The big news in the NFL this week was allegations that 17 Minnesota Vikings players chartered a pair of yachts, stocked it with call girls and strippers and had a sex party on Lake Minnetonka until the boats' disgusted, fearful crews returned to shore early.
Either that or Ben Roethlisberger's injured knee, but we're running a business here and we need page views.
Crew members have said they had to step around people having sex and that they felt intimidated by football players demanding that the alcohol flow more quickly. Female crew members say they were propositioned aggressively. There are also charges that some of the players urinated on a nearby lawn.
The Hennepin County Sheriff's Department is investigating and pondering charges of prostitution and lewd behavior. All players involved have either refused comment or denied the charges.
The Vikings released a terse statement saying they're waiting for more facts, and head coach Mike Tice, already under fire after the team's 1-3 start, said he's not too happy about the whole thing. New owner Zygi Wilf, who's been silent, can't be pleased either. This sort of thing doesn't exactly grease the skids for the new stadium deal he's trying to get from the state.
NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, who pressured ESPN into dropping its soap opera "Playmakers" because he said the show inaccurately portrayed NFL players as hard-drinking, crack-smoking, wife-abusing, groupie-fondling reprobates, gave the go-ahead for the show to resume production.
Not really, but I have to wonder what's becoming of the NFL. I mean, this is outrageous.
You're an NFL player. You risk your health, your future, even your life every Sunday. On the field you're in the equivalent of two or three dozen car wrecks every week. For the entertainment of the masses, you're likely to spend your middle age and senior years in debilitating pain before dying younger than average.
And you can't have a sex party on a yacht? You can't fly in a stripper or two from Florida for some moonlight-on-the-water lap dancing? You can't intimidate and threaten a few pencil-necked bartenders, pee on a lawn or two, aggressively proposition the odd waitress who's trapped at the job site because it's a boat?
Good grief. The Vikings have to be thinking, "Why play football at all?" Of course, they seem to have been thinking that all season.
The Vikings visit the Chicago Bears Sunday in a battle for position in the NFC North, where the Detroit Lions are threatening to run away and hide with their 2-2 record. That game is one of the lowlights of the Week 6 schedule.
Here are this week's picks, offered in a spirit of good, clean, wholesome fun by a columnist who would never damage the good name of his employer by participating in a sex party on a boat. Even if his employer sponsored it. I just don't like boats.
In keeping with October tradition, comments are limited to two sentences per game because who has time to think about football during the baseball playoffs?
ATLANTA (3-2) at New Orleans (2-3): The Falcons look like they'll get Michael Vick back, but they lost middle linebacker Ed Hartwell for the year last week, and that's going to hurt. Not this week, though.
CINCINNATI (4-1) at Tennessee (2-3): The Bengals' comeback attempt was thwarted by the tough Jacksonville defense last week. They shouldn't need a comeback against the Titans, one of the weaker defenses in the league, especially against the pass, which is something the Bengals are good at.
Jacksonville (3-2) at PITTSBURGH (3-1): Even if the Steelers are without Roethlisberger, their defense and running game should be enough to take care of the Jags in a grinder of a game. Predicted final score, because I think this looks like a 12-7 kind of tilt: 41-37.
Minnesota (1-3) at CHICAGO (1-3): The Vikings are in full-blown chaos. On the other hand they did have a sex party on a boat, and they'll be the last team that gets to do that for a while.
Washington (3-1) at KANSAS CITY (2-2): I'm getting ready to start believing in Washington as a playoff contender, something I already don't believe about the Chiefs. But I'm taking the home field here.
CAROLINA (3-2) at Detroit (2-2): Tired of getting injured, Lions receiver Charles Rogers has found a new and creative way to stay out of the lineup: a drug suspension. One of these weeks, the Panthers are going to let us know if they're any good.
Cleveland (2-2) at BALTIMORE (1-3): For no reason at all, I think the Ravens, who are circling the drain, are going to pull themselves together for this one.
