You'll never guess who's causing all the dissension and ugliness in the New York Giants locker room. It's the media!
This is really cool for me, because I never go to the big media meetings, but I happened to go to the one last month and I voted yes on the motion to disrupt the New York Giants locker room.
Here's how it went down. Michael Strahan, the star defensive end who'll be a media guy when his career's over, ripped into receiver Plaxico Burress in his regular spot on WFAN Radio Wednesday, saying, correctly, that Burress had quit on an overthrown pass late in the Giants' loss to Tennessee Sunday, their third straight defeat.
The pass was intercepted, leading to the winning score for the Titans. Strahan, who had missed the game with a foot injury, said that while Burress is a great player and a great guy, he intended to talk to the receiver about the incident.
In the locker room later that day, Burress, without defending his play, expressed relatively mild and thoroughly appropriate disappointment that Strahan would criticize him on the radio rather than face to face.
So ESPN reporter Kelly Naqi, standing near the back of a media scrum at Strahan's locker, asked him if it was true that he hadn't yet spoken to Burress. Reasonable question. In fact, one of only two must-ask questions for the scrum.
The other was "Why did you criticize your teammate on the radio?" Strahan might have had a good answer for that question, like that he felt that calling Burress out publicly was the best way to light a fire under him. Or he might have gotten all defensive, a hint that maybe he'd just popped off on the radio without thinking. Hmm.
Strahan, though he spoke calmly, launched into a tirade, demanding that Naqi come forward and ask this "negative" question to his face. "Look a man in the eye before you want to kill him or make up something," Strahan said.
He apparently missed the irony there.
The Giants spent Thursday jokingly singing the "We're Not Gonna Take It" and "We Are the World" in the locker room to display how unified they are as a team, despite the divisive media. I am not making this up.
Perhaps Strahan, who was practically born to be one of those interchangeable ex-players sitting at the pregame-halftime-postgame desk on one of the networks, will see the humor in the whole thing when he's part of the media, though it's doubtful he'll have to dirty himself in clusters around lockers.
Satisfied with another job well done, this corner of the divisive media turns to Week 13, which if I recall correctly is the last week of peace before we start hearing about tie-breaking procedures and how if Team A runs the table and Team B beats Team C, then Team D will win the wild card unless Team E and Team F tie on the last day of the season, provided that Team G ...
Winners in caps. And, included again by popular demand, the picks of my son, Buster, coin-flippinest 3-year-old in the Milky Way.
Sunday early games
ATLANTA (5-6) at Washington (4-7): Michael Vick got fined $10,000 and agreed to give an additional 10 large to charity after giving the home fans both middle fingers last week. So the obscene gesture cost him $10,000 per hand, the media duly noted. But that's just such a shallow analysis. It drives me crazy. You want to know what it really cost him? $3,333.33 per knuckle.
Buster's pick: Atlanta (coin)
Arizona (2-9) at ST. LOUIS (5-6): The Cardinals nearly beat the Rams at home early in the season, but they ended up handing the game over. Both teams have had their troubles since that day. Arizona can win by running at the Rams, who can be run at, but I think St. Louis will do just enough on offense to stay in the playoff race, however tenuously.
Buster's pick: St. Louis (6.5-point favorite)
San Francisco (5-6) at NEW ORLEANS (7-4): You looked at this game on the schedule three months ago and you knew the 49ers and Saints would have a combined 12 wins going in, didn't you? San Francisco's having a nice rebound year, but Drew Brees is going to have a field day against the Niners secondary, and the Saints are going to get one win closer to one of the most improbable playoff berths in recent NFL history, all things considered.
Buster's pick: New Orleans (7-point favorite)
SAN DIEGO (9-2) at Buffalo (5-6): Just when people, ahem, were starting to call the Chargers the best team in the AFC, they go out and almost lose to the Raiders. The Chargers, that is. Not the people. The Bills are 3-1 since their bye week, the only loss a one-pointer to the Colts. But picture this if you can: Big day for LaDainian Tomlinson.
