Vinny won one for the ages

I had a hippy-dippy teacher back in high school who taught touchy-feely, personal growthy kinds of classes with titles like, "Personal Ethics" and "Smell Me."

His signature move was lobbing a provocative thought at the room, then opening up the floor for discussion with his auto-loaded catch phrase, "Feelings, thoughts, emotions?" Which, of course, had become such a repetitive action for him that the words just ran together, "Feelingsthoughtsemotions?"

Word clusters. They happen. Robin and I sat through a wedding where the clergyman, or shaman, or whatever the guy running the show called himself, did the same thing with the "Mother, Father, God." It was one of those ceremonies designed with care so as not to offend anyone's belief systems. He was from the "all figures of worship welcome" school. He might as well have been saying, "Goats, Gremlins, Druids," but years of mindless repetition had rendered his favorite saying into a mushy, molten word cluster. Toss in a regional dialect bereft of any "R" sound, and it was a long Sunday full of, "Muduh-Faduh-Gahd ..."

How does this connect with the glory and pageantry that is professional football? Well, watching 43-year-old Vinny Testaverde last week provoked a slew of FTE (feelings, thoughts, emotions) in me.

A mere four days with the team, and Vinny cranks out a win for the Panthers, 25-10 over the Cardinals. In a league where we see guys armed with mini-camps, training camps and preseason games line up behind center and flat out suck, this was truly remarkable.

Sunday was a great day for veteran QBs (is that Jeff George I hear warming up in the bullpen?).

It was also a great day for every Fantasy Football owner who invested a second-round draft pick in Steve Smith. Vinny took one look at Smith's dwindling, pedestrian numbers and said, "Nobody puts baby in the corner!"

It was not a good day for David Carr, who showed a lot of promise a few years back but seems to have lost his way. The change of scenery was supposed to help, but when Jake Delhomme got hurt, Carr came off the bench and promptly looked lost. Then Vinny comes along, skims the Panthers playbook like he's just looking for the good parts, and gets the job done. Sure Vinny and Carolina's offensive coordinator might have had some common influences after each spent time in New England and Cleveland, but marone! That's some veteran expertise.

So expert, it's easy to forget there was a time when Vinny Testaverde atually wasDavid Carr. You have to go all the way back to 1987, but just like Carr, Vinny was the No. 1 overall pick out of Miami, earmarked as the cornerstone of a total rejuvenation of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

This was the pre-pewter Bucs. The ones with that mustachioed dude on their helmets -- the one I used to refer to as Lance, your uncle who never married.

Well, it didn't work out for Lance, and it didn't work out for Vinny, who was bad in the early years. So bad, he had "bust" written all over him as he left town en route to a journeyman career. After six years in Tampa, he was sent packing to Cleveland where he slowly kinda woke up, then finally exploded in Baltimore -- his tenth season in the league.

Today, he has hall of fame numbers -- admittedly, thanks more to longevity than to winning/dominant years, but as Woody Allen said, "90 percent of success is showing up." Once a mess, a coach-killer, Vinny is more than just a specimen now -- although that part ain't too shabby. At an age when most guys are breaking a sweat just tying their shoes, Vinny can fly into town on Wednesday and get you a critical win on Sunday. He is a sage. He knows the game inside and out, he can assimilate the info at a lightning-fast rate.

Keep that in mind as you toss David Carr on the ash heap. All hope is lost, because at the rate it took Vinny to get good, Carr still has four years to go.

Final FTE? It's takes years to learn this stuff, which is why Sunday's action also filled me with MFG-envy as I watched the league's reining Mudda Faduh Gahd in awe. More on that next time, but I need to post a correction, with a thought.

I guess we hear what we want to hear ...

... because after going on and on in last week's column in praise of Packers DB Atari Bigby naming not his school, but Amsterdam Avenue, during his player introduction on the big game, it turns out I was completely wrong.

Lots o' mail correcting me that, in fact, he was crediting his stint in the World League with the Amsterdam Admirals. OK, it might not be the paradigm shift I was hoping for -- you have to admit, naming the street you grew up on is nothing short of great, so great, I hope a bona fide NFL starter reads this column and makes the dream a reality -- but facts are facts. I wuz wrong, and with the demise of NFL Europa, in a round-about way, Atari also brings me to another point.

It was the only other place you could watch viable professional football.

There are a few "truisms" that just aren't true. Like when people say, "There's no such thing as bad pizza." The premise being that even the worst interpretation of the pizza concept has too much good going for it. Clearly, these people haven't tried to order pizza in Southern California, or Eastern Europe. Pizza can blow. There, I said it.

Another false truism? "There's no such thing as bad football." The premise being, even the worst interpretation of the football concept has too much good going for it. Wrong!

Look, I love the pro game on a deep, some might say unhealthy, level. I love it so much, that I hunger for year-round football action to fill the gaping void of the offseason, and while I found occasional solace in the now-defunct NFL Europa, I can honestly say I find the CFL and Arena Football unwatchable. There, I said it again.

Clearly I'm not alone. Neither league has garnered the slightest blip when televised, and I know why: It's because they messed with the rules.

A nice NFL Europa game? I could watch, safe in the knowledge that no one will be catching balls off the netting! Or fielding a tiny headcount! Or getting bounced off the boards! Arena football is a great experience live, but so are monster trucks. On TV, swing and a miss. It's like those rural high schools that don't have enough kids, so they play six-man. At best, it's football-adjacent. And with all due respect to Boise State and Hawaii, final scores in the 93-72 range don't ring true.

You can't mess with the rules. It works for a reason. I don't know what the hell they were thinking in Canada -- fourteen men in motion before the snap? On every offensive play, the backfield looks like a NASCAR pit stop. And only three downs? Look, punting is the worst part of a football game -- why make sure we experience it with more frequency? The field's too wide, which makes it too friendly for the other most boring play in the universe; the end around sweep. I mean, come on -- did the end contain? He did? OK, no gain.

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