Another Saturday down the tube
By Brian Murphy
Special to Page 2

As usual, dwellers, it was my babe who spoke not with forked tongue.

She was headed to the gym on Saturday afternoon. She tried to get my attention as I stared at the magic box they call "television." I was beyond hope, addicted to the blue glow: The beloved Giants playing baseball on Fox, the beloved Bruins playing at Colorado on ABC, and epic tennis from Queens on CBS.

I was spraining thumb ligaments working the remote, so much so that it wasn't even NFL Opening Sunday and already there was an Injury Report ticker on ESPN News that read: NFL SUNDAY -- MURPHY, QUESTIONABLE (thumb) ...

Andy Roddick
Andy Roddick's five set win was one of the highlights of an amazing Saturday afternoon in sports.
She waved metallic objects in front of my face. My response was to let a rope of drool hang off my mouth and work its way to the floor.

"Alright," she said, "I'm off. I'll be back later this afternoon to see if your sports brains have exploded all over the living room."

She was right. At The Cooler on Saturday, there was danger of cranial explosion, so liberal were my helpings of the sports smorgasbord offered on the tube. I felt like Dom DeLuise in an All-You-Can-Eat BBQ shack. Or like my two cook pals Tiny and Sammy, two stout gentlemen who once so destroyed an All-You-Can-Eat sushi bar, the owner of the joint approached their table and asked them never to return. That's a true story.

Outside the window, a sensational, shimmering, sun-splashed Saturday played out.

Sailboats dotted the Bay, their white masts a romantic canvas against the gray-green water.

Californians biked and ran along waterside paths with views to melt your previous beliefs about the limits of natural beauty.

And I sat inside, transfixed.

Must ... have ... TV.

Must ... have ... college football.

Must ... have ... tennis.

Must ... have ... beer to wash this down, and a well-timed nap to round out this perfect day.

It reminded me of a Peanuts cartoon I once savored. In the first panel, Charlie Brown looks outside a window and says, "Oh, shoot, looks like it's a beautiful day today." In the second panel, Sally says: "What's wrong with that?" And in the third panel, Charlie Brown says, "Because. On a beautiful day, I always feel obligated to go outside and do something."

That cartoon haunts me every time I become one with my couch on an autumn afternoon.

Charlie Brown: The voice of the common man.

There were moments of utter confusion, when I nearly curled into a ball and surrendered, unable to keep up. Concurrently, at one point, the Giants pieced together a rally against Curt Schilling, Andy Roddick was down 5-6 in the third set after losing the first two, and UCLA was going for it on a 4th-and-1.

Calgon, take me away!

I was so overwhelmed, I barely noticed little Oscar, the greatest Yellow Lab puppy of alltime, noodling around our living room corner. Finally, I paid heed to the hound, and saw that he had nosed open our box of the board game "Scrabble" and was feasting on the square letter pieces. Tragedy. The headlines danced through my brain: "CUTE PUPPY DIES, POINT OVERLOAD POISONING AFTER EATING TWO 'X'S AND A 'Z'"

Sure enough. I pried open his cute little mouth and there, as if immersed by a floodlight, in the center of his tongue, was the letter 'I', worth one point.

Later, after my babe returned from the gym, we wondered how many he had eaten, and also wondered: If we paint a board on the sidewalk where he relieves himself, might he poop out the letters to form "quizzical" for a triple-word score and win a hypothetical match, going away?

This is what happens, dwellers, when you give yourself up to the TV on a sunshiny Saturday. Your alma mater chokes away a big road win, your tennis Jones is satiated by a five-set Roddick win, your ball team wins in 11 and your puppy eats your Scrabble pieces.

There are, of course, worse ways to mark time on this trail of tears we call life.

On, then, to the Weekend List of Five:

Kordell Stewart
How long will Kordell Stewart keep his job in Chicago?
1. The NFL: Ruling the Roost
America's favorite sport is back, and that means military fly-overs, football-field-sized flags and bombs bursting in air.

Hard to tell which is America's favorite sport: War, or football.

If an enemy land opens up their LlamaBall season with military fly-overs and all that nonsense, our propaganda machines will be pointing out how brutal its regime is. Look! Even their LlamaBall opener had military jets! Don't get me wrong, dweller. I'm the grandson of a career Navy man and a proud American and all that. I just want pure football, not a 5-percent hearing loss when the F-14s buzz my scalp at the stadium.

Seriously. Great to have football back at The Cooler. We marvel at it all.

At how the lads from ""Queer Eye for the Straight Guy'' would love Steve Mariucci accessorizing his baby blues with the Honolulu blue Lions golf shirt.

At how Kordell Stewart is still gainfully employed.

And at how the Cincinnati Bengals can bill their season-ticket holders without a ski mask on.

Justine Henin-Hardenne
Justine Henin-Hardenne won the Belgian battle at the U.S. Open on Saturday.
2. The U.S. Open.: Amazing What Can Get Done in Dry Weather
Well done, Andy Roddick. You're 21, a U.S. Open champ and you have the babe girlfriend. And the suit from some corporation didn't call you "Randy."

