some time.

Me: What is a Bola?

Ditka: A Bola is like a chain mail. Any double plus book has that kind of info, so get with the program or get out. Anyway, today during a contest, it broke and the spiked part brained a small hog that had been providing some atmosphere for us.

[an unsettling pause]

Listen, I’m not gonna sit here and bullshit you guys, but I would be doing this franchise an injustice if I didn’t tell you that the horses looked great today. The salad greens were crisp. The gruel was thick and frothy. The toilets were clean. We were hitting on all cylinders. And then this happens. No one wants a dead pig on their hands, guys.

Some other guy: Hey Mike, John Garrity, Marengo Town Crier.

Ditka: Go ahead John.

John Garrity: So no people were hurt? Just a pig? Any damage to the facility? Have they sent out a claims adjuster or anything, yet?

Ditka: No, no people were hurt. Sometimes animals are almost people though. You guys know that. No one except for the SFD has been here. Not OSHA, not State Farm, nobody. It was mainly an iron spiked ball and a pig, but it looks bad, fellas. There’s not a lot you can say, except that I’m pretty disappointed.

Me: Who was actually in charge of Bola repair?

Ditka: I’m not going to get into that. I’m not going to point fingers. There’s not one employee that blew it here today. We’re all to blame.

Me: Isn’t that actually part of one person’s job though, the armor repair, I mean?

Ditka: Sure, but it could have happened to any one of us.

Some other guy: Mike? Pete Baldwin, Kenosha Spectacle. I worked in the armor repair game for a while. Maybe you’ve heard of the Racine Renaissance Festival? No disrespect, but this is the sort of thing that happens when an armor crew really isn’t prepared.

That was pretty much the end of Ditka’s tenure at the Medieval Times. You can imagine the tirade that ensued. He then went to NBC to do NFL studio work, and then of course he got back in the game itself. But if you find yourself in a little town north of New Orleans and someone suggests an afternoon of tile, grout, and carpet shopping, don’t be surprised if you see Ditka behind the counter, slowly turning purple.

- - -


Last week: 10-5
Season: 153-91-4
Playoffs: 0-0

Here are the playoff picks:

Buffalo at Tennessee -Tennessee.
Detroit at Washington -
Dallas at Minnesota — Minnesota.
Miami at Seattle — Seattle.

And here’s a post-holiday guide to ending relationships without initiating any direct break-up talk:

1) Start referring to your money as “moolah.”

2) Start introducing your boyfriend/girlfriend as your “lover.”

3) Go to the movies. After the previews end, get up and say, “Well, that’s that,” and leave. Or, if it is a sad movie, start bawling uncontrollably just as the lights go down. Go into convulsions. Buy a bag of popcorn and remove the contents and breathe into the bag while crying. If you cannot cry, and the person you’re dating sniffles even once, stand up and announce loudly, hands on hips, “See, I knew this was going to happen!”

4) Start referring to former Minnesota Twins catcher Tim Laudner as often as possible. Be reminded of him constantly. Everything reminds you of former Minnesota Twins catcher Tim Laudner: children playing in the park, the way the light peaks through the window above the stairs, your girlfriend’s bare back. On long oceanside walks, and just before bed, wonder aloud, “I wonder how ol’ Tim Laudner’s doing…” When your boyfriend/girlfriend expresses confusion, just shake your head and sigh and say, “Oh Tim!”

5) Every time you drop or spill or have to carry something, say, “Little help here.”

6) Go to the Salvation Army. Buy one pillow, and one floral-printed housecoat. Stuff the pillow in the back of your underwear. Tuck it in good. Then put the housecoat on and spend the day at an area Denny’s rocking to and fro in a booth. Go home and watch nothing but “Booknotes” on C-SPAN. Admire the twinkle in George W. Bush’s eye and say, “Someday, that man could be president.”

7) Make up dances called “The Lake Superior,” and “The Salt Lake Shuffle.” Teach them to your boyfriend or girlfriend. Teach them to his or her parents, and insist that all of you practice together. When they do not pick up the dances quickly enough, tell them that they are doing so only to hold you back from attaining your dreams.

And finally, most importantly:

8) Write angry letters to people who predict football outcomes on the web.

- - -


Last Week: 9-6.
Season: 143-83-4.

New Orleans at Carolina – Prediction: Carolina.

Arizona at Green Bay – Now that Green Bay is basically out of contention, R.W. Fitzsimmons, 61, of De Pere has forgotten about the NFL, and recruited his children to “start bringing some of that crap up from the basement, so’s I can get a look at it.” The Fitzsimmons family will not be watching the game on Sunday, they’ll be helping their dad test and sort all the whistles, kazoos and aquarium timers that he has collected since the government decided to start giving him checks every month for his problems. Whistles, kazoos and aquarium timers that still function properly will go in a giant cardboard box marked, “Good,” and the rest won’t be thrown away, they’ll go in a box marked, “To Be Fixed.” Prediction: Green Bay.

Baltimore at New England – Things NFL Announcers Did Not Say This Season:

“We’re Fox’s D-Team, so this afternoon we’ll be bringing you the Falcons-Eagles game. There must be over 300 people here already. A little about me: my name is Doug, and I spent last evening alone in a hotel room watching the Game Show Network, ordering microwave pizzas from room service, and sulking.”

“Sure, I’m worried about the murders, the steroids, the shoplifting… but I am really concerned about the glue.”

Announcer A: “This guy hits like a semi, but have you ever read his senior thesis? About Chaucer? Pure genius.”
Announcer B: “I can’t read, but thanks for baiting me and humiliating me once again, on national TV.”

Announcer A: “I could really go for some Earl Grey tea and an Ang Lee video right now.”
Announcer B: "That’s funny because I can’t get the song “Maniac” by Michael Sembello out of my head right now."

Prediction: New England.

Detroit at Minnesota – This is what Vikings’ Fan Pete “Chicken” Anderson has done:
1) Playfully head-butted the Vikings’ mascot, the Vikasaurus, in the hallway at the Metrodome in 1993. A brawl ensued when the Vikasaurus retaliated, throwing several punches.
2) Dressed up as a senior citizen named Shirley on Halloween one year, when no one else wore costumes.
3) Refereed Donkey basketball games throughout the Midwest. It was usually the Masons vs. the Fire Department, the Zor Shriners vs. the Library, the Police Department vs. all the area Pharmacists. He also drove the truck that carried all the donkeys, too. He referred to this as “hauling ass.” He documented it all on a series of audio tapes he’d make while driving the donkeys down lonely stretches of interstate.
4) Spent one night in a co-ed jail somewhere in Kansas or Missouri.
5) Moved to Hawaii. He now gets choppered into an old army testing ground with a metal detector and hunts for live ammo.

Prediction: Minnesota.

Oakland at Kansas City – Prediction: Kansas City.

Seattle at NY Jets – An Open Letter to Jets’ Fans:
Hi. Bill Parcells and his “team” are actually robots. Though they have played and lost many games in an all too-human fashion this season, they are not real people. On or about the first of the year, they will all combine parts and turn into a giant steel horse that will crush the Meadowlands, and turn Weehawken and Hoboken into carrot farms. This horse will then head towards Manhattan. I am not sure the Seahawks will want to play the Jets at this point, so don’t wager any money. Your best bet is to probably leave town with all pets and birds that you own. For your own safety, do not wear Zubaz. Prediction: Jets.

St. Louis at Philadelphia – Prediction: St. Louis.

NY Giants at Dallas – Let’s talk about “Magnolia” instead. If Paul Thomas Anderson is such a genius, why is he dating Fiona Apple? I liked “Hard 8” and “Boogie Nights,” but “Magnolia” was just too long to stomach. He could have shaved about an hour off of it and it would have been amazing. William H. Macy shines as yet another hapless coward, and John C. Reilly, who has been in all of Anderson’s movies, should have an Oscar for each one of them. He’s always cast as the big dumb gentle stooge, but what’s really important is the other night I had a dream about Julianne Moore. She was in a weird skirt near a pool table and madly in love with me. Prediction: Dallas.

Tampa Bay at Chicago – Prediction: Chicago.

Cincinnati at Jacksonville – Historic Christmastime Scrabble Maneuvers:
My mother usually wins all Christmas Scrabble matches. After hours of shaking her head, lulling everybody to sleep with her 43-minute turns, and littering the board with words like AN, HOW, and DOG, she’ll come up with ZYGOTE on a Triple Word Score and obliterate everyone. But this year, in a panic I got rid of my Q early by spelling QUILT. I dug in the bag for new letters and got an S. Luckily, nobody else made QUILT plural, so I spelled WADS across the bottom of the board, using my S tile to combine the two words (making QUILT plural). The S happened to fall on a Double Word Score, giving me upwards of 46 points on just one turn. It was not a staggering move by anyone’s standards, but was efficient, clean, and came at an opportune moment. My mom was not playing, either. It was two guys I had gone bowling with. E-mail me for an unabridged account of my holiday bowling and Scrabble scores. Prediction: Jacksonville

Indianapolis at Buffalo – Prediction: Indianapolis.

Miami at Washington – Prediction: Washington.

Tennessee at Pittsburgh – From Nashville correspondent David Berman, the best places to get your haircut in Nashville on New Year’s Eve:

A Hairy Business
Backstreet O’ Hair
Hair World
The Hair Cottage
The Hair Depot
The Hair Syndicut
The Mane Event
Mane Street
Shear Elegance
I’d like to see one in a hospital called Head Cuts.
Prediction: Nashville.

San Diego at Denver – Prediction: Denver.

San Francisco at Atlanta – With both teams pretty much done for the season, unemployed taxidermist Dwight Dunlap, 43, of Palo Alto, will blow off watching the game and make his public access pilot pitch to sassy local meteorologist Punkin Starbladder, 27, at an as-yet-undisclosed-area Bennigan’s. (His treat.) The pilot is about a turn of the millennium gumshoe (Tron meets Nash Bridges meets Don Quixote) whose sidekick is a sassy local meteorologist. The script hasn’t been written. There are only two characters-the detective and the sassy local meteorologist. Dunlap thinks it will write itself once Starbladder commits. Prediction: Atlanta.

- - -


Last week: 10-5.

Season: 134-77-4.

Week Sixteen

Dallas at New Orleans — Please note: On Super Bowl Sunday, I am hosting an event at the Parkside Lounge, 307 E. Houston Street, New York, NY. High-octane merriment, co-anchored by Hunter Kennedy, proprietor of a magazine called The Minus Times. Details to come. Prediction: Dallas.

Denver at Detroit — Mediocre Christmas Druids. Prediction: Detroit.

Buffalo at New England — True Tales of My Days at the Wire Service, Volume 83:

In the dead of winter there were college basketball, college hockey, college football, professional football, professional basketball and professional hockey games to report. At every contest there would be a stringer calling the sports desk with updates. We had to type in all the scores and send them out over the wire as fast as possible. The worst scenario was a college basketball game in Hawaii. You couldn’t go home until 5 a.m. The phones rang every second of the night. The stringers were usually pleasant because they got paid to go to the games. There were a few self-important jackasses though.

This guy (we’ll call him Smith) in Los Angeles had no patience. I dreaded his calls.

Me: Hello.

Smith: [crowd noise] From the Pond in Anaheim, I have another goal.

Me: [chewing pastrami] Shit.

Prediction: Buffalo.

Indianapolis at Cleveland — Prediction: Indianapolis.

Jacksonville at Tennessee — Prediction: Tennessee.

Cincinnati at Baltimore — Wire Service, Volume 83, continued:

Smith: Okay, the goal was by Teppo Numminen, with 4:32 left in the third and…

Me: Newman? Who? (I hate hockey, and the algebra of spelling all the Latvian, Siberian and Portuguese names sent me into a panic.)

Smith: Numminen! Jesus balls! Don’t you know these guys? Anyway, Teppo Numminen, his 34th goal of the season, assist from Urvalisko Muurz and Dioojwtl Veenssianowskittz, on the power play and the goalie was Vlad Wafflesteinorajko.

Me: Okay. Is Muurz with two R’s?

Smith: U’s, dammit, U’s! C’mon. I can’t believe this.

Me: And Dioojwtl…

Smith: Yeah, you might note that it was Veenssianowskittz’s 18th assist on short-handed, third period goals. Okay?

Me: [computer has now frozen, scrambling for ballpoint pen] Got it!

Smith: Could you put me on with someone else? Prediction: Baltimore.

Minnesota at NY Giants — Prediction: Giants.

NY Jets at Miami — Transcripts of Equipment Manager Tantrums, Part One.

Miami Dolphins Headquarters, Last Wednesday.

EM (Equipment Manager): …You’re a moron. You bought Tide?

EM’s assistant (henceforth referred to as EMA): [Response garbled on tape. Subject was near a cooling fan for most of the conversation.]

EM: Have we ever used Tide? Now I gotta situation. You tell Jimmy Johnson what you did. Colors bleeding into everything. Tide. Holy Jesus!

EMA: [more garbling something about…“7-11 on Crawford Pkwy”]

EM: So you just grabbed Tide? Off of the shelf, like it didn’t matter? Like you hadn’t seen me using Clorox since July? And then you raced back here and screwed up all of our jerseys?

