By David Fleming
Page 2

Some half-decent observations at the halfway point of yet another half-crazy NFL season ...

HALF GENIUS: I'm sorry, but T.O.'s dance mocking Ray Lewis was about the funniest, most unique and, well, gutsiest thing I've seen so far in 2004. Now this was the kind of thing I was talking about when I crowned myself the NFL Czelebration Czar.

HALF THE CREDIT THEY DESERVE: Thanks to those antics, though, both Donovan McNabb and O-coordinator Brad Childress aren't getting the credit they deserve for leading the Igles nearly halfway to a perfect season.

HALFWAY TO GETTING THE WEST COAST: I know Mike Vick a little bit, and I can tell he's beginning to understand the most important aspect for a quarterback in the West Coast offense -- that his own incredibly gifted feet still have to match up with his reads downfield. When he perfects this, it's on like Donkey Kong.

IT'S HALF 'N HALF: Is Joe Gibbs outmatched or undermanned in Washington? Who knew that at the halfway point of his comeback, the great coach would be hoping to get half as many wins as Steve Spurrier?

HALF A DOZEN: The amount of Red Bulls that Steelers back Duce Staley used to consume before games in Philly. Based on the way he's playing now (704 yards rushing), Duce might be up to a full dozen in Pittsburgh.

ALMOST HALFWAY EXCITED ... : About the NBA's return -- yawn -- to my home city of Charlotte. Although the orange unis remind me of "White Shadow."

HALF A TEAM: Kansas City Chiefs. I think Miami's Zach Thomas (95 tackles so far in 2004) and Carolina's Dan Morgan (61) have more hits than the entire Chiefs D. Also receiving half a vote: The Ravens' half a team, for whom QB Kyle Boller did not complete a pass in the second half against the Bills.

HALFWAY TO GETTING FIRED: Dave Wannstedt is so easy it's almost unfair to even list him here. Unless Al Davis, whose team is 6-17 since its Super Bowl XXXVII appearance, could somehow fire himself.

HALFWAY TO TARNISHING HIS LEGACY: Jerry Rice dressed up in the Certs-colored uniform of the Seattle Seahawks? Ugh.

HALFWAY FELL OUT OF MY CHAIR ... : When I recently heard Dan Marino admit -- freely and with no shame whatsoever -- that he'd rather have a Hall of Fame career than a Super Bowl win. Well, hmmm, Dan, you think, maybe, this kind of 'Me First' half-hearted thinking is exactly why teammates were so uninspired by your (utter lack of) leadership that you never got that ring? This only seals it for me that winning a championship should be at least half the measure of a great player.

WAIT HALF A SECOND: Any actual progress that's been made in Detroit should be credited to Steve Mariucci, not Matt Millen -- unless you want to thank him for staying out of Mooch's way.

HALFWAY ... : To what I think is the NFL's ultimate goal of having so much parity that every team finishes 8-8 and there's a 32-way tie for first place.

HALF A GENIUS: The Edge.

BUT YOU'RE HALF MY AGE: Elizabeth Dole called my home 17 times in the last six days leading up to the election and, well, my wife is beginning to get jealous.

Peyton Manning
Peyton Manning's putting up incredible numbers again -- but his defense isn't backing him up.

HALF AS THREATENING: Keyshawn Johnson, the wideout. As compared to Keyshawn Johnson, the misogynistic radio show host.

HALF A GRAND: What Jake Plummer and Peyton Manning each threw for last week -- and still lost.

HALF A CHANCE ... : Of still defending the MAC title after my Li'l RedHawks from Miami tore up Toledo on ESPN2 last night.

NOT EVEN HALF FAIR: How tough the Jags' schedule has been this season.

GOING HALF CRAZY: At the airport yesterday, 30 minutes of fog delayed my flight by five hours, during which time I was searched thrice, witnessed someone rush a Styrofoam cooler marked "HUMAN EYES" by me (if you donate your eyes, the least they could do is spring for a real plastic cooler, for crying out loud) and, honest, the ceiling of the airport leaked on me.

