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(E) I favor the Croatian wines, particularly the native Teran
By Nenad N. Bach | Published  08/2/2004 | Tourism | Unrated
(E) I favor the Croatian wines, particularly the native Teran

 

I favor the Croatian wines, particularly the native Teran

Sports Illustrated senior writer Paul Zimmerman covers the NFL for the magazine and SI.com. His Power Rankings, "Inside Football" column and Mailbag appear weekly on SI.com.

Andrew has sent me seven pages of commentary from these loyal folk, and I am deeply grateful to all parties concerned. Too many to comment on individually, especially after this thing has run as long as the Trans-Canada Highway, as predicted. But I will mention a few:

To Erich of Zagreb, Croatia, and yes, I favor the Croatian wines, particularly the native Teran, but not the Cabernet. French grapes for the French, Croatian grapes for the Croatians, I say. Incidentally, the Redhead and I simply loved the Istrian Peninsula when we were there last year. Unfortunately, that's all we were able to see of Croatia.

Just a ton of mail to answer this week, I mean a real load of stuff. So if you're thinking of getting through this in the usual minute or two, forget it. It's gonna be a long one.

I'll lead with my E-mailer of the Week Award, which goes to a gentleman who asks a question that gets right to the heart of our business, kapow! From Gary Hoover, living in Alabama but originally from Wisconsin -- "What does it mean when a person says something off the record? Are you still allowed to use it? Can you use it if you don't say who said it? Have you as a journalist ever gotten in any trouble with an athlete [or anyone] about confusion over what was said?"

OK, gimme room, and if you can hear the cathedral bells in the background, it's because I'm bucking for sainthood.

Violating an off-the-record confidence is a risky way to travel, in addition to being nasty. Usually young writers trying to make a name for themselves are guilty of this prime journalistic sin. To me, it just doesn't make sense. You're trading a snappy quote, or statement, or a cheap headline, for the loss of a news source, possibly forever. And then, if the word gets out in the locker room that you're a sneak and not to be trusted, you're losing a lot of sources.

Sometimes when something doesn't seem that inflammatory to you, you try to talk it onto the record. Maybe you'll be told that you can use the quote but not if you mention the source's name. That's when you see all these unnamed players or unnamed sources or "source close to management," or close to the water cooler, etc. Sometimes you protect a person on a quote you're sure is off the record, even though you were never told that, and eventually you have the pleasure of seeing something you got first widely quoted in rival outlets, when the quote was repeated.

If anything, I've probably been guilty of over-protection. I remember when I was beat man on the Jets, and they were about to play the Redskins, and left tackle Bob Svihus was looking at a picture of Verlon Biggs, the DE he was going to play against. "Handsome devil, isn't he?" Svihus said.

I used the quote in a story, but it bugged me all night. I couldn't sleep. So at 2 a.m. (my paper, the Post, came out in the afternoon, which meant that the lock-up was real late) I called Svihus at home. Those were the days when we used to have players' home numbers. I asked him how he felt about my using the quote.

"I felt OK about it," he said, "but the fact that you're so worried makes me worried, too, and you'd better take it out." Which I did.

Some years ago I was doing a piece on a lineman who was a bit of a wild man, but a very nice guy as well. He had a thing going with terminally ill children whom he used to bring to the games. I mean I was really in the guy's corner. So we were out to dinner, he, his wife and I, and somehow he got started on The Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Some major rips. Guys who need a crutch to lean on, who can't do it on their own, etc. The worst thing about it was that he played for a team in the heart of the Bible Belt.

So I'm writing everything down in my notebook (I always make it clear that if it's going into the notebook it's on the record, but if they want it off the record, then it won't be written down), and his wife is looking more and more nervous, and finally she asks him, "Do you really want to see this in a national magazine?" And he pauses for a moment and then says, "Yeah, I might as well be controversial in my old age," and keeps on ripping. And I keep on writing.