EMA: [garbled…something about “North Dakota State…always used Clorox”]

EM: Lovely. A team that looks like fairies plays like fairies. If I can’t trust…oh forget it. I am trying to delegate a little here. Could you put down your decaf and act like you give a crap about what I am trying to tell you? You know one day, you might say, I don’t know, jeez, when you’re working in the CBA, or the roller derby, or what ever second-rate organization will have you, umm, I don’t give a shit where, you might say, “I learned something when I was with the Dolphins.”

EMA: [garbled]

EM: That’s so funny that you don’t think you’ll be working for a CBA team. I’ll tell you, Charlie the CBA is too good for you. Arena football is too good for you. High school wrestling is like Yale to you. You should consider yourself lucky.

EMA: [again, garbled]

EM: You’re probably hoping we don’t make the playoffs. And the trunks! We got three of them, all with one stray wheel always pulling them into the wall. Try pushing them through the airport.

EMA: [garbled]

Prediction: Miami.

Arizona at Atlanta — Transcripts of Equipment Manager Tantrums, Part Two.

EM: You don’t sit on them! Try and be a little more professional. It isn’t a goddamn choo-choo train.

EMA: [garbled]

EM: Your weight? Sweet Jesus, I don’t care about your weight! We’re trying to move in and out of airports in a professional manner, capeesh? You and Dwight nearly mowed down three toddlers on Sunday night.

EMA: [garbled]

EM: Pardon me, your majesty. Anyway, I go into Vic’s toolbox and he damn near has a coronary. Like it is his toolbox. Like Huizenga didn’t put up the money to buy the tools in the first place…

EMA: [garbled]

EM: What? Yeah, of course Vic picked ‘em out of the catalog. Of course. Are they his property though? So I say, you fix it. He says, I ain’t got time. I say well I got a friggin’ pile of shoulder pads that need new friggin’ clips. I’m gonna be wading through those all morning, God forbid you should help out. Who’s the intern? That kid from Valpo? He’s dumber than you.

Prediction: Arizona.

Carolina at Pittsburgh — One thing I don’t like about having a new job is that at my old job I could always answer the phone in two ways, either by yelling “Slaughter Yard,” or “Soup Kitchen,” into the receiver. I can’t really do that now.

Prediction: Pittsburgh, a going-away present for Cowher.

Chicago at St. Louis — Prediction: St. Louis.

Oakland at San Diego — Prediction: Oakland.

Kansas City at Seattle — Prediction: Seattle.

Green Bay at Tampa Bay — Prediction: Green Bay.

Washington at San Francisco — Prediction: Washington.

- - -


Last Week: 10-4.

Season: 124-72-4.

Pittsburgh at Kansas City – By now everyone can tell that I hate football, I am sick of writing about it, sick of watching it, sick of hearing about it. So I will make the predictions, but also inform you of area events this weekend. Kansas City Public Library. The one on Thomas Street. There’s gonna be a guitar recital by hometown hero Wade Conners. Conners, 23, is home on Christmas break from guitar college in Encino. He thinks he’s too good for his old friends, and has taken to wearing only a black leather vest even though it is only 43 degrees. He also refuses to get up before noon, walk the family dog, or even hide his three-foot turquoise Graphix bong from his parents. “It is who I am. The weed opens up other channels for me. Christine [ex-girlfriend, on the lingerie sales floor at Donaldson’s] is gonna shit when she hears my new stuff, bro.” Prediction: Both events will be bad. Kansas City will win.

Green Bay at Minnesota – The T-Shirt Experiments, Volume One: Once when a friend and I were going to a Bears vs. Vikings game at the Metrodome, we saw this pothead outside trying to sell these lilac-colored T-shirts that simply said, “Packers Suck” on them. He was the kind of guy, early thirties, probably lived at home, his Mom still made him French Toast, washed his undies and took phone calls from irate Blockbuster employees for him… you know the drill. Anyway, the Vikes weren’t even playing the Packers, but this guy was getting fifteen bucks a piece for them. So I had one of my entrepreneur friends, P. Blaine Bundy, look into the matter. He “found” a box of 100 pine green T-shirts, and then “found” someone who’d print “Vikings Suck” in heavy yellow lettering around a classic football design for cheap. We got the shirts for about a buck and a half each, payable after the experiment. That was crucial. It was early December, freezing cold, and the Packers were playing the Vikings in Minneapolis on Monday Night Football. It was dangerous, but we brought the shirts to this little pre-game boardwalk of beer stands, fried cheese and frustrated shock jocks outside of the stadium. At first, before Vikings fans were drunk, they were good-natured about it all. Ha ha. But there were a lot of Packers fans (this was pre-meltdown, when Bill Schroeder was obviously going to get cut, not get the team MVP) too, and by ten minutes to kickoff we had sold about 95 shirts at ten bucks a pop. We had enough money to scalp tickets and eat nachos, drink beer, whatever. That’s when it got ugly. There were Vikings fans who couldn’t get in to the game, and they saw us with the shirts and freshly scalped tickets. I was called “motherfucker” sixty or seventy times. I ducked about a dozen punches, and I sprinted away from ornery gangs of hockey moms. But you know what? I got into that game and I had a damn good time. Prediction: Packers.

San Francisco at Carolina – Abner O’Brien, 57, of suburban Charlotte, has repeatedly called his son-in-law Kyle Davies about possibly singing Christmas carols in O’Brien’s Angels, a barbershop group he put together thirty-six years ago (though he’s chickened out of every performance they’ve been offered). Mostly the men never really practice, they just sit around clipping their fingernails, drinking lukewarm Maxwell House coffee, watching O’Brien have anxiety attacks near his model railroad set, and pretending that they’ve invested in web start-ups when they really haven’t. Davies told me that they have a gig at a nursing home on Saturday, and O’Brien has threatened to get his grandchildren a sack of coal if Davies doesn’t come along. Prediction: Carolina.

N.Y. Giants at St. Louis – Rams’ coach Dick Vermeil has set up a mentor program called “Little Dicks,” for young kids who know they have absolutely no athletic skills and just want to coach. Prediction: Rams.

New Orleans at Baltimore – Douglas Cook, 23, of Annapolis, has spent every weekend since Labor Day in the family basement, getting the slide show ready and jumping rope in preparation for Christmas. He has a small Sanyo tape deck and for big laughs, plans to incorporate some ABBA and Captain & Tennille, especially during the six-slide phase documenting his father’s unfortunate Naval hazing. His cute sister-in-law’s sister usually grudgingly comes over once a year, and after three and a half hours of awkwardness, there’s usually five or six minutes of conversational bliss. There is a lot of underarm sweat, and side-of-mouth spittle. It is tough. He has written and rewritten the script for the slideshow 400 or 420 times in the last month, incorporating some of Jay Leno and Bobby Collins’s finer material, and also several key lines out of Barry Levinson films. Saturday and Sunday he’s got to get his shit together, because this is his last chance to practice it. Godspeed, Douglas. Prediction: Baltimore.

N.Y. Jets at Dallas – Jets’ coach Bill Parcells took a sorely needed day off last Tuesday to gloat over his big win against Miami. First he got into one of those Laurel and Hardy/Babe Ruth-style one-piece bathing suits for men — you know, the kind that have stripes and look like overalls, sorta. Then he got some Fritos. Then he filled up a saucepan full of Epsom salts and soaked his feet and watched his soaps, which he hasn’t seen since May, thank you very much. Then around 3:35 he told a Bible salesman who knocked on his door that he could go screw himself. Prediction: Dallas.

Atlanta at Tennessee – Dollywood. Half-price admission. On the Teddy Roosevelt stage, Fred Thompson the politician/actor will do a kind of spoken-word Henry Rollins thing about his relationship with Lori Morgan, tree surgery, and other heavy stuff. Prediction: Tennessee.

Detroit at Chicago – In the Algonquin room, Sunday, at the Elgin Days Inn, a dangerous sect of the Promise Keepers attempts to define “mental masturbation.” Prediction: Chicago.

Jacksonville at Cleveland – The Shaker Heights Showdown, a co-ed round-robin shuffleboard/swinging event begins Sunday and lasts until Christmas Eve. Babysitters and free laundry are part of the six-dollar cover charge. No photocopied IDs, or open sores, please. Prediction: Jacksonville.

New England at Philadelphia – Let’s check in on Old Salts, shall we?

Me: How is your Christmas shopping going?

Old Salts: Not so good. Thanks a lot for using me in your picks this year. You think I don’t have Internet access? Jesus, am I that much of a lummox? I’m too dense to hammer out that goddamn URL to that whack-job website? You said I went to prison? You think your mother is happy about all of this? She’s not, I can assure you.

Me: It was all in good fun, Grandpa.

Old Salts: Good fun? Was Korea good fun? Is making fun of the fact that my wife cheated on me good fun? Making that public knowledge?

Me: Say, have you got a couple hundred bucks? My rent is going up.

Old Salts: Yeah, I’ll get you a check. How’d you like all that soup Grandma brought up on the Greyhound for ya?

Me: Not bad.

Old Salts: Not bad? Jesus, you got some nerve. She had to freeze it to carry it up there. You think a pot of frozen soup in your lap for two hours is fun? Take the Eagles this week.

San Diego at Miami – On Sunday, Miami’s Happiness Kids are selling vials of Santa’s bath water at the Hi-Lo Mall to finance a January trip to the Atlantic City Drum and Bugle Corps National showcase. Prediction: Miami.

Washington at Indianapolis – If the Super Bowl — which I think the Colts are going to win this year — is the senior prom, this malicious ass-kicking of the Redskins is just a feeble, yet oddly beneficial 9th grade grope at a rundown roller-skating rink. Prediction: Indianapolis.

Tampa Bay at Oakland – Prediction: Tampa Bay.
Seattle at Denver – Prediction: Seattle.
Buffalo at Arizona – Prediction: Arizona.

- - -


Last Week: 6-6-1
Season: 114-68-4

Oakland at Tennessee — Hank Roenick and the Shawtown Drugbust, Part One:
There is an annual holiday street football game in my hometown. From December 23rd through January 5th pretty much everyone involved is drunk on a concoction of EggBeaters and Malibu Rum, and bloated from their Christmas goose. On one of those days, some friends of mine play football for about ten or fifteen minutes. Once a year. Hank Roenick, who isn’t a friend, usually marches by us pointing at his fillings and waving his pink slip from the post office. We always call time-out and fish around for loose change, or a docket for a sack of coal, or once in a while Mrs. Seymour reluctantly pours him a pint. Most of the time she puts it in a plastic cup with the hopes that he’ll keep moving. Quite often, resting on a filthy snowbank, there’s a stray pair of kelly green sweatpants and women’s Isotoner gloves, and Roenick will don them and ask to be all-time QB, as he has a severe drinking problem and is on heart pills. He doesn’t like to go long, and seeing as he’s in his forties, and on heart pills, we okay it. Prediction: Tennessee.

New England at Indianapolis — The old lead singer of Van Halen, Gary Cherone, unbearable meatball, has his own website ( He’s from Boston. Prediction: Indianapolis.

Cleveland at Cincinnati — Hank Roenick and the Shawtown Drugbust, Part Two:
Roenick is usually chilled to the bone because his wife ends up making him sleep in their minivan. He has a frightening habit of waking his kids on Christmas morning. Actually, he doesn’t wake them; he hovers over their bed screaming, with a bunch of fake wounds and blood dripping all over the place, “We got robbed last night. All the presents are gone. Burglars too everything and worst of all, your mother went with them.” There’s an effigy of Santa Claus burning on their front lawn. That’s usually when he gets told to take a walk around the block and not come in until after New Year’s. Prediction: Cincinnati.

Baltimore at Pittsburgh — Prediction: Baltimore.

NY Giants at Buffalo — Prediction: Buffalo.

Philadelphia at Dallas — The NFC East is the UPN of the NFL. Prediction: Dallas.

Arizona at Washington — This is like finding a bottle of Windsong perfume in the sock drawer at your Grandpa’s house. And he lives alone. And he hasn’t had female companionship in a decade. Prediction: Washington.

Carolina at Green Bay — Wrigglesworth, Part One:
At that bar I worked at, there was a guy who was like ninety and always wore Wisconsin Badger gear. He didn’t give a shit about the NFL, except perhaps his odd fondness for Fuzzy Thurston or Max McGee. But if you insulted the Badgers the man would cry. He was by far the best customer we had, in terms of manners. One night a week, his wife let someone pick him up and take him out for a cheeseburger and sixteen or seventeen brandy Manhattans. Then someone carted him home and he went to bed until the next week. He usually got stuck in the middle of two sixty year-old guys who argued about Fritos, the Korean war, David Obey (D)-Wausau, “Martial Law,” the La Crosse Catbirds , and Conway Twitty records. Prediction: Green Bay.

St. Louis at New Orleans — Wrigglesworth, Part Two:
Usually Wrigglesworth just tried to focus on the bartender. He’d nod when he needed another drink, and for five or six hours he tried to eat his cheeseburger. He avoided the pickle wedge. It was tucked in wax paper. Then he’d try to get me to throw away the paper boat it all came in. I’d say “Your pickle’s still in there.” For a minute, he’d act like he didn’t even know it came with a pickle, and then he’d say, “Oh, what do I want with that filthy thing?” and wave it away. Prediction: St. Louis.

