Quotes of the Week
“When you’re chided for your naiveté, and you will be, remind your critics that an amateur built the ark. Experts built the Titanic.”
—Peyton Manning, in his commencement speech to the University of Virginia class of 2014 Sunday in Charlottesville, Va.
“This offseason has been very frustrating for me … [I wonder] Is this still the place for me?”
—Houston wide receiver Andre Johnson, who obviously thought the Texans would go get a quarterback in free agency or the draft (one better than Ryan Fitzpatrick and Tom Savage).
Houston coach Bill O’Brien is in a tough spot. He’s got a wideout who’s going to be 33 this season, who, despite the inconsistency at quarterback for the team, has caught 221 passes over the last two years and missed zero games due to injury. If Johnson’s not going to be with the program, is it worth trying to get a 2015 or 2016 first-round pick for him—which some contender (New England? San Francisco?) might be willing to do?
“George Plimpton? Paper Tiger?”
—John Wayne to George Plimpton, on the set of the 1970 Western Rio Lobo, included in the superb documentary Plimpton! Starring George Plimpton as Himself, which debuted on PBS Friday night.
Plimpton, who wrote the book Paper Lion based on his experiences trying to play quarterback for the Detroit Lions in the preseason in 1963, encountered Wayne on the set of Rio Lobo and responded after the “Paper Tiger” remark with this: “No. Paper Lion.”
Wayne said, “Ohhhhh.”
Just as Plimpton took participatory journalism to its greatest heights, this documentary takes you with him, and does it superbly. I loved it. In his life, Plimpton:
- Sailed with the Kennedys off Hyannis.
- Pitched to Willie Mays.
- Quarterbacked the Lions.
- As a goaltender for the Bruins, stopped a penalty shot from Reggie Leach of the Flyers in a preseason game at the Spectrum—when he was 50 years old.
- Practiced as a trapeze artist for Clyde Beatty–Cole Bros. Circus.
- Photographed wildlife in Africa and Playboy models in America for different magazines.
- Boxed Archie Moore.
- Played a two-bit gunman in Rio Lobo who is shot just before he is about to take dead aim at John Wayne in a saloon. (Plimpton had one line: When a crooked sheriff is trying to take an innocent prisoner out of Rio Lobo, and an honest sheriff, in league with Wayne, asks him for a warrant, Plimpton appears out of nowhere brandishing a rifle and sneers, “I got a warrant right here.”)
If you like real yarns about real people, watching this will be the best 90 minutes you spend this week. PBS allows you to watch the film online:
“The drug for which Mr. Mathis tested positive is not approved by the FDA for fertility in males and is a performance-enhancing drug that has been prohibited for years. Importantly, Mr. Mathis did not consult with the policy’s Independent Administrator, a physician jointly approved by the NFL and NFL Players Association. Nor did he consult with his team doctor, the team’s training staff, the NFLPA, the league office or the hotline established under the policy to give confidential information to players. Each of these sources would have warned against using this substance.”
—Part of a statement from the NFL after the agent for Robert Mathis claimed he used an infertility drug to assist in the efforts of him and his wife to conceive a child. The FDA’s position on the drug, Clomid, isn’t crystal clear, but reads: “There are no adequate or well-controlled studies that demonstrate the effectiveness of Clomid in the treatment of male infertility.”
“I think I’m a lot more ready than people think. I think people label me as a project simply off of stats. I can understand what they see, what they think … but when you think of a project you think of building something from the ground up. I feel like I have a basis. It’s just a few things I’ve got to get down. Everybody has things to work on. I don’t think mine are as crazy as people want to make them out to be.”
—Arizona quarterback Logan Thomas, a fourth-round pick in the draft. Well, a career 55.6 percent accuracy rate, and only a plus-14 touchdown-to-interception ratio in four seasons at Virginia Tech, make the road bumpier than Thomas makes it sound.