HALF: The percentage of neighbors who got my Heat Miser Halloween costume.

HALF A GENIUS: Who was the writer on Page 2's Snap Judgment at the beginning of the season that said Steelers rookie Ben Roethlisberger (who, with an absolutely eye-popping completion percentage of 70.1 is now halfway to NFL ROY honors) was perhaps the best QB taken in the draft? Hmmm. Oh yeah, that was me.

WAIT HALF A SECOND: I was also the guy who said Drew Brees hadn't shown himself capable of making NFL caliber reads and throws.

HALF A CHANCE AT 100 YARDS: What a fan, yanked out of the beer-n-brat line, would have once the Broncos inserted him as their No. 1 running back.

HALF OVER: This column.

HALFWAY TO MVP: Daunte Culpepper, Terrell Owens, Donovan McNabb, Curtis Martin and Hines Ward. Oh yeah, and Peyton Manning. But doesn't he win it half the time anyway?

HALF A LIGHT YEAR: How far away the 1-6 Panthers must feel from Super Bowl Sunday.

HALF HIS POTENTIAL: What the world has seen so far from the Detroit Lions' already 'unblockable' defensive tackle Shaun 'Big Baby' Rogers. Although I think the Jets' John Abraham is halfway to Defensive MVP.

DOING TWICE AS MUCH WITH HALF THE TALENT: Tom Coughlin, Marty Schottenheimer and Denny Green.

DOING HALF AS MUCH WITH TWICE THE TALENT: Bill Parcells, Marvin Lewis and Jon Gruden.

HALF: The number of people now sporting Red Sox hats everywhere they go (while professing their great relief over the end of The Curse) who can actually name more than two players. And "that guy with the really long, like, greasy hair" doesn't count.

HALFWAY TO THE PLAYOFFS: The 3-4 Chiefs. Trust me.

IT ONLY TOOK HALF A SEASON: For the world to begin noticing the play of Seattle corner Marcus Trufant.

HALF THE MAN HE USED TO BE: It has been painful, at times, to watch how quickly the game has changed, turning Buffalo QB Drew Bledsoe from prototype passer to dinosaur.

Warren Sapp
Warren Sapp is looking forward to his second season in Oakland.

YOUR OLD TEAM IS HALF AS GOOD WITHOUT YOU: This is the Warren Sapp who steps up and does something (even if it is yelling at Norv Turner on the sidelines) when a team's intensity isn't to his liking.

YOUR NEW TEAM IS HALF AS GOOD WITH YOU: This is the Warren Sapp with a half a sack who gets pushed around as if he's wearing roller skates.

HALF-WIT, HALF-BAKED, HALF-HEARTED: Ricky Williams.

HALF: The amount of coaches who look manly when throwing their red replay flags onto the field.

HALFWAY TO THE HALFWAY HOUSE: Ravens running back Jamal Lewis.

HALF HUMAN: Marvin Harrison. That dude is sick. Teammates tell me he's so good that they have to fight the urge to watch the guy work in practice.

HALF SPEED: What the injury-ravaged Pats seemed to be playing at against the Steelers.

HALF AN HOUR: How long the lights went out inside the Rams' practice facility on Monday. At the time, I was talking with QB Marc Bulger in the cafeteria; and, true to his laid-back style, Bulger just shrugged his shoulders and kept right on talking in the dark.

HALFWAY ... : To another wild finish in the NFL.