San Diego at Seattle — Wrigglesworth, Part Three:
He usually left his hat and jacket on, no matter what the temperature was, and he’d sit there tolerating the buffoons, the women’s bowling league (Diet Coke and spiced rum, Egg McMuffin and Misty coupons spilling out of their purse), and the adolescent retarded child of a local couple. The kid was hooked on arm-wrestling, and he’d run around snapping bras and asking people to feel his muscles. His parents thought they were doing him some kind of favor by giving him Diet Coke, but after a half dozen of them, the Nutrasweet sent him into a perverted frenzy. If you wouldn’t arm wrestle him, he’d ask if you were gay. All this would come to a boil, and Wrigglesworth would eventually quietly mumble, “This is horseshit,” and leave. Prediction: Seattle.

Miami at NY Jets — I know there is a depressed Jets’ season ticket holder who reads McSweeney’s. Give me your ticket this week. E-mail me. Prediction: Jets.

Atlanta at San Francisco — Gruesome. Prediction: San Francisco.

Detroit at Tampa Bay — Hank Roenick and the Shawtown Drugbust, Part Three:
So Roenick would huddle up and script a bunch of made up stuff like, 36 Jag Right on 3. Everyone would roll their eyes. He’d mumble something about how were everyone’s hands, and put your hands in your goat. Then someone would say “Goat?” and then he’d say “Coat,” and kind of chuckle to himself. I’ll finish this story next week. Prediction: Tampa Bay.

Minnesota at Kansas City — Prediction: Minnesota.

Denver at Jacksonville — I wonder how many girls got cornered by a drunken John Denver at chalet parties? I think about it a lot. I think he bawled his way through sexual encounters, too. But I also think he was an alien, too. Let me just run this by you: Born in Roswell, N.M. Constantly trying out experimental aircraft. I think he was so sad because he was stuck on earth and always trying to go “home.” Prediction: Jacksonville.

- - -


I went 7-8 last week.
108-62-3 for the season.

Week 13.

Green Bay at Chicago – Concessionaire Stories, Part One.

Doug McMahon, 67, worked at Wrigley Field when the Bears played there. He saw Gale Sayers at his finest. Doug would bring home bags of hot peanuts for his wife Audrey and child Nathan. He listened to flute music on the record player, and they always paid the gas bill on time. They had a little cozy apartment. Nathan would always ask, “How are the Bears doing, Dad?” And Doug would chuckle and say, “Son, I just sell hot peanuts. I am a vendor. Want more milk?” And then he’d laugh and pour the little boy some more milk. Then when Nathan was about fourteen, Doug came home on a chilly Sunday night, and the boy was wearing a wool skirt and trying to ignite the family Christmas tree with an old kerosene-doused Cub Scout uniform. Doug said, “Wha?” And Nathan said, “Listen here, Pops, we’re doing things my way! This is what I think of your lousy peanuts!” Prediction: Bears.

Indianapolis at Miami – Post Game Cocktail Waitress Stories, Part One.
Babs Skelly worked at the Electric Sombrero in West Miami in the early 1970s. Once Don Shula came in and winked at her. She was a real doll. She blushed, but her co-worker, Doreen Verner, butted in and said, “Say, Donnie, ya makin’ eyes at me?” Then she scribbled, “I’ll be in the women’s can, XOXO, Doreen,” on the back of a guest check and slapped it on his table. She waltzed into the restroom and slipped her panties off but kept her skirt on. She was nervous. She could feel something. She could see Don pulling up to her house, grinning in his Lincoln, her four kids piling in the back. It was warm in the bathroom. Soon she sat on the toilet, and smokes a Newport. This was the first day of the rest of her life. But there wasn’t a sound. There was nobody near the bathroom door. Minutes went by. Nothing. Prediction: Indianapolis.

New Orleans at Atlanta – I sure hope Mike Ditka gets a break this week. Prediction: New Orleans.

Jets at Giants – If all goes well, my column next week will be written from the press box of this game. All you can do is pray. If everyone who sent me an essay prays, faxes, emails and calls the New York Giants this week and begs them to let me in, it might happen. Remember, they are the New York Giants, but when you call information the area code is 201. Let’s get cracking, you slobs! Prediction: Jets’ coach Sweet Billy Parcells dusts off a win versus his “ex-old lady.”

St. Louis at Carolina – Gross. Prediction: St. Louis.

San Francisco at Cincinnati – Stop a co-worker today and ask him to spell Cincinnati. Right on the spot like that. If he scoffs, say, “But you’re wife SURE knows how to spell it,” and elbow him in the ribs. If he says, “I’m not married,” then you say, “It figures, you ugly sack of shit.” Then go sit down at your desk and yell, “Nobody talk to me while I’m coloring,” and wave a crayon around like a switchblade. Prediction: Cincinnati.

Tennessee at Baltimore – Concessionaire Stories, Part Two.
Peter Henry graduated from St. Olaf College in Minnesota and moved to Baltimore because he figured he’d get a better ticket on Transatlantic flights from the east coast. His girlfriend Becky is studying fonts over in Luxembourg. He’s got a job selling beer at Ravens games. The fall started out well. The Ravens suck so people drink a lot at their games. Peter was making a lot of cash. He missed his Becky but they talked on the phone and wrote letters. One Sunday night he tried calling her. He had a sad story about the Nachos vendor in 74H. Becky didn’t answer the phone, and she never wrote to him again. He figured something bad must have happened, but her parents said she was fine. He finally got a hold of her one night, three weeks later. Three weeks of crying hard into his pillow. Three weeks of cold Baltimore air sweeping up into his goddamn coat, beer sloshing around his apron, every coin combination a screwy lock he had to pick. Angry, fat, funnel-cake-fed faces demanding their cold barley gazpachos. Everyone in the stands reeking of booze and their filthy dollars smelling faintly of their wallet-pressed asses. Lucien, her new Frenchman answered the phone. “Bon jour,” he squealed. “Get Becky,” he yelled, a bottle of Smirnoff rolling off the kitchen counter, knocking his poodle out cold. Prediction: Tennessee.

Washington at Detroit – Today is the day that you atone for your sins, Bobby Ross. Prediction: Washington.

Philadelphia at Arizona – Nope. Prediction: Arizona.

Cleveland at San Diego – Post Game Cocktail Waitress Stories, Part Two.
Madge Ulster and her Pit Bull “Stomachs” were drinking Gin and watching old videos of the Air Coryell Days last June. Bonnie called. Bonnie’s her sister. Bonnie said her husband had gone down to the Sleepy Pirate where Bonnie works, and demanded her paycheck and told the boss she was quitting. He hasn’t come home since.

Prediction: San Diego

Seattle at Oakland – Unedited fan email hot off the presses:
dear jeff johnson,

oh goodness. i am drunk. i just went to enids, some terrible dj asked me and my friend caitlin would we mind talking to his friends from california. we said no and suddenly arrive these terrible she-beasts in mod-man clothing. oh, jeff j, what’s hapening here? it took five minutes for them to tell us they were models. oh, they were so dumb. i’m not kidding, jeff j., they were so dumb. and i adore this silly drummer from manhattan school of music, from new jersey. just thought you’d wanna know.

Prediction: Seattle. This letter was not from Colleen Werthmann.

Dallas at New England – Concessionaire Stories, Part Three: Weeb Stuggles has lived in Jamaica Plain, MA for 61 years. He cried when The Patriots drafted Tony Eason. Weeb’s brother went to Eason’s alma mater, the University of Illinois. Weeb has never learned to read though. He hates his brother, and every ten years or so, Weeb tricks him into going fishing, and then abandons him or tries to push him out of the boat. He has something big planned for his brother on New Year’s Eve, but that’s all I can say. He’s also sold popcorn at Patriots’ games for twenty years.

Prediction: Patriots. (Remember when I said they would fade? They have.)

Minnesota at Tampa Bay – Memo to Vikings’ WR Cris Carter: Jesus would never spike the ball in the ref’s face, unless the ref was the devil. I think he might do it if the ref was Pontius Pilate too, but you can never be sure. Jesus was a pretty nice son of a bitch, wasn’t he?


The Market corrected itself last week, 13-2.
Season Record: 101-54-3

Three Johnsonesque Thanksgiving Tales

1) We Won’t Rock You.

On Thanksgiving 1991, I was fortunate enough to have quite a little fanzine going. Things were going so well that a gentleman in Minneapolis started getting me into a lot of free concerts and loading me up with CDs. I was pretty thankful about it all. The Red Hot Chili Peppers were playing at the Roy Wilkins Auditorium in St. Paul on the Friday after Thanksgiving, and my buddy hooked me up with four or five floor tickets. This was when the band had still had a shred of dignity and self-respect, and didn’t have to cover their bellies with neon cummerbunds to try and fake like they were skinny. I assume there’s been a lot of narcotics and a lot of nachos in their camp over the last decade. Anyway, once the word got out about the free tickets I had a lot of new friends, however, I decided to take my roommate, his girlfriend and a couple of other shitheads that I hung around with.

We lived just over an hour away and it started snowing on Thanksgiving night and continued until about May 15th of the following year. It was the kind of snow that makes all the kielbasa-fed people’s hearts explode into a million pieces if they try to shovel. Each flake must have weighed a pound and held a gallon of water. By the time we left on Friday afternoon, we were about the only stupid bastards who’d dare put a vehicle on the highway, but we were gonna see this show by hook or crook, because Pearl Jam and the Smashing Pumpkins were the opening acts. Can you imagine that? It is true. Things were a lot different in the early 1990’s, people. Tavist-D wasn’t even on the market yet, and businessmen had to masturbate to pornographic videocassettes, not the Internet.

My roommate’s girlfriend wanted to drive because her parents had a conversion van with a television and thirty-odd reclining seats. We were always running late in those days because there was a marijuana problem, and my roommate would often look everywhere in our house for his keys except his left hand. Once we got going, we were in a bit of a quandary because of the weather and our tardiness. But we forged ahead.

The girlfriend was a fetching young lass with absolutely no self-confidence. As soon as she started driving, she immediately announced that we were going to crash, that she was scared, and that she couldn’t see. She wouldn’t let anybody else drive though. So my roommate, who was riding shotgun, promptly fell asleep with a bag of those hot-purple Cheetos in his lap. I was in the back nervously checking my watch and vaguely paying attention to “What About Bob?” which was on the TV.

She was driving seven or eight miles an hour and every truck that passed submerged the van in a mountain of snow. She’d clench her teeth and close her eyes, and veer toward the ditch. When the concept of “Baby Steps,” came up in the movie, I cracked everyone up by saying, “Baby Steps, ten miles an hour, Baby Steps, fifteen miles an hour,” but she didn’t find that too amusing.

When we got to the show, Pearl Jam was just ending their “high-voltage” set. The crowd was a puzzled hodgepodge of hippies, Goth kids and Aryan-funkateers. There were even metalheads, because you couldn’t really determine the Pearl Jam demographic then, except that they all had long filthy tresses, and they were all crybabies.

Smashing Pumpkins fans were way worse, though. Billy Corgan hadn’t quite made his mark as the alterna-martyr, but to his few suburban-hipster, clove-smoking fans, who were incessantly shouting out obscure song titles, and hyperventilating in between every tune, well, he was pretty much their Marshall Applewhite, or David Koresh, or John Lennon, or whoever. The roommate and his girlfriend went up to the balcony to take a few Xanax and complain about how tough the ride home was gonna be, and it was just Blaire Bundy and me on the floor.

Corgan refused to believe that he was going bald in those days, so he wore his red hair in a scraggly, receding tangle. He had a huge sweater on and purple denim pants that were unflatteringly baggy in the ass. Bundy looked at me after about four songs and said, “Who is this sad sack?” We got a lot of angry looks from our neighbors, who kept on praising Corgan.

After a couple more songs, Corgan came to the front of the stage and said, “Listen, it is cool of you guys to shout out songs, but we’re just in our own groove up here, and we’re really not listening to anything you say tonight.” The crowd was aghast. I was laughing my ass off, and I nudged Bundy and said, “Well how about this one, do you know ‘Fuck you’?”. At the moment that I said it, I figured that the band was going to start playing again, so I kind of shouted it. As soon as “Fuck you,” came out of my mouth, the arena was dead silent; Corgan and about 1700 people heard me loud and clear.

Corgan was astonished. Everyone on the floor was sneering at me. Corgan set down his guitar and walked to the front of the stage and said, “Fuck me? Fuck you, Pal.” Then there was a smattering of cheers from his minions. I had to respond. I yelled, “Just play your songs and change your diaper, you bastard.” Then Bundy fell over laughing and Corgan dedicated a song to “The Asshole,” who I presume was me. It was a minor success in my book, I’d say.

2) Heavy D

Once I got in a tussle with a fat white guy on Thanksgiving Eve. I had already committed the Cardinal Sin of eating a turkey sub at bar time, and removing my surveillance device that the local police had strapped to my ankle, so I was going for the sheer rebellion trifecta. As I drunkenly consumed the sandwich, a white guy and his homely girlfriend came into the shop. He was pretending that he was MC Street Cred, and trying to use a lot of hip-hop lingo, so I interrupted his soliloquy and asked him if he was supposed to be the white Heavy D. He tried to choke me.

