A fan's sour notes

Were yesterday's heroes better than today's?

In his 1968 autobiography A Fan's Notes, Frederick Exley tried to rationalize his fascination with pro football. An eloquent man, even he had trouble putting into words his love for the game: "I can't say precisely." Perhaps, he noted, "in football a man was asked to do a difficult and brutal job, and he either did it or got out...It has that kind of power over me, drawing me back with the force of something known, scarcely remembered, elusive as integrity--perhaps it was no more than the force of a forgotten childhood." But it's easy to romanticize the old days, if only because they're not today. Yesterday's heroes are recalled in a haze--they were unknowable in some way. Today, we see so much of our sports stars, they become celebrities before they even score a single point. Then they spend the rest of their careers breaking records, mostly financial ones.

I thought about this on November 8, as Emmitt Smith was breaking Tony Dorsett's record to become the all-time Cowboys rusher. I thought about how I wish Dorsett still had the record, maybe because I now perceive Smith as a selfish player who does well only when he wants to, when he needs to. During the first half of that game against the New York Giants, he looked like the Emmitt of 1993, breaking tackles like the Hulk tearing through tissue paper. But after he set the record in the first half, his yards-per-carry dropped off from eight to a little more than three. It was as though he was chasing history, then stopped when he caught it. I also wondered why Tony D. wasn't there when Emmitt broke his record, then found out later he hadn't been invited by the Cowboys--apparently it's not team policy to invite old-timers to such momentous occasions. (Of course, Dorsett will be in the stands when University of Texas running back Ricky Williams takes his NCAA rushing record on Friday--but what's a show of class amongst friends?)

Maybe that's why I wish Tony Dorsett still had the record: because he's an old-timer, a guy who gave everything to The Team and now finds himself erased from the history books, replaced by a (talented) superstar who runs in place till it suits him to do otherwise. And maybe that's why I find professional football such an unlikable sport: You want me to root for Bam Morris, Erik Williams, Peyton Manning, Kerry Collins, and all the other felons, no-talents, and crybabies out there getting paid more in a season than I'll make in a lifetime? It's enough to make a man miss basketball season, even in this town.

This week's picks

Thursday, November 26
Pittsburgh at Detroit, 11:35 a.m.
Result: Steelers 24, Lions 17

Barry who? This match-up, pitting the 7-4 Steelers against the 4-7 Lions, ain't much to give thanks about today. Thanksgiving Day nap comes early this year.

Minnesota at Dallas, 3:05 p.m.
Result: Vikings 23, Cowboys 21
If it's this close, Deion must be playing. If he ain't, then Randall C.'s serving up turkey with a side of Moss.

Sunday, November 29
Atlanta at St. Louis, noon
Result: Falcons 142, Rams 13
Please. Not even this close.
Arizona at Kansas City, noon
Result: Cardinals 31, Chiefs 20

Jake the Fake almost let the Redskins beat him last weekend. K.C.'s not as bad as Norv Turner's team--meaning, not as good. Marty "Should Be" Schottenheimer is looking for a new job come Christmas.

Carolina at New York Jets, noon
Result: Jets 28, Panthers 10
How the Jets got to be 7-4 is beyond me. And beyond the Jets.

Indianapolis at Baltimore, noon
Result: Ravens 17, Colts 9
Not even these two teams care about this game. "Parity" is another word for "Jim Harbaugh--who dat?"

Jacksonville at Cincinnati, noon
Result: Jaguars 35, Bengals 10
Do they even have a team in Cincinnati anymore?

New Orleans at Miami, noon
Result: Dolphins 20, Saints 13
Rather see Mike Ditka and Jimmy Johnson fight each other with knives for 60 minutes, but this will have to do.

Tampa Bay at Chicago, noon
Result: Buccaneers 13, Bears 7
Can't spell "Buccaneers" without "suc." Can't spell "Bears" without "crappy."

Tennessee at Seattle, 3:05 p.m.
Result: Seahawks 19, Oilers 13
One day, Warren Moon will say he played for both of these teams. And maybe, someone will care.

Buffalo at New England, 3:05 p.m.
Result: Bills 27, Patriots 25
Why? Why not.

Philadelphia at Green Bay, 4:15 p.m.
Result: Packers 42, Eagles 9
OK, so hiring Sherman Lewis as head coach for the Cowboys would have been a mistake. What did I know?

Washington at Oakland, 4:15 p.m.
Result: Raiders 27, Redskins 6
Once more, Troy Aikman's good buddy Norv Turner should be thankful he has a job. If you failed this miserably at your work, you'd be working as a part-time mall Santa come day after Thanksgiving.

Denver at San Diego, 7:20 p.m.
Result: Broncos 38, Chargers 10
They say Ryan Leaf's getting better. Like it even matters.

Monday, November 30
New York Giants at San Francisco, 7:20 p.m.
Result: 49ers 42, Giants 17

I'd rather see the Steve Young and the Niners play the San Francisco Giants. Probably be a better game.

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