Calming Down About Failing Up
Earlier this off-season, tempests raged in teapots and molehills begat mountains as word broke that ex-Lions general manager MATT MILLEN had gone from the GM scrapheap to a pair of plum color-commentary posts at ESPN and NFL Network. Suddenly sports talk radio was filled with outrage: "How can such a front office failure be trusted to inform the viewing public?!" Our take?
First off, it's one of a zillion commentator jobs in many, many football games. Relax. Tapping Millen for football analysis isn't exactly a stretch. I mean, it's not like giving KEVIN BACON in The Woodsman a solo gig at daycare or anything. We're not putting Hannity in charge of sanity.
Second, unless you happen to be Mom & Dad Out-Takes, whose '93 Taurus features "crank" windows ('though, oddly, power side-mirrors - god bless 'em), your TV likely comes with a remote. If you're so hell bent on avoiding analysis from a four-time Super Bowl winning all-pro linebacker who used to be considered pretty darn good at the exact job we're talking about, change the freakin' channel.
Third, we see your mantra - "Millen couldn't even run an NFL franchise!" - and raise it with a two-part retort: "Sure he can!" and "Does 'into the ground' count?"
So okay, yes - Matt Millen drafted wide receivers in the first round, over and over (and over and over). And in hindsight it looks pretty darn silly. Heck, even in real time, one or two of 'em looked pretty darn silly. MIKE WILLIAMS leaps to mind. (Self-congratulatory note: "Mike Williams" and "leaps" in the same sentence for the first time in years.) That said, who's mocking the selection of CALVIN JOHNSON? And what's so silly about ROY WILLIAMS? (We'd say, "He's a perennial Pro Bowler who can't tackle anyone," but that's the wrong Roy Williams.)
This is not to say Millen was anything but a massive failure in Detroit. As has been widely reported, his tenure in Motown constitutes the NFL's biggest washout since the days of that Saving Private Ryan war. (Out-Takes slept through sixth grade social studies and we've been Net Flix-ing our way toward a remedial GED ever since.) But this does not retroactively disqualify Millen from being good at a job he's already proven to be good at.
Look, we all get frustrated watching the Mangeniuses of the world's professions stumble their way up the ladder, sucked ass-backwards into the vortex of inexplicable success and undeserved second chances. It is in this spirit that we here at Out-Takes offer a bit of perspective: A certain wolf-hunting-from-a-helicopter hockey mom, ex- of Alaska, just quit her job 18 months shy of clock-out time to become a multimillionaire - as a writer. Pardon us if Matt Millen calling football games doesn't exactly get our dander up.
The T.O. Show: It's All Relative
Out-Takes had been planning a series of column-ettes on the topic of The T.O. Show - one of those "we watch so you don't have to" deals - but, having taken a look at the first few episodes of VH1's latest "reality docudrama," we've had second thoughts, overwhelmed by an odd mix of pride and resentment.
T.O. has been, and no doubt will continue to be, a boon to any NFL column. Controversial, quotable, charismatic, polarizing...the guy's a gold mine. But on this show - and Mrs. Out-Takes will not just back us up on this, she'll insist - Terrell Owens comes off as...charming. Sweet-natured. A good, if sometimes vexing, man-child, more Dennis the Menace *than *The Bad Seed. And it's hard not to feel proud of him for keeping this thing from being a total trainwreck. (It's even harder not to feel resentful for the same reason. With vacation fast approaching, we were counting on whipping off a couple of those "It practically writes itself!"-type columns.)
Now, granted, this is one of those scripted reality programs, whose goal is to shine as glowing a light as possible on its subject, but as far as VH1 shows go, this one actually has a soul. And so does he. And so do those damn P.R. girls he surrounds himself with, the ones the VH1 press releases kept referring to as "more like sisters than employees!" Throw in "PABLO" COSBY, Terrell's long-time friend and bodyguard, and what you have is something more akin to a case-study in non-traditional families than the NFL version of Daisy of Love. I mean, sure, there are the requisite hot-tubs stocked with scantily clad Los Angelenas, and everyone's kind of full of it, and practically every moment feels painfully contrived, but that's more a TV issue than a T.O. issue.
We'll keep our eyes on it for you - try and stop us - but as much as we'd really been hoping to hate and mock this show, mining it for all the vacuous, self-absorbed nonsense it promised, the thing that stood out most for us was the last line of the first episode: "That's definitely not what I expected." Couldn't have put it better ourselves, Terrell. Not even SARAH PALIN could - and she's a millionaire writer!
~ MICHAEL CRABTREE, your threat to sit out the 2009 season and re-enter the draft is duly noted and completely ridiculous. NOBODY BELIEVES YOU. And Singletary's getting mad.
~ FRED TAYLOR has to be Out-Takes's favorite new Patriot if for no other reason than this: "I'm privileged. We're in a recession. I have a job." Bless you, #21. Maybe give Crabtree a call.
~ No, we haven't forgotten about, nor taken a pass on, MARVIN HARRISON, recipient of Out-Takes's Honorary MEL GIBSON "And Everyone Always Thought I Was So Nice!" Award. Thing is, as far as the former Next Jerry Rice and his potential legal troubles go, anything we'd write at this point would constitute a shot in the dark, and something tells us Marvin's had his fill of those over the last 18 months.
~ BILL PARCELLS taps TERRY GLENN to be an Intern Coach in Miami? Gentlemen, start your "That's what she said" jokes!
~ DERRICK BURGESS, come on down! May you be more Moss than Gabriel, more Vrabel than Beisel and more Washington than Martin. We'd say "Welcome to New England," but given your departure point, another "welcome" phrase is perhaps more apt. (Hint: It starts with "You're.")
A hearty charge, inspired by boots-on-the-ground experience, to football fans of every stripe: Get thee to an NFL training camp! Be it this year, next year or the one after that, run-don't-walk is the order of the day.
Earlier this week the whole Out-Takes crew piled into our just-barely-doesn't-qualify-under-the-CASH-FOR-CLUNKERS program Pontiac Grand Am (22 MPG, my ass) and headed for Foxboro, where we were treated to a thrilling day of the hometown team practicing on fields just a stone's throw away. (Note: Do not undertake the "stone's throw" test. According to Gillette Security, it's meant to be purely metaphorical. Trust us.)
The chance to watch guys from RANDY MOSS to JULIAN EDELMAN make plays all over the field; to see, up close and personal, the camaraderie between TOM BRADY and what appears to be yet another tribe of wacky tackles and guards, is one you shouldn't miss. If you're too late to do it this year, mark it down for 2010. Make the effort, even if it's just for one hellishly long day-trip, even if it's to see the Jets get their coach and fans (is there a difference?) all fired up by throwing haymakers at each other in between swaggerlicious drills. "They're punching each other! We're SURE to win now! I wish Channing Crowder could see this..."
Many thanks to the folks in Foxboro, especially those good-natured chops-busters at PFW in Progress, who work very hard to make it all look very easy. Now. Let's play some football.
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.)"