Finally. Wait! Let me say that again with some meaning, brothers and sisters -- FINALLY -- the NFL is back ...
Borrowing generously and loosely (while grudgingly editing out the F-Bombs) from the late, great George Carlin (pictured) ... say so long to the errors, bunts, singles, pop outs, and players gleefully skipping home that baseball ushers in with a collective yawn eight months out of the year.
Instead, it's time to welcome back football with a big ol' bear hug, and all its interceptions, aerial assaults, battering tackles, long bombs, blitzes and end-zone romps. It's time to coax out that little dab of testosterone that hides deep within even the most passive sports fan.
Better yet, the NFL booms forth with betting sheets and office pools thanks to those delicious odds the bookies in Vegas so skillfully manipulate. And you think these cats don't know what they're doing?
OK, wanna know what the point spread was for last night's opening tilt between the Saints and Vikes? Saints by five. And the score? Saints 14, Vikings 9.
How did they know?!
Seriously, get these dudes to Washington now, and have 'em start on the budget. If nothing else, the city would be a more honest place.
After a significant amount of debate among the primary instigators, we have, in fact, decided to reopen the Grill Room for yet another NFL season. We'd like to tell you we are back by popular demand, but that might be shading the truth a slight variation of Raiders' black.
No, we're back because after hashing the whole thing out over about 47 Pfungstadters the other night, we decided that closing the place would be cruel and unusual punishment for the football fan who still appreciates the smoky warmth of an understated bar on a long, cool autumn afternoon during the NFL season.
In the end, we had no choice but to act on the incessant pang of obligation, and put in the hard work to come to some consensus on this year's initial NFL100-Proof Rankings.
So take a load off, pull up a stool, order up a cold one, and welcome (back) to the Grill Room.
THE STRONG STUFF
1 (3) New Orleans (94 proof, 0-0) Still the champ until proven otherwise. Figure the 'otherwise' part will creep in Week 2 when they travel to San Fran for a Monday night date with the upstart 49ers. Repeating ain't for wussies.
2 (11) Baltimore (92 proof, 0-0) Bestowed yet another gift on its overrated QB Flacco with the signing of Houshmandzadeh Monday, leaving marginal QBs all across the NFL whining, "Where's mine?!"
3 (5) Dallas (91 proof, 0-0) Would you trust Wade Phillips with this much talent?
4 (2) Indianapolis (90 proof, 0-0) Hard to forgive this team for thumbing its collective nose at perfection, and rolling over against the irritating Jets last year. Hard to ignore a team that wins about 12 every year, though.
Maybe it's fitting that a real stinker of a golf season will end this week on a golf course owned by a guy who patented toilet-making, and is located somewhere north of Sheboygan.
Ironically, this is also where you can find Tiger Woods' game. I meant the toilet, not north of Sheboygan.
Yes, the PGA of America is visiting Whistling Straits for the 92nd rendition of its major championship. And just to prove how much it loves the place, it has promised to return in 2015 after playing there only six years ago in 2004.
Leave it to the PGA of A.
While the USGA and the Royal and Ancients claim places like Pebble Beach and Shinnecock and St. Andrews and Carnoustie to play their high-stakes events, the PGA has decided a golf course in that golfing bastion of middle Wisconsin is where it will regularly hang it's slate-gray shingle. Ya, fer sher.
Maybe it's the impeccable bathroom facilities at Herb Kohler's place that keeps 'em coming back for more. I suppose the golf course could have something to do with it, too.
Jed Muttonbreth is a regular in the Grill Room. He's as dependable as a politician is small, and sits tight Monday through Sunday in the creaky seat hard along the bar, and by the corner TV next to the Pfungstadter Bier poster.
Muttonbreth likes his Pfungstadter ice-cold, the conversation slow and odd, and "all of them, blond, balanced-up foxes on that Foxy-News." He takes his Foxy-News with the volume down. "Conversation's a real a show-stopper, know what I mean, boy?"
He also claims to be Brett Favre's boyhood buddy ... "Known 'em since we were just skinny tads sneaking up to the fishing hole, skimmyin' 'round the shallow end to get us some kindle," he says.
I admit that at first I was pretty skeptical about Muttonbreth's alleged big-time connection to the serial interception-thrower, and retiree. I've come to find over the years, though, that the guy understands Favre better than Favre seems to understand himself.
We'll get only a moment to see the sad, poetic symmetry of Jack Tatum quietly passing away, and Terrell Owens making another thundering return to the NFL within hours of each other this week.
