Federal regulators fined CBS $550,000 this week for last season's Super Bowl halftime show, which featured Justin Timberlake exposing one of Janet Jackson's breasts and then introducing the wonderful phrase "wardrobe malfunction" into the lexicon.
Come on, how many times since February have you used that phrase while capping on someone's outfit with your friends?
What hasn't been reported is that the fine was actually only $500,000 for the naked boob. The other $50,000 was for the hackneyed dance moves.
The federal decency crackdown that followed the Janet and Justin show scared "Monday Night Football" into working on a five-second delay, just in case Al Michaels suddenly ripped John Madden's shirt off on camera. Salon's editors have decided to institute the same policy for this column, which is after all written by a shady-looking cartoon character who may or may not be wearing pants, and whose hands are doing who-knows-what.
Here now, with appropriate safeguards in place, are the Week 3 picks. Winners are in chaste little caps.
ARIZONA (0-2) at Atlanta (2-0): What the Heck Pick of the week. Bingo-bango, right outta the box. The Cardinals would be a good WTH pick pretty much any week, but going on the road to play the hot, sexy Falcons (five-second delay version: the ... Falcons), well, it's just too good to pass up. Just when Michael Vick is looking so spectacular, and the defense is playing so well, and everybody is jumping on the Atlanta bandwagon, and the Falcons are playing at home: They just have to lose to the Cardinals, don't they?
Baltimore (1-1) at CINCINNATI (1-1): It's not taking me long to jump off the Ravens Super Bowl bus, is it? The Ravens have lost tight end Todd Heap, the only good player in their passing game, which will hurt some, though not as much as it would have if their passing game didn't already stink. The Bengals defense looked tough against the Dolphins, except when it didn't, but don't forget that was the Dolphins. But I liked the way they didn't fold when they could have in that game, and while this one could come down to Jamal Lewis grinding out yards while the Cincy offense goes nowhere, I'll take a chance on the Bengals.
Chicago (1-1) at MINNESOTA (1-1): The Vikings have to be feeling like they should have beaten the Eagles Monday night. It isn't really true, but they probably feel that way. They gained 410 yards, but they kept failing in the red zone, most spectacularly when Daunte Culpepper fumbled on the 1-nanometer line. The Bears are banged up in the secondary. This one should be fun for the home fans.
CLEVELAND (1-1) at N.Y. Giants (1-1): The Browns and Cowboys spent last Sunday going, "Here, you win this game." "No, no, here, you win it." "No, I insist!" At long last the Cowboys graciously agreed to take the W. Given that, and how the Browns are so beat up they barely have enough bodies to fill up the uniforms, and how the Giants bit the Redskins in the ass last week (five-second delay version: bit the Redskins ... last week), I've got to go with Cleveland, because if there's one thing I know in the NFL, it's that I don't have any idea what I'm talking about. But I'm not going to bet on back-to-back good games for Kurt Warner at this stage in his career.
HOUSTON (0-2) at Kansas City (0-2): Well, this one had What the Heck written all over it when the schedule came out, but I don't think the WTH rules allow me to pick against a winless team. So it's just a straight pick of the Texans. Neither one of these teams can play defense, so anything can happen, but with Priest Holmes likely to be sidelined with an ankle injury, the Chiefs are suddenly in serious trouble on both sides of the ball. Wide receiver Eddie Kennison is also questionable, which will hurt some, though not as much as it would have if their passing game didn't already stink. If Holmes doesn't play, and the Texans can avoid turning the ball over a half dozen times, and some other things don't happen, and I'm not wrong about all of this, Houston will win. How's that for a ringing endorsement?
Jacksonville (2-0) at TENNESSEE (1-1): The Jaguars are living on borrowed time, having won twice on miracle finishes despite scoring only 20 points. But that defense looks pretty stiff, particularly against the run, having given up 2.8 yards per carry to the Bills and Broncos. Fortunately for the Titans, while they've been living by the run so far, they don't have to. The Jags' undefeated season ends here, but they'll be a tough opponent all season.
New Orleans (1-1) at ST. LOUIS (1-1): I don't know. No clue. What do you want from me? I think the Rams are a mediocre team capable of having a good game now and then. I think the Saints are a good team capable of making any opponent look like the '72 Dolphins. Especially with Deuce McAllister out for the Saints, I'll punt and take the home team. But really, I have no idea.
PHILADELPHIA (2-0) at Detroit (2-0): Another good candidate for What the Heck Pick of the week, but again, the bylaws of the What the Heck Society stipulate that a 2-0 team can't be a WTH pick. The Eagles are kind of due for a stumble, but I'll play it safe.
Pittsburgh (1-1) at MIAMI (0-2): I said last week that the Dolphins were going to win some games but you wouldn't catch me picking them anytime soon. So much for that. Their offense is (emergency five-second delay!), but their defense is stout. And as bad as that offensive line is -- and it's really, really (1 Mississippi, 2 Mississippi, 3 Mississippi, 4 Mississippi, 5 Mississippi) -- if quarterback A. "J. Fiedler" Feeley can stop throwing touchdowns to the other team, the Dolphins can win. I think it's good that rookie quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is starting already for the Steelers, though I realize it isn't by choice. But I don't think he's going to start winning already.
