Mark Starr

Stories by Mark Starr

  • NFL Draft Report: Silence is Golden!

    I’m just a lowly sports reporter, so forgive me if, by discussing a serious matter of national policy, I sound a bit naive or foolish. But I can’t help but notice that America’s leadership has a little problem with leaks—both at the White House and at the intelligence agencies. If those folks are serious about halting the information flowing to the press, they’d be well served to spend a little time in Foxboro, Mass., home of those other—and far more successful—Patriots. Because Foxboro is where secrets go to die.The Patriots consider absolutely all information about the team proprietary. The mafia code of omerta has all the power of a promise made after the third drink on guys night out compared to Pats coach Bill Belichick’s stranglehold on team news. Only Belichick speaks publicly—and he says nothing at all. Indeed, his pronouncements have redefined the NFL vocabulary. Take the word “probable,” once a rather straightforward concept. But when Belichick utters it during the season,...
  • Patriots Games

    Though that team in the Bronx has hijacked the name, in Boston we think kindly of the other meaning of the word "Yankee", and so this week we celebrate the 231st anniversary of the first winning Yankee team. In the spring of 1775 my ancestors (OK, the spiritual ancestors of me and my neighbors here) dared to take up arms against the mighty British for a skirmish that helped launch a war that ultimately yielded all those freedoms that we claim to prize so much.Which is one of the reasons that Patriots Day, a holiday celebrated only in Massachusetts, is such a treasure. This is the holiday that best reflects our state's unique character. We don't celebrate vital American history with car sales here. Rather we have a few folks dress up in 18th century fighting garb and reenact the epic events of Lexington and Concord. The rest of us honor our heritage in a manner that demonstrates core American values: with a day off from work and two major sporting events—a morning Red Sox game played...
  • Fenway Park Seder

    Tonight, as they did last night and have done for more than 2,000 years, Jews will gather with family and friends for Passover seder, with its ritual retelling of escape from slavery in Egypt, of 40 years spent wandering in the desert and, finally, of the Promised Land.On Tuesday, my brother Billy and I met at Fenway Park for Boston's home opener and, in similar ritual fashion, retold our Red Sox story. It always begins with my brother's insistence that, with the Red Sox somehow having rallied from three games down against New York, we needed to trek to Yankee Stadium for the seventh game of the 2004 American League Championship Series. I am once again forced to concede that I was extremely trepidacious. "You know it will end badly, just like it always has," I prophesized, finishing on this ominous note: "You and I will be stuck in the Bronx at two in the morning, waiting for the A train and taking abuse." With the benefit of hindsight, you may regard me as a coward. I prefer, in...
  • Safe at Home

    Can we join in a rousing “free at last, free at last” in tribute to that humble servant of the Lord, the Rev. Jesse Jackson? With America’s civil-rights agenda complete, Jackson is now free to turn his attentions to the rich and mighty whose problems are entirely self-inflicted, most notably San Francisco Giants outfielder Barry Bonds.No doubt Bonds was appreciative last week when Jackson called out Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig for failing to protect the slugger from the wrath of fans in San Diego, who booed and threw objects (including a syringe) at Bonds during the Padres season opener. Then again, Bonds is savvy enough to know that some fresh controversy can boost his new ESPN reality series, “Bonds on Bonds.” (What’s next for the network, a show starring the Duke lacrosse team called “Animal House”?) Still, the abusive treatment Bonds received from the Padre cadre must have been a wee bit distressing. If that’s the reception in laid-back San Diego, what horrors...
  • Show Me the Moneyball

