The Back-up, Sports Night & Napoleon
Bills second-string running back FRED JACKSON recently turned his position as an exclusive-rights free agent into what Seinfeld aficionados might refer to as "hand." Allow us to explain. On one of the great episodes of Sports Night - a deeply underappreciated show of the Seinfeld era - one of the fictional Sportscenter-ish anchors (the Six Feet Under guy) shares with his counterpart (the dude from Dead Poets' Society) a two-part battle plan, originally employed by Napoleon: "Show up. And see what happens."
This strategy seemed especially pertinent in recent weeks as story after story came out regarding various Buffalo running backs. First, there was the continuing legal jeopardy of high-caliber ball-carrier MARSHAWN LYNCH, whose gun-charge led to the NFL firing off a "Guess who's getting a 3-game suspension!" card to Lynch and his reps. Then came reports that Bills fullback COREY MCINTYRE had been accused of trying to give new meaning to the phrase "hanging out outside a Port St. Lucie woman's home," if you catch our drift. (If you don't, take the 2 made-up words "ondling" and "himsel" then add an F to the beginning of the first word and the end of the second.)
Thankfully, those reports have become as dubious as Roger Clemens testimony or a Manny 3-for-4, and last week McIntyre passed a polygraph. So it looks like the charges will be dropped, along with - alas - a veritable bottomless pit of Pee Wee Herman and/or George Michael jokes. Thing is, Buffalo management didn't know that when they were dealing with the Marshawn Lynch fiasco and, more importantly, they didn't know it when they were negotiating with Fred Jackson.
So there sat Jackson, gaining leverage with each new sordid smoking gun, gaining leverage by, well...showing up and seeing what happens. In the end, what happened is this: he signed a 4-year, $7.5 million deal and looks to be the odds-on favorite to kick off the season as Buffalo's de facto starter. So congrats to Freddy, and best of luck to Corey on un-ringing that bell. As for Marshawn...drop the gun, pick up the rock and cut the crap. You're better than that.
It's not TV: It's HB - oh my! The Bengals?!
Looking to tell the story of a group whose collective rap-sheet would fit in nicely with the brand legacy of Tony Soprano and those Deadwood guys, HBO recently announced they'll be taking an inside look at the mighty BENGALS of CINCINNATI to see what makes the league's nuttiest band of brothers tick. Meat-and-potatoes-style vox populi STEVE SABOL of NFL FILMS is set in his usual role as producer-slash-chaperone, with extra emphasis, it's safe to assume, on the latter. (Reports of a four-word e-mail blast making the cyber-rounds at NFL Films - "Sabol's packing a Taser" - are not accurate, but feel accurate, at least according to Out-Takes' wishful thinking.)
The project? The cable giant's continuing series Hard Knocks, which promises to delve into the
mercurial organizations, in an apparent bid to prop up the sagging "Office of Redundancy Office" joke industry. (Hard Knocks: Bengals Edition? Seriously?!) On the plus side, the show will likely constitute the last drop in Marvin Lewis's dwindling reservoir of Tony Dungy-level patience. Is it possible Lewis *didn't * throw his hands up in exasperation when news of this development crossed his desk? And did he not then, in one continuous motion, start waving his very own little white flag? Whether he did or he didn't, Out-Takes looks forward to the inevitable on-air meltdown of this heretofore cool customer.
And who knows, maybe amping up the lights-camera-action will be just what the doctor ordered, in terms of coaxing Ochocinco into camp. In any case, it'll be a hell of a watch. So set the DVR now, kids, just in case your flat-screen explodes when they wind up signing Pacman Jones.
Good News, Bad Newz (not in that order)
Late last week, the two year-old son of Pittsburgh linebacking loon JAMES HARRISON - still waiting on that White House invite, just as soon as the Steelers lose a game, we guess - found his thigh on the wrong end of a dog-bites-man story. (For those who somehow missed this one, stay tuned, it has a happy-ish ending.) The two year-old's mother and his father's massage therapist sustained injuries, as well, in trying to protect the boy. And while that might foretell some newfangled, darkly comic nursery rhyme - "this is the dog, who bit the Mom, who sat with the man, who rubbed the dad..." - it goes without saying that this whole story constitutes what Michael Vick would no doubt refer to as, "Bad Newz."
The toddler, who has virtually the same name as his Steeler dad (just slap "the 3rd" onto the end), was treated to three stitches and a weekend stay at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. He's expected to make a full recovery. Obviously Out-Takes isn't alone in offering up a heartfelt "phew..." for a situation that could've turned far, far worse. It ended with the blessing of relatively minor, fixable injuries and, for the grown-ups, a lesson learned. Good news, indeed.
Get well soon, James III. Oh, and tell daddy Mr. McCain is wondering why he and the Steelers won't come visit him in the Rose Garden. Oh wait, that's right - HE DIDN'T WIN. But, AS FAR AS JAMES HARRISON IS CONCERNED, the only reason Obama's the one with the Rose Garden is that he got more electoral votes.
