I have no idea who will win the Flem File's ninth annual (honest) Turkey of the Year Awards: That, my dear readers, is up to you. But I do know who I don't want anywhere near the big, sharp turkey carving knife this Thanksgiving: Mitch Cozad.
In September, Cozad (pronounced: Gillooly), the backup punter at Northern Colorado, was charged with second-degree assault after police accused him of stabbing the team's starting punter, Rafael Mendoza, in his kicking leg in an apparent attempt to either: (A) take a swipe at becoming the team's starting punter; (B) replay that funny scene from Talladega Nights when Ricky Bobby uses a steak knife to prove he's paralyzed (" cut around the meat") or; (C) become the 2006 Turkey of the Year (T.O.Y.).
As for the rest of you, before that tryptophan kicks in, I suggest you sharpen up your own knives and take a stab at the big, juicy list of 2006 T.O.Y. nominees:
Brad Reiland: The Vikings fan who was arrested for allegedly throwing a plastic beer bottle on the carpet of the Metrodome after a Tom Brady TD pass put the Pats up 17-0. Reiland, 31, said he was sorry and embarrassed even though he was too hammered to actually remember the incident. He sure looks embarrassed in his mug shot, until you realize his face was beet red because he was in the men's room frantically scratching off his FACE PAINT when police tracked him down.
Pacman Jones: The Titans' epileptically expectorant cornerback is being accused of spitting on a woman at a bar. It's not his fault; really, he had been watching game film of his coverage skills when someone reminded him of his $13.6 million in guaranteed cash.
Terrell Owens: Seven-time Turkey of the Year nominee (you can't spell T.O.Y without T.O., folks) the Terrible One just published a children's book about sharing. Never share the blame. Never share the spotlight. Never share the credit. This is like Bob Knight giving sensitivity training classes. To make the T.O. book authentic it comes with tear-away covers that will cause kids to drop it at the worst possible time.
The U-T.O.Y.: I don't know why I didn't think of this sooner, but this year's Un-Turkey (the opposite of everything the T.O.Y. stands for) is Ravens linebacker and the most versatile and underrated player in the league, Mr. Adalius Thomas. I went with Adalius Tuesday to hand out turkeys to needy families at a shelter just a few punts from M&T Bank Stadium. Now, I've been to enough of these things with athletes to tell who cares and who's watching the clock. Thomas showed up early, stayed late (wrote a check to the shelter out of his own money, which he thinks I didn't see) and, with his sense of humor, personality and warm, joyfull nature, gave these people something more important than a turkey: He gave them a smile and a ray of hope. Then he spent the entire drive home talking about how humbled he was by the scene.
Joe Cullen: The Lions assistant coach was suspended for one whole game after he was arrested in August for going through a fast-food drive-thru while, um, not wearing pants. (Listen, I hate those dorky-looking Hawaiian blue sans-a-belt slacks too, but come on.) In his pretrial hearing, the judge opined that Cullen "has issues that may run deeper than he would otherwise think." Uh, yeah, your honor, I don't know the technical term or anything but I think it's referred to as working for the Lions.
O.J. Simpson: Yeah, like I need to have an explanation for this one.
Denny Green: "The Bears Are Who We Thought They Were THEBEARSarewhowethoughtTHEYWERE THEY'REWHOWETHOUGHTTHEYWERE YOUwannaCROWN'EM? THENGOAHEADANCROWNEM." This is how I answered our front door when trick-or-treaters came by on Halloween.
Retro T.O.Y (2004) Cole Ford: The former Raiders kicker was arrested at a Kinkos after an alleged shotgun attack on the Jungle Palace, the home of Las Vegas magicians Siegfried & Roy. Ya know, I could continue writing this column for 87 more years and I'd never get a chance to write a sentence even remotely close to that ever again.
Jake J. Brahm: The 20-year-old grocery store clerk is facing five Thanksgivings behind bars for allegedly making Internet threats of "dirty bombs" at several NFL stadiums. I haven't seen anything this stomach-turning since my mom's bean and squash turkey casserole. (Seriously, moms, it tastes like dirty hockey equipment.)
Nick Saban/Bill Parcells: Saban had a chance for Drew Brees. Chose Daunte Culpepper. Tuna had a chance for a PAT against the Redskins and went for two, only to lose 22-19. I've done some extensive research into both of these mishaps and I've come to the conclusion it's the stupid media's fault.
Forestview High School: The Jaguars' soccer team (futbol, it counts) got fired up for its home playoff game in Gastonia, N.C., by broadcasting a 90-second portion of a speech from Adolf Hitler over the stadium loudspeakers. The school's principal sent a letter of apology but then said he didn't really expect to take any disciplinary action.