3) Facewash!

On Thanksgiving Day at my grandma’s house one year there was a massive snowstorm. There was a giant sledding hill in her front yard. I was six years old, and all my cousins were in town, gleefully eating turkey and tobogganing down the hill. There was a family of whiny little girls across the street, who’d later on grow up to steal one another’s boyfriends, and dress them in the putrid pre-Gap togs of County Seat. One of the girls launched a snowball and volleyed it across the street narrowly missing my sister’s head. My older cousin Jeff (yes Jeff), who liked to shoot sparrows off our pontoon with a .357, saw this as an indisputable act of hostility, so to impress him I went over and tackled the smallest girl and gave her a facewash.


Thursday, November 25
Chicago at Detroit — Chicago.

Miami at Dallas — Miami.

Sunday, November 28
New England at Buffalo — New England.

Jacksonville at Baltimore — Baltimore.

Cincinnati at Pittsburgh — Pittsburgh.

Tennessee at Cleveland — Tennessee.

Arizona at NY Giants — Giants.

Philadelphia at Washington — Washington.

San Diego at Minnesota — Minnesota.

New Orleans at St. Louis — St. Louis.

Tampa Bay at Seattle — Seattle.

NY Jets at Indianapolis — Indianapolis.

Kansas City at Oakland — Oakland.

Atlanta at Carolina — Carolina.

Green Bay at San Francisco — Green Bay.

- - -


Last Week: 8-6-1.
Season: 88-52-3.

Ring the alarm. We have a winner. The contest is over. It is Dan Fogelberg, a musician. At least he says he is. He gets an “A” for effort, but now I can’t get rid of him. This is how it all happened, in real-time:

Sunday morning Fogelberg pulls up in front of my apartment in a 1995 royal blue Dodge Dakota pick-up truck (California plates) waving a piece of yellow legal paper. The payload of the truck is filled with tree frogs, and old Sunshine Family sleeping bags. He has a rumpled butterscotch-colored Carhartt jacket on, and a frumpy woman in a batik Houston Oilers’ dress is exiting the passenger seat. She is carrying an acoustic guitar (presumably his). She’s wiping sleep out of her eyes. There’s a Thermos full of what looks to be tomato soup falling out his door and spilling in the gutter.

Jocelyn Wildenstein, the feline-faced divorcee is around, too. She spent the evening at my apartment. She is the final conquest in my bid to seduce all the living wives of the former Vice Presidents of the United States. She’s never been the wife of a Vice President, but nobody knows that, and neither does she. She’s got a wig on that makes her look like Marilyn Quayle. I barrel down the stairs and out the front door. Fogelberg has been honking his horn out front for fifteen minutes.

Dan: Johnson, I presume?

Me (on the stoop): Yes?

Dan: How do?

Me: Not bad. I got a doorbell, you know.

Dan (in a panic): Your contest. I have WebTV. I fell off the stage in Pasadena a year and a half ago. My nurse bought me WebTV, and I am on the world wide web all the time now.

Me: Take it easy.

Dan: I had a cast up to my thigh. I have an essay. I drove it out here.

Me: Please. You seem to be walking fine now. Stage? What were you doing?

Dan: Performing my songs.

Me: Oh yeah.

Dan: I am a singer/songwriter. Dan Fogelberg. The premier singer/songwriter of the 1980s.

Jocelyn (leaning out window): Kenny Loggins. Now there was a singer/songwriter. “Top Gun” soundtrack. Who’s down there? I can’t see a thing without my fucking monocle.

Me (to Jocelyn): Don’t rightly know, says his name’s Fogelberg. Would you put some clothes on?

Jocelyn: (not listening, she has no clothes on): How you like your Eggos? I set the toaster on stun.

Me: Ha Ha.

Jocelyn: No, seriously, the dial is on the light orange part, but I can set it on burnt umber or something, if need be. We got any poached pears? I want poached pears. Wouldn’t a poached pear be a good topping for a toaster waffle? Huh?

Me: Go get the goddamn newspaper, Jocelyn.

Dan: I am Dan Fogelberg. Read my essay.

Me: It is not even Thanksgiving.

Dan: We want to move in. Just for a while. I am still getting mechanicals on “Leader of the Band.” It will all be back to normal soon.

At this point, Donald Regan, the old Secretary of the Treasury shows up again (see earlier weeks). So the cat’s out of the bag. We live on King Street, ok? Regan’s in town doing a reading at the Astor Place Barnes and Noble and looking for a stray piece of ass if he can get it for the right price. He’s been at the bagel shop on the southwest corner of King and Varick.

Donald: “Leader of the Band,” ehh? That song makes me cry. (looking up at my window) Jesus H. Christ on a crutch, is that Jocelyn Wildenstein?

Me: No.

Dan’s Wife: I am Suzette.

Donald: Not you. (does a double take) Well, well, well, Crepes Suzette, perhaps?

Dan: She’s Suzette, my valet and lover. She was a Naval officer, Donald.

Jocelyn: She’s a pain in the hindquarters and not much to look at. Why’d ya bring her when the contest was just for one person?

Dan: If I left her at home I woulda had to kiss her good-bye.

Donald: Touché, Macramé.

Suzette: I don’t want turkey. I want haggis.

Me: How do you even know that you’ve won the contest?

Dan (pleading): Look at us. For the love of God, just look at us.

Donald: Don’t be such a fucking spoilsport, Jeff.

Me: That’s easy for you to say, Regan. Walking around town getting hookers with a goddamn advance from Mort Janklow. What stories do you possibly have left to tell, anyway?

Donald (walks out into traffic and starts dancing in between speeding taxis): There’s gonna be new ones, Pardner! I’m climbing the World Trade Center tonight. I’m gonna tear this damn city in two, and what I can’t screw, I’m gonna buy, and what I can’t buy, I’m gonna sell, and what I can’t sell, I’m gonna kill! Can’t you feel the magic? Are you such a prick that you won’t allow an old music man a turkey dinner?

Jocelyn (shutting window): This is crap.

Me: Shut your yap! I’ve treated you a thousand times better than that crooked art dealing bastard!

Donald (jumping back on curb): Just read the essay. Let’s calm down. Everything’s fine now.

Dan: Just read the essay. It is exactly 300 words. I was a quarterback for Chula Vista High School. I dated Colleen Werthmann once, too.

Me: She’s everywhere.

Suzette: Haggis.

end of scene

Fogelberg’s essay wasn’t half bad. I may run it next week. Regan’s on his way to Havana.

New England at Miami — Prediction: Miami.

Buffalo at NY Jets — Prediction: NY Jets.

Pittsburgh at Tennessee — Prediction: Tennessee.

Seattle at Kansas City — Prediction: Seattle.

Indianapolis at Philadelphia — Prediction: Indianapolis.

Detroit at Green Bay — Prediction: Green Bay.

Atlanta at Tampa Bay — Prediction: Tampa Bay.

Carolina at Cleveland — Prediction: Cleveland.

Baltimore at Cincinnati — Prediction: Baltimore.

Dallas at Arizona — Prediction: Arizona.

NY Giants at Washington — Prediction: Washington.

Chicago at San Diego — Prediction: San Diego.

St. Louis at San Francisco — Prediction: St. Louis.

New Orleans at Jacksonville — Prediction: Jacksonville.

Oakland at Denver — Prediction: Denver.

- - -


Ugly. 6-8 last week.
80-46-2 overall.

The NFL picks page announces a contest just in time for the Thanksgiving holiday. Many of us are often lonely, or far away from our loved ones at this time of year, and I know firsthand how difficult that can be. That is why I am inviting all seven of my readers to submit a 300-word essay describing why they should spend Thanksgiving Day watching the Chicago Bears and eating turkey with me, the NFL predictions prognosticator for McSweeney’s. The contest winner will be treated to a free meal at Chez Johnson, and the three runners-up may watch us eat dinner from the street, if they so desire.

My sister and I have a lovely apartment in Soho. She’s a good cook, but abhors televised sports, so it could get tricky. Personally, I think she will be out-numbered by football fans, so she’s going to have to deal with it. McSweeney’s contributor and resident plagiarist Mike Topp and his beloved sidekick Fall, with a really long Dutch last name, will be joining us, as well as Chicago jazz and indie-rock luminary Noel Kupersmith. Fall punched me in the face last week, so if you win the contest you may want to watch out for her. There will be a few other people on hand, too.

Here are the rules and regulations:

McSweeney’s is not liable for anything. Even food poisoning. If you get hit by a bus on your way to my apartment, that is your own tough luck. Do not contact the McSweeney’s Representative, or go to his apartment in Park Slope on Thanksgiving. He will be very angry. He will have no information or turkey for you. Your essay becomes the property of McSweeney’s and may be posted on this page to humiliate or flatter you. Neither McSweeney’s nor Jeff Johnson is responsible for your travel or hotel accommodations in New York City. If you don’t live in New York City and you win the contest, you will have to figure all that out for yourself. We’re giving you a free meal, you know. There is no cash equivalent to this prize, and it is open to anyone. If you are not a convicted felon, you have nothing to worry about. You will be patted down at the front door, so do not try to hold us hostage in our own apartment a la the “Gilligan’s Island” episode where the fake jungle guy put them all in a cage, or “The Brady Bunch” episode where Jim Backus (oddly enough) locks them in a Grand Canyon jail. You must possess at least a cursory knowledge of the NFC Central, and have many interesting anecdotes to share. We’re really not AFC people, and we hate to hear mundane tailgating stories that take place at Arrowhead Stadium. Having said all that, you must not be a complete die-hard football idiot. That is frowned upon. Other things we like: Pavement, Belle and Sebastian, Vicodin, cream cheese, the Kinks, Billy Wilder movies, Howard Hawks movies, whiskey, LBJ, Ralph Wiggum, Gary Lutz, the Gourmet Garage free olive bar, Barcelona chairs, the Coen Brothers, hot dogs, Lyndon LaRouche, Ted Williams, Charles Mingus, bacon, Francis Bacon, San Francisco, Milwaukee, most peppers, most office supplies, owls, the Minnesota Timberwolves, Braille bibles, the Little Rascals, lakes, Tim Rutili, Bridget Fonda, etc. All of these are suitable for dining conversation, and if you can reference them in your essay, it might help your cause. You mustn’t wear sweat clothing. Ever. You do not need to wear a skirt or tie to the dinner, though. Bringing a bottle of wine, or some barbiturates, might be nice. You must be willing to scoff at the Fox tandem of Madden and Summerall, and walk around the corner to McDonald’s Express before dinner, should I get hungry. As stated before, the essay should be 300 words long. Exactly 300 words. If it is not exactly 300 words, do not submit. You have to e-mail it to Jeff Johnson by Saturday, November 20th. If your name is Chloe Sevigny or Ashley Judd there is no need to submit an essay; you have already won the contest. Simply RSVP to the above e-mail address.

Miami at Buffalo — Prediction: Buffalo.

Cleveland at Pittsburgh — Prediction: Pittsburgh.

Tennessee at Cincinnati — Prediction: Tennessee.

Indianapolis at NY Giants — Prediction: Indianapolis.

Washington at Philadelphia — Prediction: Washington.

Minnesota at Chicago — Prediction: Chicago.

Kansas City at Tampa Bay — Prediction: Who gives a shit?

San Francisco at New Orleans — From my 1997 Saints’ Training Camp Diary:

“There is a certain contingent of fans though, who are no less rabid than the reporters. Fifty to a hundred kids of all ages wielding Sharpies arrive early each morning. They hang on the chain link fences with runny noses, cleats, and binders full of football cards, howling at the players and making outrageous demands: “Sign my wig!” “Tape Mannix for me!” “Get my dad’s teeth out from under the couch!” “Reintroduce a stronger strain of Polio to France!” The fans here, in a way, are like gold prospectors going after as many signatures as possible, panning for the one that might someday be good for a down payment on a used Ford Escort. They indiscriminately ask any shmo for his John Hancock without any idea who the player actually is. There is little to no difference in their zeal to collect the autographs of third-string rookie punters from Southwest Appalachia Banjo Repair School and veteran Pro-Bowlers alike. Even the assistant to the equipment manager is treated with the same awe usually reserved for middle brother in the band Hanson. On the other hand, there are those fans who know exactly who the third-string punter is, and, well, they are equally disturbed." Prediction: New Orleans. Because San Francisco is that friggin’ bad.

Carolina at St. Louis — Kurt Warner. All-Pro or lucky grocery bagger? Prediction: St. Louis.

Baltimore at Jacksonville — Prediction: Jacksonville.

San Diego at Oakland — Prediction: Oakland.

Detroit at Arizona — Prediction: Detroit.

Green Bay at Dallas — Prediction: Green Bay, only because of the injuries.

Denver at Seattle — Prediction: Seattle.

NY Jets at New England — Prediction: New England.

