I have no idea who will be the FlemFile's 2005 NFL Turkey of the Year. For our eighth annual T.O.Y. Awards, we're going to let you, the fine readers, decide by clicking on the poll that accompanies this column. What I do know, however, is who I don't want cooking my bird: NFL stadium food service employees.
A TV station in Milwaukee recently procured health inspection reports from 16 NFL stadiums, and among the findings were rodent droppings in Minnesota, Cleveland and Pittsburgh; utensils overgrown with mold at Lambeau Field, and blood from raw meat dripping onto beer kegs at New England's Gillette Stadium.
Hey Pats fans, this year make sure to wash down your Thanksgiving turkey with Bill Belichick's new moldy mouse turd n' blood dynasty microbrew!
Now that we've whetted your appetite, please dig in to this year's list of nominees for the FlemFile's Turkey of the Year Awards.
TOM BENSON ... Is it me or does this guy appear to be practically drooling with excitement over the financial windfall of moving the Saints to San Antonio or even Los Angeles? They say no decision has been made. Fine. But even the appearance of someone attempting to profit, wildly, from the worst natural disaster in our country's history turns my stomach more than my Gram's legendary old hockey glove bean casserole.
GEOFFREY HUISH ... After Wales upset world rugby champion England, this 31-year-old Brit footballer fan made good on a boast (not even a bet, mind you) and cut off his testicles with a pair of wire cutters left behind from a toilet repair. "It took about 10 minutes and there was quite a bit of pain," he said. OK, as soon as my flop sweat stops I have three for this one: 1) Finally I understand my Grampa's rule about "measure twice and cut once"; 2) What a shame that this guy won't be able to procreate; 3) Please pass the giblets.
CAROLINA PANTHERS ... We all know that a South Carolina doctor has been under investigation for supplying several Panthers with steroids during their run to the Super Bowl. But after two members of the Panthers' Top Cats cheerleading squad were arrested following a bar dispute in Tampa, perhaps it's time to start testing the cheerleaders as well.
THE PLAYER WHO SHALL NOT BE NAMED ... I'm so sick of hearing about this disturbed, desperate Dennis Rodman-like man-child -- and even more so about being denied the chance to enjoy one of the game's best players -- that I've decided not to add to the fervor by mentioning his name here.
FRED MILLER ... After originally claiming he broke his jaw in a fall at home, it turns out teammate and fellow Chicago Bears lineman Olin Kreutz smashed Miller's face ... during a fight ... after trying out weapons ... and enjoying a barbecue ... with federal agents ... who were attending a terrorist training program ... at the North Chicago shooting range ... of the FBI ... which is now investigating whether or not alcohol was involved in the incident. Yep, just another one of your run-of-the-mill NFL midseason sagas.
JAMAL LEWIS ... This guy used to be a warrior. Now, one season removed from 2,066 yards rushing, Lewis seems to be running like the ready-made bird you bought at Kroger's: no guts.
SEAHAWKS FANS ... This T.O.Y. nomination is for all the clueless folks who e-mailed me after last week's "scrumtrulescent" Shaun Alexander column (a parody of the "Inside the Actor's Studio" show) asking when the show was going to be rebroadcast.
CHARGERS TAILGATERS ... During the preseason, the hot coals from a tailgater's barbecue destroyed six cars in the Qualcomm parking lot. Located a few car lengths away from the fire was a safety bin provided for tailgaters marked "hot coals." Oh yeah, it's the players who are lazy and out of touch.
LAKE MINNETONKA ... Enough already, it's time to do the honorable thing and name the person responsible for the Vikes Love Boat scandal. Prince.
TOMMY MADDOX ... Had the second-worst individual performance of the season in a crucial, winnable game at Jacksonville, throwing two picks in his first three possessions and then bumbling the game away (twice) in overtime with a fumble and a pick. Followed that with the single-worst individual performance of the season by blaming his play on wind gusts, his center and his fullback. Then his agent claimed (and was later rebuked by Maddox's wife) that fans harassed his kids at school and threw junk in his yard.
ONTERRIO SMITH ... On this day we give thanks to the freakiest of the super-freaky Vikings for single-handedly making the term Whizzinator a part of the sports lexicon. Until Onterrio got busted with his penile prosthesis, Whizzinator used to refer to Chuck, my incontinent childhood dog.
RETRO TURKEYS ... Here's a sampling of the T.O.Y.s from 2001: Damien Robinson: Brings an assault rifle in his trunk to a game at Giants Stadium, and then later tries to uncork Aaron Brooks' head. This guy is so violent, he should be in NASCAR. Randy Moss and Cris Carter: If I wanted to listen to this kind of childish bickering and whining, I wouldn't wear a Walkman to Thanksgiving dinner. Carolina's turf: The last time I saw this much dead grass and dried-up weeds, it was piled in the back of Nate Newton's car.
