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Welcome Back

Tony Romo

You know you’ve been on vacation when you spend an entire Sunday visiting Miami and rather than relax in South Beach or explore Downtown, all you want to do is hang out in your hotel and watch football until the street mongers (*crack dealers*) take post on their street corners, making it no longer safe to meander about.

Unless you intend to start turning more tricks than Air Bud, that is.

My wife and I spent the past week plus on our first cruise, to the Caribbean. We traveled on a Carnival Fun Ship called the Valor visiting Grand Cayman; Isla Roatan, Honduras; Belize and Cozumel Mexico. It was a blast.

The fine dining dinner experiences were exquisite, but the all-you-can-eat breakfast and lunch buffets were almost eerily similar to eating at Home Town Buffet, only with food prepared by drunk squirrels. It was terrible.

Though my wedding ring was a casualty of an open-deck basketball game in the sun (Constantly removing it to play sports finally came back to bite me.), a game which cost me a day and a half of full enjoyment due to a thrown out back, making me feel older than Beano Cook, doing things like playing with monkeys in Honduras (get your minds out of the gutter sickos…) made the experience unforgettable.

And for all of you gambling alcoholics out there, Carnival has you covered. For every classic cocktail (Long Island Iced Tea, Mojito, Mudslide, etc…) you buy, the ship’s casino gives players a $5 match-play chip for table games.

Hello blackjack! And hello to me losing twenty bucks of my own despite the fifteen Carnival donated to the cause. The only reliable rule of thumb with blackjack: Never try to be a hero. You can’t beat the table, you just can’t.

In concordance with my gambling woes and despite the astounding perks our cruise had to offer, everything wasn’t peachy keen. I either experienced a handful of things first-hand or watched as others around me did. Because I’m your friend, here are five don’ts you should always keep in mind when you go on your first cruise:

Don’t be the leaching couple. Unless you book your trip with a large group of people, more than likely, you will be randomly placed at a dinner table with three other couples. Talk to them, be friendly, heck even invite them to sit with you at the post dinner show. But whatever you do, don’t pressure them to hang out with you onshore at your ports. They didn’t spend thousands of dollars to hang out with you, let your ship-friends enjoy their vacation as they planned.

Don’t gorge on extra entrees and desserts. A little known fact to freshman cruisers is that at your fancy dinners, you can eat as many courses as you desire, but please, don’t consistently be that mega-eater. We had one at our table, a girl who ordered two entrees (in addition to her appetizer and dessert) just about every night and each time nervously chuckled, asking us all to please not think of her as a pig. Guess what? We did.

Don’t rely on your room service card for breakfast. Many times your ship will dock before you’d prefer to get up. You won’t have the time or energy to rush upstairs and sit for breakfast, so instead you will plan your wake-up by taking advantage of the complimentary room service. It’s great, the perfect alarm clock. Just don’t rely on the order card you place on your doorknob the night before to make its way to the proper hands. Too many sloshed idiots think it’s fun swiping room service cards. It happened to us, it will happen to you. Put the card outside, but not before you call in your order first.

Don’t forget to budget for tips. Sounds obvious right? Well we somehow forgot to check on the ship’s gratuity system before hand, thinking we’d only use the services we preferred, tipping folks as we wished. Not so. Our ship automatically charged $10 per person each day, dispersing the funds amongst all employees.

And last but definitely not least…

Don’t forget the “Privacy Please” card. Don’t laugh Not in HD Land. It’s a little too easy to forget how efficient the housekeeping is onboard. They don’t just clean your cabin once a day. They pretty much give it a looksy every hour or so, or every time they see you leave your room. And they do knock before entering, but it’s a tap-tap-tap and the door opening as quickly as possible with or without a response. They may knock, but it’s less checking to see if you are inside and more of a, “I don’t care if you are in here or not, or what you may be doing with your significant other, or alone, I’ve seen it all before. This room is getting cleaned the easy way or the hard way.” You will get caught with your pants down, literally, if you forget that card.

I’m not saying that happened to me or anything.

(Nervously looking away…)

(Clearing throat…)

Due to our ship sticking with Eastern Standard Time the entire trip and my preference to eat with people my own age at 8:15 p.m. rather than The Price Is Right crowd at 6:15 p.m. I had to miss the first half of the USC/ Ohio State game on Saturday, but you bet your bottom dollar I arrived at the Bronx Bar at halftime, ready for a titanic clash.

This seems like a good time to mention the bar was full of Buckeye fans, with only one other Trojan faithful standing by me. We were in the lion’s den. Once the evening’s featured late show had finished at around 10 p.m. the room filled with L.A. followers. Just like L.A. fans show up after they’d reached their fill of elsewhere entertainment first. Why should a cruise ship be any different?

If you loath teams who can move the football, this was the game for you.