    Has it really been just three years since “Moneyball” took the baseball world by storm? In the spring of 2003, Michael Lewis’s provocative tale of how Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane’s statistics-driven approach rejected conventional baseball wisdom to find undervalued players for his cash-poor ballclub altered the way many of us—baseball execs, sportswriters and fans alike—analyzed the game, its teams and its players. Baby boomers like me, whose love affair with baseball had always contained a geeky stats component, suddenly believed that they had squandered their lives running fantasy teams when they could have been doing the same thing for real in the bigs. You didn’t have to be an intuitive judge of talent. You didn’t even have to be able to hit a curve ball (something else we shared with Beane, except he got to demonstrate it in 301 at bats over six seasons for four different Major League teams). You just had to be able to crunch the numbers.It was too late for me. But...
  • Me and March Madness

    You all remember me from last week’s column —and, if your words can be trusted, you don’t like me very much. Yes, I’m that guy who “dissed” a national treasure, the NCAA basketball tourney: as a far too indiscriminate gathering that has dulled the regular season, as a showcase for mediocre hoops and as a event propelled toward “madness” only by America’s greater love affair with gambling.Well, I got my comeuppance. Not, mind you, because of anything you folks had to say. Your e-mail barrage—from thoughtful, analytical critiques to dismissive abuse—hadn’t yet arrived when my daughter, who was on spring break vacationing with her mom and me in Florida, requested a small favor. “Dad,” she said, in a familiar tone that instantly puts me on the defensive, ready to say no to some outlandish adventure. But the actual request came as a total surprise. “Dad, would you help me fill out my dorm’s March Madness pool?”There are a couple of things you should know about Sarah to fully appreciate...
  • Bonds Gets Blasted

    Major League Baseball had hoped to spend last week showcasing the breadth of its game's international talent and appeal. But the inaugural World Baseball Classic was barely underway here when it was overshadowed by the most detailed and damning accusations yet against baseball's most celebrated slugger, Barry Bonds. In a Sports Illustrated excerpt from a new book--"Game of Shadows"--two San Francisco Chronicle reporters allege that the Giants star, jealous of attention lavished on Mark McGwire during his record home-run year, began injecting steroids after that '98 season. By 2001, when Bonds broke McGwire's home-run record with 73, the authors claim he was pursuing a relentless regimen of multiple steroids, human growth hormone and insulin. The only thing that could have been more embarrassing for American baseball would have been Team USA losing to Canada. Oh, wait, that happened too.The book comes out on the cusp of a season in which the 41-year-old Bonds will chase one of...
  • ‘Madness’ Reconsidered

    I’m not looking to burst anybody’s bubble (or bubble team) here. But March Madness isn’t a religious holiday with a pedigree to rival Christmas, Passover or Ramadan.It has been an extraordinarily successful marketing concept that conveys the notion that there is a national affliction racing through the populace. And it’s not complete hooey. Since the NCAA tournament boosted its reach to 65 teams and began to create some complementary excitement with the women’s tourney, it’s hard to find anybody who can’t manufacture a rooting interest—if not for an alma mater then at least a geographical connection.Of course, those connections may not be enough to spur serious interest so there’s this other all-American allure. If the NFL is America’s ongoing Gambling 101: Introduction to the Point Spread, then the NCAA Tournament is a related course, Gambling 101a: The Creation of Pools and Their Efficacy in Disrupting National Work Productivity. Trust me, Thursday and Friday this week and next...
  • To an Athlete Dying Young

    Way back in a time, when life and death didn’t go straight to video on your cell phone, my dad used to tell me tales of Harry Agganis, “The Golden Greek.”Agganis was a Massachusetts schoolboy legend. Recruited to play football by Notre Dame, Harry, the youngest of seven children, chose to stay close to his widowed mother and play instead at Boston University. An All-American quarterback, he was a first-round draft choice of the Cleveland Browns. But again he decided to stay home, this time to play first base for the Boston Red Sox. In 1955, Agganis was hitting .313 in his second major-league season when he was sidelined with chest pains; he died at age 26 of a pulmonary embolism.A decade later, I felt the full impact of a similar tragedy involving another local hero turned Red Sox star. Born only a few miles from where Agganis was raised, Tony Conigliaro might have been called “the Golden Italian” had it been the least bit alliterative. Hollywood handsome and a gifted slugger, Tony...
  • Slip Sliding

