By Brian Murphy
Special to Page 2

At The Hangover, Points R Us. We like points.

Points are good. Points mean action. Points mean, when you switch from Channel 702 to 703 to 704 to 705 to 706 at 10:30 a.m. Pacific, on your DirecTV NFL Package, you will see ... well, points on every channel.

You know the larger meaning of this? By seeing points, you see more than just punts -- more, even, than the commercial for Best Buy in which the guy who plays Kevin Kringle bears a startling resemblance to Jeff Van Gundy.

You see first downs and breakdowns and touchdowns, oh my.

And if Dick Enberg is calling the game for CBS, well, then you can double down on the "Oh, my."

In the NFL, late 2004-style, Sunday means Showtime.

Call it the realized effect of the hands-off-and-we-mean-it NFL directive to cornerbacks, but scoreboards are lighting up at a rate that brings to mind Warren Beatty's shag-pace through the Hollywood Hills in the 1970s.

The Hangover is no place for statistical studies or math prowess -- or even English prowess (we'll get to that later) -- but I counted eight teams that scored 30 or more points in Week 13. Of those, four teams went north of 40 points.

In Week 1, just four teams topped the 30-point mark, and none hit the big Four-Oh.

Let's face it: The NFL now threatens to outscore the NBA on any given Sunday.

This final score in from Indianapolis: Pacers 61, Sixers 59.

This final score also in from Indianapolis: Colts 63, Eagles 61.

The Patriots were the latest to join the 40-and-over club, besting 40 for the first time this year. Their casual 42-15 dismissal of the woe-is-me Cleveland franchise carried with it the imprimatur of an '80s/'90s-era 49ers performance, just a ritual weekly thumping of another sad, hapless foe who cannot compete with the classy product on the other side of the field. The 49ers ... there's a memory. The Montana/Young 49ers weren't afraid to put up 40. Nowadays, the 49ers fear crossing their own 40-yard line on any given possession.

So sad.

Back to the issue: Chirp, if you must, about the 5-7 NFC teams in the thick of the playoff chase. Howl, if you must, about the drudgery of parity. Do whatever-other-verb, if you must, about the lack of a Cowboys/Steelers/Niners dynasty (although the Pats could pose a serious counter-argument to that).

All The Hangover is saying is, to paraphrase Alec Baldwin from "Glengarry Glen Ross:" I'm watching these games. The points are out there, gents. Are you man enough to watch them?

And yes, Donovan McNabb's watch cost more than my car, in case you're wondering.

Players we love, Week 13
Chris Chandler, Chad Hutchinson, Pat Williams

Chris Chandler, man! I flipped over to the 49ers-Rams game, mid-tilt, and nearly did a Danny Thomas-style spit take with my morning cup o' joe. Chris Chandler: I thought that guy was dead! Well, not really. In fact, I knew he wasn't dead. Last year, I had the good fortune to write a long story on the recovery of former 49ers great John Brodie from a massive stroke, and learned of Chandler's many good deeds as Brodie's son-in-law. Great guy, Chris Chandler. It's just that, you know, I thought he was dead and all.

Chris Chandler
Chris Chandler's alive! And he didn't even get a concussion on Sunday!

And there he was, replacing the injured Marc Bulger and tossing a TD pass to Torry Holt, a key moment in the Rams' 16-6 win. Not bad for a guy who is an Old-School 39 years old.

It's important that we parse the difference: There is the Jerry Rice 39 years old -- fit, still competitive. There is the Randy Johnson 39 years old -- at the top of his craft, as good as ever. And there is the Old-School 39 years old -- which, until the last few years, included legions and legions of athletes who turned 39 with bad knees, gray hair and burgeoning guts. Chandler is an Old-School 39. It's sort of quaint, really, to see a guy turn 39 with that sort of honest dignity. Chris Chandler: Monday morning's fistful of Advil is dedicated to you, my man.