When it comes time to do the piece a few days later, I'm looking at those notes and I'm thinking, "This guy doesn't realize what'll happen to him if these quotes see the light of day, how his life will change." So I kill them all. See, I could have had a nice, nifty headline, and all the wires would have picked up the quotes and I would have been like the guy who broke the John Rocker story, but I just couldn't do it. And I can guess what you're thinking. Oh, if you like a guy, then you protect him, but if you don't like him, then you'll use the nasty stuff to bury him, right? Those are some journalistic principles you've got there. Sorry, but I'm trying to be honest, and that's just the way it is. We're all human.

See what I mean? I've answered only one question and written the equivalent of half a regular Mailbag column already. It's a long trail a-winding, folks.

A lot of people got fired up about my famous running back twosomes two weeks ago. Hey, read the thing again. I said I was commenting only on the names my e-mailer supplied because I didn't want to spend the rest of the week researching all the great duos in history. So everyone's mentioning people I forgot. Hey, I didn't leave them out. Marc of Margate, N.J., is the guy who came up with the eight twosomes I analyzed for him.

Still annoyed? OK, since I'm a good guy, and I'm in a much better mood this week, after all my anti-Bush support came pouring in, I'll get into each of the "How could you neglect?" pairs mentioned. Jack of Bangor, Maine, likes the Cleveland duo of Kevin Mack and Earnest Byner. A good call. They were both over 1,000 yards in 1985. Mack, in his rookie season, gained 1,104 yards, Byner, a second-year man, had 1,002.

Ickey Woods and James Brooks of the Bengals, says Bryan of NYC. Another good call. I wouldn't have thought of them, yet in 1988, a Super Bowl year for Cincy, they put together 1,997 yards, a 5.2 average and 23 TDs. Rick of Jackson, Miss., mentioned the 49ers Roger Craig and Tom Rathman, who faced the Bengals in that Super Bowl. Total yardage for 1988, 1929, with Craig accounting for 1,502 of them.

Finally Mike of New London, Conn., points to the "glaring omission" (and I'm glaring at you right now) of Bo Jackson and Marcus Allen on the Raiders. Allen's most productive years came before Bo arrived. First off, I had a hell of a time looking Bo up because he wasn't listed. I nearly went blind searching out the B, Jacksons, until I finally stumbled across him in the V's. His first name was Vincent, you see. Anyway, his best season was 1989 (950 yards), but Marcus missed eight games and only accounted for 293 that year. The most yards they had together was 1,411 in 1988. Boy, that year has come up a lot, hasn't it?

Tony of Vancouver is intrigued by the whole HB-FB tandem idea, with the halfbacks drawing fire away from the middle, opening it up for the fullbacks, and vice-versa. Yeah, I like it, too -- the precision of a well-blocked running play. And I particularly liked the last real HB-FB running attack the league saw (although some of what they did was without the other guy on the field), which would be Mike Alstott and Warrick Dunn in Tampa Bay. Most productive season -- 1998, when they accounted for 1,872 yards and carried the ball 460 times between them ... uh, I don't mean they actually carried the ball between them ... each one carried it under one arm ... it's just ... you know what I mean. And do you know how many entire teams failed to record 460 rushing plays last year? You don't? Me, neither. Just kidding. Of course I know. I just looked it up. The answer is 20.

There's nothing that gets me as psyched as being called "a walking encyclopedia of football history," which is what Jack of Toronto uses as his hook to get me to undertake an obscure research project for him. Jack writes the following: "I remember [world class hurdler Renaldo "Skeets" Nehemiah of the 49ers] getting totally cold-cocked going out for a pass one time, and the guy who did it to him standing over the still warm body, looking down at him, but for the life of me I can't dredge up the name of the tackler. Can you?" They don't call me a walking , or stumbling, encyclopedia for nothing. It was Kenny Johnson, cornerback, Atlanta Falcons, in 1983. There. I hope I've impressed upon all you youngsters out there the value of hard work and dedication.

OK, OK. I vaguely remembered the play, but I put through a quick call to the San Francisco Chronicle's Ira Miller, my West Coast encyclopedia. Ira said he'd get back to me and put through a quick call to Randy Cross, who lined up at right guard for the Niners that day. "Kenny Johnson, No. 37, right corner," Randy said, "and Skeets came back and played later." See what it means to have friends in high places.