San Diego (1-1) at DENVER (1-1): A potential Super Bowl team losing to Jax is one thing. Losing to the Bolts the next week? Nuh-uh.
Green Bay (1-1) at INDIANAPOLIS (1-1): A great marquee quarterback matchup, Bart Starr against Johnny Unitas. I mean Brett Favre against Peyton Manning. Though really I don't think Favre is in Manning's class these days, and as with Starr's Packers, when Green Bay wins it's because of the running game. Could happen, but I don't think it will.
San Francisco (0-2) at SEATTLE (2-0): Last year, the Seahawks went 8-0 at home and 2-6 on the road. This year, overwhelming favorites to run away with their division, they immediately exorcise their demons by winning their first two games of the year, both on the road. Then they come home and get to play the 49ers, who a lot of people think are going to be in the running for next year's top draft pick. The Seahawks just have to lose this game, right? That, of course, is why I'm picking them.
Tampa Bay (0-2) at OAKLAND (1-1): Looks like the Sunday night games were picked before anybody realized the Bucs and Raiders wouldn't be any good. Wait, who ever thought the Bucs and Raiders would be any good? Since meeting in the Super Bowl 20 months ago, they've combined to go 12-24. The Bucs haven't scored a touchdown on offense since 2003, though the good news is they've scored two points more than the Jaguars this season.
The Raiders beat the Bills last week despite Jerry Rice not catching a pass, ending his streak of 274 games with at least one catch. I have a couple of streaks of my own. I had picked at least one game correctly in 19 straight Friday columns until I went 0-for-2 on Championship Game Sunday last year. But I've started a new streak, now at three. I have also used the word "the" in 479 consecutive pieces.
Dallas (1-1) at WASHINGTON (1-1): Boy, is the shine back on this rivalry or what? Three weeks into Joe Gibbs' second tenure in Washington, this already seems like an old-fashioned 'Skins-'Boys collision, on Monday night and everything. Neither team is as good as they were in the rivalry's heyday, but neither is as bad as they seemed last week, when the Cowboys reluctantly agreed to beat the Browns and the Redskins turned the ball over on every single play while losing to the Giants.
The Redskins are beat up. Patrick Ramsey likely making the start at quarterback in place of Mark Brunell won't matter much, but losing linebacker LaVar Arrington to knee surgery hurts a lot. Still, with Clinton Portis running, if the Redskins can avoid turning the ball over on just a few plays, maybe three or four, they should be able to do just enough to delight a delirious home crowd.
Season record: 26-6
Last week: 13-3
What the Heck Picks: 2-0 (Federal investigators stirring)
Seconds of your life gone forever because of five-second delays in this column: 20
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Barry Bonds for MVP Stat of the Day [PERMALINK]
Today's stat of the day: zero.
That's how much proof there is that Barry Bonds is on steroids.
That Bonds is juiced is the only legitimate argument against him winning the MVP, or against him keeping it if he does win it. If Bonds' incredible performance this year and the three years before it were helped by performance-enhancing drugs, we'll all have to reconsider any positive things we've said about him.
I don't know how I'll feel about Bonds' achievements if it turns out he's been on steroids or other illegal drugs. Would that render the last four years moot? Or just some percentage of it? Did we not really see what we saw starting in 2001? I don't know. I'll cross that bridge if I ever come to it.
Obviously, a guy who has devoted all or part of his column every day for the last two weeks to making the case for Barry Bonds as the indisputable MVP wants to believe that Bonds is clean. But I'm not going to sit here and make the case for Bonds being clean. I don't know if he is or not. Same as you.
I've gotten plenty of Bonds-is-juiced letters in the last two weeks, and most of them at some point say something like, "I know, innocent until proven guilty and everything, but ..."
But what? But nothing.
I've said this before: Nobody's innocent until proven guilty in the court of public opinion. You and I are free to believe that Bonds is guilty. And once we start believing it we'll never stop because you can't prove a negative. Bonds passed a test? It was fixed. The guy has no way to redeem himself. And that's fine. Tough luck for Barry.
But when you want to start erasing his name from the record book and denying him awards, you'd better have some proof beyond "Well just look at the guy!"
There's plenty of circumstantial evidence pointing to Bonds being juiced. He's gotten huge in the last few years, and his career arc jerked upward after age 35 in a way that has no precedent and simply doesn't seem human. Most damningly, his name has come up in the BALCO scandal, though it must be noted that the case hasn't gone to trial, not much information has been released and Bonds hasn't been charged with anything.
From what we know, he seems pretty damn guilty. So did Richard Jewell and Wen Ho Lee.
If we're going to deny Bonds the MVP, there has to be some proof that he's guilty. And I mean proof beyond accusations, assumptions and the tautology "He's performing so well because he's juiced, and I know he's juiced because he's performing so well."
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This is the last Barry Bonds for MVP Stat of the Day. If I haven't convinced you by now, it's simply a religious issue and there's no convincing to be done. I want to publicly thank Clay Davenport of Baseball Prospectus and Jay Jaffe of Futility Infielder for their helping me to better understand some of the complex stats I've been talking about.
Here is a link to each of the BB4MVPSotD entries:
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