As for Hutchinson, I haven't seen a Bears QB look more full of life since Jim McMahon. Hutchinson was chirping at defenders, throwing pinpoint passes and generally looking like the Windy City Answer. That said, the memory of his failed stint as a Cowboys QB lurks, like a bad smell from a locker room hamper. Hutchinson says he's learned from his past, and will be a force in the future. The smart money says Hutchinson has a ledger of inability, is playing for a franchise cursed since 1985, and will only have one week of glory.

However, since Chicago is probably America's greatest city for the all-important Bars/People/Good Vibes combination, we'll cut him some slack and wish for more.

And Williams? Well, let's just say the sight of a 313-pound Buffalo defensive tackle picking A.J. Feeley and rumbling in from 20 yards out was one of my favorite NFL moments of the year. It was another Hangover/DirecTV Perfect Storm -- switching over to that game at the precise moment the play occurred. If you saw it live, you heard the comedy: the sheer, pure sound of the THUD of the ball hitting the paw, then the gut, of a man listed at 313 but easily going 330, at the least.

It was a THUD. Nothing more, nothing less. The THUD of pigskin hitting layers of lard. It sounded like December football, even in Miami.

That Williams himself said he was laughing as he rambled to the goal line is one thing. That Bills coach Mike Mularkey was openly howling with laughter as Williams crossed the goal line is another. It proves, pure and simple: Not much funnier in the NFL than one-sixth of a ton of humanity with a ball in its hands.

As an aside, the Buffalo Bills are fast becoming a Hangover Favorite. I'm considering officially adopting them.

Coaches we love, Week 13
Jeff Fisher, you are welcome at The Hangover. Three onside kicks, in the first quarter alone.

Jeff Fisher
Don't ever shave, Jeff Fisher. Don't ever shave.

Dude, that is genius.

In fact, it led to the single greatest quarter of the year: Tennessee 24, Indy 17. It was the best "First Quarter Masquerading As a Full Game" I've ever seen.

How many times, as a fan, have you shouted at your TV for your head coach to show some guts, to think outside the coaching headset, to show some innovation and flash in a too-often stale environment.

I give you Jeff Fisher, porn 'stache and all.

For Fisher's next trick: The Statue of Liberty play, fake punts on every fourth down, and the tried-and-true Fumble-rooski.

I write, you clarify
All right, all right. Line up. Take your shots. I'll stick my head through the hole on the carnival boardwalk and get the cream pie in the face.

I admit it: My celebrated misuse of the word "pneumonic" instead of "mnemonic" last week in discussing mnemonic devices was, ultimately, a rich bit of comedy, seeing as how it came in a paragraph of self-aggrandizement, in which I boasted of my fifth-grade Spelling Bee title. My last, feeble defense is this: Get off me. At least I spelled "pneumonic" right.

After that last gasp, my final defense is this: I took the choke. I gagged. I spit the bit.

And oh, how you pounced on said choke, as if it were a fumble on the muddy pitch of a neighborhood Turkey Bowl. The requisite jokes about Iron Lungs poured in, as did dozens of others.

Reader Mike Jacobson of Columbus, Ohio goes for the low blow and writes: "It doesn't take a Norman Einstein to figure this one out." A reader named Ray begins his e-mail with "Hello, Pneu-man" and ends it by lauding me with "Pbravo!"

Mostly, you delighted in the irony: Guy brags about his spelling. Guy, in process of bragging, misspells -- or, technically, misuses -- a word. A reader named Mike Desantis from Bryn Mawr, Pa. goes so far as to craft a scene in which the Brian Murphy character, in the finals of a Spelling Bee, is asked to spell "mnemonic" and actually spells "pneumonic." This opens the door for a little kid to win the Spelling Bee by correctly spelling "ironic." Oh, so you're the funny man, eh Mike? I await your first feature film, shortly.

An aside: My gaffe might be one of the few times in this world where the word "ironic" is correctly used. Irony is the most misunderstood word in the English language. Its real definition -- when the literal meaning is the opposite of the intended meaning -- is hardly ever applied. Yo, Alanis Morrissette -- a fly in your chardonnay is not ironic. It is merely unfortunate. This line of thinking also gets me on the topic of the most misused phrase in the English language, "begging the question" -- which does NOT mean "leading to" the question. I do, however, digress.