Hal of San Francisco thinks I'm a nice guy. Honest. As a counter-measure to all the George Bush hate mail I've gotten recently he recounted the following story. "I bumped into you along Ocean Beach in San Fran and you had the humbleness to stand and talk to an average fan for 20 minutes about nothing in particular. You even called over the redhead. 'Hey, dear, it's a fan. Come on over.'" Well, as soon as Andrew faxed me that e-mail I clutched it tightly and ran up the 14 stairs to Linda's studio, where she was busy creating another of her lovely photo assemblages. "Honey, do you remember? DO YOU REMEMBER?"

Oh boy, did she remember. It's a story she has enjoyed telling. The day she was a celebrity. We had just had lunch at the Cliff House, the Redhead, myself, my daughter, Sarah, and my granddaughter Natasha, who was a year and a half old and in the full flower of her wildness. An average lunch for Natasha. Heaved a few plates, tripped some waitresses, upset a tray or two. So now we're on the way back to the car, which is down the street, Sarah taking the point, Linda pushing the stroller with the baby in it, Z bringing up the rear and fending off the cars whizzing by. I mean a real shleppers' caravan. And here comes Hal. And we yack for a while. And I call Linda and over she comes, pushing the stroller, and Hal says, "Omigod, it's the Redhead, wow!" And, buoyed up by her celebrity status, Linda engages in some lively conversation, with the cars honking and Natasha screaming and trying to twist out of the stroller, and Sarah yelling, "What the hell's going on?" I don't think it was 20 minutes, Hal. More like three or so. But it was memorable.

Sgt. Mike of Houston is a soldier in Iraq who doesn't like officers, either, and if this is off the record information, then I'm sorry, but I am protecting him by not using his last name. And let me say, please, without sounding sanctimonious, that my political views have nothing to do with the great respect I feel for our military personnel in the Middle East and the sacrifice they are making. The sarge wants to know how I see the AFC South. Yeah, I guess I have to go with Indy again. I did a self-scouting, and I found that year after year I tend to rank the Colts too low and the Titans too high. The interesting thing is that neither one of them did a damn thing in free agency, actually losing more than they gained, and neither team had a first-round draft choice. Tennessee is still basically blue collar, Indy is flashier. You tend to think of the Titans with the good defense and the Colts lousy in that department, but Indy actually finished one place (11th to 12th) ahead of Tennessee last season. The Titans will still grind it out on the ground, using that as a platform to set up everything else, and I like that big, hog line, and I think Antowain Smith will do OK. Jacksonville is a comer, if you believe in Byron Leftwich, but I don't think he's ready yet. Houston? Show me an offensive line and I'll get interested.

Time for Samson Antagonistes to weigh in with his Hall of Fame Greek chorus, and first up, oh my God, not again, is Larry of Fredericksburg, Va., waving a banner that has Art Monk's name on it. I say it, over and over again, why I feel others are more deserving than Art, although he was a valuable player. But it just keeps bouncing off them, like a tennis ball off a wall, and on they come, wave upon wave of them. And it's wearing me down. It's like the H.G.Wells story, The Man Who Could Work Miracles, which opens with Mr. Fotheringay and Toddy Beamish having an argument in the bar of the Long Dragon, and Toddy Beamish conducting a "monotonous but effective" argument consisting of answering every one of Mr. Fotheringay's statements with "So you say." Monotonous but effective. Why isn't Art Monk in? Why isn't Art Monk in? I'll admit, it's getting to me. Air. I need air.

Why not Big Daddy Lipscomb? Asks Peter of Ashland, Va. I've already written that he'd get my vote in a minute. It's just that when you're in the Seniors Pool you have to wait in line behind about five million other worthies.

Eddie, a Giants fan from Jersey City, N.J., wonders, with amazing objectivity and an eye toward the statistics, whether or not Phil Simms really is Hall of Fame material. I think that Phil was one of those players who was better than his stats, who lifted his game when the pressure rose. He's an iffy choice. Whether or not he would get my vote would depend on whom he was up against.

