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Arizona Cardinals tight end Zach Ertz, left, reaches for a pass as Seattle Seahawks safety Jamal Adams, right, covers, during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

NFL Power Poll

So who can we trust? This is not a Clancy espionage thriller, mind you. This is bigger than that.

This is (cue Ron Jaworski) the NATIONAL Football League.

Side note: I had a lot of fun doing today's A2 column and talked to a couple of retired Navy Admirals who were named Distinguished Submariner Award winners last week. Anywell, I had a really nice chat with Frank "Skip" Bowman, a 1962 City High grad about nuclear readiness and his time in the Navy. At the end of the interview, I had to ask about Tom Clancy's "The Hunt for Red October" since it's not every day you get to speak with someone who a) was the dude of a nuclear submarine, b) was the dude of a nuclear submarine during the height of the Cold War and c) was the dude of a nuclear submarine during the height of the Cold War who actually ran SpecOp missions into Soviet waters. Adm. Bowman said he was completely entertained by the movie and that Clancy clearly hired a technical adviser who knew the ins and outs of a submarine exceedingly well. And yes, the good Adm. Bowman said the plot was more than a little stretched, all things considered. He then relayed a story that I thought was cool.

(Side note on the side note: He's a retired four-star Admiral who was the head guy in charge of a nuclear submarine, there are not many stories he can tell that are uncool, no?)

So Adm. Bowman was serving in Charleston not long after "The Hunt for Red October" came out and the Navy there was doing an auction for families left behind by submariners who died in service. Clancy heard of the auction and wanted to participate. So he comes down to the event and is a big-timer. He donated his first draft, edited manuscript of "Clear and Present Danger" to the auction, which Bowman said drew a "pretty penny."

(Side question on the side note: Is there such a thing as an ugly penny? Discuss.)

OK, where were we? Ah yes, (re-cue Jaws) the NATIONAL Football League, and if we can trust anyone.

Seriously, pick a team you would bet a sizable amount on to win the Super Bowl. Heck, pick a team you would bet a sizable amount on to get to the Super Bowl.
We'll wait.

And while we're waiting, let's make Richard Petty back in the day and get to the pole position.

1 Arizona. Welcome back, welcome back, welcome back. Best Sweathog? Go. (Hey, if we don't know if we can trust any of these teams 10 and 11 games into the season, we may as well have some fun on the power rankings, right?) I can see an argument for multiple Sweathogs, but Horshack is last in that ranking, right?

2 Green Bay. This bunch is going to look back and the COVID controversy is going to cost them what would be the biggest home-field edge in the sport. And considering for so much of his tenure, Mike McCarthy got blamed for wasting Aaron Rodgers' prime, maybe that narrative should be more balanced in retrospect, no? Also, Mike and Melissa McCarthy, related or not? If not, they should be right?

3 New England. Yeah, I know there are multiple teams with better records, including the Tennessee Titans. (Side note: Want to know the flat baseline of a team you can't trust, let's look at the Titans, who have the best record in the AFC despite losses to the 2-8 Texans and 2-8 Jets. Someone explain that.) But the Pats are building — or is it rebuilding — and have arguably a "Cheers"-level of familiarity and trust right now. That's a great comp, right? Not saying that Cheers is the best comedy ever — it's in the team picture — but there are/were moments and episodes of peak hilarity with several other shows that put their ceiling above "Cheers." But Mayday Malone and Norm and Coach (Side question: Norm or Woody? Discuss.) and the gang were week-in, week-out no worse than good. Plus, another "Cheers" to Pats comp: No team or show had more consistently good side contributors, with maybe "The Simpsons" being a possible contender.              

4 Kansas City. OK, if the Pats are "Cheers," the Chiefs have to be "Seinfeld," right? Four super important pieces — Reid, Mahomes, Kelce and Hill — and some random contributors who can make things truly special. And know this, when Mahomes (Kramer or George?) hits his apex, there's nothing out there that can truly compare. Think "The Opposite" or "The Abstinence" or "The Marine Biologist" and if Mahomes is dealing, this is the best in the business. But kind of like Jerry and the crew's first few seasons and some near the finale, when Mahomes is wobbly, the Chiefs are mediocre. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

5 Tampa Bay. So, all the betting folks wanted everyone to know that Tommy Brady — TV comp "The Brady Bunch" is too simplistic, even for Spy — was 0-11 against the spread going into last night in prime-time games. Yeah, about that. Speaking of 'Bunch' does anyone remember "The Baseball Bunch" with Johnny Bench? Or "This Week in Baseball" with Mel Allen doing highlights? Man, in retrospect, highlights are like cartoons in that they were way more enjoyable when you had to work to find them, if that makes sense.

Powerless

28 Chicago. Man, has there been a bigger black hole in any major sports town at any meaningful position in sports like the wasteland that has been Bears QBs since, well, forever? I'll wait.

29 Houston. One win over Tennessee doesn't mean that much. Heck, the Jets did it.

30 New York Jets. So head coach Robert Selah is struggling because this team is rotten and they picked the lemon of QBs in round one. Or at least what looks to be the lemon, and man if you're a Jets fan and Mac Jones does these kinds of things for another decade or so. Egad. Anywell, Selah makes a lot of us of a certain age from a certain region of the country think about Furman Bisher, who at one time was one of the true giants of this industry. I was in the Masters press room one time and the moderator opened the event for questions and some young go-getter started speaking only to be cut off by some guy named Nicklaus, who promptly said, "Furman gets the first question." Man, it was a Goodfellas "Out of respect" moment that will never be replicated in today's media-athlete realm.