One represented what the NFL used to be; the other is a pathetic poster child for what it is becoming.
Tatum let his play on the field do the talking; Owens keeps the neighbors up at night babbling in his sleep.
Tatum, the assassin; Owens the ass ...
I admittedly was a Jack Tatum fan when there were few -- outside of the nutty Raiders Nation, that is.
Pound for pound, Tatum is the hardest hitter I have ever seen.
To this day I remember the lick he gave a running back (can't remember who, or what team) when he was playing safety at Ohio State in 1970. The back hit the hole and Tatum hit him. The back actually went head over heels ... and backwards. I have never seen anybody ejected from the line of scrimmage like that before or since.
The Associated Press roared out of the box with a three-paragraph story
Sunday that it is asking us to take at face value. Beside its
grammatically challenged lead, the story has absolutely no sourcing.
Ahhhh ... It's like going home again.
You might remember that AP perfected this type of
reporting last fall and winter when it allegedly had some terrified
source deep inside Orlando's Isleworth compound reporting on Tiger Woods'
every move and intention in the weeks after the golfer put a bad swing
on a Thanksgiving drive that landed him in a tree.
Essentially, Sunday's news is that Ryder Cup captain
Corey Pavin is going to meet with Woods at the PGA Championship in a
couple of weeks to discuss whether he wants to be a part of the team. Of
course we have no idea how AP learned this, but let's just trust they
have the story right. I mean, they very well might, you know.
There is only one thing media companies take less seriously than their ombudsman: the readers and/or viewers themselves.
So I had to chuckle through gritted teeth when
ESPN's ombudsman, Don Ohlmeyer, ripped off an eye-bleeding,
678-paragraph howitzer this week aimed at the very station that employs
him over its laughable mishandling of the whole LeBron James affair.
you'll remember that James took over ownership of the station for an
hour one night recently to announce where he would be dribbling a
basketball, and exhibiting his fine tattoos and jewelry.
course, showed there's plenty of brains behind all that bling when he
picked the sunny beaches and palm trees of Miami, instead of remaining
in the grayish Midwest and in that awful place that has never won
The game of golf returned to its birthplace this weekend only to roll into some seaside bunker and collapse.
Put it this way: If somebody told you that a flat-lining, gap-toothed, driving machine nicknamed "Shrek" would dismantle The Old Course to the tune of 16-under, thump the garden-variety British runner-up named Westwood, Casey, Poulter, Rose or Donald by seven-or-so shots, all while Tiger and Phil thrashed about in the gorse and heather 13 and 17 strokes back respectively ... would you have watched?
You aren't alone. An Open Championship that promised everything at the start, slowly and painfully delivered very little at the end.
Minutes after Paul Casey was taking about an hour to assemble a grotesque triple on No. 12, while playing partner and assassin Louis Oosthuizen poured in another birdie on the same hole to take his lead to eight shots, I just couldn't take it anymore, and walked away.
The first groups just teed off for the second round of the Open Championship and there are signs The Old Course and her buddy, Mother Nature, are not going to be quite so accommodating today. Despite that, some dude named Louis Oosthuizen from Mars, South Africa, has just got it to 11-under ...
But listen up, sports fans: Before you head out the door to do whatever it is that pays your cable bill, we'll offer you the best advice you'll get all weekend: Call out sick.
My God, people, ESPN is showing 11 straight hours of golf from the place the game was born. If you live in the vicinity of the East Coast, you can scramble some eggs, brew a pot, and settle into the couch with your striped pajamas on, and watch the world's greatest game.
When the final shots are struck at 3 p.m., or so, you can grab a nap (bonus points if you also grab your honey), then rise, shine, shower up, and visit an establishment like The Grill Room for a pint or two to round out the perfect Friday.
Then, on Saturday and Sunday, simply rinse and repeat.
OK, now that that's settled, here's what we liked best and least from Thursday's first-round action:
With apologies to the bow-ties at the United States Golf Association, the green-jackets at Augusta, and the well-intentioned invisibles at the PGA of America, the game of golf offers no better stage than an Open Championship played on The Old Course at St. Andrews.
It's where the game was born, where purists simply have to play, and where champions feel they must win.
Now cruising along in its formative years after its birth in the mid-16th century, St. Andrews stands as golf's mecca, and epicenter.
It will host its 28th Open Championship starting Thursday. If you can watch only one tournament all year, you'll do no better than this one.