- - -


Last Week: 8-5-1
Season Record: 74-38-2

Buffalo at Washington - Fantasy League Pointers, Part One: When I worked at Mr. Steak in Whittier, CA (before I worked for Mr. Steak’s Corporate Headquarters in Bakersfield, CA, as part of the Franchise Inspection Unit’s Silverware and Utensil Management Branch- or FIUSUMB, to those in the know) our crew chief had quite a bad marijuana habit. As such, my duties were limited to babysitting, dishwashing, and complaining about the Los Angeles Rams. I also handled the lion’s share of all the iceberg lettuce coordination, inventory and preparation. After work, I would often ride around in the death seat of the head cook’s Camaro. He was a 36 year-old minimum wage-playboy named Oliver. As we made our way back to his clapboard duplex for some bong maintenance, he’d say, “I have a good plan.” The plan usually involved nothing more than staying up all night working on a meth recipe, reading intense passages from Tolkien to each other, talking about how bad white men have things in the USA, waking his kids up to look at a Lego women’s prison that he had drunkenly assembled, or playing Tecmo Bowl on the old 8-bit Nintendo system. There was no real point I was trying to make.
Prediction: Washington.

Tennessee at Miami — One E-Mail I Received About the NYC Marathon and Hating Bill Maas: Tim made no mention to me about coming for the marathon. I’d rather clip off my nuts than run a marathon. I need to tape my ankles and Ben-Gay the shit out of my back just to go out and get a cheeseburger. Somebody should arrest [CBS Announcer] Bill Maas. He is a class A jackass: “Hey Ronnie, why do people hate me? I’m doing the work, I say ‘smash-mouth’ all the time, and no one really knows whether it is me or Madden talking until they hear Summerall knock over his bottle of gin.” Whoever hired that half-wit ought to resign and move out of the country.
Prediction: Tennessee.

Arizona at NY Jets — Bad Haiku With No Rules, 1:
Bill Parcells, you stink
Cabbage in a wet Dumpster
Don’t blame injuries

(it is called “constructive criticism,” and as a matter of fact I will do another about the Jets and their stupid fans:

fire helmet idiot
you and your brother, your cheers
sad troglodyte stew)
Prediction: New York Jets.

Pittsburgh at San Francisco — FYI: If a clown dies suddenly during a performance, it is bad luck to ask the guy doing the autopsy what was in his stomach. Prediction: San Francisco.

St. Louis at Detroit — Bad Haiku With No Rules, 2:
Vermeil, with Domed stiffs
making your soggy mark, Dick
you fucked me last week
Prediction: St. Louis.

Philadelphia at Carolina — Bad Haiku With No Rules, 3:
Old Salts [refer to earlier weeks, Philly] kills loud wife
Laundry and ugly cashews
my dreary prison yard
Prediction: Another killer wearing a Tim Biakabatuka jersey is arrested off the Jersey shore on Saturday. Carolina wins on Sunday.

Dallas at Minnesota — Another snippet from my forthcoming novella, Cantos for Dominique Moceanu. This is about a race of parrot people:

Krove had befriended the parrot kids, err, the twins, Truman and Xaxxon. They had shunned the Dockers and were wearing a lot of “Tommy Hilfinger” stuff. They got their beaks caught in the braces of a lot of loose thirteen year-old girls. Terence Trent D’Arby’s “Sign Your Name Across My Heart,” was on an oldies R&B station as Krove drove them to Burnsville Mall’s Sbarro one afternoon.

“It isn’t the new millennium, yet,” the smart one kept insisting.

“Yeah, but if you have a car,” Krove explained, "and you’re driving around, and you’re in it when all the numbers roll over, that’s what is special. That’s what is important. "

Xaxxon ignored him.

“I want wigs, like this guy has,” Truman pointed to the dashboard.

“They’re called dreads, I think,” Krove responded. There was silence as they sped down Francis Scott Key Parkway.

“Oh, okay. Whatever. Dreads,” Truman shifted in the bucket seat, and began molting again.
Prediction: Minnesota.

Baltimore at Cleveland — Let’s talk about Ned Oldham. He doesn’t play football, but he did just move to Baltimore. His brother Will gets all the hype, but I have been making most of the picks while listening to Ned’s band’s record of Nursery Rhymes, called “Mother Goose.” It is comforting, and the band is called The Anomoanon.
Prediction: Art Modell stays home and Cleveland wins. They have something to prove, you know.

Tampa Bay at New Orleans — Bad Haiku With No Rules, 4:
Sassy and Brassy
We’re the Buccaneers, mediocre
pirates on a foggy quay
Prediction: New Orleans

Green Bay at Chicago — I loved Walter Payton.
Prediction: Green Bay.

Cincinnati at Seattle — Bad Haiku With No Rules, 5:
Most people can’t say
Holmgren, homegrum, holgren
hogrum, holgrim, Mike
Prediction: Seattle.

Kansas City at Indianapolis — I will always think of Indianapolis in this light: “One Day at a Time.” I saw Pat Harrington in “Death of a Salesman,” in a Scranton, PA dinner theater, and I contracted Legionnaire’s disease from the eggs and air conditioning. The medic and I argued the whole way to the hospital about Harrington and his inability to step outside his Dwayne Schneider character.
Prediction: Indianapolis.

Jacksonville at Atlanta — Bad Haiku With No Rules, 6:
No market, no chance
Tim Dwight, how many syllables
is that? No attendance, no survivors
Prediction: Jacksonville.

Denver at San Diego — What I neglected to mention last week about “The Vinny Testaverde Story”: Scott Baio went to a spa in Utah for six months and drank purified water and ran 14 miles a day to play Testaverde. He also spent the summer Qbing the Gdansk Catastrophe to a 6-47 record in NFL Russia. “Acting is a bitch,” says co-star Jack (who now wants to be called Jacques) Klugman, “but I think Baio is gonna surprise a lot of people.”

Oh yeah?

“Yeah. If you’ve ever watched Sommersby, you’ll know what I mean. This is gonna blow the doors off of that.”
Prediction: San Diego.

- - -


Last week, I had a minor recovery. I went 9-5, going to 66-33-1 overall. Kinda eerie isn’t it?

Seattle at Green Bay — The Lambeau Field Journals, Volume One:
When I was a kid my dad would load up the station wagon a couple times each fall and take us on a chilly jaunt down Highway 29 to see the Green Bay Packers, who were completely horrendous at the time. The last guy we would pick up was this old drunk down the block who was known only as Pickles. Pickles didn’t have any legs because he spent a lot of time drunk near the train tracks, and, well “something” happened. Dad would hand me an old tweed sport coat, and I would knock on Pickles’ door for twenty-odd minutes before finally jimmying the bathroom window open and letting myself in. It was my job to wade through the piles of spent TV dinner foils, find Pickles, put the sport coat on him and sponge all the used rouge and mascara off of him from whatever hooker had been there the night before. Then I’d shave him and give him a firm crack across the chops and say, “How ya feeling now, Pickles?” Then I would carry him out to the car, where my dad would be teaching most of the kids swear words in Pig Latin.
Prediction: Green Bay.

Minnesota at Denver — A true story with a slightly puerile ending, Part One:
When I was in college my best friend and I tended bar at this tiny place in Wisconsin. It was always 24 degrees or less outside with about 45 inches of gray slush on the ground all year long. And on the weekends adults with phlegmy coughs and four-dollar haircuts would shuffle in, order gallons of tap beer and have us fry up some unappetizing piece of meat for them. Our favorite crew was a men’s bowling team whose wives were probably the most patient and forgiving people on earth. The men would always take the stools and their wives would be forced to stand behind them, rolling their eyes, drinking Diet Mountain Dew, and smoking the cheapest, most ammonia-laced cigarettes available. Most of these guys were aging Packers fans, and they all were all shaped like mushrooms in varying states of decay. They would routinely burst into tears if you said anything bad about the Packers.
Prediction: Minnesota.

Buffalo at Baltimore — The reason I mention Doug Flutie so much is because I’m trying to clog every internet search engine with McSweeney’s links. If you’re doing a search for Doug Flutie, you deserve to inadvertently stumble upon this page, anyway.
Prediction: Buffalo.

San Diego at Kansas City — The Lambeau Field Journals, Volume Two:
We’d drive for five hours across the state of Wisconsin, and shortly before arriving in Green Bay we’d stop at a farmhouse and fill Pickles’ prosthetic legs with cow manure. When we’d get to the gate my dad would raise a big ruckus about where Pickles was gonna sit. The gate people eventually tired of dad’s ranting, (example: “The guy’s a Goddamn cripple! Hasn’t he got enough problems without you bugging him? You’d be wise to give him a good seat, pal. He only lost his legs in Viet Friggin’ Nam!”) and they would give Pickles an amazing seat.
Prediction: Kansas City.

NY Giants at Philadelphia — A true story with a slightly puerile ending, Part Two:
One of the bowling guys was a Vikings fan. Everybody liked him though, so nobody ribbed him too much. He was actually probably the most civil regular we had. My best friend was a real sweetheart, too. Never bothered anyone. A real church-goer. One night, however, everybody was good-naturedly teasing the Vikings fan. He wasn’t flustered about it. He was taking it in stride. Remember: most of these people were half-wits, so it wasn’t like a huge onslaught of Dorothy Parkeresque insults were being bandied about.
Prediction: Philadelphia.

Chicago at Washington — The Lambeau Field Journals, Volume Three:
This was long before the age of specially designated handicapped sections, and most of the time Pickles would end up sitting on the field near some zit-faced majorette from an award-winning high school band. After about ten or fifteen minutes everybody sitting near Pickles would pack up shop because he smelled so bad. When that happened, my dad would say “C’mon kids,” and we’d all come down from our crappy seats and sit next to Pickles, who by that time was drunk off his ass on Scotch and prescription ear cream. His hands were usually frostbitten too, because he thought mittens were beneath him.
Prediction: Washington.

Jacksonville at Cincinnati — No significant news about either one of these teams, but I got a postcard this week telling me to watch old Rocky Bleier footage while listening to Kenny Rogers’ version of “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town.”
Prediction: Jacksonville.

Carolina at Atlanta — I decline to predict this game.

Cleveland at New Orleans — Harmony Korine has convinced Jack Klugman and Scott Baio to star in “The Vinny Testaverde Story.” It will be shot on grainy Hi-8, and Klugman will reportedly gain 75 pounds to play Bill Parcells. Baio, who is anxious to jump-start his ailing career, is willing to blow out his Achilles’ tendon. I’m doing some script-doctoring for it. There will be a steamy scene at a Soho diner with Wayne Chrebet and Toni Tenille, too, otherwise I walk, dammit!
Prediction: New Orleans.

St. Louis at Tennessee — A true story with a slightly puerile ending, Part Three:
My pal waltzes down the bar and joins in. Everybody stops and listens to him. Someone had been talking about a gigantic, smelly Samoan Vikings’ lineman by the name of Noga. My pal points at the Vikings fan, a fifty-eight year old heterosexual married man, and shouts “The only reason you’re a Vikings fan is because you’re getting sodomized by Noga!” It was totally out of the blue. Anyway, the guy falls off his stool and sprains his knee (it had been kinda screwy because he liked tomatoes a lot and all the juice collected in his joints). And then everyone else spills their drinks and quietly leaves.
Prediction: St. Louis.

Miami at Oakland — Fan Note: Ruben Filla, 34, of Muncie, Indiana only likes the Jets, the Mets and the Nets. The Mets got their ticket cancelled last week, and when the Jets lost on the last play of the game on Sunday to the Oakland Raiders, Filla was pretty sore. He duct-taped his toddler Luther, 3, to a long-ignored tricycle and implored him to ride it. Then he collapsed in the front lawn and howled until his wife Debbie came home from Shopko.
Prediction: Oakland.

New England at Arizona — Halloween in Tempe can’t be fun, unless dietetic toffee is your cup of tea.
Prediction: New England.

Dallas at Indianapolis — Prediction: Indianapolis.

Tampa Bay at Detroit — Prediction: Detroit.

- - -


Last Sunday was another poor week for me. I went 8-6, bringing the tally to 57-28-1. If I ever go below .500 there’s a free bowl of soup with your name on it.

To my faithful readership (the one-way corresponders):
1) We also spelled “Thurman Thomas,” wrong a week or two ago as well. We will do this from time to time, because we know most of you people don’t watch football anyway, you’re too busy spelling your names in lower-case letters. (see “john a. mcnamara” in letters)
2) I don’t know who the “Polish Rifle” is.
3) This week I am offering, to you, at no extra charge, no hidden costs anywhere, snippets from my upcoming coffee table book, “Drink Recipes from Now Deceased, Impoverished, or Unstable Former NFL Players.”

Green Bay at San Diego -
The Chester Marcol
16 -
one-liter bottles of Wild Turkey
1 — shotgun (loaded)
1 — placekicker (also loaded)
1 — upper peninsula of Michigan
1 — truck with expired plates

On game day, take the above ingredients into the woods and get yourself a pheasant. Tell coach you thought game was on Monday night.
Prediction: Green Bay.

New Orleans at NY Giants -
The Tom Dempsey
1/2 -
1/2 — dash of pepper
1/2 — gallon tequila
1/2 — lb bacon
1/2 — foot
for added flavor — floor sweepings from New Orleans barber shop.

Let ferment in crock pot until someone kicks a longer field goal than 63 yards. Prediction: New Orleans.