31 Jacksonville. What can you say? OK, we can say this: How many calls has Urban's agent made to USC? Or LSU? (Vader would you be happy with Urban?)

32 Detroit. Let's talk turkey. Thank you, thank you very much. You've been great and be kind to your servers.

 

Pitch perfect

OK, we referenced the UTC football debacle from last Saturday on Monday. Those Mocs were certainly among the losers of the weekend.

And then I read Weeds this morning. Wow. Grand Slam.

Side question: Is there one odd movie that you have several quotes from which you randomly pull and even more random times? For those that regularly read these morning chats, you know I have a slew of them. One of them is "Airplane" and after reading Weeds' pitch-perfect prose on the Mocs meltdown that started in the Spring and ended at the hands of El Cid, the quote that echoed through my empty melon was "Pinch-hitting for Pedro Bourbon, Manny Mota. Mota." Except it kept running in Ted Striker's voice, "Pinch-hitting for Pedro Bourbon, Mark Wiedmer. Wiedmer."

Anywell, here's the highest compliment I can pay a colleague when they crush a viewpoint like Weeds did this morning.

Here's the link.

And, what he said.

 

Welcome back, welcome back, welcome back

So, we get multiple Mr. Kotter references in today's diatribe. Swell.

(Side question: Did you see Mr. Kotter's feature film sports vehicle "Fastbreak" with none other than Bernard King? Side question on the side question: If I started with King and Grant Hill about two excellent players who would have been all-timers if they could have stayed healthy, is there one you can add who is better than those two? Would Lenny Bias count, because last I checked, dead was far from healthy.)

Anywell, so Dick Vitale, who is on more Rushmores than Roosevelt — until he gets canceled too, that is — returns for a bona fide heavyweight hoops show tonight as Gonzaga and UCLA face-off in a 1 vs. 2 grudge match.

There are so many arguments that can be made about Vitale, who returns to the mic after taking some time to fight cancer, that it's almost impossible to know where to begin.

Has he done more for his sport than any announcer ever could? You could argue that.

Has he done more charity, considering his work with the V Foundation, than any modern-era sports celebrity? You could argue that too. (Danny Thomas is the MJ of that conversation, right?)

Did he help make ESPN ESPN in the early days when the only live sport contact they could land was college hoops? Yeah, you can argue that one.

What you can't argue is that he is a wonderful man with a giant heart, and he returns to the place that he and we — yes, even those of us who think his style has become cartoonish — are the most comfortable.

Calling big-time college hoops with the energy of a teenager and the passion of a gym rat.

Welcome back Dickie V. Keep fighting the good fight, and here's betting the big guy gets a little emotional at the start. (And I'm 100% here for that.)  


 

This and that

— So a statue of Thomas Jefferson was officially removed from New York City's city hall Monday. Yep, that's so 2021 it almost doesn't need any other comments.  (But we would not be us if we did not offer at least one more comment. These are not our words, but rather those of some dude named Orwell: "Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present." So yeah there's that.)

— OK, one more. Has anyone ever heard anyone truly offer a declaration that Thomas Jefferson offends them, or was this yet another pre-emptive move made by a small group filled with mostly white people who think there's a chance that anything from the days of slavery could be offensive to someone? Because I will also offer this: By everything I have read about the man (yes Spy, I read — occasionally) you can make a hard argument that removing Jefferson monuments is more a slap at the freedom our founding fathers fought for than the slavery of that era.  

— So this is interesting. Amid all the hullabaloo of the coaching carousel we got a report last week that Mel Tucker was going to get a kajillion dollars for the next eon from Michigan State. (It was actually a 10-year, $95 million extension.) Well, this report from 247sports.com says that contract was 'torched' during Sparty's tail-beating handed down by THE Ohio State on Saturday. Hmmmmmmmm. LSU, back in play?

— Speaking of college football, and THE Buckeyes, I expect them to be No. 2 in tonight's playoff rankings, right behind Georgia and right in front of Alabama. Then things get jumbled. Where will Notre Dame be, especially in comparison to Cincy? What about Michigan? Oklahoma and Oklahoma State play his week in a game that could offer a springboard for either side. My projection is Georgia, THE OSU, Bama, Cincy, Notre Dame, Michigan the Okie schools. Thoughts?  

— Also, speaking of college football, you know the rules. Here's Paschall's prose on the matters of the day involving the Big Orange.

— The MLB Hall of Fame ballot was sent out this week. Hmmmmmmmmm. Interesting stuff, and some stuff we'll kick around later this week as the holiday rolls in. Deal? Deal.

— Programming note: The 5-at-10 Bracket Challenge is taking a Thanksgiving break. It will return Monday. Deal? Deal.

 


Today's questions

True or false, it's Tuesday.

True or false, Dickie V is the greatest ESPN hire ever. (If you say false, I need one better, por favor.)

True or false, THE Ohio State will be No. 2 tonight in the playoff rankings.

True or false, you trust the Patriots more than any other NFL team right now.

True or false, no one is going to want to face the Colts come mid-December and beyond.

You know the drill. Answer some T or F, leave some T or F.

As for today, Nov. 23, let's review.

Miley Cyrus is 29. So there's that.

On this day in 1888 Harpo Marx was born.

Who other than the Marx Brothers makes the Rushmore of sibling comedians. Go.

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