Two stories in the newspaper this week guaranteed to me that NFL training camps are under way. The first, of course, is the only story that New Orleans football fanatics are talking about, that the Saints descended upon the Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia to begin another positively certain Super Bowl quest. The second story meant the same thing in my own peculiar linkage of thoughts when swarms of mayflies descended on the Midwest in their annual suicide mating rituals!
I don’t believe either the Saints or Jimmy Graham want an arbitrator to decide whether the talented pass-catcher is called a tight end or a wide receiver. If the arbitrator rules Graham is a tight end, the Saints’ qualifying offer of $7 million stands, and team gains some immediate leverage in the bargaining of a new contract. If Graham wins, he would stand to receive a one-year qualifying offer of more than $12 million that represents an average salary of the top wide receivers.
The Jimmy Graham franchise tag dispute reminds me of a Disney movie. You remember Dumbo the Flying Elephant whose oversized ears gave him the ability to soar like an eagle? Well, imagine Dumbo going to Walt Disney asking for a raise. It might go something like this:
You’re driving down a darkened road. It’s late at night, and out of the corner of your eye, you see a small animal darting out of the shadows and into the path of your car. You can’t stop and you prepare for the bad thing that is going to happen. You hear the killing “thump” and then the bump-bump-bump as the poor dead creature rolls under your car. And now you understand how losing coaches view postgame press conferences.
Somewhere in the darkened burrows beneath the NFL’s Park Avenue offices sits a secret room. It probably was created from a subterranean tunnel originally dug to house George Washington’s armory when the British attacked Manhattan in 1776 or maybe it was the test holes for the subway system first dug in 1869. No matter, today it is used for creating images of what the NFL wishes us to see at their biggest events. Before the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos players checked into their hotels to prepare for Sunday’s Super Bowl XLVIII, they were secretly herded into the Image Room and given their instructions.
We knew the Pro Bowl was not worth saving, but last night’s shirts vs. skins exhibition in day-glo unis only confirms it. It must have been a slow week on Park Avenue when the NFL wizards appointed Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders to become de facto GM’s and choose up sides regardless of conference affiliation.
Jim Mora taught us a long time ago that “coulda, woulda, shoulda” is the trifecta of losers. But it's hard not to think that way after the Saints' 23-15 loss at Seattle. The haughty Hawks climbed another rung on the Super Bowl ladder thanks to two bad moments that shoulda not happened.
Didn’t they make a movie about this? Giddy tourists leave their comfortable home to vacation in an exotic clime that promises fun, frolic and great excitement? Did you get a flashback of "National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation" while watching the Saints venture off from the security of the Superdome Sunday for a disastrous road trip to St. Louis? Like the Griswolds, the Saints suffered every indignity imaginable as they gift-wrapped turnovers, missed field goals and made the Rams defense feel like it was Christmas morning.
What a difference a week makes! Last week, the Southeastern Conference’s birthright to the BCS Title game was revoked, the Saints had suddenly gone from darling to doofus and my beloved Bosox lost All-Star Jacoby Ellsbury to the hated Yankees. But six days later, the clouds have cleared away. The earth is once again spinning on its proper axis. And Christmas is just two weeks away!