By Brian Murphy
Special to Page 2

Wild-card weekend did not disappoint The Hangover.

Any analysis begins and ends with that one player's sensational show.

We keep our eyes on this one man, because we know he can dominate all the talk, all the action, as he has all season.

He played on Sunday, and delivered -- as usual.

The NFL has never seen anything like it, really. It inspires everything from hushed reverence to awed exclamations at its dominance. It dwarfs any who dare try to compete.

It is something only he can produce. It is a product solely of his vision, his dedication.

It is his singular charisma, in the end, that sets him apart, and has everyone talking about him, and about it.

Wait.

You thought we were talking about Peyton Manning's otherworldly season and skill? Come on, man!

This is The Hangover, where true artistry trumps Xs and Os.

I speak, of course, of Randy Moss' Afro.

Behold its glory. Kneel before its splendor. Offer gifts, for it is a spiritual thing, worthy of worship.

Now, now. Don't get your puritanical panties in a bunch over Randy's "Moon Over My Hammy" effort in the end zone at Lambeau Field. That was a high-school move, yes; but let's resist the overwrought hand-wringing. Juvenile? Of course. Worthy of national debate? No. Fine him, or throw a penalty flag so it affects his teammates and not just his wallet, and move on.

And get back to talking about the Afro, which I truly thought was a Fright Wig the first time I saw Moss sans helmet on Sunday.

So that's what he looks like without the corn rows? It lends new meaning to the phrase, "bed head." What form does Moss' 'Fro take after a good night's rest in his Minnesota chateau? I imagine a night of sleep on one side could produce incredible shapes -- such as, perhaps, the outline of the continent of South America.

Let's face it: The moment Moss unveiled the 'Fro, there was no question the Vikings were ready for their upset dance over the Pack. Too long had they been the timid chokers, afraid of their own shadow. They needed a bold statement, and they got one when Moss unveiled a 'Fro worthy of "Fletch."

Randy Moss
Just look at that thing. Is it alive?

Really, wasn't Moss' 'do the tonsorial representation of a wild, wild-card weekend?

We had the Rams dropping a hat trick on Seattle, which hasn't won a playoff game since Courtney Cox was pulled from the audience to dance with The Boss on MTV.

We had the Chargers' heartwarming story -- 12 wins and a big va fongool to Eli Manning -- go up in smoke to a Jets QB with a rotator cuff in tatters.

(Hangover readers: You guys are a pret-ty tough and intelligent audience, so forgive the phoneticized version of va fongool. We all know it's an Americanized slang for an Italian profanity, but the spelling of va fongool is the best I could do after a few Google searches on a Sunday night deadline. If you don't like it? Yo -- va fongool!

What else happened?

Indy's win was radio station KPTN, all Peyton, all the time.

And then there was the "'Fro at Lambeau", to cap it all off.

Think Vince Lombardi ever encouraged the '67 Packers to "Tune in, Turn On, And Grow the 'Fro?"

Lombardi and Moss -- too bad they never met. There's a screenplay in there, somewhere.

Players and officials we love, wild-card weekend
Ed Hochuli, Mike Carey, Peyton Manning

One Hangover reader has been clamoring all year for the column that showers some love on the NFL's most pumped-up official, Ed (Pipes) Hochuli. That reader's wish gets granted in the postseason, as Hochuli, presiding over three instant-replay reviews in San Diego, got more air-time than Drew Brees on Saturday night.

Perhaps anticipating the national TV light, Hochuli's pipes were particularly juiced. Guy must have done three or four sets of 30 push-ups in the locker room -- both pre-game and at halftime. Guy has biceps like Schwarzenegger.

Ed Hochuli
Wouldn't want to be grounded by Mr. Hochuli.

I've always been alternately tickled and intimidated by Hochuli's game face. He can deliver stern news like a terminator. You'd hate to be his teenage son and blow curfew. I imagine Hochuli can create an ice storm at home, if needed. I remember a 49ers-Panthers game in, I believe, 1996, when the 49ers disintegrated with a bunch of personal fouls. Hochuli was running the show at Candlestick; and with every flag, his face got more and more grim as he made the universal sign of "PERSONAL FOUL" and then angrily pointed towards the Niner side of the ball. It was a classic display of Hochuli disdain.

Hochuli! Coming at you up close, personal and in your face!

As for Carey, I watched him officiate that Colts-Broncos game with his usual cool demeanor. Is it just me, or does he really look like every highway patrolman who has ever pulled you over?

The mustache. The stone face. The all-business attitude.

Every time I see Carey stand alone on the field, flip on his microphone and address the crowd, I expect to hear him say: "License and registration, please."

As for Manning, well ... this is really it, isn't it?

He is in such utter and total control that if he doesn't beat the New England Patriots now, he will likely never, ever win a Super Bowl. At the rate with which Manning is running that offense, the Colts should, in all seriousness, score at least 35 points this weekend. Yes, even in Foxboro. Yes, even against Belichick and Romeo Crennel and Troy Brown and all that. Because if he doesn't? There will be serious, serious dome issues for Peyton and the Colts. And no, I'm not talking about the RCA Dome. I'm talking about the psychological pain and torment that will come from High-Flyin' Peyton being shot down again by his nemeses, Tommy Brady and the Pats.