Miami (2-2) at TAMPA BAY (4-1): The two! Resurgent! Florida teams! Former Auburn back Ronnie Brown for the Dolphins. His college teammate, Carnell, "Cadillac," Williams. The elusive one. For the Bucs. There! Ricky Williams. Back for Miami. I've broken the two-sentence rule, ladies and gentlemen, but only for my Howard Cosell imitation, every bit as adventitious as that of Chris Berman, but not nearly as incommodious, if you ask this reporter's humble opinion.
N.Y. GIANTS (3-1) at Dallas (3-2): The Cowboys are at home and coming off a huge win over the Eagles that was either a watershed game for them or one of those flukey things. I'm inclined to think the latter.
N.Y. Jets (2-3) at BUFFALO (2-3): A couple of pre-owned, fully refurbished quarterbacks, Vinnie Testaverde and Kelly Holcombe. They both looked pretty good last week, for what that's worth.
New England (3-2) at DENVER (4-1): I think I'm going to regret this, but I guess I'm finally ready to come around on two difficult concepts. The Broncos are better than I'd thought they'd be, and there is some number of injuries that actually hurts the Patriots' chances to win.
SAN DIEGO (2-3) at Oakland (1-3): The Chargers are a damn good team for 2-3, but they can be hurt by teams that can throw. The Raiders can throw, but I'll take San Diego anyway.
Houston (0-4) at SEATTLE (3-2): One of these weeks, the Texans have to win a game, and the Seahawks are always a decent bet to lose. But I have a hunch Seattle will rise to the moment in prime time and take control of -- hell, practically clinch -- the NFC West with their fourth win.
ST. LOUIS (2-3) at Indianapolis (5-0): What the Heck Pick of the week. Rams coach Mike Martz left the team this week for an indefinite leave to deal with an infection in his heart, and maybe the Rams will get all inspired and win one for the Madman, but then again -- and I'm just asking here -- do they even like the guy?
Season record: 49-25
Last week: 9-5
What the Heck Picks: 3-2
Number of charter-boat sex parties I've been invited to, lifetime, not that I'd have accepted or anything: 0
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Fox ignores a great tradition [PERMALINK]
With each League Championship Series tied 1-1 following Roy Oswalt's mastery of the St. Louis Cardinals in the Houston Astros' 4-1 win Thursday, the next game in both is Game 3. The Chicago White Sox at the Los Angeles Angels Friday night and the Cardinals at Houston Saturday afternoon.
One of the many things Fox does with its baseball broadcasts that bugs me comes up in Game 3 of every series.
The network refuses to show the players being introduced and lining up along the baselines. This happens at the first game in each park in every series, so Games 1 and 3. It's one of the things that makes the postseason feel like the postseason, and one of baseball's great traditions.
But Fox, which pays billions to broadcast baseball's biggest games, doesn't particularly like baseball or care about its traditions. That musty little lineup ceremony, essentially unchanged for decades, takes up a good six or seven minutes that Fox would have to endure without running some lame, packaged, quick-edited feature about nothing, except when it's about a product tie-in.
Wednesday's broadcast, for example, skipped the Astros and Cardinals lining up along the baselines in favor of some highlights set to the Kinks' 1979 hit "Superman." Whoa, 23 skiddoo. Pretty cutting edge there. I think you can see why Fox wouldn't want to miss a chance to run that baby.
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We get it already! [PERMALINK]
During Thursday night's broadcast of the Astros-Cardinals Game 2, Fox cut to a shot of broadcasters Thom Brennaman, Steve Lyons and Bob Brenly so Brenly could demonstrate the difference between the grip for a two-seam fastball and a four-seam fastball.
If I see one more broadcaster sitting in one more booth and demonstrating one more time the difference between the grip for a two-seam fastball and a four-seam fastball, I'm going to take a hostage.
Previous column: Third strike controversy
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