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Cutting Board #13

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Steve: Huzzah! The National Football League has returned to TV screens across this great land of ours, giving men like us a reason to bounce out of bed in the morning and move to the sofa. I’ve been dipping into the preseason games, and I’m pretty excited about my REIGNING WORLD CHAMPION Pittsburgh Steelers, but mostly I’m just glad to see a manly sport on TV again after months of airwave domination by those sissies in flannel pajamas, with their “bats” and their “gloves.”

Phil: Yeah, like men who wear “pads” are to be feared. I like football all right. There’s no denying it’s passed baseball as our national game and, sure, it’s a good TV sport, but it’s a different personality type. Baseball fans tend to be cerebral, poetic souls while football attracts the kind of guy who gets half-nekkid, paints himself in team colors, swills beer and screams at the team through the TV screen until he passes out. Come to think of it … maybe that’s why we like football. Maybe I’m just jealous since both the Raiders and UCLA need to improve by four games over last season just to achieve mediocrity. On the other hand, my Freedonia Fireflies will be holding our fantasy league draft. I’ve got my fingers crossed hoping for a good draft spot … the pressure is on.

Steve: While I very much admire the name Freedonia Fireflies and the Marx Bros. references therein, I must ask that you not speak to me of fantasy football. Ever. I do not understand fantasy football and I don’t want to know more. Fantasy football seems like the kind of mindless time-sink that I can ill-afford in these recessionary times. I’ve got Scrabble on Facebook for that.

Phil: Spoken like a man who knows he sucks at evaluating NFL talent. Who do you think you are, Al Davis?

Steve: Careful. You’ll hurt my feelings. Compare me to Satan if you must, but not to Al Davis. I’m not interested in fantasizing about NFL talent; I’d rather fantasize about the cheerleaders. I have no head for numbers, unlike some wonks I could name, and I’m not much interested in stats, even in real life. I use the NFL as a form of meditation. I like to lie on the sofa and doze in front of a football game. As hobbies go, it’s cheap and benign. Certainly cheaper than the tranquilizers I otherwise require to tame my bull-like masculinity and allow me to go out in public without harming myself or others. Just passive watching behavior with the occasional gasp or cheer or snack. Come to think of it, it’s not much different from watching soap operas.

Phil: You’re right, the NFL is like a soap opera. Well, at least the team that’s dizzy enough to have T.O. on the roster is going to be a real sudser (like in detergent, not beer). The poor Buffalo Bills fans are guaranteed a season storyline of travails and tears. Then again, why would anyone live in Buffalo if they didn’t want to suffer?

Steve: Rodney Dangerfield should’ve lived in Buffalo. I’m pretty tired of Terrell Owens and his extra-large mouth. More interesting to me: The trade of quarterbacks between the Chicago Bears and the Denver Broncos. I’ve always thought Jay Cutler was a big whiny-baby, but he does have talent, and the one thing Chicago really needed was a top-notch quarterback. The Broncos ended up with Kyle Orton, who’s already injured. Lot of teams gonna get their revenge on Denver this year, I fear. But your Raiders probably won’t be one of them.

Phil: Well, you’re right about the Denver Donkeys, they’re going to stink. But I take issue with your dismissal of the Raiders. Now I’m delusional, but even I don’t harbor any Super Bowl aspirations for the Silver & Black, but they’ve got one of the most exciting young talents in the NFL in Darren McFadden. There’s also the as-yet-untapped potential of JaMarcus Russell — and this year, should he falter, there’s the very competent Jeff Garcia to back him up. On “D” there’s Pro-Bowler DB Whats-his-name Asomugha leading a not-as-bad-as-the-offense-made-them-look group. If the defense doesn’t have to play 59 minutes of every game, there’s a chance the Raiders could do all right in a weakened division. Unfortunately, Al Davis is still breathing and as long as he is, this team will be one call from the owner’s box from imploding.

Steve: I love McFadden because he was a Razorback in my native Arkansas. If he can stay healthy and JaMarcus can learn to throw it in front of the receivers instead of behind them, the Raiders might not entirely suck.

Phil: “Not entirely sucking” would be a vast improvement over the last few seasons. It’s hard to believe the Raiders were only a bad call in a blizzard (I hate Tom Brady) from two straight Super Bowl appearances earlier this decade. Talk about your falls from grace. Beelzebub didn’t go to heck that fast. Duh Raiduzz coulda gone all da way if Barrett Robbins had stayed on his meds.

Steve: When it comes to going all the way, my money this year is on my beloved Pittsburgh Steelers, who return with essentially the same team as the one that won the Super Bowl last year. Ben Roethlisberger (legal problems, minor injuries) was the only question mark, and he showed during the preseason that he’s got his head in the game. And the Steelers’ overall schedule supposedly is easier than it was last season.

Phil: Sure, stick with the front runners. The Steelers are OK, but they’ve got the Curse of the Poodle working against them this year. It’ll take more than a Terrible Towel to wipe up that juju. Come on, what kind of “fan” would do this to a dog? And I thought Michael Vick was cruel.

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Steve: What an attractive animal. My other longtime fave team is San Francisco, and the Niners aren’t going to be really good until they get a better quarterback. I have high hopes that the third-stringer, Nate Davis, that kid from Ball State, might step up and save the 49er offense. There’s a fantasy for you.

Phil: Sorry, he’s not in the data base in my league. We only deal with NFL players.

Steve: The team to beat may well be New England. Tom Brady’s back from injury, throwing lasers to Randy Moss. I also think Minnesota will be good, with old warhorse Bret Favre leading a team that’s really good on defense and has Adrian Peterson in the backfield.

Phil: Talk about two of my least favorite players, Brady and Moss are the Bush and Cheney of the NFL. I root for a meteor to hit the field when they’re on it. I don’t buy Minnesota at all, I think Favre is done. I know this may sound like heresy, but I never thought he was that great to begin with. Without a couple of lucky throws (and catches) in big games we wouldn’t be talking about him. I hope he falls flat on his face. Old guys should just step aside. Well, except old cartoonists. They can stay where they are, taking up space and breathing good air.

Steve: Other teams to watch?

Phil: I think the Falcons could be interesting. They’ve found a post-Vick remedy with Matt Ryan, and Michael Turner may be the best running back in the league. It might be quite a story in the not unlikely event the Falcons see the Eagles in the NFC playoffs.

Steve: There’s the Cardinals, too, speaking of birds. The Saints looked pretty good in preseason, but then don’t they always. Carolina and Indianapolis will make some noise. And there’s always Eli and the Giants.

Phil: I’m looking forward to the Vikings going into Lambeau. You think Jay Cutler heard it in Denver? Wait’ll ol’ number 4 trots out onto the frozen tundra!

Steve: Great roaring cheeseheads! But enough about football. Let’s talk about fantasy. What does the average NFL fan fantasize about while he’s brushing crumbs off his bathrobe?

Phil: I’m sure it’s something deep. Along the lines of, if he was invincible and had all those amazing powers, why didn’t Superman capture Hitler himself and end World War II? I mean, he fought Nazis in every issue during the war and never finished ’em off. I often ponder that one.

Steve: Must be the tights. I think the average football fan spends an equal amount of time fantasizing about 1) his favorite team winning it all, 2) cheerleaders and 3) exotic ways to kill the refs. Or maybe that’s just me.

Let the regular season begin! Pass the pork rinds.

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Phil Fountain and Steve Brewer

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