Atlanta at Pittsburgh —
The Terry Bradshaw
Take flying lessons. Get a cargo plane. Fill cargo plane with a lot of fuel.
Kidnap Terry Bradshaw. Put him in cargo plane. Fly into the heart of Siberia. Put plane on automatic pilot. Walk back to cargo part of plane.

Wake Bradshaw from horse tranquilizer-induced fog. Open gigantic door. Pick up Louisville Slugger “Ted Williams” model baseball bat. Tell Bradshaw “We can do this my way (look at baseball bat) or we can do this the easy way.” Nod at open door. When Bradshaw jumps, cover ears or you will go deaf from collective applause of entire universe. Even people who have been dead since 1348 or so will rise from their graves and thank you. Even God will stop everything and buy you a turkey sandwich.
Prediction: Pittsburgh.

Philadelphia at Miami -
The Garo Yepremian
Ouzo -
whatever amount currently exists in So. Florida
Nectarines — 3 or 4
Plums — 7
Key Card Sarasota Marriott #812 — 1

The rest is up to you, Sugar.
Prediction: Miami.

Chicago at Tampa Bay -
The Donald Igwebuike
48 -
heroin-filled balloons
1 — disoriented Nigerian tourist who mutters “Igwebuike” incessantly
1 — airport
Prediction: Tampa Bay.

Kansas City at Baltimore -
The Jan Stenerud
1 -
fire from a roaring fireplace (your old contracts are kindling)
1 — bottle of aged cognac
2 — decent, vaguely sexy cocktail glasses (no stems)
1 — vintage skiing sweater (to be worn by seducer)
1 — chilly winter’s evening
1 — pair of skis, leaning against chalet
1 — wife of the general manager or owner of NFL team that you were just cut from

Tell a couple jokes. Mix a few drinks. Find a place for her mink. Throw one arm across mantlepiece. Stoke the fire. Repeat until dawn, or until you can’t find your trousers.
Prediction: Baltimore.

NY Jets at Oakland -
The Mark Gastineau
1 -
failed marriage to a Euro-trash actress
1 — special someone you stalk and beat occasionally in Queens
1 — history of alcohol and substance abuse

Add a dash of pro-wrestling, a smidge of angry loan-sharks, a pair of jumper cables, a subscription to Barely Legal, and a sleeve of saltines. Dial 911 repeatedly.
Prediction: Oakland.

Buffalo at Seattle -
The Steve Largent
1 -
Caucasian wide receiver, w/ political aspirations + Jesus-freak tendencies

Let retire. Should turn into severe asshole after a couple years.
Prediction: Buffalo.

Cincinnati at Indianapolis —
The Tim Krumrie
(see Week Four picks)
Prediction: Indianapolis.

Denver at New England —
I’m not done talking about the NY Giants yet. I was going to have a drink called the Frank Gifford, but an easier target is Robert Wuhl. So…
The Robert Wuhl
Take a barrel of Tang. Mix with water in a nice glass, hand to Robert Wuhl. Put Robert Wuhl in rocket. At launch pad, find exact coordinates of Sun. Dial it up. Yell into window of rocket “Drink the Tang, Stupid.” Launch rocket to Sun.
Prediction: New England.

Washington at Dallas —
The Joe Theismann
(see The Terry Bradshaw)
Prediction: Washington.

Detroit at Carolina — I don’t care.
Prediction: Carolina.

San Francisco at Minnesota —
The Bill Walsh
Meddle in everyone’s business forever.
(note to St. Paul, MN readers: Norm Coleman IS Mayor Quimby.)
Prediction: Minnesota.

Cleveland at St. Louis — St. Louis Rams quarterback Kurt Warner is this season’s rags-to-riches story. Like every other NFL quarterback, he has a disturbed child, too. I’m on your side, Kurt.
Prediction: St. Louis.


I probably got a little too big for my britches last week. I hit the skids, going 8-6. My record is 49-22-1. Road wins are the trend this week.

Green Bay @ Denver — Let’s talk about Denver Pyle instead. It is a rare Dukes of Hazzard episode that lets you see Uncle Jesse driving the General Lee. But it has happened. Prediction: Green Bay.

Miami @ New England — You’re gonna think this is a lie, but John Madden actually helped my boss get laid. The year was 1981. My boss was in his mischievous bachelor phase. He was on a train from New York City to rural Pennsylvania to see his girlfriend. He sat in the bar car, playing pinochle with Jeanne Dixon, a depressed sailor, and a fetching young lady whose mother was sound asleep in another car. He and the dame began playing footsie while the sailor fell asleep. Jeanne Dixon also passed out, but not before a tiresome argument involving former New York Met Rusty Staub, the Old Testament, and the origins of Thousand Island dressing. Soon John Madden waddled in for an apéritif. This was long before he traveled in the Outback Steakhouse bus. In those days, he always had a burnt orange towel around his neck, because he was a “wet drinker,” he said. Everybody loved Madden, and my boss and the young lady said hello to him, and fibbed that they were newlyweds. Madden cheered and bought them a judgment-impairing number of drinks. They left Madden face down in a plate of garlic mashed potatoes, with three fingers of Cointreau, a handful of Sominex, and the residue of several spent bags of cashews nearby. Then they walked into the adjoining car and made love in a broom closet. Prediction: Miami.

Cleveland @ Jacksonville — Last week the kicker for the Browns picked up the ball during a field goal attempt and ran the ball in for a touchdown. Instead of spiking the ball, he pitched it up into the air and the holder came and booted it into the stands. This was the most innovative celebratory, ah, thing I’ve seen following a touchdown. Prediction: Jacksonville.

Minnesota @ Detroit — Another true story, part one: When I was a lad, there was no youth football league in my town. The logging industry was going so well that the entire community had to pitch in. They’d dress all the kids in differently-colored plaid shirt-jacs, and as teams we’d go down to the saw mill to rummage for the various severed digits and limbs of our relatives. Time was our true enemy, and as such, the contests were hurricanes of blood, saw dust, ice, towels, and tears. Prediction: Minnesota.

Pittsburgh @ Cincinnati — The other week during a VH1-and-coffee bender, my roommate commented that most of Neil Sedaka’s songs weren’t just pure sugary pop, they were also the sound of [editor has removed this. This is not a joke. The editor really has removed this part, which was puerile]. The same can be said for the 1999 Steelers. Prediction: Steelers.

Oakland @ Buffalo — Buffalo has the homeliest fans. The bass player from the Goo Goo Dolls is who I have in mind, but I’m sure it gets worse. Prediction: Buffalo.

Philadelphia @ Chicago — Pure filth. Prediction: Chicago.

Tennessee @ New Orleans — That logging story I was just jabbering about, part two: Anyway, I found the ring finger of the mayor’s boy, Thor, a ne’er-do-well who had been expelled from an Appleton bible school for wearing musk on the Sabbath. He abstained from his father’s line of work, because he didn’t want the porcelain teeth replacements that were so popular at the time. We had to take Dallas Shuggarts’ mule to the town doctor. Pepper was unequivocally the fastest mule in the county. Following a brazier meal (Thor only ate brazier) at the DQ, we learned that the doctor had gone off to Red Wing on a gambling junket. Prediction: Tennessee.

Seattle @ San Diego — I’m taking Seattle. Now let me get back to my goddamn story. The finger was lost forever, but Thor became my mentor, and I became a corn-fed Lothario. It was like A Bronx Tale, only different. I did whatever he said, and soon we were seducing the lunch ladies. They were an undersexed quartet of swarthy sopranos who doled out walleye lasagna and jello at a buffet near the sawmill. They usually wore lilac-colored sweat clothing, and complained a lot, but both of those things changed thanks to Thor.

San Francisco @ Carolina — San Francisco, feebly.

Washington @ Arizona — Washington is busy building a dynasty that no one cares about. Everybody knows it will collapse in a few weeks anyway. Prediction: Washington.

Dallas @ NY Giants — People in Philly chuckled when Cowboys’ wide receiver Michael Irvin got a neck injury there last week. I’m shocked, but not disgusted. Prediction: NY Giants.

Indianapolis @ NY Jets — From my forthcoming novella, Cantos for Dominique Moceanu:: If you watched Irreconcilable Differences, you’d know how tough it must have been for Drew Barrymore to be a six year-old alcoholic and a good actress. You’d also know how tough it is to divorce your parents. Your dad is a crooked Eastern-Bloc bastard. During your financial woes, I dreamt that I took you under my wing. I worked in a tired mini-mall, peddling soft-boiled eggs to single moms and the jaded sales force of a Christmas tree farm. I thought you’d feel at home because there was a Russian deli next door, and all the women had maroon mullets and wooly mustaches. Their husbands were always tinkering with price tags, bartering for an extra jigger of Maneschiewitz. They noisily shuffled around the parking lot kicking imaginary pebbles and haggling over the size of each other’s boogers. Prediction: Indianapolis.

St. Louis @ Atlanta — If you have made any money off of my NFL knowledge (Hello? I had a 23-5 hot streak going? Remember?) please send money or a pair of size 13 dress shoes. For information, click on the e-mail link above. It is the right thing to do. Prediction: St. Louis.

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I’ve been stomping the geek squad at the New York Daily News every week with my predictions. Maybe now they will heed my wishes and euthanize senile cartoonist Bill Gallo. Personal to Vic Ziegel: The facade is crumbling, Old-Timer. I’m gonna give YOU a haircut. Anyway, last week I went 12-2, bringing my tally to a Unitas-like 41-16-1. The picks will be short and sweet this week, save for a long-winded series on my favorite game of the year: Chicago vs. Minnesota.

New England @ Kansas City — I think there should be a movie that’s called “Who’s Kissing the Great Running Backs of the NFL?” And it would be about a kissing bandit who storms onto the field in a salmon-colored unitard, tackling guys like Thurmon Thomas and making out with them. In my mind, I see Richard Keel, Ted Danson, or Dom DeLuise in the starring role, but they’re all dead. The kissing bandit would always say things like “That’s rich,” or “Oyster crackers!” And know what else happens? They find out that the daffy son of a bitch can throw a block! And the Chiefs sign him up, and everybody’s happy. Prediction: Kansas City.

Denver @ Oakland — With Terrell Davis gone.. hell, their season was over anyway. Prediction: Oakland.

Chicago @ Minnesota — In Three Glorious Parts

1) My father, the man who advises wrong-number callers not to smoke in bed, and I found ourselves in Bloomington, Minnesota one Sunday at Metropolitan Stadium. The year was 1981. I was 11. Walter Payton was of course, a Bear. His brother Eddie was a kick returner for the Vikings. Neil Armstrong, I think, coached the Bears. He was not the astronaut. Not even close, probably. Afterwards, we hung around long enough to watch the Payton brothers put their visiting mother on a bus. Then I got their autographs. It was the greatest sports moment in my entire life. Then Dad and I walked across the frozen parking lot to the Thunderbird Motel, got polluted on Tom and Jerry’s and beat the hell out of a traffic cop with the lid of a garbage can because he gave us the stink-eye.

Tampa Bay @ Green Bay — If you change the vowels to make it Tampa Boy vs. Green Boy, I’m certain you’ll imagine a more interesting match-up. I see Tampa Boy as a street-wise Latin singing sensation in acid-washed knickers and a gaudy headband. Green Boy is of course, a mutant toddler from Sheboygan, electrocuted at the county fair in ‘32, with diapers made of spearmint chewing gum and special powers like month-long tantrums, and an inner knowledge of Aldo Leopold’s real plans for Wisconsin. Sand County, my ass. Prediction: Favre, fueled by a pending pill-clouded divorce, leads the Packers to their biggest win of the season.

Cincinnati @ Cleveland — Prediction: Cleveland, painfully.

San Francisco @ St. Louis — Ever notice how Matt Millen comes off as the Hydrox to John Madden’s Oreo? They’re not part of the same broadcast team, but Millen bases his whole performance on crap Madden has been boring us with for years. He’ll grab that little piece of video chalk, ignore the action on the field, circle some rube in the stands and say, “Now look at that guy. There’s a guy who likes to put a stick of melted butter in his undies before coming out to the game!” Hydrox suck. Prediction: St. Louis.

Chicago @ Minnesota — In Three Glorious Parts

2) The last time my dad and I went to a Bears vs. Vikings game was at the Metrodome in Minneapolis a couple of years ago. They should call that place the Mausoleum. The minute anything goes wrong for the Vikings, 50,000 drunk Lutherans make a stoic retreat towards the exits. The game we saw went to overtime, and at the end of regulation pretty much everyone picked up their Prudential seat cushions and their Sharp’s-filled Thermoses, and left. Some dandy in a canary yellow v-neck sweater and his docile, jowled bride were scurrying up the concrete aisle when my dad got a leg cramp and stuck his foot out. It sent the guy tumbling. His wife immediately tripped and landed on him.

“What’s the big idea, fella?” the guy asked, first checking to see if he hadn’t chipped a tooth on the stairs.

Before my dad could apologize, I leaned over and yelled, “Listen, you casserole-eating bastard, there’s another quarter left. A free one. It’s called overtime. The least you could do is cheer your goddamn team on.” My beer spilled all over the wife’s squirrel stole.

