Sometime in the last few years, someone in the NFL e-journalism universe decreed it not merely acceptable, but required, to name a "Mid-season All-Pro Team," a trend in lock-step with society's insatiable urge to celebrate the celebrated, like that relentless drumbeat of increasingly obscure awards shows Hollywood keeps churning out, Sorcerer's Apprentice-style. (Who among us doesn't remember exactly where we were when JOSH HARTNETT nabbed a SATURN AWARD nom in the "Best Performance by a Younger Actor" category for his compelling work as "rag-tag loner" ZEKE TYLER in 1998's sci-fi, school-ploitation thriller, The Faculty?)
Case in point, the bumper crop of internet columns (and lists! and charts!) that popped up a few weeks back on the websites of NBC Sports, ESPN, Peter King, Pro Football Weekly (the lesser of the PFWs, in our view), among far too many others. While these "stories" represent Exhibit A in terms of faux creativity, they are, we'll admit, mindless fun, so we won't get too amped, pro or con. However, one thing leapt out at us as common to all the lists and as the prime reason to pay them little heed. That is - we feel awkward saying - the across-the-board designation of New England's BRANDON MERIWEATHER as a mid-season all-pro safety.
Now don't get us wrong, even in the wake of Monday Night's tough-to-watch trainwreck in the Big Easy, we love what we've seen out of Meriweather. He's around the ball, he's directing the secondary, making impact plays, jacking people up, the whole nine. He continues to take leaps toward claiming the mantle of "RODNEY HARRISON'S HEIR APPARENT." In so doing, he has (pretty much) earned his place in the rarified air of his superiors - future yellow-jacket wearer ED REED, gender-neutral TROY POLAMA-LOPOFFMYHAIR and DARREN "He's Never Looked" SHARPER. That, in and of itself, is remarkably impressive, a great sign for Pats fans. BUT...
...forgive us if we don't chow down on the hometown cookin'. Because, in our view, not only is Brandon Meriweather still in need of remedial tackling lessons, he's arguably not even the best safety on his team. He is, in fact, not even the best "BRANDON M." safety on his team. That distinction goes to under-the-radar free agent signing BRANDON MCGOWAN who, that Indy game notwithstanding, has been pretty darned productive in 2009, especially for a street FA. If anyone bears a resemblance to the bone-jarring Harrison, it's this safety-named-Brandon.
As for which one of the two we'd bet on, bright-future-in-New-England-wise, we're right with the NBC/ESPN/Peter King crowd. Meriweather is dynamic, athletic and fast. Along with JEROD MAYO, he is the next generation of Defensive Playmaker for the Patriots. He's just not the best safety in the AFC right now, or even in New England. And we figured someone ought to say it.
WHO DO YOU TRUST THE LEAST?
A) Texans HC GARY KUBIAK with plenty of time on the clock and a two-touchdown lead on Indy. (Peyton in the huddle: "Down 14 to Kubiak - fellas, we've got 'em right where we want 'em!")
B) JASON CAMPBELL in a spread formation, staring down a 4th and 1 as your last, best hope of beating Philly and keeping Washington on the NFC East feeding tube. (Seriously, what were the odds he wasn't going to scramble around, then make an errant throw and get injured?)
C) LAWRENCE PHILLIPS. Remember him? (Two-part answer: "Barely" and "For really bad stuff.") The former #6 overall pick and serial girlfriend abuser is currently serving a ten-year sentence for driving a car into three teenagers he fought with during a pick-up football game. (Hard to imagine typing an uglier sentence than that unless you also imagine going back several years and using the words "girlfriend," "pregnant" and "flight of stairs.") Earlier this Fall, Phillips got 25 years tacked onto his sentence after being convicted on several counts of...wait for it...assaulting a former girlfriend. (Weird!) Say this, the man's consistent. And, ya know...evil.
If you guessed, "D) It's really hard to choose, but I definitely hate that C) guy the most," you passed the test, which is more than we can say for the guys in A) and B).