With USC freshman QB, Matt Barkley struggling for the entire third quarter and most of the fourth, Buckeye fans were ruthless with their taunting. But I stopped and smiled in the midst of the early forth quarter struggles. You could actually feel the tide turning.

It was the play-calling of Jim Tressel. Just killing the Bucks.

Coach Jim Tressel hasn't had much to smile about of late.

Coach Jim Tressel hasn't had much to smile about of late.

Dan Miller properly put those moments in perspective in a text he sent me the following day. He told a friend that his Ohio State was going to be severely disappointed if they continued to be satisfied by sitting on their five-point lead over a Pete Carroll led team. Eventually USC would score again. They were too good not to. And eventually, they did.

Barkley has received a fair amount of pub, playing through a shoulder injury to lead his team to the eventual game winning score, with just over a minute remaining. The thing is, it was junior running back/ slot receiver hybrid, Joe McKnight who held that last drive together with a big catch-and-run on a pivotal third-and-long near his own goal, to keep the drive from stalling before it had a chance to ever get going. He had two more huge plays including catching a pass netting the two-point conversion, extending the lead to three.

Barkley was fine on the drive, even using a QB sneak for his third fourth-and-inches conversion of the night, but it was McKnight who made all the big plays.

If this were the NFL, Barkley would owe McKnight a Rolex for his game saving heroics. Come to think of it, since they both play for USC, he still does.

On another note, Tressel should be flat-out ashamed of himself and if things don’t drastically change, OSU should consider stripping him of the offensive play calling duties. The Bucks have lost an astounding five straight games to teams ranked in the top-five. Losing two or three could possibly be chalked up to bad luck, but five? It tells us all we need to know about the ultra-conservative play calling.

Also, Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor needs to step up and shine sooner rather than later. He got a pass last year after taking the snaps away from Todd Boeckman as a freshman. But this is his second season. He’s been around the horn, now it’s time to answer the bell.

Anyway, as aforementioned, after arriving in Miami early Sunday morning, bringing an end to my Caribbean Sea jubilee, all I craved was NFL football and the Fox/ CBS/ NBC combo did not let me down. I took a few notes for all of you fantasy geeks (myself being one of them).

McNabb is hurt, but how severely?

We may not know the answer to this question for another week or two, or six. Who knows with McNabb. The sick part is, the Eagles felt like his situation wasn’t tough enough already with Michael Vick (strangely a fan favorite already) eligible to return to the field Week 3 and Kevin Kolb — the man drafted to replace McNabb — waiting in the wings. No that wasn’t enough, they decided it would be a good idea to bring in a fourth quarterback, in Jeff Garcia.

You can’t make this stuff up. Let’s bring in the guy who has made a living squeezing the hurt starter before eventually stealing his job. Good times.

The Steelers are changing their ways/ Moore Mewelde!

Historically speaking, running the football and tough defense has been the foundation in the Steel City. But I really believe this will be the year they throw caution to the wind and chuck it up, down and all over the field. Between the look in Big Ben’s eyes and the utter ineffectiveness of Willy Parker and Rashard Mendenhall, the Steelers looked all too ready to completely abandon the running game in favor of the Hines Ward, Santonio Holmes combo.

Holmes looked great by the way. Get him on your team. Like now.

Also, don’t be surprised if the running back who ends up producing the most by season’s end is Mewelde Moore. He catches the ball well and Big Ben loves to throw to him. This shouldn’t come as a total shock to those who were paying attention last year, as it was Moore who stepped up, keeping the engine running when both Parker and Mendenhall went down with injuries.

Brees has more gusto than any other QB.

Drew Brees would throw the ball into the crack in a sidewalk at this point.

Drew Brees would throw the ball into the crack in a sidewalk at this point.

It really is that simple. Barring an unforeseen injury, he absolutely will throw the most touchdowns this year and probably for the most yards as well. He can fit just about any pass into just about any coverage and he knows it too.

Brees is oozing with confidence.

(No offense to Peyton Manning or Tom Brady.)

The 49ers have a TOUGH defense.

At one point in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s victory against the Arizona Cardinals, Coach Mike Singletary called a timeout with his defense in the middle of a big stand, marched on the field rather than waiting for his team to come to him and psyched them up.

Say what you want about the Niners, but they are buying into Singletary 100-percent. The Mike Nolan regime is over.
San Francisco finally has another coach it can respect.

Now if only they had a decent quarterback…

(*Note: I really am trying to buy into the Shaun Hill era, he hasn’t done anything wrong, heck, he’s 8-3 as a starter. But I just don’t feel comfortable with the guy. It’s a little like Jets fans in the middle of Chad Pennington’s heyday. He was getting it done, winning games, but deep inside they knew that era was about to come to a screeching halt. Nate Davis is the one I’m silently getting excited about. Without jinxing it, he might be the one we’ve been waiting for.)

