Ahead of the Curve
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"Welcome to the NFL, rookie"

Some are casting Jonathan Martin as an unwitting Gandhi-like figure on America's sport scene, floored by a caste-system of hazing & shakedowns that pits rookie against veteran, tattoos versus free-thinkers, all the while NFL Viceroy counts the coin and looks the other way.

Others, jocks mostly, see Jon as a confused young man with egg-shell exterior who broke code, might've just needed a new mentor and isn't as bright as his Stanford pedigree portends.

Hard to know as yet where to stand on this story as both sides saturate the air-waves with their own talking points.  But there is one thing I'm pretty clear on: If I didn't know better I'd say the prime suspect, suspendee Richie Incognito, is a Sopranos fan...a BIG fan.

Born in the Garden State ('83) just a short drive from David Chase's fictional father figure "Tony Soprano," Richie "Aprile" Incognito just might've watched that episode entitled "Fortunate Son ('01 (3) / 29)" and then actually put it into practice, for real.

If early reports are true about those big dinner tabs Rich & his brethren have been handing down to Dolphins' rookies ($30,000), it's a move right outta "Paulie Walnuts" playbook.

In it, Chris & Eugene get their 'buttons,' but like they say, careful what you wish for, you just might get it.  There's no "learning curve" in the pros and Chrissy ends up "chasing it" more than making it, covering huge dinner tabs for vets (Paulie), dropping his shorts for impromptu pat-downs and improvising to cover loses (darn Ducks (Jewel concert)).  Paulie Gaultieri's parting shot to a worn & weary Christopher: "Welcome to the NFL, kid."

"Got (Lysol)?" or Who's Aaron Burr?

"This thing is like an onion, the more layers you peel, the more it stinks (Costanza)."

To get to the core of Bully-Gate, last week Roger Goodell, in doing what he's become quite adept at doing of late in tackling touchy topics (Bounty-gate, PC-gate (Skins), Head-gate), appoints Ted Wells, Esq., to get to the bottom of what exactly's been going on in Miami.

More defining than this saga's odoriferous-ness is its confusing, fluctuating narrative, that ranges from bullying, to racism, to code break and then no shortage of harsh labels like "weak (LT)," "liar (Murtha)," (Jon) needs "toughen-up (Joe P.)" and "be a man (Clabo)."

Ted has no subpoena power but won't need it.  Commissioner's broad authority to fine & suspend has been upheld and NFLPA will make sure it's on right side of the fence here.

Call it indoctrination, earning your stripes, probationary period or even hazing, what goes on in the NFL goes on, in one form or another, every-where: new people gotta' fit in.

But I don't see Jon a cry-baby or loose-canon firing at-will.  He's no Aaron Burr (who may yet, someday, get clarified).  Guy must be a team-player or he wouldn't have gotten this far.

Martin might have an independent streak, a free-thinker, along with the likes of movie heroes Richard Kimble & Frank Galvin, Sam the Lion & Rooster Cogburn, Chief Gillespie & Mr. Tibbs, Ellie Arroway & Jackie Brown and real-dealers Andy, Abe, WW, Franklin, John, Cesar, Martin & Bobby.

Every coach has a network of staff, players keeping him abreast of team ebb & flow.  Not rats, they're suppose to lead, show judgment.  And if you're the type quick to wag finger, just look in the mirror.  Nearly everyone today ('cept me, wife, Belichick & Tom), breaks code daily, Jr. journalists included.  It's called social media and America's hooked.

Generally, indoctrination is a positive thing, teaching you that everyone's gotta fall in line to make it all work, like in the army, or we'll be working at opposite, selfish purposes.

And on rare occasion it can and does go too far.  It runs awry.  That's this.

For whatever reason(s), Joe Philbin dropped the ball in Miami.

Jon didn't break "code" (a 2-way street), coach & brat-pack did that when they let it reach critical mass.  Joe was M.I.A, maybe pre-occupied or picked wrong men to lead, or maybe head honcho's bit of a dim-wit himself.  Whatever, it ensued on JP's watch and, like Payton, he's gotta' pay a price, regardless of how Martin v. Incognito plays out.

King for a Day

Sports Illustrated ran a piece last week written by Seahawks' out-spoken, some'd say cocky & conceited, defensive specialist Richard Sherman.  It was a fine write and Dick might have another career ahead of him once playing days are kaput.