“I’m getting a security guard,” the man wailed, picking up his bawling wife. My dad pointed under his coat to a fake sidearm and said, “We don’t speak English.” The couple promptly left.

Pittsburgh @ Buffalo — Steelers’ coach Bill Cowher is having a rough year. He has nobody at quarterback. He’ll probably get fired. I think right now would be a good time to take all your savings out of the bank, and spend it following him around. He’s not French, but it would be cool to show up wherever he goes, yelling “Hey Frenchy,” at him. Then, when he was on the verge of going nuts you could frame him for a really bizarre crime and it would probably stick. Prediction: Buffalo.

Atlanta @ New Orleans — Prediction: New Orleans.

San Diego @ Detroit — Prediction: Detroit.

NY Giants @ Arizona — My friend is vacationing in Arizona this week. There’s not a chance in hell she would go to this game. I’m so excited, however, that I will be soaking for three days in a tepid broth of used-Brad Daluiso jockstraps purchased on eBay. Prediction: Arizona.

Miami @ Indianapolis — The AFC East has been handed to Miami and they’re screwing it up. Prediction: Indianapolis.

Chicago @ Minnesota — In Three Glorious Parts (prediction included in this segment)

3) Last year when the Bears traveled to Minneapolis they got massacred. Perhaps the most humiliating thing occurred near the end of the game. The Bears were on the verge of scoring a mercy touchdown when their quarterback, who now sells Amway, got sacked and Vikings’ linebacker Dwayne Rudd took the ball and went ninety-odd yards for a defensive touchdown. Rudd got to the goal line, waited for a Bear to try and tackle him, jumped into the end zone and spiked the ball in the guy’s face. That night the temperature dipped to minus sixty, and the talk radio stations were flooded with finger-wagging apologists.

The next night I was out in Minnetonka stocking a cooler at a liquor store, sulking over warm gruel and mumbling about how much I hated Dwayne Rudd. I wept into my kerchief. Former Secretary of the Treasury Donald Regan came in for a Sprite, then the ghost of first Lord of the Admiralty Duff Cooper came in to square his tab. Not two minutes later Dwayne Rudd waltzed in wearing snazzy windpants. He was looking for a bottle of Alize. This was some kind of Michael Landon shit, but I didn’t freak out. I simply scolded, “Jesus, what were you thinking last night, anyway?” He said he didn’t know exactly, and then started laughing and admitted he was a poor winner. Regan chuckled and looped an index finger through Duff’s worn britches and said, “It’s wing night down the road.” Then they all left. Prediction: Chicago, in a nail-biter.

Baltimore @ Tennessee — Don’t care. Prediction: Tennessee.

Jacksonville @ NY Jets — One win doesn’t make Bill Parcells any sexier.

Prediction: Jacksonville.

Dallas @ Philadelphia — Old Salts (see previous weeks) is in the hospital with new cysts. Prediction: Dallas.

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I got my bookie off my back by going 11-3 last week. Not too shabby for a guy who still uses ketchup and only owns wooden shoes. My record stands at 29-14-1. This is my vituperative week, so feel the anger.

New Orleans @ Chicago — Fan Notes: Good news! Oscar Henning, 53, a big-time Bears fan from Elgin, IL, finally passed that eight-foot kielbasa he consumed at Luxembourg Fest over the 4th of July. He’ll still work as an advocate for the colonically challenged, and he’ll be guest-examined at the Maude Mundelin School of Nursing in early October. His twin sister, Robin, however, has had both the hiccups and colitis since the Jantzen/Staples Office Supply telethon in Aurora last spring when she ate a cubic furlong of baguettes and chili. But did she win that cubic zirconium brooch in the shape of a drumstick? Yes she did. Prediction: Bears.

Nobody @ Green Bay — Green Bay has the day off. It is important though, to note that Marco Zimmerman, 36, of Appleton, WI has sworn off everything but pajamas, Chex Mix and Viagra smoothies since Packers’ QB Brett Favre refused his ten year-old daughter Claudette an autograph at training camp. His boss, Truman Thompson, of Fox Valley Tissue Inc. is nonplussed by the whole ordeal and will fire Zimmerman by October 15th if he doesn’t, “…get down to brass tacks on the Neenah junior high paper towel account. He’s got my balls in a sling. You tell that Chex mix-eating s.o.b. that other people have problems, too. Hear me? Guy with a wooden leg moves 24 pallets of snot rags a week, and Marco is watching Petticoat Junction.”

Buffalo @ Miami — My naysaying about Doug Flutie has been wrong. I love you Doug, and I am quite sorry. Prediction: Miami.

St. Louis @ Cincinnati — We had a guy near our town who grew up and played for the Cincinnati Bengals in the Sam Wyche era. I can’t mention him by name, because I’m certain that he could still kick the shit out of me. Anyway, he’d come back home and throw nickels and dimes at all the bartenders. His little gray-haired sidekick would break out his cell phone and gurgle into it and paw all the red-faced, dairy-fed women who were by this time of night polluted off of a glass and a half of Liebfraumilch. Every season the guy’s ears would get more cauliflowered and his wife would get better looking. Then he retired. And moved. Prediction: St. Louis.

Baltimore @ Atlanta — Both of these teams repulse and confuse me. So, here’s some info for you heavy metal webmasters out there: The domain name is not available, but is. Prediction: Baltimore.

Philadelphia @ NY Giants — Here’s a movie you should see instead of this game: Its called Guinevere. Sarah Polley is a young debutante with no confidence who blows off Harvard Law School to hang out with aging, manipulative photographer Stephen Rea in San Francisco. (If there was ever a “Guided By Voices, the Movie,” Rea could play Robert Pollard.) It starts out good, in part because Polley is such a goddamn charmer, but Rea’s character is a pathetic stooge, and by the end of the movie my face hurt from wincing so much. Prediction: Giants get healthy.

Oakland @ Seattle — Prediction: Seattle, pathetically.

Carolina @ Washington — Redskins’ back Stephen Davis has eight touchdowns already. Most of them have been scored at the Meadowlands though, so we’ll have to see if he can do anything at home. Which is what his goddamn wife keeps asking him, too. Prediction: Washington.

Tampa Bay @ Minnesota — The upside: The Vikings have lost more games this season than they did last year. Prediction: Minnesota.

New England @ Cleveland — My question is this: How do the Detmer brothers keep getting NFL quarterbacking jobs? Is there some kind of hidden Mormon mafia undercurrent in the NFL? Anyway, speaking of Stephen Rea, he could play Pats’ coach Pete Carroll, too. Prediction: New England.

Jacksonville @ Pittsburgh — Last week I had to go to this place called the Sporting Club on Hudson Street to watch the Packer-Viking game on satellite, because it was blacked out in town. Pittsburgh had just gotten slaughtered at home by the Seahawks, and some of their more, well, mentally ambiguous fans were still milling around for the late games. In particular there was a short, goofy bastard who kept sloshing his pint on everybody and making himself laugh by saying that the Steelers couldn’t have scored, “if a rocket was shot up their ass.” His buddy kept on nodding and mentioning how next weekend was his weekend with the kids but that he was gonna get a babysitter so that he could come back and chug some beers. Then they talked about how good sandwiches taste at bar-time. A half an hour about a sandwich for Christ’s sake. Then this other guy kept on coughing and not covering his mouth. Another guy kept on trying to elbow me for space even though the floor was wide open. So I hope that Jacksonville kills the Steelers. And that is what I predict.

Arizona @ Dallas — Does Fox’s NFL commentator Howie Long look smarter with the glasses on? Umm, no. Prediction: Dallas.

NY Jets @ Denver — Both of these teams should be ashamed of themselves. Prediction: Denver.

Kansas City @ San Diego — Here’s how I will describe your family: Gregarious. Your mother the time she found me in the bathroom, the one near the foyer, with her purse, just laughed. I said I was looking for some cold medicine. Then she said that there was more soup if I wanted it. Your father is quick with a joke and always jogging. Trying to run the fidelity back into his marriage, I suppose. And your sister, it is always Christmas morning with her. Prediction: San Diego.

Tennessee @ San Francisco — Neil O’Donnell, my least favorite bearded second-string quarterback, shook the rust off and got his hobbled squad a “W” in the rain last week. Can it happen twice? No. Prediction: San Francisco.

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Last week I went 9-6, bringing my record to 18-11-1.

Washington @ NY Jets — Fan Secrets Part 1. Sam Reed, 57, of Sunset Park in Brooklyn talks about the Jets with his friends and co-workers all week long, but he doesn’t tell them about the night a few weeks ago that his wife spent at her mother’s house upstate, and he pretended his pillow was Jets’ wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson. Prediction: Washington.

Atlanta @ St. Louis — St. Louis coach Dick Vermeil should wear a hospital gown and nothing else on the sidelines. Prediction: St. Louis.

Tennessee @ Jacksonville — Tennessee coach Jeff Fisher reminds me of a pool salesman from Fridley, Minnesota: He’s fortyish, always got the pleated Dockers on, has a slight paunch, and wears a mustache that he probably calls a “cookie-duster.” I won’t even start in on his junior mullet. Most pool salesmen from Fridley brave the winters tucked in split-level ranch homes, depressed and babbling incoherently under fake Christmas trees, chugging can after can of Olympia Light, immobilized until they finally grab a piece of mistletoe, affix it to their belt buckle and chase their step-daughters around the yard. I don’t think Jeff Fisher has done any of that stuff. Yet. Prediction: Jacksonville.

Minnesota @ Green Bay — Good vs. Evil. Cloth vs. Disposable. Kramer vs. Kramer. Mandrake vs. The Snake. Lutherans vs. Episcopalians. Light vs. Lite. Go!Networks vs. consenting adults. The ditches of Hwy 29 will be filled with charcoal briquettes, deer blood and cheddar cheese this weekend. Prediction: Green Bay.

Cleveland @ Baltimore — This ought to be like French-kissing your cousin. Baltimore used to be the Browns, but now the Browns are back in Cleveland, with all their old records and uniforms. Speaking of uniforms, Baltimore’s togs look like something a server might wear at Ye Olde $3.49 Brunch Castle. Prediction: Baltimore.

Seattle @ Pittsburgh — Fan Secrets Part 2. Dottie Saunders, 49, of Bellingham, Washington loves the Seahawks. One afternoon she was doing the laundry, and discovered her daughter’s sports bra. Dottie thought it was something else though, and spent the afternoon nervously sulking. The family dog, Rags, a four year-old Lhasa Apso, got weirded out and went down in the basement where he fell asleep near the rec room fridge and had convulsing nightmares about the postman cupping his eyes and looking in the living room window. Prediction: Pittsburgh.

NY Giants @ New England — I know this game isn’t at the Meadowlands, or even the Polo Grounds, but here’s my Fred Exley moment: The last time my dad and I ventured to the Meadowlands was November of 1995. It was sunny, the Bears were playing the Giants, and we had no problem getting tickets. The temperature dropped to about 16 degrees by the end of the game however, and there was one bus every forty-five minutes going back to Manhattan. We froze with about 3,000 other drunken idiots, and when we finally got on a bus we had to stand near two guys who were at least ninety, one of whom had to urinate in a bad way. The bus driver got lost, and after about 25 minutes, the old guy was rocking in his seat, pulling at his genitals and crying. He said, “Jesus Christ, I can’t take this anymore I gotta stand up or something.” So he and I switched spots, and for a second I was glad to have a seat. Then he started doing all the same gestures, only this time his hand and his genitals were about four or five centimeters from my right ear. My dad was doubled over laughing. Prediction: New England.

Denver @ Tampa Bay — If anyone you know talks about their favorite team and insists on using the word “we,” as in: “We should be able to win on Sunday,” politely remind them that they personally aren’t playing a fucking down, and never speak to them again. Prediction: Tampa Bay.

Detroit @ Kansas City — Fan Secrets Part 3. June Walker, 38, has drifted in and out of nervous hospitals for a better part of the 1990’s. Last week she was arrested in Olathe, KS for breeding encephalitic mosquitoes and threatening to let them go at a Chiefs’ practice. To make matters worse, her dad was once mayor of this depressing suburb. This Sunday, as part of a community service agreement, she will be playing “Dianne” in Domestic Disturbance Theater. DDT, as it is commonly called, starts at 1:45 p.m. in the basement of Our Redeemer Church, 14102 Steer Bib Road, Olathe. Prediction: Kansas City, the Bobby Ross War Machine takes one on the chin.

Philadelphia @ Buffalo — Part 2 of our play, refer to Week 2’s Philadelphia game to catch up if you don’t know what’s going on. The couple is in their rec room, minutes before the kickoff.

Old Salts: So, how’s The Linoleum King of Bucks County doing?

Madge: What the hell are you talking about?

Old Salts: Oh, don’t play dumb with me, I saw you gazing at that commercial.

Madge: Are you still mad about that hospital thing? You know, he only sent over all them hams ‘cause I was in the hospital. He’s your friend.

Old Salts: Yeah, but how come you got all the hams?

Madge: I was in the goddam hospital. I threw my back out helping you out of those filthy coveralls. Sheesh.

Prediction: Buffalo, with pizzazz.

Cincinnati @ Carolina — The corpse fell out of the wheel well and onto the tarmac. Prediction: Carolina.