Stats of the Week
This month is the 20th anniversary of Jeffrey Lurie buying the Eagles from Norman Braman. So let’s take stock of what Lurie’s done. He’s put his franchise in position to be a 12-time playoff team. While two teams in the NFC East, the Giants and Cowboys, have won a total of three Super Bowls in those two decades, the Eagles have won none. Lurie has hired one very good coach, Andy Reid, and positioned the franchise well by hiring a second coach, Chip Kelly, who looks like he’ll adjust to the NFL and have a good career. Let’s do a 20-year study of the NFC East during the 20 seasons since Lurie bought the team (1994-2013):
A frustrated Eagles fan said to me at training camp a couple of years ago he was exasperated with the Andy Reid regime and the team’s inability to ever win the big one. I said to him that almost every July, you look at the Eagles and feel they can contend to play football in January, and there aren’t many franchises you can say that about. I understand that franchises, and ownerships, are ultimately measured by the number of titles they win. So the Eagles, obviously, need to win one to show that Lurie is making all the right calls and putting the right people in position with his franchise. But I like the consistency of the ship he runs.
Three times as many TV households (671,000 to 225,000) watched the first round of the NFL draft on May 8 as watched the opening game of the Subway Series between the Mets and Yankees May 12.
Factoid of the Week That May Interest Only Me
One of the reasons so many people around the league were happy to see Mike Kensil, NFL director of game operations, step to the podium and announce the historic Michael Sam draft pick nine days ago is because he’s been a loyal soldier to the league for years. And before this bit of recognition, he’d had only one moment of national TV face time in his life—when Baltimore coach John Harbaugh dressed him down during the infamous Super Bowl blackout 15 months ago.
Kensil attends games from August to February, sometimes more than one per week. One of those games, or several, will include the St. Louis Rams. When he does that first Rams game, he’s going to bring the Michael Sam draft card—the league uses a separate card for each pick in the draft, read by the commissioner or league staffer or designated drafter—with him to hand to Sam.
“It will mean more to Michael than anyone else,” said Kensil. “It doesn’t belong to me.”
Mr. Starwood Preferred Member Travel Note of the Week
Plumb forgot this one last week: So on a quick trip to Nashville a couple of days before the draft, I found myself having a beer and a bowl of turkey chili in a sports bar downtown. Ten minutes into my beer, I noticed it. Smoke. The guy and gal at the next table were both drinking and smoking—and they did neither casually.
Now, where I live, New York, smoking has been banned in public bars and buildings for 11 years. Smoking has been banned in city parks for the past three years.
“Surprising to see people smoking in the bar,” I said to my server. “Anybody ever complain?”
“Not that I’ve heard,” the fellow said. “We’re pretty much still a smoking society down here.”
Tweets of the Week
The day is finally here
— Eric LeGrand (@EricLeGrand52) May 18, 2014
The football player from Rutgers suffered a spinal injury during a game in 2010, and graduated from college with a bachelor’s degree in labor relations on Sunday in New Brunswick, N.J. He has been working on this degree for the last three-and-a-half years, while rehabbing from the injury that put him in a wheelchair. As a bonus Sunday, he also spoke to the Rutgers class of 2014 at the commencement.
Well there goes a perfectly good Saturday in June I mean hooray for another Triple Crown try!
— Steve Politi (@StevePoliti) May 17, 2014
Sports columnist for the Newark Star Ledger, who presumably will be one of the (apparently reluctant) watchers of the Belmont Stakes in New York in 19 days, when California Chrome tries to become the first Triple Crown winner since 1978.
— Tony Grossi (@TonyGrossi) May 17, 2014
Veteran Browns beat man, now working for ESPN Cleveland, after reporting to work Saturday at the Browns’ training complex in suburban Berea. The Browns limited some access to the team to try to prevent distractions in the wake of drafting Johnny Manziel.
One of Oprah’s producers had me sign a waiver after Tuesday’s Michael Sam press conference. Does that mean I’m a distraction?
— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) May 15, 2014