Not ready for some football -- yet
By Brian Murphy
Special to Page 2

Civil disobedience at The Cooler, fellow dwellers. Get into it.

Turn your Dixie cups into mini-megaphones. March around the Sparkletts in a circle of anger. Say it loud and proud.

Paul Tagliabue
Paul Tagliabue is trying to drum up interest for the NFL in Japan.
"NFL, go away/We'll gawk at Theismann's hair another day!"

"Hey, hey/Ho, ho/Tags in a kimono has got to go!"

Or, the tried and true: "Hell No!/We Won't Go (to the Hall of Fame exhibition game)."

They can't just drug us and drag us into the NFL exhibition season, people. You cannot just start watching Football Utterly Devoid of Relevance without chaining yourself to The Cooler in protest. What, do we need to rent out that Butterfly Hill chick to perch herself atop The Cooler? Come on. Don't make me call the Tree Hugger. Her appearance fees are too high, and we can do this job on our own.

It is August. Our beloved baseball pennant races are just getting good. The NFL, while a worthy distraction for our dark, gambling selves come Week 1, is death in the exhibition season. And even considering the over-under allure of Week 1, the fantasy league orgasmia that NFL Kickoff brings us, it is best to turn our full attention to the "League of Divisions You Cannot Name" when the World Series is properly finished.

Need we further proof than Saturday night's exercise in tedium from Osaka? I mean, I knew I'd wind up loathing Steve Spurrier at some point this season, but I didn't think it would be a month before Labor Day. And he wasn't even wearing a visor! Imagine the pool of venom that would have been filled had Spurrier gone with the visor under the Osaka Dome. One shudders to think.

Hey, I hear you, football lover. Baseball has a month of this stuff, you say, so why dump on the NFL exhibition season? With apologies to George Carlin, let's go through some key differences:

Sage Rosenfels
Sage Rosenfels and the Redskins whipped the 49ers in a meaningless exercise in Osaka, Japan.
In football, an exhibition game costs you 55 bucks.

In baseball, a ticket to spring training can run you less than 10 bucks or, if you bring the right sort of lager in a brown bag to a Cubs game at HoHoKam, can earn you a freebie from a generous Midwesterner.

In football, the games are televised, forcing you to ponder the true nature of irrelevance.

In baseball, spring training games are rarely, if ever, televised, allowing you the ability to shed your shirt in the stands, without fear of a stray camera shot of your alabaster gut causing your family years of shame.

In football, if you want to see your team play an exhibition, you sometimes have to travel to Europe, or to Japan, causing much rage when your credit card bill comes the next month.

In baseball, if you want to see your team play in spring training, you sometimes have to travel to Arizona, where the women are generally smoking hot, the ballgames are played under a pleasant sun, and your rage is only unearthed when you are told of the preposterous 1 a.m. closing time for taverns in the desert.

In football, players can run the risk of horrific injury in an exhibition.

In baseball, players can sometimes run the risk of horrific shame when Tiffanie from Babes in Scottsdale, a den of exotic dancing, actually shows up at the ticket gate the next day, asking for the comped tickets said Player promised, just as Player's wife shows up for her tickets, pushing a baby stroller.

In football, an exhibition can produce a game where players are angry to be there, coaches give terse, information-free quotes, and sportswriters are forced to pound out game stories drier than a piece of Melba toast served under a working hair dryer in the Mojave desert.

In baseball, a spring training game can produce a perfect afternoon, where you lie on the grass of Scottsdale Stadium's outfield, shouting to Padres outfielder Tony Gwynn the names of potential Hall of Famers. And Gwynn, staying in his outfielder's stance the whole time, gives you thumbs up or thumbs down to each name as you shout it.

It happened, fellow dwellers.

Never underestimate the power of spring training.

On to the Weekend List of Five, dedicated to preserving interest in the grand old game until the pennant races are through, or until the bastards strike -- whichever comes first:

1. Yankees-Angels: Awesome
Andy Pettitte
Andy Pettitte was dialed in Friday night as he shut down the Angels.
Epic four-game package down at Edison Field, a place you'd like to make fun of for its ridiculous faux mountain set in the outfield, only you can't, because it's actually such a surprisingly pleasant place to be.

