- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 19, 2008

Troy Polamalu, the Steelers’ roughhousing safety, is convinced the NFL has become “flag football, two-hand touch … a pansy game.”

To which I reply: Tell it to Chris Simms’ spleen.

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Polamalu says old-timers like Dick Butkus “couldn’t survive in this type of game. They wouldn’t have enough money. They’d be paying fines all the time.”

Actually, there might be some truth to that. After all, Troy’s teammate, linebacker James Harrison, just got fined $20,000. Butkus’ rookie salary was a mere $18,000 … and all the nails he could eat.

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Roger Goodell sure has been handing out fines lately. I can’t make up my mind whether he’s trying to clean up the game or build a strike fund for 2011.

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News item: Pacman Jones weighing alcohol treatment plans.

Comment: In other words, he’s scouting around for a facility that has NFL Sunday Ticket.

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A source told ESPN’s Ed Werder that Jones was initially despondent about his latest suspension and “was seeing the glass as half-empty. He’s now looking at it as half-full. He’s in a positive frame of mind.”

At this point, I don’t think it’s wise for Pacman to be looking at glasses of any kind - half-empty glasses, half-full glasses, shot glasses, martini glasses …

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You’ll be pleased to know Estero (Fla.) High bounced back from its 91-0 annihilation by Naples last week. It lost only 54-0 Friday night to Cape Coral.

“[Coach] Rich Dombroski was so pumped up after the game, one would have thought the Wildcats had actually won 54-0,” Dave Montrose of the Naples News wrote.

Part of the reason for Dombrowski’s jubilation: His team, which dressed only 20 players, had a back rush for over 100 yards - 108, to be exact. Still, it was the 19th straight defeat for Estero. The Wildcats have been outscored 389-28 this season (with three games to play).

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Amazingly, the school has two players in the NFL - Cowboys cornerback Anthony Henry and Broncos kicker Matt Prater (who has made 13 of 14 field goal tries this year, including all four from 50 yards and beyond).

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Speaking of that 91-0 game - the score was 70-0 at the half - Naples coach Bill Kramer had an interesting take on it. “My daughter plays basketball,” he told the Naples News, “and there’s a local team that’s really good, and when they’re about to score 100 there’s no [newspaper] polls about that. When the local lacrosse team wins 24-0, where’s the outrage? Or when kids win 6-0, 6-0 in tennis? We score 10 touchdowns and everybody loses their minds.

“The real irony is we’ve got some of our parents upset that their kids didn’t play or play enough. And you just say, ‘Wow.’ ”

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Is there a more bipolar team in college football than Ralph Friedgen’s Maryland Terrapins? One week they get embarrassed by a struggling Virginia team 31-0; their next time out, they flatten No. 21 Wake Forest 26-0. The Clemson game was the same deal - except the Good Terps (second half) and the Bad Terps (first half) showed up on the same day. (We won’t even get into the loss at Middle Tennessee followed by the victory over ranked California.)

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In case you’re wondering, it has been 51 years since Maryland followed a shutout loss with a shutout win. In 1957, under Tommy Mont, the Terrapins lost at Duke 14-0 and, seven days later, they beat Wake Forest at College Park 27-0 (almost the same as Saturday’s score).

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The best part about a Red Sox-Dodgers World Series would have been Manny Ramirez getting playoff shares from both teams. How long has it been since that happened? (I did some determined Googling but failed to ascertain the answer.)

I did learn, however, that Bob Brenly came close in 1989, when he received partial shares from both the Blue Jays (with whom he started) and Giants (with whom he finished). The Giants made it to the Series, but the Jays lost to the A’s in the ALCS.

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The Sox reportedly awarded Manny a two-thirds share - probably because that’s how far down the first base line he usually got when he grounded out.

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Surprising fact about Ramirez: Not only has he never won a league MVP Award - despite 527 homers, 1,725 RBI and a .314 career average - he has gotten only six first-place votes for MVP (four in ‘99, one in ‘03 and one in ‘04).

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This will surprise you, too: Mark McGwire got just three first-place votes for MVP (one in ‘92 and two in ‘98).

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Trivia question: One member of the 500-homer club has never received a first-place vote in the MVP balloting. Who is he? (Answer below.)

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For weeks now I’ve been trying to decide who Rays manager Joe Maddon - he of the white hair and black-rimmed glasses - looks like. An older Elvis Costello? Drew Carey’s father? Then it hit me: He’s a dead ringer for Spencer Tracy in “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.” Talk about twins separated at birth.

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One reason hockey is better than baseball: The record for shutouts by a goaltender - 103 by Terry Sawchuk - could well be broken this season by the Devils’ Martin Brodeur, who just racked up his 97th.

The record for shutouts by a pitcher, on the other hand - 110 by Senators icon Walter Johnson - will never be broken, not unless they start putting sawdust in the balls. Nobody in the last half-century has had more than 63 (Warren Spahn), and no active pitcher has more than 37 (Randy Johnson).

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Answer to trivia question: Jim Thome. (The White Sox slugger has gotten MVP votes in eight different seasons and finished as high as fourth in ‘03 with the Phillies, but he has never received a first-place vote.)

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And finally …

Did you see that Game 6 of the World Series (if there is one) will be delayed 15 minutes to accommodate a Barack Obama ad?

But, hey, it could be worse. Obama could have bought commercial time during the seventh-inning stretch - raising the possibility of the World’s Longest Rendition of “Sweet Caroline.”