BILL ROMANOWSKI ... Romo receives this Golden Drumstick for lifetime achievement in the FlemFile's T.O.Y. Awards after gleefully admitting to all the despicable stuff we long suspected him of doing, so that he might profit from it in his new book.
DREW ROSENHAUS ... His press conference performance was a true Thanksgiving miracle: watching him actually made me feel sorry for ... The Player Who Shall Not Be Named.
DUH, BEARS ... I've had quite a good deal of fun at the NFC North's expense this season. But I must say, at times the Bears defense can be jaw-dropping dominant and Kyle Orton is the kind of scrappy underdog mutt who is impossible not to cheer for. So this is me kinda, you know, saying, um, I don't know, sorry or something.
KELLEN WINSLOW II ... Before the 2004 draft and during his holdout, the Browns tight end (five career catches for 50 yards) was "The Chosen One." But according to his dad, after he wrecked his motorcycle while doing stunts in a parking lot (something that is prohibited in his contract) he's just a 21-year-old kid who made a mistake, a human being, you know, just like you and me.
49ERS TAPE ... If you think the team's disturbing mockumentary public relations film was a disgusting piece of cinema, well, you haven't watched any game film of this team.
PACMAN JONES ... Titans rookie corner dropped 14 grand taking the defense out to dinner at Fleming's Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar in Nashville (no relation and thank goodness, I mean, I don't want my name and the term "wine bar" in the same sentence.) Now that's some expensive toast. Or, at least that's what everyone in Nashville thought ... until they signed Pacman.
MIKE SHERMAN ... Pitchman for a local cell phone company throws a hissy fit when a phone rings during one of his press conferences. The call went straight to voicemail, where the ghost of Vince Lombardi was forced to leave an angry message about the sad state of his team.
RIVER FALLS (WIS.) BAR BOUNCER ... Can you imagine the grief this poor guy has had to endure from fellow bouncers after police accused Chiefs kicker Lawrence Tynes of whooping his ass (and breaking his nose) in a bar fight during training camp?
ANDY REID ... Listen, I know the guy is dealing with his own personal 6-foot-3, 233-pound sports hernia (yes, I speak of The Player Who Shall Not Be Named) but Reid has begun to turn into the Mike Martz of the East by stubbornly calling pass plays an eye popping 66 percent of the time. The only thing more predictable than the Eagles offense is my dad falling asleep during the Lions game.
1972 DOLPHINS ... Waiting for the Colts to falter so the only undefeated team in NFL history can celebrate with champagne at another club's failure. Like Fat Albert says, these old dudes kick it like school on Sunday: No class.
TURKEY LEFTOVERS ... Panthers wideout Steve Smith made the 2002 T.O.Y. list for pummeling a teammate during a film session. Now he's a pee-wee soccer coach, a tireless advocate for several charities in Charlotte, N.C., and the league's most explosive playmaker.
MIKE TICE ... Nice year so far, dude. At the Pro Bowl in Hawaii, he fell asleep on the beach and burned himself to a crisp, got fined 100 large for scalping Super Bowl tickets, temporarily lost control of his team (again) and recently blew out his MCL. Of course, the NFL is such a copy-cat league that if the 5-5 Vikes continue their walk-on-water comeback, expect coaches in Detroit, Arizona and Houston to blow out their knees as well.
NFL FASHION POLICE ... Here's how screwed up the NFL's priorities are these days: Clinton Portis was recently fined $20,000 for wearing the wrong socks. You know what it cost Baltimore's Ed Reed for impermissible contact with an official? Fifteen grand.
SAMIR SULEIMAN ... Rams director of football operations responds to a local story critical of the team's front office by leaving this sewage on a columnist's voicemail at the St. Louis Post Dispatch: " ... I'm not a back-stabber, I'm a [potty word] throat slasher, and he'll know the difference before it's all said and done." Gulp. Might I suggest someone else in the Suleiman family carve the turkey this year?
NICK SABAN ... And I quote: "The record doesn't really matter, the result doesn't matter and the score in the game doesn't really matter. Does that make sense to anybody besides me?" Oh, I'm sure it makes perfect sense to the factory worker from Fort Lauderdale who had to chose between a family vacation and 2005 Dolphins season tickets. Although I'm not sure what this fan appreciated more: his coach advocating a throw-away season or how he somehow managed to deliver this statement in a condescending tone.
PAUL TAGLIABUE ... Helps the Saints by giving them a "home" game in New York; no new CBA; out of control flag-happy refs; parity backlash on the horizon; and a Super Bowl in -- wait -- Kansas City? ... if Tags was a team, he'd be the Arizona Cardinals.
DAVID FLEMING ... No talent, player-hating hack. There, I just saved you the trouble of having to type up your own hate e-mail. Because I know how terribly busy everyone is at work the day before Thanksgiving. Have a great holiday folks.
David Fleming is a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine. His book, "Noah's Rainbow," a father's emotional journey from the death of his son to the birth of his daughter, can be preordered through Baywood Publishing. Contact him at Dave.Fleming@espn3.com