    She made the Japanese Olympic team in Nagano as a 16-year-old, but was left off the team four years later. She won the 2004 World Figure Skating Championships, ending Michelle Kwan's reign with a stunning array of combination jumps. But the following year she finished ninth. And she made it to the 2006 Games by finishing third in the Japanese national championships. Such consistent inconsistency hardly portended big things for Shizuki Arakawa in Torino. But that should have been a sign in these topsy-turvy Olympics, in which some of the most-hyped stars have fallen short. The 24-year-old Arakawa performed with barely a bobble, leaping past Russian world champ Irina Slutskaya and America's Sasha Cohen for the ladies' gold medal. It was the first-ever gold for a Japanese figure skater, and the sole medal in any sport for the Japanese team here. "I couldn't think at all with the gold medal around my neck," said Arakawa of her upset triumph. "I can't really find any words for it."In...
  • Slip Sliding Away

    Former Olympic champion Oksana Baiul said her feet always told her when she was ready to skate. A glance at Sasha Cohen as she circled the ice before her long program Thursday and one sensed her feet might never say a word. She had "slammed" two jumps during warm-ups and now, as she struck her pose as the ill-fated lover Juliet, looked pale, skittish and reluctant. Perhaps prescient, too. Because just seconds later, Cohen fell on her first jump, then stumbled on her second and her gold medal was gone. "I was in a little bit of shock," Cohen said. She bravely pulled herself together and somehow resurrected the elegant skater who had started the evening in first place. Still, she left the ice too numb even to cry, convinced her dream of an Olympic medal was over.But Olympic figure skating is a daunting business--"not like getting churros at Disneyland," Cohen said afterward. Other potential medalists stumbled, too, and gold-medal favorite Irina Slutskaya had a nightmarish turn of her...
  • Bad Idea?

    The Main Press Center in Torino, as in every Winter Olympics, was essentially a large hospitality suite for the flu bugs of 100 nations. There was not even the possibility of seeking the relief of fresh air. Any air that might once have been fresh and was actually within our reach was already populated by huddled masses escaping the tyranny of a smokeless workplace.The only one of the five Winter Olympics I’ve covered from which I didn’t return home sick was Nagano, where I ate bowls of kimchi every day, counting on the fiery cabbage to ward off illness and, given its potency, pretty much all evils. I tried a similar approach in Torino. But to my surprise, red wine, while perhaps great for longevity, ain’t no kimchi.However, my illness coupled with jet lag has served one beneficial purpose. I am coughing, wheezing and wide awake in the wee a.m. hours, perfect timing to catch tonight’s Asian division opener—Korea vs. Chinese Taipei—of the World Baseball Classic. And trust me it...
  • Unimaginable

    Maybe the crowds in Torino aren't stoked to fever pitch, as they were in Salt Lake City four years ago. Then again, the Italian Olympic team isn't on a record medal pace--with just six halfway through the Games--as the U.S. team was in 2002. But none of that mattered last week in the mountains above Torino, where with rabid fans overflowing the grandstand to witness the first-ever Olympics snowboard-cross final, America's Seth Wescott rocked the joint.Snowboard cross, or SBX, was added to the Olympics to inject an extreme edge, as well as what is rare at the Winter Games--the thrill of head-to-head competition. And it delivered more excitement and mayhem than anyone could have dreamed. In the men's final, after two of the four boarders wiped out, Wescott found himself pinned behind Radoslav Zidek of Slovakia. But in a move unimaginable to the uninitiated, he hurdled past Zidek on an inside turn and held on in a photo finish. The women's final was equally compelling, bizarrely so....
  • Board Crazy