~ This week's "American Idol 'Winner' KRIS ALLEN KNOWS HOW FEEL" Award goes to...NICK MANGOLD, the terrific young center of your Jersey Jets. Upon learning that a panel of ex-NFL scouts named him the best center in the league, the former Buckeye erred on the side of humility and - oh yeah - truth: "Seriously, I really do appreciate it, but there are some guys out there who are head and shoulders above me."
I don't know if making "guys" plural is necessary (ANDRE GURODE is his only clear-cut superior, in my book) and I'm pretty sure "head and shoulders" is a stretch - this man, Nick, is worth his weight in gold - but it's good to see at least one Jet making even the slightest effort to avoid going all Swaggerlicious on the rest of the NFL. As for Kris Allen - nice enough kid, talented, good voice, we see a lot of iTunes downloads in his future. But we sure hope he knows who to blame when he puts on the cans to record that crap-fest of an *Idol * finale song. (Hint: It rhymes with "Say-Tea and Tea" and magically transforms one text-vote into ten!)
~ Reports surfaced this week that the Raiders continue to offer pass rusher DERRICK BURGESS around the NFL like Tony Soprano and so many one-legged Russians, floating this somewhat out there-ish, players-only trade: Burgess to New England in exchange for last month's 2nd round pick SEBASTIAN VOLLMER and back-up QB KEVIN O'CONNELL. So it's official. In a span of forty years, AL DAVIS has gone from paying Madden to playing Madden. Otherwise, we're not sure how the Raiders owner justifies that proposal, outside of a bizarre inclination to corner the market on guys nicknamed "Sea Bass." (Frankly, at this point we wouldn't put it past him.)
~ TRAVIS HENRY has apparently decided to continue the three-way race between his number of kids (11), baby-mommas (10) and arrests (the guy got clipped again earlier in May, this time for breaking a plea agreement). Travis, dude, give it a rest. (And we're pretty sure you know what we mean by "it.") Then again, perhaps the man deserves a little credit. Not everyone has the gusto to reproduce enough offspring to field his very own offensive side of the ball. (Henry, of course, is more familiar than most with the "offensive side of the ball," so to speak.)
By the way, Travis, the latest gleam in your eye is likely our fault. Given your track record - and it does seem like you're angling for *some * kind of record - we probably should've avoided words like "three-way." Please accept our sincerest apologies and this coupon for a free vasectomy prior to your next Father's Day-themed conjugal visit.
~ When word broke that at a member of the AFC EAST named Randy had been arrested for allegedly pinning a police officer between his slow-moving vehicle and another car, were we the only ones to experience that brutal combo of dread and déjà vu? Miami defensive end RANDY STARKS - you owe us. We prefer not to be aggravated. "Battery" doesn't like it much, either. Hope you had a dandy Memorial Day, doofus.
~ A hearty welcome back to Carolina owner JERRY RICHARDSON, who returned to the Panthers field for the first time since his transplant surgery four months ago. Congrats.
~ Lately, it seems like Out-Takes has been piling on BRETT FAVRE a bit. We don't want to keep doing that. Instead, well...we'd rather farm it out, like so much dirty laundry or criminally shoddy security work. ("Hi, may we speak with, um...Mr. Blackwater?") So without further ado, we close out the week with the Hall of Fame-burnished MICHAEL IRVIN and FRAN TARKENTON...
...In Their Own Words
IRVIN (from an interview with Pat Kirwan on the Sirius NFL Radio show, Movin' the Chains):
"I hate the fact that you're sitting here saying, 'I want to go to Minnesota.' You hate Ted Thompson that much that you're ready to kill each one of those Green Bay fans that cheered you on, that are going to put your kids through college? They made you the rich man that you are. Why kill them? Just let that thing go, Brett. Stay retired and you can make umpteen millions on #4 jerseys in Green Bay. But if you go back to Green Bay wearing that Minnesota jersey? Oh, it's a wrap, buddy. You lose your whole legacy with that."
Hard to improve on perfection. Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter didn't do better than that. Is it any wonder Irvin is an Out-Takes all-star? Moving on...what say you, three-time-Super Bowl-losing "That's Incredible!" host?
TARKENTON (originally aired on 790 AM, Atlanta, as reported by the Minneapolis Star Tribune):
"I think it's despicable." (Don't beat around the bush, Fran, tell us how you really feel.)
"He goes to New York and bombs." (Says who? Lots of teams would LOVE to have a guy come in and blow a shot at the playoffs against the guy they released so you could take his job, in his first game back in "their" stadium.)
Then, on the topic of Favre signing with Tarkenton's alma mater Vikings, "Frantic" channels his inner Limbaugh: "I kind of hope it happens, so he can fail."
Bring it home, old man, bring it home...
"He has made more stupid plays than any great quarterback I've ever seen."
Attaboy. Way to take(s) us out.
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.)"