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Friday Out-Takes: A Shot of Tequila and...Lights Out!

Every Friday, John Cockrell will offer up his perspective on the latest NFL developments that catch his eye. His views are his own, not those of the Patriots.

A Shot of Tequila and...Lights Out!

Have you ever known a couple you went to college with who weren't actually a couple when you went to college, and then, a year or so after graduation, they suddenly were a couple? And you all went, "Whaaaat?!" followed quickly by..."Oh yeah, that makes TOTAL sense!" For Out-Takes that couple was KATRYNA and GUITAR DAVE. They ran with the same crowd - Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Out-Takes once derisively referred to it as "the popular crowd," which, given our status as theater dorks, it most assuredly was not - they dated around, 'though never each other, and then, over one August weekend's rehearsal dinner drinks, "the popular crowd" found itself asking, "How on Earth did we not SEE this?!"

Well, Katryna and Guitar Dave, there's a new sheriff in town, and his name is

the currently defunct but still pretty hilariously trainwreck-y SHAWNE MERRIMAN and TILA TEQUILA. One's a former All-Pro linebacker out of San Diego, the other a self-proclaimed bi-curious "actress" from Reality TV. When we first gave this pair the what-fer a few months ago, we were still in the "Whaaaat?!" phase. Having reflected upon it for a good while now, we are firmly entrenched in the "Oh yeah, that makes TOTAL sense" period. So...a quick recap:

Merriman and Tequila were at a party. (We're guessing that statement has been true literally hundreds of times since his days at Maryland.) He allegedly restrained her because she was allegedly intoxicated. She denies this, citing her well-known allergy to alcohol. "Well-known" does seem a bit...delusions of grandeur-ish, true, but if the allergy manifests in erratic behavior, wino-level stumbling and shameless career moves, she may have a case. Except, according to the one guy whose legal opinion matters - the San Diego D.A. - she doesn't. All charges against "Lights Out" Merriman have been dropped, which fits in nicely with his stat-line the last couple of years.

Indeed, following a hellacious first three seasons in the NFL, seasons that invited comparisons to that Holy Grail of playmaking linebackers with the number 56, LAWRENCE TAYLOR, Merriman's production has taken a nose-dive. (We haven't seen a reputation tank like this since...what's that golfer guy's name again?) A 2008 knee injury didn't help, costing the Chargers LB nearly all of that season and lingering into this one. Just last week the former pass-rushing phenom and lame sack-dance inventor found himself deactivated. Rumors persist that the S.D. front office is concerned about his rapidly deteriorating physical health, but judging from the last several months and that dance-card he's said to have punched (so to speak), they may want to focus on whatever issues he's got going on upstairs, as well.

As for Ms. Tequila - that's her stage name, not her Cuervo Gold Hostess title at the local Dave & Buster's - she filed suit against Merriman earlier this month, claiming, among other things, that he "humiliated" her. Not quite sure how he managed that. After all, any humiliation he may have sent her way would surely be in line behind her gig as host for whatever the hell Pants-Off Dance-Off *is, her self-help book, *Hooking Up With Tila Tequila: A Guide to Love, Fame, Happiness, Success and Being the Life of the Party, and the one film role to her credit: "I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry - Hooters Girl." (Talk about range! What's next, "Asian TMZ bait?")

Obviously, the line separating pro athletes from other, more bastardized forms of "reality star" is becoming blurred. Sports figures are no longer content to pop up in the occasional beer and/or pantyhose campaign. T.O. wants to act, as opposed to acting out. RAY ALLEN already has - and well - as hoopster Jesus Shuttlesworth in Spike Lee's He Got Game. And with every new, hourly revelation, "Tiger's Harem" pushes us ever closer to *The Bachelor *seeming quaint. But the fact that a prominent Pro Bowler like Shawne Merriman seems like the perfect match for a third-rate Kardashian sister like Tila Tequila is not a good sign. And unfortunately, it adds to the NFL's aversion to anything even dipping its toe in the water of extracurricular entertainment like...

The $30,000 Sombrero

According to Out-Takes all-star ADAM SCHEFTER, the NFL has fined another Out-Takes all-star, Bengals wide receiver CHAD OCHOCINCO, $30,000 for donning a poncho and sombrero as part of his post-TD celebration last week. According to an official sounding letter, our favorite new band - Roger & the Dean Wormers - was less than pleased with Chad's sideline display:

"During the second quarter of the Bengals qame, you were observed gesturing for, and then wearing, a decorative poncho and sombrero in the bench area."