Did you see Saturday night's ladies' final? Some stuffed shirt gives Justine Henin-Hardenne her hardware and check for a cool million, and says something to the effect of, "Way to go, Christine."

Clearly, the guy had been in deep discussions with a bottle of Myers' Rum in the corporate suite shortly before the presentation.

Fair play to young Justine -- and, really, when's the last time you cheered on a Justine? In the day back when Justine Bateman was hot on "Family Ties?" Seen her lately, by the way? Never mind.

Anyway, well done to young Justine, only that whole Belgian Thing is a little baffling.

Belgium: The Delaware of Europe.

Some Belgians had a flag going at the Henin-Hardenne/Clijsters match, and you found yourself thinking: Wait. Is that the Belgian flag? What is the Belgian flag? Does Belgium have a flag?

The Belgians helped us out by writing "THE CHOCOLATE MAKERS" on the flag, a tacit admission that they knew no one would get that it was a Belgian flag, and they would have to spoon-feed us the info. I could see the huge throwdown argument that group of Belgian fans must have had before decorating the flag and getting on the No. 7 train to Arthur Ashe Stadium. There must have been a massive, divisive split between the faction that wanted "THE WAFFLE MAKERS" vs. the eventual winners.

Brock Berlin
Brock Berlin won't be very popular in Gainesville after leading Miami's comeback.
3. College Football: Like Ralph Malph, It's Still Got It
You can always count on the kids to entertain. I remember a college pal's father who happened to be a big-time college football gambler. He used to lay down wagers, get drilled by both the point spread and his liquor cabinet, then call our pad on Saturday night and sing me his song of woe, if I answered the phone.

"Damn kids," he'd slur, "you bet good freaking money and then the star quarterback can't freaking perform because he got into a fight with his girlfriend on Friday night. Freaking running back gets a zit on his nose and can't carry the freaking ball ... "

He'd go on like this for minutes, then eventually fall asleep, soused, in mid-sentence.

Ah, college memories.

Anyway ... so, how's tricks in Gainesville, Fla. these days?

I'm wondering. If I poll the average Gator fan and throw these three names at him, and ask said Gator fan to rank them in order of Detestability Factor, how would they rank today?

a. Brock Berlin.

b. Ron Zook.

c. Osama bin Laden.

I'm thinking an a-b-c sweep would about fit the bill.

Man. Brock Berlin's comeback for Miami on his old school Florida was nearly Gruden-esque in its Face Factor.

Hope my old college pal's Dad took the 'Canes -- and stayed awake for the finish.

Greg Maddux
Greg Maddux is almost in a class by himself in baseball history.
4. Don't Forget Baseball
Easy, dweller, to forget September ball amid the pigskin mania of a Saturday-Sunday blizzard of gridiron.

But now is when the Grand Old Game's most epic tales are being penned.

And you can forget Sox-Yanks. I'm talking about Greg Maddux, one win shy of becoming the first guy EVER to win 15 games in 16 consecutive seasons.

Whose record would he break?

Only the one held by Denton True Young, that's who.

By the way, do you figure Denton True Young's buddies nicknamed him "Cy" because otherwise he sounded too much like a Chinese take-out dish?

Just checked Cy Young's entry in the Baseball Encyclopedia. His other nickname was, I kid you not, "Foxy Grandpa."

Who knew Cy Young hung out in Adult Chat Rooms, or had a CB handle?

Daunte Culpepper
Daunte Culpepper had reason to celebrate at Lambeau Field on Sunday.
5. Final NFL Thought: Lambeau, Wherefore Art Thou?
Are we not at a sad day when Lambeau Field is, gulp, Just Another Place?

First, the Falcons beat the Pack in the snow last January. Now, the formerly-lowly Vikings put the hammer on the Pack in the season opener.

Lambeau Field? An ordinary place where road teams win?

Uh, yeah. Sort of like how it was from, oh, say, 1972 to 1992, two decades of Pack mediocrity. Sorry, cheeseheads. I love you guys. Really do. Just had to break it down factually.

So now does this mean that the sight of chunky Wisconsin-ites BBQ'ing brats in the parking lot has gone from the hallmark of a championship tradition to the lasting tradition of a bygone era?

Lambeau, we hardly knew ye.

But if you ever get hard-up for halftime entertainment for a losing team, I know of a puppy who can dazzle with his "Scrabble" skills, and may even be able to spell "CHMURA" at midfield for a double-word score.

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



Brian Murphy Archive

Murphy: Power outage

Murphy: Muscles to the Statehouse

Murphy: Study hall open

Murphy: I love Wimbledon

Murphy: TigerSpeak 101

Murphy: On a hot streak

Murphy: Anti-rocket fuel

Murphy: Going, going ... boring

Murphy: Raising a Tiger

Murphy: Giant Trinity

Murphy: Fandemonium

Murphy: Life imitating art

Murphy: Masters of our domain

Murphy: Somebody has to lose

Murphy: Welcome to Cooler Day!

Murphy: Spring is in the air

Murphy: Here's to Ew

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