    Maybe the crowds in Torino aren't stoked to fever pitch, as they were in Salt Lake City four years ago. Then again, the Italian Olympic team isn't on a record medal pace--with just six halfway through the Games--as the U.S. team was in 2002. And maybe American TV ratings for the Torino Games are lackluster, with viewers preferring idol searches to medal chases. But none of that mattered last week in the mountains above Torino where, with rabid fans overflowing the grandstand to witness the first-ever Olympics snowboard cross, America's Seth Wescott rocked the joint.Snowboard cross, or SBX, was added to the Olympics to inject an extreme edge, as well as something that's rare at the Winter Games: the thrill of head-to-head competition. And it delivered more excitement and mayhem than anyone could have dreamed. In the men's final, after two of the four boarders wiped out, Wescott found himself pinned behind Radoslav Zidek of Slovakia. But in a move unimaginable to the uninitiated, he...
  • Can Sasha Cohen Save the Olympics?

    I have a privileged vantage point from which to experience the Olympics here in Torino, making me uniquely unqualified to opine on the level of American interest, or most would say disinterest, in these Games. From where I stand -- up close and personal -- the Olympics is always a pretty compelling athletic spectacle.But believe me, I do understand your grievances. You don't care about most of these sports in the first place. You don't like to see events on tape delay because if you are a real fan, it's hard to maintain your ignorance of the results. You miss Michelle Kwan a whole lot. You discovered that Bode guy was a blustery bust. Apolo turned out to be less than divine. You don't care how many medals they win, those bickering speed skaters are an embarrassment. And the underachieving U.S. hockey teams didn't exactly rekindle interest in their sport.But everything has now changed, all that negativity drifted away Tuesday night when a diminutive -- 5'2", 96 pounds -- young figure...
  • Who's Next for Gold?

    I am now taking applications for Vancouver 2010. I'm not talking about applicants to help me cover the next Winter Games. Not for dinner companions at any of that city's superb restaurants. Nor from people who want an edge in securing NEWSWEEK's hot, always-in-demand Olympic pin .No, I am talking directly to the athletes here -- and about the big enchilada. If you want to win a gold medal in Vancouver, you better let me know soonest. From the couple of hundred American athletes who will head to Vancouver, I will pick one and only one to win a gold medal. And trust me on this: it will be a lock. I am the man.I first became "the man" as America prepared to usher in 2002. In this new millennium, NEWSWEEK has inaugurated a year-end feature that tries to glimpse into the future. We call it " Who's Next? " and my responsibility each year is to select one person in all of sports who will be well, next."Next" is, of course, a rather vague concept. Next week? Next month? Next year? For...
  • Torino Lights Up

    Fire and ice is always cool. Fire shooting out of space-age helmets, even cooler. You can never go wrong quoting Dante in Italy, or with Venus rising (especially when portrayed by that Wonderbra goddess Eva Herzigova). And both the red Ferrari and Sophia Loren are truly timeless. But Yoko Ono channeling her late husband's "Imagine"? And whose idea was it to have athletes enter the Olympic realm to the pedestrian rhythms of "Funkytown"?But so it always goes with this extraordinary Olympic ritual of opening ceremonies--a five-ring circus of high art, higher pretensions and that great leavener, schlock. And sometimes it's difficult to distinguish which is which. The International Olympic Committee and organizers of Torino 2006 had begun to fret that the motto of these Games--"Passion lives here"-- was bordering on parody as the world, even the host city, greeted the Olympic run-up with a collective indifference. Didn't we just have one of those? (In fact, yes, 18 months ago in Athens.)...
  • Here’s Johnny

    I am ashamed to say that when Johnny Weir first arrived on the figure-skating scene, we in the media privately referred to him as “Johnny Weird.” Not me, of course. Still, I apologize for the rudeness of my colleagues. Anyway, I certainly hope he appreciates the irony that now, as far as the media is concerned, Johnny is just about the most beloved Olympic athlete in Torino.That is not because the 21-year-old Weir has become a force to be reckoned with in his sport, a three-time American champion who trails only the great Evgeni Plushenko in the Olympic men’s competition that concludes tonight. We in the media are pretty immune to the charms of talent and aren’t going to get gushy just because somebody can ski fast, shoot a puck or jump with three revolutions. No, it is because Weir is unequivocally the best quote in the business and there is nothing the press loves—or needs—more than that.When it comes to quotability, Weir has got it all. He’s a four-tools guy—willing, candid,...
  • The Other Olympic Medal: Pins