FLEM GEMS -- NFL WEEK 8
T-FLEM FILE
Now we have a trend. The Titans have won three games so far in 2004; and in two of them, Flem File mascot, rookie fullback Troy Fleming, has scored a TD. He got his second NFL TD on Sunday on a 13-yard pass from Billy Volek to break a 13-13 tie. "I saved the first ball," T-Flem said on Tuesday while moving into his new house. "But not this one. Naw." No trophy and no celebration, either, since T-Flem says coaches and teammates have warned him about excessive celebrations or Gaffney-type Gaffs. But this TD was worthy of both. Spotting a possible blitz, Troy's hot read told him that he needed to get into the flat ASAP; and, with the help of a play-action fake to freeze the linebacker, he'd be wide open. He was, and he hauled it in. "Most fullbacks are converted tailbacks," he says. "Catching the football or scoring with it, you know, you never forget how to do that." But TFlem has been plagued a bit by the dropsies in the first half of the season. He's bobbled a handful of kickoffs and, on Sunday, stumbled in mid-route with a linebacker on his back and dropped another potential big gainer. "I dropped it, or that would have been a 40-yard touchdown for sure," he says. Instead, he had to settle for two catches for 50 yards and a score. "I feel like we as a team have our swagger back," says T-Flem. "And I think we're gonna win the rest of our games and make the playoffs." Rookies. You gotta love 'em.
WHYLO
This week, I gotta hand it to reader Bob, who not only predicted the Steelers win but did so with Def style. Bob writes, "Rocky Gardocki ain't in shock see ... Rocky Gardocki going to end the Pats streak @ 21 G ... "

Whitey writes, "The Gardocki interview is great stuff, though. I've personally gone 1,521 consecutive weeks without having my arteries blocked, which considering my diet is pretty amazing. Love the column."

In an absolute classic, the kind that convinces me to continue posting this stuff, Nathan, who calls himself a Flem File Hater, writes, "I am from Peoria and we are both excited and disgusted about being mentioned in your (potty word) column -- especially because it involved such a fascinating star of the game who plays that important position of punter. Start writing about something semi-related to an interesting aspect of NFL football and some of us will feel less excited about the idea of punting your empty head. You really, really suck."

Btowne reminds me that, "Every Browns dad is a psycho David."

George says, "Great column; wish I had (potty word) to say. Unfortunately, I enjoy your stuff as much as (potty word). So keep up the (potty word) writing. You are as funny as, well, maybe (potty word). NHLOTT. No Help Logging On This Time."

Brett writes, "Just what I want to read about ... a punter and his lame 'record' for consecutive successful punts. Big time request here brother ... an interview with the guy on the San Diego Chargers who comes up and spots the ball on the tee during kickoffs when it's windy out. Eat some more Twinkies."

Howard is not a big fan of the whole punting thing, either. "An entire weekly column devoted to a PUNTER? What were you thinking? Do you not realize there are probably 200,000-plus U.S. male citizens who could compete for an NFL punting job? Pathetic!!! This was the first (and hopefully last) time I thought your column was not worth reading."

Finally, Dave writes, "It's like this. I really enjoy your articles, and I enjoy laughing at the fools who take the time to write to you -- only to express how much they hate your work. However, after trying twice to read your latest offering on 'The Gardocki Streak,' I have to ask WHYJTAWBP (Who Helped You Justify That As Worthy of Being Posted?)? I've read enough of your work to know you're far more capable than this latest work. I'll still be reading next week, laughing at the haters; but speaking as a fan, I hope to see you up to speed next week. I know you've got far superior skills than that Gardocki bit shows, and I hate to see the haters get more ammo to use against you. Flem, show me the money! Give us the true Flem File work, worthy of our praise."

Ya know, in my mind these e-mails are nastier than the straight, profanity-laced sewage I normally receive. Those are nasty, sure. But these are condescending and subversive -- ugly on a deeper level.

And ugly on a deep level, well, that's just pure WHYLO of the Week material.

So Dave -- I hate to do this. I mean, gosh, I'm a really nice guy and big fan of your e-mails, but this just wasn't your best work. Who Helped You Log On?

THIS COLUMN WRITTEN WHILE LISTENING TO: The Donnas.

David Fleming is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine. Contact him at Dave.Fleming@espn3.com.




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