"Gene Hickerson," scream Sunny Jim of Brooklyn and Doug of Arlington, Va. (Didn't I just answer you? Wait a minute. Sorry. That was Larry of Fredericksburg). Interesting case here. A few years ago Hickerson, the right guard on the Jimmy Brown Cleveland teams, was a very hot name in the Seniors Committee meetings, and I really believe that if they'd have allowed two candidates to go in each year he would have made it. Then he kind of cooled. Don't know why. There's an ebb and flow to these things. Right now the guard I'm pulling for hardest is Bob Kuechenberg. Then Hickerson.

General Hall of Fame question from my man, Fuzz, of Milwaukee. Why not take a year to "clean up" the veterans list once and for all? Just put everyone in who belongs, even if 15 people all are enshrined, and bag the rest? Fuzz, old boy, I would pay big money to be the guy in charge of that operation. How much money? Just name it. Sky's the limit ... 50, 60, 75, Even a dollar. I'll find you 20 great, great neglected players who deserve enshrinement as much as anybody. Unfortunately such a scheme would subject the Hall, the NFL (which runs it), and American sports in general to ridicule from the rest of the world. "I mean, harrumph, 15 people all going in? Where the deuce have they been hiding until now?" etc.

And from Fuzz one more thing, as Columbo would say. My thoughts on William Henderson blocking for assorted Green Bay tailbacks through the years. Good man, but more of a position blocker than a real boomer type. But that's what happens to fullbacks. They learn. They start off trying to kill people, then they learn to position themselves.

Finally, thanks for your kind remarks, and that goes for just about all the preceding e-mailers, except for the Art Monk guy. Fuzz adds, "Say hello to your lovely wife from all of us Cheeseheads." Just a minute. OK, I said it. "Hello, and are their heads really made of cheese?" says Linda. Phew, it's getting late. All right, I piped that stupid quote. The Redhead isn't home. She's hosting a dinner for the Society of Unfortunate Bald Headed Women of Denville, N.J.

Steve of Astoria, N.Y., needs a good primer on football for his wife. My own New Thinking Man's Guide to Football, 1984 edition, will cover it, if she doesn't mind the sexist title. Dated as to the characters, but she'll find the basic information there.

James of Sacramento sets me up with a lot of whipped cream...very few writers have your experience ... big fan of redheads ... I respect your views, etc., and then hits me with the snapper. Wants a complete recreation of the Immaculate Reception game. OK, pal, but it's only because my first ever newspaper job was as a schoolboy writer for the Bee. Boring game. Daryle Lamonica wasn't right. Flu or something. Finally he's out of there and Kenny Stabler is in. Nobody's doing anything on that frozen field. Steelers are up, 6-0. I remember saying to the guy next to me in the press box, in one of the few real flashes of insight that I've had during a contest, "Boring games tend to get real exciting toward the end." He yawns. Presto, the Snake scrambles for 30 yards or so and goes in and the Raiders are up, 7-6, with a little over a minute left. Time for one last Steeler drive. I had been on my way down to the locker room, but I stopped and went back to my seat. Art Rooney, the Steelers' owner, wasn't so lucky. He was in the elevator down and missed the Immaculate Reception. The play was over just so quickly ... bang-bang, like that. I remember there was a quick TD signal from the ref, then a big huddle by the officials, and John Madden was all hot on the sidelines, and then I disappeared into the elevator to get down to the locker rooms. I didn't think the play was legal. It looked to me like Frenchy Fuqua touched the ball and Tatum hit him and knocked it loose but never touched it before Franco caught it. But the call didn't bother me because it was such a magnificent play on Franco's part.