It's title: "Welcome to My League."  It postulated the actions Dick would take if owners chose him to serve as NFL Commissioner (See: SI.com).  Then I gave my 2 cents.

"Good, articulate write, Sherm...Now, where you dropped the ball:

1) I think you mention "players" plenty (x20?), but you forgot the fans.  Pricing relief and 'Pass-on-the-Pink.'  Table the pink-wear and get owners & NFLPA to donate fixed-figure of net NFL revenue yearly to a general research fund (2%?);

2) Institution of HGH / blood-testing of every rostered NFL player for 2014 (See; DeMaurice Smith);

3) Lose the sticky-gloves.  Talk about "toughen(ing)-up," c'mon Sherm, it's football; and

4) More tackling, less aim & fire (hit).

Keep thinking, keep writing and good luck to you and your Seahawks."

Eli 'Rock Steady'

Is there anyone more rock solid in this NFL than Eli Manning?  Working in long shadow cast by his equally solid big brother Peyton, Eli's stood resilient & unwavering under the bright NYC lights in his most trying season.  Always gracious, win or lose: "Great job by (OL)....defense was outstanding...we're finding ways to win (post-win v Oak / NFLN)."

Tebow-esque

In a tussle where athletic QBs pulled spotlight, both should've gotten the hook.  Newton played poor (16/3, 169, 0-1), Kaepernick was pathetic and each week Colin looks more & more like Tim in red & gold (11/22, 91y, 0-2), but not nearly as much fun.  So why is no team affording the same learning-curve in adding Tebow?  Tattoo-free?  Gotta' be.

Saturday's Best (Quote)

As game between Ala. & LSU wound down (AL-W), CBS camera-men led play-by-play legend V. Lundquist to identify Alabama QB's lovely Mom & pretty GF Kathy Webb in the crowd ("Verne" / 11-9 / Isaac / Guyism-YBN).  Verne did just that, then GD chimed in:

Gary Danielson: "That's it? That's all you're gonna say?"

Verne Lundquist: "You're darn right. I don't work for that four-letter network.""

Cherry Picks Week 11: Bada Bing edition

Indianapolis Colts:(6-3) @ Tennessee Titans (4-5): 11-14 NFLN 8:30 EST

Colts resume playoff march, now looking over shoulder after shellacking at hands of the mighty...Rams.  Fitz getting sea-legs back but CJ-'09 just a distant memory.  Indy wins.

Cleveland Browns (4-5) @ Cincinnati Bengals (6-4): 11-17 CBS 1:00

Bye only slowed Browns off nice W9 win (BAL).  Bengals won't be nice.  Cincy wins.

Baltimore Ravens (4-5) @ Chicago Bears (5-4): CBS 1:00

'Poes' still in hunt while CHI & fans wanta' hibernate post Lions loss.  Joe got elite-$ but plays so-so (59%, 7avg, 10/9), Rice runs low, Suggs slow.  Bears need Forte fleet, get W.

San Francisco 49ers (6-3) @ New Orleans Saints (7-2): Fox 4:30

If 49ers want in on PS, Gore, mgr-Kaep, Lee (49) & D (380+ Tk) the tickets.  Saints won't cruise here but neither will SF (NO-D5).  With comp-run, Brees & NO are Superful and win.

Kansas City Chiefs (9-0) @ Denver Broncos (8-1): NBC 8:35 (GOTW)

Only fitting, that when largesse (OL) rules the news, this clash of AFC titans will turn on their type.  Pey-dirt's a go but his wall (13S) and KC's press (36S (Hali)) is this fracas' epicenter, while horse-rush (26S (Shaun)) on Alex (26S) could tilt it.  Run games even-Steven (JC vs Monte & Mo), so too stickmen (DEN: Dan, WW & Duke (?) / KC: De-J & BF) who'll keep it honest.  Prater Denver (+) but R&R and wily Reid give edge Chiefs who stay perfect (10-0).

Next Week: JFK edition, Day the Dream Died.

Steven Keys

NFL Hunch Line

Photo Credit: Tony Sirico ("Paulie") / wc.cca / L.A.Croley (USAF) / 5-8-09

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