Michael Crabtree, it’s time to go away. For good. Or is it?

Crabtree is dangerously close to the daunting unwanted tag, from both players and fans. He’s just dragged this thing on, far too long.

Honestly, I thought he was already there. At least, I did until Singeltary hinted that the Niners may be thinking about upping their offer to the next Terrell Owens in 49er history (attitude, not talent). Now I’m just confused. Do they want him or not?

I was as pro-Crab as anyone else when SF drafted him, but I’m sick of the holdout. He wasn’t drafted seventh and he wasn’t drafted above Darius Heward-Bey, even if he should have. He should get less than Heyward-Bey, but more than Jeremy Maclin (drafted 17th by the Eagles), and eventually he will.

Unless he ends up holding out all year and re-entering the draft. Then he’ll make less than both of them, far less. And he won’t go in the first round either. Ask the Detroit Lions and former USC standout receiver, Mike Williams how missing a year of football works out.

Roy Williams is better than Terrell Owens.

He’s better now and he’s better than Owens was last year. Less drama for Romo and more suited to compliment fellow wide-outs, Patrick Crayton and Miles Austin, both of which are speedy deep threats.

Williams has great hands, runs smooth routes and is faster than you think. He may not put up gaudy numbers, but he will put up enough to warrant starting on your team.

And he is going to help the Cowboys win a lot of games.

The Giants Defense isn’t missing a beat.

Osi Umenyiora’s forced and recovered fumble, which he ran back for a TD, was indicative of the Giants’ defensive unit as a whole. They play with talent, determination and sheer grit. You do not want to face these guys right now.

Eli Manning may not have a “The Guy” receiver to feed this year, but he doesn’t need one. He’s effective enough spreading the ball around to anyone and everyone. Plus, the offense is entirely based around running back Brandon Jacobs.

Jay Cutler needs to work on his footwork and get more Devin Hester in his diet.

Here's a shocker: Jay Cuter attempting an offbalanced throw.

Here's a shocker: Jay Cuter attempting an offbalanced throw.

Former Vanderbuilt teammate, Earl Bennett may have received the most passes from Cutler, but Devin Hester was the more efficient player. For a guy who just started honing his wide receiver skills last year, his routes looked crisp and his hands sure. We knew he’d have the most big play potential on this Bears team, but who knew he would be the most consistent?

I promise you that when Coach Lovie Smith reviews the film with Cutler, he will demand his QB stop forcing the ball to his old college mate and start targeting Hester more and more.

The other major thing the erratic QB will need to concentrate on is his footwork. He’s a gunslinger, we get it. Still he will run into far fewer problems in the secondary if he can learn to simply set his feet, rather than throw off his back leg while drifting backwards.

Top down, seat back, rollin’ in my Cadillac.

Cadillac Williams is the man again in Tampa Bay. For the life of me, I don’t understand how a guy who had major surgeries on both knees last year, looks as explosive and fearless as Williams does, but you can forget about Derrick Ward or Earnest Graham starting on this team. It’s Cadillac now and it’s going to stay that way unless he finds his way back to the IR.

I suggest you pick Caddy up if he is still available, but trading for him is a bit trickier. He looks extremely tough and agile, but accessing his value is a difficult picture to paint. Ward and Graham are both still going to see time, cramping Cadillac’s style just enough to prevent playing him every week.

Thus I’m not even sure I have any idea what his proper trade value is.

Lance Moore? Willy Parker? Deion Branch? Chris Cooley? Reggie Bush? Matt Cassel?

I seriously have no idea and I doubt you do either. So go pluck him off waivers and let it ride for a while. We’ll have a better idea by the middle of October of how the Bucs plan on driving this luxury car. But know that they do plan on using him. More than either Ward or Graham.

It was a great first week in the NFL, even if I had to sacrifice a day in Miami to experience it.


For those of you who have been anxiously anticipating the first round of exemptions for our King of Commenting Competition, the wait is almost over. The first five of our eight participants will be announced in a post later this week.

Also coming soon will be a blog featuring Detroit Tigers catcher, Dusty Ryan, whom I interviewed a couple of times before my vacation.

You have been informed.

  1. stewmanji
    September 16, 2009 at 8:20 PM

    Hey great to have you back… or anyone back for that matter. I think Bill Simmons works more than you guys do.

  2. rlpologuy4
    September 19, 2009 at 2:17 PM

    you are sick

  3. dwdowning619
    September 24, 2009 at 8:03 AM

    Thanks for the tips. I’m going on a cruise right after Christmas.

    Crabtree is going to sign with the 49ers and wind up being a waste. There is a reason he wasn’t the first drafted WR. He is a *****.

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