William Clay Ford: Matt Millen, who earned a Golden Drumstick Award for lifetime achievement in the T.O.Y. awards, like, three years ago, just keeps on hiring coaches who can't coach and players who can't play. And if this continues I think we all know what to expect from the Ford Family during the Thanksgiving Day game in Detroit. That's right. It's time. It can't be avoided. Yep, it's a new 10-year, $40 million contract extension for Millen.
Jean Strahan: During a nasty divorce trial Michael Strahan's estranged wife suggested that the Giants sack king and a male friend of his had pursued an "alternative lifestyle" after the couple broke up. And Strahan thought the Denver line played dirty.
Pee Wee Football parents: During a game involving 8-year-olds, a coach in Corpus Christi, Texas, beat a ref unconscious after he was thrown out of the game for bad behavior. The principal from Forestview High School in North Carolina suggests a letter of apology (once the ref wakes up) but no disciplinary action.
NFL: This stands for No Fine Logic. Reggie Bush gets nailed for 10 grand for wearing the wrong shoes and DeAngelo Hall gets slapped with a $5,000 fine for his hit on Jon Kitna. This is how screwed up the NFL is: Protecting sponsors means twice as much as protecting quarterbacks.
Tyler Brayton: The Raiders' defensive end gets kicked out of a game and fined a cool 25K for kneeing Seahawks tight end Jerramy Stevens in the, uh, gobbler during "Monday Night Football." Considering the sad state of the Raiders, this may end up being the hardest hit of the season in Oakland. Plus, what was he aiming for? Didn't the Steelers already neuter Stevens in the Super Bowl?
Odell Thurman and Chris Henry: Roughly 48 hours after listening to a speech in their locker room from commissioner Roger Goodell about the importance of good behavior off the field, Cincy LB Thurman, who was already serving a four-game suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy, was arrested for drunk driving after blowing twice the legal limit: thus, upgrading his suspension to a full year and leaving the Bengals with no run defense. That's not all (trust me, it never is with the Bengals): During the traffic stop, troubled wideout Chris Henry, he of the four arrests since December, reportedly yakked out the window of the car. I'm told you could actually see little chunks of Cincinnati's season floating down the sewer drain.
Retro T.O.Y. (1999), Dion Rayford: The Kansas football player wedged himself, Winnie the Pooh style, into the drive-thru window of a Taco Bell after becoming enraged that workers had left a Chalupa out of his order.
Albert Haynesworth: Titans defensive tackle was suspended for five games for River Dancing on the face of Dallas center Andre Gurode. I saw the incident and it was horrific and disgusting in light of Haynesworth's problems with anger management. But on a broader scale, sometimes our overreaction to the violence in the NFL strikes me as a tad hypocritical. Admit it, we are a violent culture and the violence of football is what we love about it. The league knows this, that's why it markets that violence and makes billions off of it and, in turn, makes huge rich stars out of young men who excel at being violent. And then when something violent happens during a game, we all blush and gasp and scream about how awful it is? Puh-lease.
Mike Vanderjagt: Or, as they call him in Dallas, Dr. Shankenstein. He seems to be still suffering from it, but am I the only one who thinks he never got enough grief for his kick against Pittsburgh in the playoffs, which has to be the all-time worst shank of a potential game-winning field goal in the history of the sport?
Bill Belichick's sweatshirt: I got nothing against the man himself, other than what an insufferable sourpuss the guy is, but that sweatshirt, arrgh, that sweatshirt is so dang smug. Hey if the rest of these so-called pretty boy coaches in the NFL have time to mess with things like buttons, shirt sleeves and laundry detergent, fine, but I'M TRYING TO WIN GAMES HERE PEOPLE. Chicks sure do dig it, though.
Leon Washington: The Jets' rookie running back gets busted flipping a double bird on his rookie card. The only thing worse than this transgression was his excuse: Leon says he was trying to form a different letter to honor his hometown. That's so weird. After this column comes out each Thanksgiving, e-mailers are always telling me to go visit that very same place.
David Fleming: Idiot. Hater. Loser. Nerd. Turkey-Jerky waste of bandwidth. There, I just saved you the trouble of sending in your own hate mail, because, we all know how busy (wink, wink) things can get around the office the day before Thanksgiving.
David Fleming is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine. His first book was "Noah's Rainbow: a Father's Emotional Journey from the Death of his Son to the Birth of his Daughter." His next book, based on the controversial 1925 NFL Pottsville Maroons (ESPN Books 2007) has been optioned as a movie by Sentinel Entertainment. Contact him at Dave.Fleming@espn3.com.