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Friday Out-Takes: Goofus and Gallant

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

WIKI says: "Goofus & Gallant" is a cartoon from Highlights Magazine, featuring two contrasting boys. In each cartoon, it is shown how each boy would respond to the same situation. Goofus chooses an irresponsible path, while Gallant is kinder. Its primary function is to teach children basic social skills.

Well, here we are, post- POST SEASON BYE WEEK, staring down the barrel of PACKERS-STEELERS in what douche-y lawyers have in recent years been making us call "The Big Game." Everyone and their mother-in-law (in our case, "MRS. B525 OUTTAKES") is asking or being asked, "Who do you think will win


'Cause we've had just about enough of the statistical breakdowns, the match-ups, the trash-talk and the ABCs of the CBA. And we're up to our ears with twits like ANTONIO "Even when he's right, he's wrong" CROMARTIE and, of course, Team Photo-Gate. We're ready to take a look at this match-up - for us, a "match-up made in heaven" - on our own terms and in our old stomping grounds, where numbers come second and first impressions matter. So let's press STOP on the DVR, shunt aside ESPN's highlights, in favor of the kids magazine Highlights, and delve into a little thing we like to call "Out-Takes Karma."



In more ways than one, BEN ROETHLISBERGER is an elusive guy. A canny runner, with size that makes him tough to take down, he's one of the few QBs in the NFL that teams would prefer not to force out of the pocket. Big Ben rolling left or right and throwing on the run, improvising, making things happen - that's pretty much the last thing Defensive Coordinators want to see on Sundays. The last thing Ben wants to see, on the other hand, is a sober co-ed. Either that or a tavern bathroom minus a padlock (and/or an off-duty cop "friend") barricading the exits.

Yes, for every Super Bowl ring "earned" against an inferior NFC opponent that the Steelers only barely snuck by, Roethlisberger is purported to have about ten horrible, offensive-not-in-the-good-way, nearly criminal moments outside the lines. The fact that stories about him generally carry some rendering or other of the qualifier, "never been arrested or charged with assault," can't be a good sign. Yes, despite a spirited and entertaining playing style, the man who would be Favre - the old Favre - has quickly gained an ugly reputation for bullying - misogynistic and otherwise. (Kinda like the new Favre.)

What with his travails in Tahoe and the mayhem in Milledgeville, Ben hasn't exactly won friends and influenced people, including teammates - at least if PETER KING's original reporting is to be believed. King, for the uninitiated, recently reported that COMMISSIONER GOODELL spoke during the off-season with various teammates of Roethlisberger, none of whom seemed to leap to the big lug's defense when given the chance. In the storm of controversy that followed that damning Super Bowl week tidbit, Goodell has gone all Gillooly on the story, taking a crowbar to the report, suggesting that it wasn't Big Ben's teammates who failed to step up for him, but, rather, NFL players in general. This, of course, makes no sense - why would he ask non-teammates, why would they defend a Steeler? - but then, fretting publicly over player safety while simultaneously clinging to an 18-game schedule for dear life doesn't make much sense, either. But back to the madman at hand...

Ben Roethlisberger is, without question, a terrific football player. And there's no denying that, shoddy stat line or no, the guy brings home the W's. He's everyone's favorite kind of big-time success story - the kind that comes from a small college. He could be the NFL's latest PAUL BUNYAN or, say, BRAWNY GUY. Instead, we get the personification of the high school BMOC who has the world on a string and acts like it. Now we're supposed to buy his "aw shucks" transformation, just because the hardscrabble folks in Steeltown, USA, have. Well, sorry, Ben, we aren't buying the EDDIE HASKELL makeover one bit. And Karma, despite how deep REX RYAN & CO. keep going into the post-season, has to kick back into gear. They say fortune favors the bold? Well, Karma favors the guy who doesn't talk nasty to the pregnant wait-staff at Fridays. On the other hand...



AARON RODGERS is the sad college kid we all watched squirm in his Madison Square Garden seat, sinking in concert with his draft stock on a late April Saturday afternoon in 2005. The Cal Bear QB many had slated as a top ten pick fell, miserable on live TV, all the way to the 24th spot in the first round, costing himself millions. Nevertheless, he put his head down, accepted a role as back-up to folk hero and local fan fave BRETT FAVRE - my, how things have changed! - and patiently waited his turn.