Buster's pick: San Diego (6-point favorite)
N.Y. JETS (6-5) at Green Bay (4-7): Brett Favre plays in his 3,984th consecutive game. The Jets play the second of what could be six consecutive regular-season playoff games.
Buster's pick: Jets (coin)
Minnesota (5-6) at CHICAGO (9-2): The Bears played well enough to beat the Patriots on the road last week, but Rex Grossman's turnovers did them in. The Vikings, who have been wandering around losing to anyone without red birds on their helmets, should give Grossman more margin for error.
Buster's pick: Chicago (9-point favorite)
Kansas City (7-4) at CLEVELAND (3-8): A trap game for the Chiefs, who are coming off a tough home win over Denver and looking forward to a home game against Baltimore. The Browns had at least been staying close before the Bengals hammered them last week. Not a What the Heck Pick. Just a hunch.
Buster's pick: Kansas City (coin)
INDIANAPOLIS (10-1) at Tennessee (4-7): The Colts had to struggle to beat the Titans in Week 5, and Tennessee is coming off that crazy comeback win over the Giants, their second straight big win following a one-point loss to the Ravens. So this won't be a walkover, but the Colts should keep that gaudy record going.
Buster's pick: Indianapolis (7.5-point favorite)
DETROIT (2-9) at New England (8-3): What the Heck Pick of the week.
Buster's pick: New England (13.5-point favorite)
Sunday late games
JACKSONVILLE (6-5) at Miami (5-6): The Dolphins have won four in a row, but that hole they dug by starting the season 1-6 was just too deep. The Jags are burrowing down to join them, but a win keeps them in the hunt, and an injury to Dolphins running back Ronnie Brown will be a big help.
Buster's pick: Jacksonville (coin)
Houston (3-8) at OAKLAND (2-9): The Texans worked out banned sprinter Justin Gatlin this week. Turns out he's really fast. Raiders coach Art Shell accused an unnamed person in the organization of trying to undermine him by calling his "cronies around the league" and bad-mouthing the coach. Just wondering: Even if those calls were in fact made by someone, were they really necessary? Oakland's been losing some tough ones lately, mostly on the road. They're actually better than the disaster they seem to be. They've changed offensive coordinators, by the way. You know how I'm always in favor of that.
Buster's pick: Houston (coin)
Tampa Bay (3-8) at PITTSBURGH (4-7): You looked at this game on the schedule three months ago and you knew the Buccaneers and Steelers would have a combined seven wins going in, didn't you? As bad as it's been for the Super Bowl champs, it's just getting worse. Hines Ward and Troy Polamalu are both injured. The Steelers still should have enough to make life miserable for Tampa quarterback Bruce Gradkowski, though the point spread you're about to see looks outlandish from here.
Buster's pick: Pittsburgh (7.5-point favorite)
Dallas (7-4) at N.Y. GIANTS (6-5): With the Bears stumbling and Tony Romo playing a fabulous quarterback, the Cowboys have been looking like the best team in the NFC. The Giants, meanwhile, have been in full bickering, wheels-off-the-wagon mode ever since melting down in Nashville Sunday. Of course the Giants will win this game.
Buster's pick: Dallas (coin)
Sunday night game
SEATTLE (7-4) at Denver (7-4): The forecast says temperatures will drop to the teens, so Seattle will feel right at home. Also, the Jay Cutler era begins. The rookie quarterback will be asked to manage the Broncos run-heavy attack, Ben Roethlisberger '05 style. I know that's a much easier assignment than passing the team to victory, but in the wake of Roethlisberger's success last year, everyone seems to have forgotten: It's still a really tough assignment.
Buster's pick: Denver (coin)
Monday night game
CAROLINA (6-5) at Philadelphia (5-6) I can't figure the Panthers out, but the Eagles look like a good candidate to mail in the rest of the season.
Buster's pick: Carolina (coin)
Record so far this week: 0-1
Season record: 97-80
Last week: 9-7
What the Heck Picks: 1-10
Co-workers I would call out in public rather than to their face, if I were the type of person to call out a co-worker, which I'm not: Cary Tennis. Can you believe that guy?
Previous column: Open season on the BCS at ESPN
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