Indianapolis @ San Diego — Anyway, in New Zealand, a football is known as a “bloated possum,” and a quarterback is known as a “Whistling Jerry.” You probably wouldn’t want to use that same term in Nova Scotia, though. A “Whistling Jerry” there is an adult man who secretly audio tapes the goings-on in elementary school bathrooms for his own delight. Prediction: Indianapolis.

Chicago @ Oakland — Oakland, in a feeble fashion, prevails.

San Francisco @ Arizona — Bill Walsh wanted to draft Jake Plummer, now we’ll get to see why. Prediction: Arizona.

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Well, by my count I went 9-5-1 last week. I “won” nine games, got shafted on five of them and refused to predict one game. I will do this from time to time, because, having left my gout medication in the midwest, my joints swell and don’t allow me to write at length about irrelevant contests. Anyway, here’s WEEK 2:

Cleveland @ Tennessee — Since I can’t pretend to care about this game, I will answer the most popular question I received electronically this week:

Q: How’s about Sebastian Cabot, the now-deceased portly star of “Family Affair”. Wouldn’t he have been a good player in the NFL? Why, he must have had at least one hundred pounds on the biggest players of that era.

A: True. But it was one hundred pounds of blubber. And it was all quail eggs. He’d often have to be dragged from his trailer, beard runny with golden yolks, just to do a scene as Mr. French. And then he’d pout. So, I really don’t believe he was motivated to play in the NFL. Sorry.

Prediction: Tennessee.
Bonus Weird Fact: Newest Tennessee Titans celebrity fan: D.C. Berman.

Pittsburgh @ Baltimore — Another game to avoid. My dad refers to these contests as “lawn-rakers.” So here’s a depressing image that will be a lot shorter than the game: The Sports Desk of the Associated Press, Super Bowl Sunday 1996. Rockefeller Center. The Barry Switzer Era. Dallas vs. Pittsburgh. A fat man trundles in with a bag of Tootsie Pops and slams them into his cast iron desk. “My name is Bob, and this is the sucker drawer. Take a goddam sucker if you want, just don’t hog ’em.” Another fat guy is clacking away in a chat room, shirking his duties, mumbling every few minutes about Baked Ziti. And the way he says “Ziti”: “Zeeetee, Zeetee, Zeetee.” Pan left to the old school reporters, a man, mid-fifties, constipated since the energy crisis, his bowels paralyzed by a steady diet of Newport Lights and Chuckles, patiently listens to his invalid wife’s demands as made through a telephone. His glasses gradually steam over. Prediction: Pittsburgh.

Washington @ NY Giants — Giants coach Jim Fassel reminds me of warm Riesling and boiled carrots. There’s no excitement or starpower on his squad either, except for Amani Toomer and Tiki Barber. Having said that, the Giants will get their second win in two attempts on Sunday.

NY Jets @ Buffalo — Jets coach Bill Parcells watched his star quarterback blow his achilles out last Sunday, opening day, in the 2nd quarter. Throughout the preseason, Parcells tried in vain to toughen up his Jets, a squad that made it to the AFC Championship game last year, asking them to “Start Over” this season. Maybe that explains why he left Tom Tupa, a punter with the physique of a diabetic 1950’s tailor in at replacement QB for a better part of the rest of the afternoon, but I can’t be sure. Jets tickets should be a lot easier to come by for the rest of 1999, though. Prediction: Buffalo, softly.

Arizona @ Miami — Miami’s defense is hot to trot. We all saw it on a drab Monday night telecast earlier in the week. What I really didn’t enjoy hearing was that the Dolphins pie-faced coach Jimmy Johnson got married in his swimtrunks, with Bears ex-head coach Dave Wannstedt practically holding his hand the whole time. Eww. Prediction: Dolphins.

Green Bay @ Detroit — Packers’ QB Brett Favre bawled during the post-game press conference last week, after his Packers rallied late to beat the Oakland Raiders. I’m not very bright, but I think if you’re already crying after the first week that generally isn’t a good sign. Prediction: Packers.

Denver @ Kansas City — There was a startling revelation recently that Broncos linebacker Bill Romanowski’s wife was receiving steroids via the postal service and distributing them to her husband, who is Bill Romanowski. Bill Romanowski might get reprimanded by the NFL. We’ll have to wait and see, because no one can guess the fate of Bill Romanowski. And that will be an ongoing theme, I think here: Bill Romanowski, on the run, and wrongly (perhaps) accused of munching steroids, from the hills of Colorado to the plains of several states bordering Great Lakes, Bill Romanowski will defend himself and hide from the police, the NFL, you, and several who would do him in, until he, Bill Romanowski, can take a minute to figure this thing out. Give Bill Romanowski a minute, if you please, to figure it all out. Please bear with Bill Romanowski. Prediction: Denver.

Jacksonville @ Carolina — Why I hate Jacksonville: 1) Matchbox 20. 2) Limp Bizkit. 3) An incident involving fetid taco meat, 1987. I won’t bore you with the details. Prediction: Jacksonville.

San Diego @ Cincinnati — San Diego drafted a promising young fellow last year from Washington State named Ryan Leaf. He was to play the quarterback position for them. After several tantrums, and a torn shoulder, he won’t. The Chargers have replaced him with two ex-Chicago Bears. For that alone they will lose on Sunday.

Tampa Bay @ Philadelphia — A short play. Takes place in Veterans Stadium parking lot. Pregame.

Old Salts — a gray-haired furnace jockey who should have retired years ago. He sort of looks like Sidney Lassick, the guy who played Charlie Cheswick in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”. He chain smokes and loves the Eagles because he never had children. (Why? Not because he shoots blanks, but because he hasn’t had sexual relations with his wife since she cheated on him while he was in the Korean War. A staunch Catholic, he won’t divorce her.) Madge — his long-suffering wife who made one Goddam mistake. Sheesh.

Old Salts: Jesus, Dear, would you please put something on?

Madge: It’s seventy degrees, Salts. It’s gonna be hot in there with all them people.

Old Salts: Hot! That’s a scream. Hot like the night you cuckolded me when I was half a planet away fighting for the U. S. of frigging A.? Hot like that?

Madge (sighs): Let’s just try and have fun.

Old Salts: Get my pills out of the glovebox! Fun, huh? I dunno about that.

Prediction: Tampa Bay.

Indianapolis @ New England — Indianapolis is improving as a team, but definitely not as a city. Prediction: New England.

Oakland @ Minnesota — Oakland goes down for the count in the NFC Central for the 2nd week in a row. Prediction: Vikings.

New Orleans @ San Francisco — My roommate grew up in the Bay Area, and he remarked about a month ago that 49ers coach Steve Mariucci never has his team ready to play for the first few weeks of the season. The 49ers were gull-washed 41 to 3 by Jacksonville last Sunday, so my roommate was right. This could be one of their worst seasons. They’ll do okay against the Saints though, who are always just a hair away from total retardation.

Seattle @ Chicago — Gruesome. And Bears “W” number 2. Why aren’t there more French people in the NFL? They’re such good kickers. Especially in bed.

Atlanta @ Dallas — Falcons Safety Eugene Robinson and Dallas Receiver Michael Irvin will exchange hooker and cocaine stories across the line of scrimmage, and Cowboys QB Troy Aikman will wince because he’s worried about his image. Nobody’s liked him for three years anyway. Exchanging faxes with Sandra Bullock? Like fun he was. And Deion Sanders will wear his sweat clothing on the sidelines, but not participate. Prediction: Dallas.

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Jacksonville @ San Francisco — A good, safe, non-sexual crush for a lot of adult men to have is Jacksonville offensive lineman Tony Boselli. He’s tough and he is cute. Prediction: Jacksonville.

Cincinnati @ Tennessee — Even though these two teams are geographically a bit closer, I don’t see a rivalry heating up. Are there any Bengals fans left? Cincinnati has sucked at everything for years, including night clubs. Have you ever been to Sudsy Malone’s? Doing laundry while the Melvins play? Not for me. Tennessee will win.

Denver @ Miami — In the old days when he coached the Raiders and they sucked, Mike Shanahan would drive to his mother’s Emeryville apartment complex following a loss, and weep quietly into her ample Irish bosom. Now he’s riding high with back-to-back Super Bowl victories, and he’s got the fancy dental plate to prove it. Star QB John Elway retired, though, and it’s only a matter of time before his talented team gets frustrated with their meager quarterback clientele — namely Bubby Brister. I can think of no good reason that a 37-year-old American man should be called Bubby, unless of course he lost both legs under a freight train as a young man, and his neighbors were too afraid to change his nickname. Denver will win this game.

New York Jets @ New England — The Jets have an offensive lineman named Jumbo Elliott who likes to get drunk and urinate in the sinks of women’s restrooms in select Long Island taverns in the summertime. Then he playfully punches women in the breasts as an encore. Then he never apologizes. Maybe he will channel this into his performance on Sunday, and his coach Bill Parcells will be happy again. In any case, if Elliott doesn’t shape up, he’ll one day be fishing his shaving kit out of a ratty Garfield sleeping bag on the outskirts of Talladega, begging an official of the Greyhound bus lines for a lift to Canton. Prediction: Jets.

Minnesota @ Atlanta — Minneapolis sportswriter Sid Hartman is delusional. He blurs the lines of journalistic ethics, calling people like George Steinbrenner close personal friends. The Vikings are much the same way. They made it to the NFC championship game last year, losing to this same Falcons team, but they did it with a rickety quarterback, and a flashy rookie receiver named Randy Moss. Like Hartman, they’ve feigned coolness, but never been laid. Prediction: Atlanta.

Kansas City @ Chicago— The Bears thought it would be a genius move to cut their old, reliable quarterback and replace him with one scrub and one rookie. They’ve made some spell-bindingly horrid maneuvers over the past decade, but this one ought to assure them of a dogfight with the Detroit Lions for worst NFC team of 1999. Their woes won’t be too apparent Sunday though, when they face the Chiefs, who are paying 43-year-old spouse-abuser Warren Moon to propel them to mediocrity. What a sad franchise. If you’re an over/under gambler, choose the under or hide your children. Prediction: Bears.

New Orleans @ Carolina — In La Crosse, Wisconsin, at the end of the Saints training camp, a traveling reporter from the New Orleans Times-Picayune lagged behind a day or two after camp broke. He filed his stories electronically, and checked into the Acorn Motel. He picked up a waitress from the Old Country Buffet, and they made love in the glow of a “One Day at a Time” rerun. After she left, her husband (ignoring the restraining order) jumped out from behind the bushes and filled the reporter’s gas tank with salt. The reporter, waking up from a Flonase and potato vodka bender found a note under his door that said, “Saints by ten.”

Oakland @ Green Bay— Green Bay, by several touchdowns.

Arizona @ Philadelphia — Oh, to be the low man on the totem pole at a giant insurance firm in Philly this weekend:

“No, Ron. Please. Use the company box for the Eagles’ opener. My wife’s getting her eyes done. We can’t go.”

“Are you sure Mr. Dithers? After all, it is the Eagles versus the Cardinals. Gosh!”

“Ron. Please.”

“Wow! I never thought I’d get to see the Arizona Cardinals in person, Mr. Dithers. My wife has always said that she’d love to see Prague, the reemergence of the Arthur Treacher’s Fish and Chips chain as a fast-food powerhouse, or, and this is the biggie Dithers, the Arizona Cardinals play a road game in Philadelphia.”

“Splendid, Ron. Please stay away from the wet bar.” Prediction: Arizona.

Baltimore @ St. Louis — No one cares.

Buffalo @ Indianapolis — No one should care. But Doug Flutie (like the 9th QB in the NFL to have an autistic kid) has captured the hearts of every short, white dreamer in America. And short, white, dreaming America will have to go back to fixating on tiny NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon when the Colts beat the Bills on Sunday.

Washington @ Dallas — Dallas reminds everyone of Gary Cherone-era Van Halen. This season will be a double disc of unreleased B-sides and rarities. Dallas wins this one. And it sells like tuberculosis.

Detroit @ Seattle — Everybody gets paralyzed at the Silver Dome if they play long enough. Good thing this is at the Kingdome, where ceiling tiles only occasionally crush fans. If there was anything better to do in Detroit other than reading Motorbooty or talking about the MC5, maybe the city would care less about the Lions and their coach Bobby Ross,who walks through airports farting pork rinds, lugging a gunnysack full of plays that have been scripted on crumpled Waffle House napkins, and written in grease pencil. He’ll be wearing a Wal-Mart apron by Halloween. Seattle by 20.

New York Giants @ Tampa Bay — Tampa’s Warren Sapp is the coolest guy in the NFL: He’s fat, he has braids, he smokes dope, and he likes to hurt people. Tampa Bay was supposed to be good last year but they stunk. With an easier schedule this season they might do a little barnstorming. The Giants looked okay in preseason, but they’ll lose this one.

Pittsburgh @ Cleveland – Steelers’ coach Bill Cowher has a real anger management problem, and he’s treading on thin ice in Pittsburgh.. Luckily he’s taking his squad to Cleveland. The Steelers should win, and at the press conference he’ll talk about how bittersweet the victory was — popping the cherry of the new Browns, but someone had to do it, etc. I shan’t watch.