Always glad to get a women's input in the old Mailbag department, and let's have a great big West 50th St. welcome for Jennifer of Pensacola, Fla. "My first time writing," she says. OK, I'm ready. Let's have your thorniest gridiron problem. Here it is: "How much do you know about African wine?" Just this. When you hear the drums, you pop the cork. "South African to be specific," she adds. Ohhhh, that? Look for anything you can find from Meerlust. Really a high class house. Anything else is mere lust (seems that I've used that line before ... I'm wondering if it's really that funny). Thanks for the praise, Jen, and that of your husband, too.

From Steve of Phoenix, home of you know who (who has red hair) -- What do I remember of Tommy Kramer? Caroused a bit. I remember Gary Smith did a big bonus piece on him in the magazine. Made him sound like an All-Pro. Actually he was a gutsy QB who took a lot of chances, threw a lot of picks and had one magnificent year, 1986. The biggest knock on him was that he couldn't stay healthy. The Vikes this year? Almost everyone I know says they're really gonna be good. Gonna sneak up on people. If everyone says that, then it's not a sneak attack anymore, right? Personally? I guess I kind of like them, but I'm curious to see if Chris Hovan regains his form of two years ago. If not? Well, their rushing defense allowed 4.9 yards a crack last season, and that ain't good. Thanks for the nice words, and yeah, I admit I wrote the last mailbag with a hair up my ... uh, with a touch of annoyance, but I've calmed down this week, haven't I. HAVEN'T I?

Thanks, Matt. That's Matt of Astoria. The rippers got me down two weeks ago, but not now, mainly because there haven't been any. Matt feels that DTs flash in the pan quicker than vermouth in an omelet? Oy, what an analogy? I'll tell you what's good in an omelet. Linda makes this great meat sauce for lasagna and spaghetti. So you take some of her sauce and make sure there's plenty of meat in it, add Tabasco, cook it in an omelet and guess what? Huevos Rancheros, Ole! The question: Why do these big guys burn out so quickly, case in point being Darrell Russell, who went down in a heap at age 27? Well, in Russell's case, I think there was a little chemical help involved, but for the rest of them, I think the defensive coaches finally have caught on to the idea that no interior D-lineman can play every down. There's got to be some relief from the constant pressure of those sumo monsters leaning on them every play, there's got to be a rotation. As this idea takes hold, seriously, I think you will see the defensive guys hanging around longer.

A sincere thanks to Dave of Santa Barbara for finding something nice to say about my draft chart, which consumed many hours and drew much ridicule. Dave wonders if it would be possible to draw up a free agent chart, chronicling success and failure related to money spent? Yes, but not by me. Too complicated, and then you'd have to differentiate street free agents from unrestricted high-priced guys, and all manner of things so time consuming that yours truly wouldn't even think of entering that realm, especially following the reception of the last such venture. But there is a guy who does precisely that. Mike Giddings of Pro Scout, Inc., a private consulting service used by a number of NFL teams. Want to get aboard? It'll cost you something in the neighborhood of serious six figures.

Chris of Southfield, Mich., asks a very sensible question. What's the difference between being cut, waived and released, and how does it affect contracts? Cut is the same as waived. A player is released after he has gone through the waiver process and no one has picked him up. If a team picks up a player who has been waived, it must pay him his old salary. If it signs him after he's been released, it can pay him anything, as long as his contract is not below the league minimum.

Barry, a Dolphin fan from Holden, Mass., suggests a trade -- Unhappy Adewale Ogunleye for a RB such as KC's Larry Johnson, in the wake of Ricky Williams' departure. No, no and no. Now is not the time to panic. Don't give up a near-Pro Bowl DE, even if he does want more money, for an unproven back-up. So many people have weighed in on the Williams thing that you don't need my two bits worth, so here it is. What bothers me about Williams, and a lot of guys, is that they're kind of inhuman in a way. They just won't communicate. They don't care about anyone else. They can't even recognize their existence. But it's not unique among high-priced athletes. Try dealing with the business community in New Jersey, where I live. The guy who says he'll call you back when the part is ready, who'll call you with an estimate, who'll be over on Thursday ... and then never shows. Never calls. Never writes. Doesn't love you anymore. Amazing how often it happens. These people are inhuman, too. As far as what Miami should do for a running back, well, I called their GM, Rick Spielman, with the following suggestion: Mike Anderson, former running back and current back-up fullback for Denver. I think he'd be OK in the Miami system. If they actually do sign him, remember you heard it here first. "What are your thoughts on Mcallen's 16-year old scotch?" Barry wants to know. Three thoughts -- 1) It's spelled Macallan's, 2) I've never seen a 16-year old ... the 18 is the one I've got in the house, and 3) it's delicious, but I kind of like Glenmorangie a little better because of the exotics.