    For years Americans attending the Olympics have enjoyed the added blessing of a robust dollar. So it has been a bit humbling at the past two Games in Europe -- Athens in 2004 and now in Torino -- to watch our dollar get shredded by the euro.But we NEWSWEEKers, an adaptable clan that is always looking ahead, have protected ourselves against the inequities of currency fluctuation. We got pins and we know how to use them.Olympic pins are the underground currency of every Games. They are produced by various nations, national teams, Olympic sponsors, media organizations and other participants. And these souvenirs are coveted by most everybody in town -- reporters, soldiers, waiters, athletes, tourists -- for the duration of the competition. My colleague Al, who serves as point man at the door of the NEWSWEEK office, has already collected pins from both Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, a kangaroo pin from Australia, pins celebrating the Olympics of Beijing 2008 and Vancouver 2010, a Panasonic...
  • Scoring Without Scandal?

    Michelle Kwan's departure from Torino marked a sorrowful end to her Olympic dream and a huge disappointment for her legion fans. But it was also a metaphorical break with an era, the Kwan Dynasty. Kwan was unrivalled under the old figure skating scoring scheme, having tallied more perfect 6.0s than any skater in history.But now the sport moves on -- without Michelle and with a complex new scoring formula that will baffle those who are just tuning in for their quadrennial figs fix.The discarding of the old system has been gradual -- the 2005 world championships were the first competed under the new system -- but the change was a result of the sport's embarrassing judging scandal at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games. In truth, that scandal wasn't really a byproduct of the system, but the result of an out-and-out fix -- a pledge by the French judge to favor the Russians over the Canadians in the pairs competition in return for favorable treatment of the French ice dancer by a Russian judge...
  • One, Two and Three-Liners

    Of all the essentials for members of the press covering the Olympics—computer, cell phone, parka, warm boots, grappa---a sense of humor may be paramount. Nothing else helps you deal with the inevitable computer glitches, bus breakdowns, signage confusion and slow snakes through security. Nobody has preached that gospel with more effect—or with more funny lines—than Texan Bob Condron, the U.S. Olympic Committee’s point man in dealing with the beasts of the media. Condron, a veteran of a dozen Olympics, sent out regular tip sheets and advisories before and after we arrived in Torino. They are invaluable and oft-quoted. Here’s a best of Bob sampler:On Torino’s readiness: It’s like an 8 p.m. dinner party. Don’t show up at 7:55 or you’ll see someone in wet hair vacuuming the living room. It ain’t ready yet, but it will be. The Olympics will begin on time and couple of guys on skis will race each other no matter what.On the weather: One day you’re walking around in a sweater, the next day...
  • Homeward Bound

    It may have ended with a whimper and not a bang. But as Michelle Kwan fought back the inevitable tears that followed her decision to withdraw from the Torino Olympics, they were tears of sadness, but not of self-pity. Kwan had made it clear earlier that she understood that this was, after all, just sport and that the problems of one little person don't amount to a hill of beans when compared to what people endure in this world.Still, in less than 24 hours, her Olympic dream, her third Olympic venture, had been turned topsy-turvy. After celebrating Opening Ceremonies on Friday night, she took the ice Saturday morning for her first practice session feeling stiff and uncomfortable. When she came out of her second jump attempt, a triple flip, she said, “I knew I had done something.” Gamely, she tried another jump, but fell--and, with it, sensed something even bigger crashing. Her only hope was that with some therapy, the stiffness would go away. But by evening, it had worsened and she...
  • English as a Second Language

