Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Salisbury mistake

When the call goes out for all Michael Irvin fans to raise their hands, mine does not go up. His act on Sunday NFL Countdown -- by turns preening, shouting and giggling -- is a little hard to take, especially considering he's sitting in the chair once occupied by Sterling Sharpe, who was simultaneously erudite and a badass. Even so, Irvin's ramblings and mumblings reveal the odd insight, and when he turns out to be wrong, he can admit it. And on top of it all, the man wears three rings. I mean, those are credentials.

So where the hell does Sean Salisbury get off? The day after the Super Bowl, I'm watching a wrapup on ESPN, and Salisbury is explaining why the Patriots are a dynasty -- maybe the best ever. Hey, I'm wide open to that argument. But Salisbury, as usual, makes his case less with reason than with "attitude." He gets in Irvin's face and says the 21st-century Pats are better than Irvin's 1990s Cowboys because the 'Boys merely blew out their Super Bowl opponents, while the Patriots have "proven they can win close games."

What? I repeat: WHAT?

You can give dozens of good reasons why New England's three-of-four is more remarkable than Dallas'. Hell, Troy Aikman (three rings) has been doing that for a while now. But to say that the Patriots are better because they haven't blown out their opponents is a breed of idiocy so rare they should put it in a zoo.

Irvin then said he now agrees that the Pats are a dynasty. Salisbury reopens his blowhole and says, "That's not what you said last year!" As if Irvin is the fool here for waiting until New England established a dynasty before declaring them one. The, um, Playmaker had every right to withhold judgment until he was satisfied. That's the prerogative you earn when you have jewel-encrusted fingers.

Down and Distance isn't about trashing people. But it appears Salisbury is. Look at all the jocks-turned-talking heads on Fox, CBS, ESPN and the NFL Network. Aikman, Steve Young, Terry Bradshaw, Dan Marino, Phil Simms, Ron Jaworski, Howie Long, both Sharpes, Terrell Davis, Daryl Johnston, even Boomer Esiason. Pro Bowlers. Super Bowl players. Super Bowl winners. Hall of Famers. None of them -- none -- trashes people the way Salisbury does. Maybe they don't have to. Maybe when you throw six TDs in one Super Bowl, you just don't have to puff yourself up the way a person with a career 22.4 playoff passer rating does. Maybe if you have nearly 3,849 passing yards just in playoff games, you aren't as insecure as a guy with 3,824 in the regular season for his entire career.

I'll even throw in Solomon Wilcots.

You don't need to have been a great player to be a fine commentator. Hell, you needn't have even been a player to be a fine commentator. But arrogance -- especially Salisburian arrogance -- doesn't mask the fact that you stunk between the lines. It magnifies it.

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