King Kaufman’s Sports Daily

The NFL scouting combine: Wake up, fans! Mistakes are being made. Plus: Pacman's $81,000 strip-club visual.

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You’re missing the NFL scouting combine, which runs through Tuesday in Indianapolis. I say you’re missing it because if you’re reading this, you’re awake, so you must not be watching coverage of the combine.

The NFL scouting combine is a six-day festival of tests and drills and interviews, with college stars going through their paces for scouts and general managers. It’s so important that the best prospects make sure to skip it. The insights gathered at the RCA Dome have put teams in position to draft the likes of Alex Smith, Charles Rogers and Joey Harrington among the first three picks in just the past few years.

This is the process that leads to NFL teams taking Ryan Leaf second and Matt Hasselbeck 187th, Tim Couch first and Aaron Brooks 131st — not to mention Daunte Culpepper 11th. Armed with “40″ times and Wonderlic scores, NFL teams in 2000 took quarterbacks Giovanni Carmazzi and Chris Redman in the third round, Tee Martin in the fifth, and Marc Bulger and Tom Brady, in that order, in the sixth.

Few people know it, but my business has something very similar to the scouting combine. Just as defensive tackles have to show they can run 40 yards quickly, we columnists have to prove to our potential bosses that we have the raw skills that can be molded into performance worthy of filling the space between advertisements.

When I was just starting out I and hundreds of other aspiring sports columnists gathered in an office building in Dubuque, Iowa. This isn’t the NFL, so we don’t get the glamour spots like Indianapolis.

My rotation started with a typing test. I wowed the scouts with a 4.4 40, meaning I typed 40 words in 4.4 seconds. All of the words were “I.”

I hear you laugh, but that’s an important word in this racket, if you ask I.

Then I took the Wonderlic, sort of an IQ test, which I evidently passed because I’m good with complicated math. To wit: “A pack of gum sells for .89 each. What do four packs cost?”

About five bucks!

Then it got tough. You know how football players have to run those rope or spare-tire courses? Well, we have to approximate our skills too. They sat us in a room and gave us 30 seconds each to:

  • Write a short parody of the way Brent Musberger talks.

  • Come up with a clever name for “the media,” to be used in columns for the rest of our careers.

  • Use the trademark symbol in a humorous way.

  • Invent a new nickname for a famous sports figure.

  • Devise a recurring schtick involving some member of your family not yet old enough to read your column.

    They don’t really tell you how you did, but I think I aced the combine. After all, here I am at Salon, getting paid a C-note a week, while all those other schmoes from that week are stuck doing network TV shows and writing bestselling books. Losers.

    Hey, where’s that $81,000 I had last night? [PERMALINK]

    Every once in a while, we sports fans arrayed out here on the couches and easy chairs of America, or squinting into our computer screens for the latest news tidbit to take our minds off the dreary work we have handy in another window in case the boss oozes by, are reminded just how different we are from the men who play the games that entertain us.

    Of all the stories of violence and general lawlessness to come out of the NBA’s All-Star weekend in Las Vegas, the biggest has been a shooting at a strip club at which Tennessee Titans cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones was present. One of the three shooting victims is in critical condition. The shooter, identified as a man wearing a black T-shirt and blue jeans, remains at large.

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    The Associated Press reports that the Las Vegas police say Jones is not a person of interest in the case. His lawyer says Jones doesn’t know anyone involved in the shooting, and he was interviewed as a witness, not a suspect.

    But there doesn’t seem to be any dispute that the trouble, which began as a melee inside the club and ended up with the shootings outside, started because of $81,000 in cash belonging to Jones.

    According to a search warrant in the case, Jones had been showering the strippers with the money, “intended as a visual effect.” Police later seized the money from the hotel room of the show’s promoter, who admitted he scooped it all up because he thought it was intended for the dancers.

    Now, I don’t know what you were doing Sunday night. Maybe nothing, maybe something. Maybe you were even in a strip club, showering the dancers with money. You go.

    Was it $81,000?

    Have you ever seen $81,000 in cash? I don’t think I have. How do you even walk around with $81,000 in cash? That’s 810 $100 bills. That’s not a roll. That’s, like, luggage. Do you carry it in a box? A briefcase? A bag?

    I feel like the country mouse here. I get all nervous and twitchy walking down the street with $200 in my pocket, which I rarely do. I guess I’m just kind of a practical guy, but if I’m ever going to shower strippers with $81,000, I’m putting it on a credit card and getting some miles out of it. The Mike Price plan.

    So back to Pacman. According to police, he’s showering the strippers with cash to the tune of $81,000 because it looks cool. The spotlight has a way of catching the $81,000 just so, I’m guessing, and it really enhances the ecdysiastic art. And then, what, somebody scoops up the dough and Jones is all, “Hey, what are you doing with my money?”

    It’s like he was throwing $81,000 onto a stage because he didn’t care about getting it back!

    I wonder how many fans of the Tennessee Titans wouldn’t be able to buy a house with an asking price of $81,000. Plenty own houses worth much more, of course, maybe a big majority of those who buy season tickets. Still, using $81,000 for a visual effect. That’s on a different planet.

    Every once in a while you get a little reminder that these guys live on that different planet. They just transport into ours for a few hours at a time because ours is where the arenas are.

    Previous column: Spring training

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