"SOUP NAZI" AWARD
When it comes to naming the most re-watchable re-runs, it's hard not to cite Seinfeld's "Soup Nazi" episode, and call it a day. Frankly, it's no contest. (Unless you consider *Seinfeld's * "The Contest.") Well, we'd like to offer up another top-notch re-run - the ongoing coverage of VINCE WILFORK'S ATTITUDE. A few weeks ago, in response to yet another query about his stellar play (despite his not-so-stellar long-term status in New England), the big-hearted, big-everything else'd nose tackle told the *Globe's * ALBERT BREER that his sensational performance in '09 is due not to the added motivation of a lucrative pact in his future, but to who he's been in the past, and who he is right now:
"I played from the time I got in it to the time I'll retire. Not because it's a contract year, that's not me. Guys who do that...just my opinion, I don't like it. You don't have to worry about me playing just because it's my last year, because that's not the case. I want to get better each year.''
We don't have a crystal ball - and we forgot to DVR that Nostradamus thing we wrote about last month - so we don't know what's going to happen to big # 75. But someone better give him a long-term deal, and soon, because we'd bet dollars to donuts he'll be worth every penny.
~ Say what you will about VINCE YOUNG's case of the "Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs," he's a helluva lot of fun to watch on the football field. Since taking over for
KERRY COLLINS after Week Six, the aptly named Young has led Tennessee to five straight wins. In so doing, he may just have saved the job of a guy who's spent a good portion of 2009 keeping him from doing his. Glad to see the McNair Apparent let loose.
~ In mid-November, as we watched the latest installment of ESPN's outstanding documentary series "30 FOR 30" - *The Legend of Jimmy the Greek *- we couldn't stop wondering, "When did FRANK DEFORD start his transformation from legendary sportswriter to bizarre fusion of in-one-day-out-the-next Yankees skipper-slash-angry drunk BILLY MARTIN and Christopher Lloyd's wild-haired Ignatowsky-once-removed DOC BROWN of *Back to the Future * fame?"
~ According to last week versus Seattle, Rams QB KYLE BOLLER may be a victim of Karma-once-removed, c/o of his new girlfriend, CARRIE PREJEAN, who has the distinction of being both a dethroned pageant winner AND a noted, ahem, "Bible-Thumper." (Guess that's what the kids are calling it these days.) Better luck next time, Kyle - with the Ram debut AND the girlfriend.
~ Did anyone else walk past a poster for the new holiday album *My Christmas * by ANDREA BOCELLI, and think that that Blind Opera Guy bears an alarming resemblance to JEFF HOSTETLER BEA ARTHUR-with-her-eyes-closed?
~ The DOLPHINS loss to BUFFALO (has anybody trademarked "lowly Buffalo" yet?) was one of those brutal defeats it's tough to come back from. A team hoping to reclaim its lane in the race for the AFC East simply cannot lose that game, certainly not in the "out-of-hand science experiment blowing up in your face and singeing your hair" kind of way we witnessed on Sunday.
~ Is there anyone covering the NFL who brings a better combo of down to Earth, clued-up and just plain likeable than ESPN's ADAM SCHEFTER?
~ Just when we thought BRAD CHILDRESS had a stranglehold on the title of "biggest clown in football," REX RYAN invites Yankees manager JOE GIRARDI to the Meadowlands to give MARK INTER-SANCHEZ unsuccessful sliding lessons, and - surprise, surprise - makes a big show of it, landing himself, as was likely his point all along, on the back page of the Post. Rex Ryan, boys and girls. Not merely a clown, no no - the HANK STEINBRENNER of NFL head coaches.
~ However frustrated New England might be about Monday Night's surgical dismantling at the hand of the Saints, given what the Big Easy has seen over the last several years, it's tough not to feel happy for the football fans who call New Orleans home. Honestly, if you're gonna get waxed on MNF, it might as well be in a non-conference game against a team whose fan-base could use something to cheer about, particularly around the holidays. (It doesn't hurt, we might add, that this is the team that is absolutely going to upend FAVRE and CHILDRESS in the NFC Championship game. Yeah, that's right, we said it - the Saints will beat the living number two out of #4 and the Vikes in the Superdome, on January 24, 2010. BOOK IT.)
And finally, a non-football-related topic we're finding hard to avoid...
Out-Takes would like to go on record that the marriage of TIGER WOODS and THAT HOT BLONDE NANNY is nobody's business but their own (and, okay, maybe some "Staties" in Florida), and that the Media - fringe, mainstream and the gulf that lies between - does us all a disservice by giving their sad tale anything more than (hold on while we click "word count") sixty-nine words plus one more sentence. To paraphrase, if not downright steal from, the recently deranged, formerly funny DENNIS MILLER, "When did everyone in this country become EDNA KRAVITZ from Betwitched?"
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.)