    I first visited Torino a dozen years ago, shortly before the first soccer World Cup to be held in America, to write a story on the Italian superstar and major hottie Roberto Baggio. I was struck at the time by how little English was spoken or understood in what was, after all, a major city, a town of almost a million people.Having traveled around Italy, I had always found that a little English accompanied by appropriately frantic arm gesticulations went a long way. But in Torino, an industrial city far off the tourist track, my efforts got me nowhere--or at least nothing beyond blank stares followed by rapid-fire Italian. My meager French didn't seem to help either, despite the fact that the French border is only a few hundred miles away. Nor did my even worse Spanish. I was definitely lost in translation. Just trying to find my hotel, a fairly prominent establishment near the train station in the heart of the city, was an ordeal.So I was pretty curious to see what changes 12 years...
  • Torino Treats

    It was 15 years ago that the late NEWSWEEK editor Maynard Parker summoned me to New York and offered me an extraordinary gateway to the world. I was to assume responsibility for our Olympic coverage starting in 1992, the last year in which both a Winter (Albertville, France) and Summer Games (Barcelona, Spain) were held.It is a reporter's natural conceit to act as if everything bad that happens to him professionally is a travesty, perhaps even a conspiracy, but the good is only his due. So while I was excited bordering on delirious about Maynard's surprise proposal/promotion, I worked hard to mask those feelings. I told him that it made complete sense: I was extremely knowledgeable about sports, passionate about the Olympics ever since I first watched the '56 Games from Melbourne, Australia, on a black-and-white TV, and, finally, had the distinct advantage of being able to order at restaurants in both French and Spanish.Maynard smiled and pinpointed my reputation--perhaps, alas, my...
  • The Winter Blues

    My favorite Olympics, the one where the sizzle truly lived up to the sell, was the 2000 Games in Sydney. From its opening splash, with triathletes braving shark-infested waters in the shadow of the incandescent Opera House, Sydney was a thrill ride. The Aussies, fueled by a love of sports and an expansive view of happy hour, were boisterously hospitable, as happy to host as we were to be hosted.Now almost six years later, that kind of Olympic excitement is finally stirring again. I sense the anticipation, the lure of a proud nation anxious to show off its prowess to the world. An epic celebration looms, perhaps even a great wall coming down. Alas, Beijing is still more than two years off. It is Torino 2006 that opens in less than a fortnight--and with a marked absence of anticipatory fervor. My friends in the States are amazed to discover that another Olympics is imminent and have no clue where it will take place. That may be par for the provincial. But I was startled to learn from...
  • The Truth About the Super Bowl

    Writing about the Super Bowl is a sports columnist's most daunting challenge. We're talking about a game with a two-week buildup during which a benchwarmer's hangnail warrants at least as much attention as the Palestinian elections. Two weeks in which no Bus is left unboarded, in which every note on Big Ben is chimed, and during which every move of Shaun Alexander on the chessboard is scrutinized as if he were Garry Kasparov. Moreover, Motown hasn't received so much attention since Berry Gordy picked up shop and left for L.A.Really, what else is there for anyone to say?So I concluded that I could contribute the most by getting personal, by abandoning the perspective of the wise, all-knowing sportswriter and, instead, offering up the view of a fan--one who, as a forever seatholder in Foxboro for the New England Patriots, has more than a little recent Super Bowl experience. And what I can tell you is that win or lose, it doesn't matter all that much. Honestly. It won't change your...
  • Oprah's Revenge

    Don't you dare lie to Oprah Winfrey. Because if you do and then you get caught, she will drag you back onto her show and rake you over the coals for a solid hour. James Frey found that out the hard way on Thursday. The author of "A Million Little Pieces" has admitted falsifying parts of his best-selling memoir of drug and alcohol addiction and rehab, which Oprah picked for her on-air book club last fall.When Frey appeared on "Larry King Live" last week to defend himself, Oprah called in to support him. At that point, she began drawing as much flak as Frey from pundits who accused her of a cavalier attitude about truth vs. fiction.That plainly hurt, because one of the first things she said on the Thursday broadcast was, "I left the message [in the phone call to King] that the truth does not matter. And I am deeply sorry about that, because that is not what I believe." Now, "I feel duped," she told Frey on her syndicated talk show. "More importantly, I feel that you betrayed millions...
  • The Greatest NBA Performance Ever

