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September 5, 2003

by Bill Hogan

Posted September 4, 2003 - Season opener.


My wife seemed worried about recent events that may or may not effect the upcoming football season. "That's football", I reassured her. "You never know what's going to happen until it happens. It's way too early in the season to worry about it."

"But how…" she started. I didn't let her finish the sentence - "that's football!" She couldn't believe that the coaches would move our 14-year-old from cornerback the day before the Galena High School freshman team's first game. Well, that's football.


I couldn't believe the Patriots dumped Lawyer Milloy four days before their season opener. I can't believe the Ravens named a wet-behind-the-ears rookie to start at quarterback. Whether you're a 29-year-old All-Pro strong safety, a couple of months removed from your college graduation or a 9th grader – that's football.

And believe me, I am ready for some football. I'm so ready that I'm posting this week's column early. Before the NFL Kickoff Live 2003 Presented by Pepsi Vanilla, before the start of the Jets-Redskins game on ABC and before the Galena Grizzlies take on a tough Reno High squad.

Enough with the hype, the preseason analysis and predictions. I don't care what ESPN "expert" John Clayton thinks – he looks like he should be analyzing Microsoft's second quarter earnings, not the Eagles fourth quarter offense. And I don't care if Sports Illustrated's resident authority Dr. Z predicts the Chiefs will go to the Super Bowl.

Too much talk, not enough action. Let's kick off already. And I’m not referring to the NFL Kickoff Live 2003 featuring Britney Spears. The last time I saw her she was sticking her tongue down Madonna's throat. Not a sight that makes you think "kill the quarterback."

Apparently, Britney is going to play a big role in the NFL's promotional campaign in 2003. There's a pictorial in an upcoming issue of Rolling Stone where she's decked out in various football-themed outfits. In one shot, she's wearing a Jets "uniform" modified in a way that it would make Joe Namath blush. The same "Broadway" Joe featured in magazine ads wearing nothing but pantyhose.

Since the median age of an NFL fan is 43, I understand the need to attract a younger, hipper audience; and, frankly, I'm not opposed to seeing pictures of Britney in white leather boots and a cutoff Redskins jersey. But it's been seven months since the Super Bowl, so what I really want to see is Ray Lewis taking somebody's head off!

And enough already with the debate over whether Lisa Guerrero is a suitable replacement for Melissa Stark as a sideline reporter on Monday Night Football. Melissa Stark is a pretty blonde; Lisa G is pretty brunette. Neither of them is going to win any broadcast journalism awards. And come the end of October, Lisa G will be covered up in so much wool and goose down you won't be able to tell her from John Madden.

It doesn't really matter who is giving us the 10-second lowdown on how many gold chains Champ Bailey is wearing under his jersey. As long as they finish their shtick with "back to you, Al and John" before play resumes on the field.

When ESPN announced conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh was going to be a part of the Sunday NFL Countdown team this season, many sportswriters thought it was a bad idea; they complained that Limbaugh rubs too many people the wrong way.

If ESPN was concerned about hiring on-air talent that rubbed people the wrong way, Chris Berman would have been history years ago. Limbaugh brings 20 million listeners to the table – 'nuff said. Nobody is more grating on the nerves than Dion Sanders – well, except for Terry Bradshaw – and we watch them every Sunday.

If the networks feel the need to enlist Limbaugh and Britney and Lisa G. to help them boost ratings and broaden their audience, so be it. Real football fans will sit through two hours of SpongeBob Squarepants waiting for their team to take the field.

Finally, the weeks of just talking about football are over. No more "expert" predictions, no more pre-season hype. Get Britney's kickoff concert out of the way, put a microphone on Rush and a little blush on Lisa G. and let's get on with the main event.

Man, am I ready for some football. Can you tell I'm ready? I am ready.


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