To bigger and better things: The college women of Oxford, Miss. Schuchie, our favorite cheesehead now based in Jacksonville, Fla., writes in to say that the Ole Miss coed look that kills is, specifically, "bent ballcaps, running shoes and cutoff jeans." Nice. The saying in Oxford, Schuchie writes, is: "They redshirt Miss Americas there."

Freddie Prinze, Jr.
If you actually admit to watching this guy's movies, well ... we can't help you.

To U.S. Marine Jonny Cruz, apologies: Your boot camp leaders are Drill Instructors, yes.

Further clarification, meanwhile, is provided on an e-mail from T-Wahoo about the high school offensive linemen who stood up, in position order, at the wedding of their QB. Though the center was the best man, he was flanked by his right and left guards. The QB in question read The Hangover, and adds these nuggets: On the flight to Vegas for the bachelor party, the O-Line switched seats around so the Right Tackle was by the right window and the Left Tackle was by the left window. "They sat that way," writes the QB, "at the Crazy Horse Too, too." Ah, teamwork.

Last week's mention of Closed Captions -- the most amusing coming when Chris Berman calls a lateral or a fumble and the word "WHOOP!" appears at the bottom of your screen -- caused a few reactions. Reader Felix Castaneda in Sacramento says Berman's laterals are spelled "WHAT?" on his screen. Say what? Are there regional closed-caption writers? This topic leads to yet another brilliant Web site furnished by a reader, this one from Bob Turney in Houston, who says the final word on dialects comes at here. Check it out. You will not be disappointed.

For the final word on closed captions, we turn to reader C.J. Grayson from Apex, N.C. who, curiously, cites the Freddie Prinze, Jr. film "Head over Heels" in his e-mail. I was tempted to spike the e-mail on that basis alone, but I read on to learn that in one scene, fabulous supermodels are hiding in Prinze's bathroom when he dashes in for a ferocious bout of diarrhea, suffering on the toilet. Writes Gray: "The captions at the bottom of the screen read simply, 'Juicy Flatulence'."

We'll forgive C.J. for renting a Freddie Prinze flick. It was worth the payoff.

Nation building
Looks like we might have to hold off on the founding of "Eagles Nation." And, for that matter, "Patriots Nation." Those Constitutions have yet to be written, say the readers. There are precious few "Nations" in sportsdom, they say, and the rules are more stringent than those you'll encounter in Tom Coughlin's locker room.

An easy rule straightaway, says reader Dominic Debellis from Brentwood, Calif.: "When your fan base can outdraw the home team, as the Boston Red Sox do every year in Oakland, then do you truly have a Nation."

Raider fan
Don't you just want to smack this guy?

Fine, but what about the NFL? Most conceded that Raider Nation, even in its torn and tattered state, still qualifies for the U.N. of sports countries. (Note to U.N.: Airlift a few running backs, some secondary help and a few PSL licenses to Raider Nation at the next meeting of your Executive Council.) Reader Greg Hammel writes in to suggest, rather pointedly, that Steeler Nation counts, too. His argument: "I have personally attended games on the West Coast where Steeler fans were cheering louder than the fans at the following stadiums: Candlestick, San Diego, Arizona and, the latest crusher, Dallas. We went into Dallas and took over the stadium." I will grant Greg H. his argument: Steeler Nation is legit. In San Francisco, Steelers fans take over the pub Shanghai Kelly's on game days -- to the point that its proprietors have stocked Iron City beer to please the Terrible Towel-wavers.

It is a bright reader from Nashville, Patrick B., who lays out Five Simple Rules for a Nation. Patrick B. writes that, among others, "the national following must be long-term", citing the late '90s Rams as the sort of blip on the radar screen that will not be tolerated, given the short-term success of the Kurt Warner Rams. Perhaps most important, he writes, "it really, really, really helps if they've kept the same uniforms. This way, everybody's wearing the same jersey. It's a solidarity thing, and keeps you from being the Retro Jersey Guy just because you haven't retired your Ryne Sandberg Gamer."