    OK, let's all get down on our knees--that will work for the hero worship part of this exercise too--put our heads down and breathe slowly and deeply. It has been five days since Kobe Bryant left us breathless by dropping 81 points in a single game on the NBA landscape. By now we ought to be regaining our collective equilibrium.Only then can we talk about what happened on that memorable Sunday in the Staples Center. And perhaps more important, we can talk about what didn't happen. Clearly Kobe has established that the long-awaited "next Michael" actually arrived long ago. Of course, we all suspected that when Kobe first demonstrated that he was capable of scoring at will. When he began raining down game-winners from all over the court with defenders draped all over him. When his Lakers (or, if you prefer, Shaq's Lakers) won their championship three-peat. In the NBA pantheon, it now seems obvious that he will someday stand with his fellow guards--Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Jerry...
  • Play it Again, NFL

    The NFL has, in the past, had unfortunate off-field incidents on the eve of big games. Certainly the arrest of Atlanta Falcons defensive back Eugene Robinson for soliciting a prostitute and the mental meltdown of Oakland Raiders center Barret Robbins, both right before Super Bowls, proved to be sad and unwelcome distractions. But there may never have been an incident with quite the portent of the knife wound to the knee suffered by Indianapolis defensive back Nick Harper in a domestic altercation the night before his team's big game against Pittsburgh.Because the following afternoon, with his wife under arrest on battery charges, Harper scooped up a fumble in the final minute of the game and was racing down the field for what would have likely been the winning touchdown--and the most glorious moment in Indianapolis football history. All that stood in his way was a backpedaling quarterback, which is usually the equivalent of no obstacle at all.But somehow Ben Roethlisberger's...
  • Fab Four

    I know that many of my readers like to go back to my NFL preview columns and marvel at my acuity in the face of what, to most fans, is another unfathomable season. I will spare you the trouble. In the 11th paragraph of my Sept. 8 column, almost halfway through my lengthy prognostications, I produced this gem: "If forced to predict one young QB to have a breakout season, I'd go with Cincinnati's Carson Palmer."Wowie, kazowie, give that man a cigar. Never mind my other ramblings about Buffalo and Arizona in the playoffs and the Vikings in the Super Bowl. Never mind that I gave a thumbs-up to the reunion of Steve Mariucci and Jeff Garcia in Detroit and a thumbs-down to Joe Gibbs and the Redskins. I'm the guy who called Carson Palmer.Given that, I know that you are waiting breathlessly for me to once again demonstrate my wisdom as well as my extraordinary prescience. So as we head into this fab foursome weekend, every NFL fan's favorite of the season, here are my ramblings and gamblings...
  • Kwan at the Crossroads

    Seldom has such wrath descended on me as it did last year when I wrote a column pleading with Michelle Kwan to hang up her skates. Her legion fans couldn't have been any angrier with me had I taken a baseball bat to her knees in order to effect that wish.Truth is, I was motivated only by respect and affection for a great champion and ultimate class act. I hoped Kwan, at a relatively ancient--by her sport's standards--25 years old, could be spared another painful season of Olympic disappointment. I didn't want to watch her golden dream unravel one more time. Still, I wasn't surprised when she ignored my advice. Women have been ignoring my advice--almost all of them without subsequent regret--for as long as I can remember.This, however, may prove to be the exception. We may all be watching as my worst fears for Michelle are realized. Her career may be coming to a sad and disappointing end--perhaps the inevitable crush of 13 years of competition at the highest levels. Yesterday Kwan...