Al. G. of Santa Monica would like my thoughts on Lance Armstrong and the Tour de France. Sure, I'd be glad to provide them if someone could please explain to me what the hell it is that they do. I mean nowhere in the 5,000 pieces I've read is there any explanation of how the rules of that thing work. I've said it many times, I'm interested in any sport in which the stakes are high. I mean I'll watch every minute of every game in World Cup Soccer and love it ... but this Tour thing, hoo boy. It makes me feel awful dumb to watch world class competition without having a clue as to the rules.

Well, folks, we've come to the end of a long, hard journey. We've supped from the cup of friendship and tasted the bitter dregs of discord. We have dined on many exotic dishes, and now it's time for dessert, the piece de resistance. Once, when I was a kid, my father bought me a record called I Can Hear It Now with Edward R. Murrow. Recorded sights and sounds of world history. My favorite band was something called The Jungle Answers Back, and it was the sound of jungle warfare in the Pacific in World War II. You'd hear an artillery round being fired, then you'd hear the sounds of the jungle animals screeching and hissing and snarling in response. The jungle answers back. Well, after my prolonged bout with the powers of darkness two weeks ago, the jungle has answered back, and those who have heard the artillery shells are snarling and hissing, not at me, but at those who would pull me down. Andrew has sent me seven pages of commentary from these loyal folk, and I am deeply grateful to all parties concerned. Too many to comment on individually, especially after this thing has run as long as the Trans-Canada Highway, as predicted. But I will mention a few:

To Erich of Zagreb, Croatia, and yes, I favor the Croatian wines, particularly the native Teran, but not the Cabernet. French grapes for the French, Croatian grapes for the Croatians, I say. Incidentally, the Redhead and I simply loved the Istrian Peninsula when we were there last year. Unfortunately, that's all we were able to see of Croatia.

To Tim of Portland, Ore. -- Someday, maybe, we'll go through a run of Oregon pinots, and please don't forget my favorite, Scott Henry Estates. I agree with you about Denny Green. Good organizer, not a great game day coach.

To Michael of Gaithersburg, Md. -- Yes, I think Linda and I will enjoy the New Zealand wines, if it comes to that. When we were there two years ago, I managed to visit 35 wineries. My favorite region was Central Otago, which looks like Wyoming.

Distressing news from Michael of Denver. "New Zealand has some really tough rules about bringing pets there." Oh man, that breaks it. What do I tell Little Jake, our tabby? I've got to think this one through.

General thanks to Alan of East L.A. and Rob of Charlottesville, Va. And Guy from Northbrook, Ill. Sorry but it's too early to get a read on either Rex Grossman or Terry Shea's Bears' offense. Mark of Tucson suggests that I consider his town instead of NZ. The problem is that it's still the USA and that's what we'd be trying to get away from.

"Think Vancouver," says Derek of Falls Church, Va. Derek, I was there before you were born. Played in a rugby game there against UBC in Stanley Park. Part two, from Derek. Wants to know the best offensive lines. Well, KC and Green Bay for a start. I like the Titans, hog-wise, and Denver's finesse style is effective, although nasty. New England has a bunch of no-names, but they did it with mirrors against Carolina in the Supe. Jacksonville, believe it or not, looks pretty good to me. I'm probably forgetting a bunch, but it's getting late. I mean seriously late.

Sports Illustrated senior writer Paul Zimmerman covers the NFL for the magazine and SI.com. His Power Rankings, "Inside Football" column and Mailbag appear weekly on SI.com.

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2004/writers/dr_z/07/30/drz.mailbag/

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