Another reason you can't make fun of it: Prior to the trade of her husband, attending an Angels game meant you had a very good chance of catching a long, fantasy-filled gaze at Tawny Kitaen at the restaurant behind home plate. She once busted me and a fellow scribe gawking from the press box during a game and gave us a hammed-up wave, as if to say: "I see you two adolescents! And no, I'm not going to recreate the Whitesnake video! And no, you have no shot at me! Ever!"

Such a heavy message -- all in one wave.

Anyway, we had Jarrod Washburn on Thursday night. We had Andy Pettitte on Friday night. We had Tim Salmon's game-winning bomb on Saturday. And we had 12 frames Sunday, with the Yanks earning the split.

Man, it was enough to give the Rally Monkey heart palpitations. Somebody call Disney's vet.

It all got me to thinking how sweet a rematch would be in the postseason. Stay on your courses, gents. We need a little SoCal-Gotham ball rivalry in October.

That is, if there is an October.

2. The Diamondbacks: A grudging acceptance
Junior Spivey
No, Junior Spivey is not a member of an R&B band.
I sent so many bad vibes down Arizona way all through last autumn, and look what it got me: A World Series trophy, poolside in the outfield. Bummer.

So I figure the Snakes have got no shot this year. You know, Colangelo as Satan, Schilling and Johnson so old they move into a managed care facility, and Johnny-come-lately fans with no deserving karma whatsoever.

So much for that.

Johnson and Schilling are making Koufax and Drysdale look like Abbott and Costello. (Geez, you'd think with such an easy rhythm of six names, I'd get off a better line.)

Meanwhile, guys like Junior Spivey are showing up, and not just to head up a R&B band. (What a waste of the name "Junior Spivey.") And Byung-Hyun Kim, who was supposed to have spent the rest of his life on a Korean mountaintop, full of shame, is instead turning into the Far East's answer to Kent Tekulve, only with slightly better stuff.

Man. Another purple October? I can't handle it.

That is, if there is an October.

3.My Twins, my beloved Twins
Torii Hunter
Maybe Torii Hunter could save baseball with a leaping catch at the wall.
As this season, like a baseball, appears headed to land over the fence of Work Stoppage, never to return, it needs my guy Torii Hunter to sprint across center field, leap at the wall and snag it back into play.

Torii Hunter's glove -- where baseball strikes go to die.

A nice thought, but then again, what's not to love about the Twins? They play dynamite defense, they feature great young arms, their closer is overweight and has an all-time nickname ("Everyday Eddie" could be a porn star's moniker), they bust tail every night, and they feature more consonants than any contending team in history.

Who knew that Kent Hrbek's stardom in Minnesota was just warming us up for the likes of Doug Mientkiewicz and A.J. Pierzynski?

If you have a pulse, Cooler-dweller, it means thou art a Twins fan.

4. A nightmare straight out of the SAT
Word problem: If Sergio Garcia plays four rounds of golf at the International, and if Garcia's score at the end of four days reads: 7 (-5) 19 (-2) - 19, which of the following is true?

    (a) The dude from "A Beautiful Mind" was running the scoreboard behind the 18th green.

    (b) You have just awoken in a frigid sweat, thinking that math problem was on your college board exam, and it prevented you from getting into Coed JC.

    (c) The PGA Tour has just played with the absurd Stableford scoring system, rendering any hope of you following the event null and void.

Drop the Stableford! When I watch the Tour, I don't want to need scratch paper and a pencil to figure out if Steve Lowery's got a chance to win.

5. A nod to the NFL
Lest you pigskin fans think the Cooler was anti-football, take heed. I was all set to rip the NFL Hall of Fame because of its bogus "mandatory minimum" rule of admitting four guys every year.

Jim Kelly
Jim Kelly's induction speech in Canton was extremely emotional.
Then Jim Kelly got up to speak.

And I learned he sprung for 500 hotel rooms. And I learned he invited 1,200 guests. And I remembered a trip to Buffalo for a 49ers-Bills game one year where I ate wings, talked shop with the local sports nuts and loved an American city's passion.

And then he paid tribute to his son.

And then? Well ... let's just say that I have really bad allergies, and they sorta started acting up, and maybe the guy in the apartment below me was playing the music from "Brian's Song" or something, 'cause I don't know what happened next.

Except to say, way to go, Jimmy. And Hunter.

See, there's room for the NFL at the Cooler, after all.

Brian Murphy of the San Francisco Chronicle writes the "Weekend Water Cooler" every Monday for Page 2.



Brian Murphy Archive

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