Heat is on, Peyton. Let's see if you can turn the Pats' defense into a carnival of uncertainty as you've done to everyone else this year.

Game on!

How to handle 'The Hangover' in the postseason
I'm in uncharted territory, ladies and gents. Usually, my cup runneth over with things like the "Philly Corner" and the "Buffalo Corner" and the "I Write, You Clarify" chapters ... but in the postseason, The Hangover runs into issues: Namely, there are only eight teams left; and Philly didn't play this past weekend and Buffalo didn't even make the playoffs. Other issues arise, too: The Raiders didn't play, so there are no comic photos of Al Davis shaking hands with Darth Vader, or the like.

What to do on this stripped-down weekend?

I will offer, as the playoffs wind on, a new chapter, a "Best of the Hangover," made up of e-mails I wanted to include during the regular season but didn't because the damn column was nearly 3,000 damn words every week already and I needed to give my editor at World HQ in Bristol, CT, somewhat of a break, didn't I? As it was, said editor has spent every Monday morning the past 17 weeks doing the same thing: He steels himself with a Thermos of coffee, a pair of earplugs and a locked door, and then sits down to edit The Hangover. Forthwith, then ...

Some of the best of 'The Hangover'

  • Way back in September, reader Dan Filowitz suggested that Al Green's "Let's Stay Together" should be our national anthem. Think, Filowitz said, of the medal ceremonies at the Olympics, how we'd be the envy of every nation. Think of the swaying joy that would accompany any pregame anthem at a ballpark in the summertime. The idea, I would have to say even four months later, remains brilliant. Chew on it. Sing it in your head. Works, doesn't it? Whether times are good or bad/ Happy or sad ...

  • A few weeks ago, The Hangover solicited ideas for a football drinking game, not unlike the 9-9-9 (9 beers, 9 dogs, 9 innings) I witnessed with my buddies at spring training in Scottsdale last March. The best came from reader Dan H., who suggested a game called "First and Ten." His rules are simple: Ten beers, 10 dogs. "If you pound two beers and two dogs in the first quarter, then you're looking at a second-and-8. If you really hit it hard in the second quarter, you might be looking at a third-and-3 left for the conversion. If not, you're looking at a much-more difficult third-and-7. The attempts at a fourth-and-1 or, particularly, fourth-and-2, could be epic." Nice work, Reader Dan.

  • And, of course, just a dose of Philly Corner must sustain Bird fans this week. This one comes from reader Steve Hefferan, who claims Philly's insanity must be genetic. He read a book that included the following info: In the 1930 World Series at Connie Mack Stadium, the Philadelphia A's played the St. Louis Cardinals. Two details: 1.) President Hoover showed up, and was booed. 2.) Shortly thereafter, the fans began chanting, "We want beer! We want beer!" It was, of course, during Prohibition.

    Beautiful.

    Final wild-card weekend thoughts

    Mike Holmgren
    Was this Mike Holmgren's last walk off the field with the Seahawks?

  • Was it just me, or did it look like Mike Holmgren was going to cry at the final gun on Saturday? Holmgren is a big bear of a man, and his facial reactions usually vacillate between stoic and hugely irritated. But when Bobby Engram did not hang on to that final pass -- and let's be honest, in the playoffs, an NFL receiver HAS to catch that -- Holmgren looked like he was getting a little verklempt as he headed over to shake Mike Martz's hand. This could mean one of two things: a.) Holmgren will be fired in Seattle; or b.) It's that tough to shake Mike Martz's hand.

  • Guess we can officially bury the Clinton Portis-Champ Bailey Trade War chatter. I know I ceded the win to Denver a few weeks ago, based on Reuben Droughns' perfomance, Bailey's Pro Bowl bid and Washington's 6-10 record. But since Bailey is part of a Denver defense that allowed 35 points in the first half on Sunday, we have to call this a wash. No winner! I know, I know, Bailey was covering Marvin Harrison and doing a reasonably good job; but let's face it: His unit coughed up 35 big ones in two quarters. It's a wash, my friends. No winner!

  • One last thought on Peyton: I think what's preventing a total bear-hug of love from The Hangover is Peyton's lack of pure joy. I know, it's cheap to fake emotion, but there is something clinical about Manning's on-field efforts that somehow diminishes my enjoyment. In short, I'm saying we'd love Peyton to show more Favre, less Scientist. You know what I mean? I know, it's "hard work" and it requires "film study" and it's a "business" ... but please -- some childlike wonder at it all? Some sheer appreciation that it's a game? And it's fun?

    Come to think of it, same advice could be given to Pipes Hochuli.

    OK, it's settled: Peyton wears a Randy Moss 'Fro wig to the coin-toss in Foxboro next week.

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




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    THE HANGOVER