Of course, I'm partial to reader Adam P., who writes in to suggest that he and other readers are fledgling members of Hangover Nation. Awww. Move Adam P. to the head of the class.

In sum: Yes to Raider Nation and Steeler Nation. No to 49er Nation (uni change) and Ram Nation.

Turkey Bowl memories: Ouch!
Last week's mention of Neighborhood Turkey Bowls produced a couple of reader anecdotes that verify one thing: You guys are sick.

Exhibit A comes from a Reader Whose Name I Accidentally Deleted. (It's been a while since I did that. I had gotten good at cutting-and-pasting. Oops!) Anyway, R.W.N.I.A.D. says his Turkey Bowl game produced a kickoff-return collision on an icy pitch in New England that he shudders to remember: He tore his left rotator cuff, and the ball carrier fractured two ribs.

Here's the thing: They played 20 more minutes before being driven to the emergency room. "I'm willing to chalk it up to a combination of beer and pride," R.W.N.I.A.D. writes. He adds: "I'm just wondering how common this kind of stupidity is out there."

How common? Let's cue up the e-mail from reader Sammy W. in Westchester County, N.Y., whose game was annually played after -- he repeats, AFTER -- Thanksgiving dinner under one security light at Rye H.S. A run play saw Sammy get crushed by two buddies in a gang tackle, and he instantly knew it was bad -- "immediately short of breath," he writes.

Playing the virile warrior, Sammy calmly told his pals he had a leg injury and would be back momentarily. Despite heavy mocking from pals, he tried to walk home and doubled over in pain on the street, only to hear one pal shout in the darkness, "SAMMY, YOU P---Y!"

The upshot: His left lung completely collapsed. He spent two weeks in the hospital, underwent major surgery and missed the rest of his freshman semester in college.

Anybody up for a game of two-hand touch?

Final Week 13 thoughts

  • Do yourself a favor and try to catch a glimpse of Dom Capers with his hat off. He's the Gene Keady of the NFL. It brings up the question -- it doesn't BEG the question -- is there a wider disparity in Hair Quality between any NFL head coach and his QB than the Hair Quality Disparity between Dom (Gene Keady) Capers and David (That Girl) Carr?

    Dom Capers & Aaron Glenn
    "So you really think I should shave my head, Aaron?"

  • Again, to recap: Eli Manning, before the NFL Draft, tells the world that the San Diego Chargers don't know their posterior side from their elbow joint. He defies the Chargers to draft him, and forces a trade to New York when they do. A quick update: San Diego, at 9-3, is the hottest story in the league, coincidentally taking place in "America's Finest City", a town of good live music, beautiful beaches and, yes, fish tacos. Eli, at 0-3 as a starter, is freezing his posterior side off in New York City, a place as forgiving as Dennis the Menace's neighbor, Mr. Wilson. Anytime you need a recap, Eli, just check The Hangover. We've got your back.

  • Paid a visit to Rocky the Barber, my personal link to Al Davis. Loyal readers know that Rocky the Barber cuts Al's hair, and my hair, and if that doesn't earn me a Purple Heart, I don't know what will. But Rocky gets it done: You're not in the chair longer than six minutes, you get your monthly dose of Raider talk, and he's got stacks of Playboy mags by the front door. Perfect, really.

    So I asked Rocky about the Silver and Black. He fixed me with a steely glare, his gray pompadour shining under the fluorescents: "I'll tell you one thing," Rocky said, his background as a tough biker glaring through his words, "Kansas City is in for an a-beating." As if I didn't hear him, he repeated: "Kansas City is in for an a-beating." I took Rocky's words to heart, then checked the final score on Sunday.

    Kansas City 34, Oakland 27.

    If you can't believe in Rocky the Barber, what's left in this world?

    Our only answer: The high-flying, high-styling NFL. Next stop: Sixty points for everyone!

    E-mail Brian Murphy at page2murphy@yahoo.com with thoughts, questions and unanswerable philosophical rants..




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