From there, Rodgers rendered the future hall of famer obsolete, at least on the Frozen Tundra, and set out to establish his own legacy of winning, productive football. While not as flashy or newsy or newsflash-y as his former mentor, the young Packer quarterback quietly rose up to become a Pro Bowl level signal-caller, aided by a capable, accurate throwing arm, sneaky-quick mobility in and out the pocket, as well as a dynamic receiving corps, featuring sure-handed route-runners named DRIVER and JENNINGS. And all the while, from clipboard holder to Pro Bowler to potential MVP (in the upcoming "Big Game," anyway), Aaron Rodgers had the courtesy to buoy the spirits of even the most disillusioned football fan. By playing with a blend of on-field flair and off-field dignity. By not engaging in trash-talk via tweet or the evening news. And by choosing to respect the game, the fans and himself.

There are lots of ways to make it in the NFL. Some guys rely on bluster to pump themselves up enough to excel on the gridiron on Sundays. Not this guy. The personification of quiet dignity lets his play do most of the talking. Which is why earlier this week it was no surprise that Rodgers received counsel from a trio of one-time, all-time stars - some dancer-types, like KURT WARNER, and other ones, like BART STARR and STEVE YOUNG, who prefer to just stand there in their yellow blazers. Favre hasn't checked in, but he's probably too busy going on TV to heap even more pressure on the shoulders of his mild-mannered successor, in hopes that it'll all come crashing down on him and the shivering, Cheese-flavored shareholders who root for him. Call us cynical, fine, just also call us "dead-on balls accurate." (That last bit is brought to you by MARISA TOMEI and her amusing - but Oscar-winning? Really? - turn in My Cousin Vinny.)

No one's saying Aaron Rodgers is a saint, he probably isn't. He's likely had his share of unfortunate moments of being impatient with autograph-seekers or curt to a waitress at TGIF's. Nobody's perfect, God knows we don't expect our athletes to be. But all of these guys, even little DANNY WOODHEAD, came up through high school and college as the Big Man on Campus. However glamorous all that "star treatment" may seem to us, the culture of entitlement, the culture of Me, can be a hard thing to handle and a tougher thing to shake.

So when we see a guy like Rodgers, whose first moment in the sun is an ESPN close-up of his own private come-down; when we see him react with relative calm and humility in the face of replacing a small town's Favorite Son; when we see a guy, under the heavy weight of public adversity, believing in himself and biding his time - and when we then watch him take the world by a string and say, "Hey, I can play, too!" - well, it's hard not to root for him. So that's what we'll do.

Door Number Two...(And when we say "number two," we mean it.)

Earlier this week, BILL BELICHICK took home AP's Coach of the Year honors, and a man named BRADY pulled down their Offensive Player of the Year Award to go along with the MVP trophy he'll no doubt accept on crutches, coming up Sunday night. For this much-deserving pair of Patriots, we suspect those consolation prizes will be anything but.

Blooper Reel: Super Bowl Prediction Edition

~ Following last week's sweep of the conference championship games, Out-Takes is (a little too) proud to announce that we have officially clinched a winning record for our post-season predictions. Yep, we're 6-4, heading into...THE BIG GAME. So, win or lose, we're above .500, which is more than we can say for this year's playoff team out of Seattle. In any case, we'll take it.

~ As we don't expect even our most devoted readers to remember, our "call on the field" for Super Bowl XLV pitted a tough-as-nails defense from the AFC North versus Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. Sure, it won't be RAY LEWIS, ED REED and the BALTIMORE RAVENS taking on Green Bay's latest greatest hope, but the Pittsburgh Steelers are close enough.

Except they're not. We're predicting a double-digit win for the Pack, based not solely on our animus toward the distasteful #7 in black and gold, but also on New England's dismantling of the Steeler D back on a Monday night in mid-November. We expect Green Bay's linebacking corps - not to mention BEAST J. RAJI - to abuse Pittsburgh's J.V. O-line, and we expect the aforementioned Rodgers to make enough plays, with his right arm and both legs, to lead Green Bay to their first championship since you-know-you boo-hoo'd out of town. And in the year of his alleged retirement. Karma, once again, gets the last laugh.

Packers score 34, the Steelers net 24, and Favre, behind a TV studio desk, forces a smile, pretending he told ya so.

John Cockrell is a writer for USA Network's "In Plain Sight," and 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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