Could Goodell and his New York minions sound any more like Glum from the Gulliver's Travels cartoon? ("We'll never maaaaake it....") First of all, the utterly harmless sombrero stunt took place on the sidelines, (dorky stick-in-the-mud translation: "the bench area"), not on the field. This is a point of emphasis the league office Eeyores legislated years ago. Remember WES WELKER getting fined for a spontaneous snow angel celebration in New England?

We are fully aware of, even on board with, the idea of slippery slopes and cans of worms. We get that precedents can't be set, allowing players to land endorsement deals for, say, Sharpie pens or whatever cell phone company that Saints guy had on the Horn. But we're pretty sure Ochocinco was just having a little, urbane sombrero fun, not shooting for the J. Peterman Catalog. In other words, take a breath, Commissioner Buzzkill. Between growing parity and big-wig overreach, your league's becoming about as fun as the buffet at a Vegan-themed Schindler's List premiere, where you "get to" wash your own dishes.

Blooper Reel

~ What did we tell you about JASON CAMPBELL last week? He can't be trusted. And are we the only ones who think - and we admit, this is wildly irrational and unfair - that JIM ZORN seems exactly like the kind of coach whose QB would throw that brutal INT with less than 30 ticks left?

~ TIME-OUT OF THE YEAR goes to Saints head coach SEAN PAYTON for having the, uh, we'll opt for "wherewithal" (this is a family show) to take the T.O. that allowed the officials time to rule (however sketchily) that MIKE SELLERS fumbled in overtime. DREW BREES then led the inevitable drive into FG range, and undefeated N.O. lives on, thanks to a T.O.-aided TO in OT.

~ The Patriots lose to the Dolphins due, partly, to a pair of crushing TOM BRADY picks, the Steelers go down (at home) to the Raiders and AGAIN, last night, to the freakin' Browns, AND Oakland quarterback BRUCE GRADKOWSKI cops AFC Offensive Player of the Week honors?! That sound you hear is someone, at some lame office party somewhere, doing his best BILL MURRAY in Ghostbusters: "Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together...mass hysteria!"

~ Out-Takes periodically veers toward reality TV (want proof - scroll up), and we thank the disinterested for indulging us - or, at least, for not tracking us down with hate mail. But this time reality TV and sports truly intersects, and not in a Shawne Merriman-Tila Tequila or T.O. on VH1 kind of way. This time we're talking about the winner of The Biggest Loser, DANNY CAHILL. The Out-Takes household has a hard and fast rule about this particular show: We watch only the two-hour finale. (As an homage to the series we think it best not to overindulge by tuning in every week. Beats the hell out of giving up Break & Bake.) But back to the skinny on the fatty...

Anyone who thinks these people aren't athletes, at least for the time they're on the show, should think again. The Mel Gibson-ish (minus the occasional "multiple Miggs in the next cell" bout of crazy) Cahill lost 239 pounds. In seven months. He now tips the scales at just over 190. Think about that. Half of him, more than half, might as well be on a milk carton at this point. (Skim, we assume.) Amazing and sincerely inspirational. Now please pass the tollhouse.

~ Once more we cite ESPN's own little Jimmy Olsen, ADAM SCHEFTER, whose Twitter page foretells NYJ QB MARK "Sliding Lessons? What Sliding Lessons?!" SANCHEZ missing Sunday's tilt with the Bucs. His pending absence is due to a PCL injury suffered after failing to heed the advice of a guy who somehow managed a team with a $300 million payroll to a World Series title. (Way to go, Joe! How'd you do it?!) So it's official: no matter how badly it always seems to end, there's nothing the Bronx Bombers won't do to get a New York-based Clemens back on the field. (Cue the frantic embarrassment that is SUZANNE WALDMAN in full press-box meltdown mode: "Kellen Clemens is starting for the Jets on Sunday! Oh my goodness gracious!!!")

NOTE TO THE OTHER 31 NFL TEAMS: When KELLEN CLEMENS throws for 300 yards and two TDs against Tampa Bay this weekend, and wows you with his "potential," do not send a 2nd rounder to MIKE TANNENBAUM for his rights - Mangenius, this means YOU.

~ As frustrating as this season has been for NEW ENGLAND FANS, especially as of late, imagine how vexing it would be if they'd had to watch the Pats play against WES WELKER.

And finally...

A warm welcome to JOHN EDWARD THOMAS BRADY's unnamed-as-of-Thursday-night younger brother. Bless you for arriving prior to what even the currently hopeless hope will be a lengthy playoff run. And hey, given your all-star lineage, perhaps you'll join us one day. Ya the popular crowd.

John Cockrell is a screenwriter, whose other work has run the gamut from "Sesame Street Parents Magazine" to Playboy TV's "The Weekend Flash." (He figures everything else is pretty much in-between.)

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