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Ask Vic

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Clay Matthews' thumb requires cautious approach

Posted Jul 16, 2014

Reading between the lines is part of being a savvy fan

Ella from Greenville, SC

Is Clay Matthews going to be in the lineup this year or is he still on the injured reserved list?

He’s not on IR, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he began training camp on PUP. We’ll see.

Karl from Kenosha, WI

I just noticed something and was wondering if you’d care to expound. In a recent “Ask Vic” post, you mentioned that Al Davis was a polarizing figure and that you fell into the “not a big fan of Al” category. However, I noticed that you frequently use his “Just win, baby” quote. Is it because, although not an endearing human being, Al Davis was a pretty interesting guy, or do you just like the expression?

It’s because that quote captures the essence of professional football. Winning defines success. Vince Lombardi is a beloved man. Why? Because he won. If a man of his demanding and, at times, insensitivity lost, there not only wouldn’t be a statue of him in front of Lambeau Field, a lot of unkind things would be said of him. This game is all about winning. If Scooter McLean had won, Lombardi would’ve been some other team’s coach and the Lombardi Trophy would mean more to that team’s fans. I’m a leaguethink guy, and I didn’t much care for Davis’ opposition to it. The criminal element lawsuit really bothered me, and there are some other things in Davis’ past, going back to his days at the Citadel, that make him not my kind of guy, but I acknowledge his acumen for the game. “Just win, baby” says it all. In my opinion, winning justifies everything except cheating. That’s where I draw the line.

Mark from Indianapolis, IN

Vic, since everyone seems to love lists and rankings, how about this one: Who are your top five sports writers of all time and why?

Jim Murray is at the top of the list, and then there’s a big gap before you get to No. 2, where there are hundreds of talented writers that possess a healthy and measured perspective on sports and are committed to providing their readers with information and entertainment. That’s my opinion and I came to it the day I read Murray’s famous column about losing his best friend. I’m at the age now that I think a lot about the things I’ve seen with my best friend, and it makes me love him more with every event I cover.

Mitch from Green Bay, WI

I realize they rarely announce they will not re-sign a player, but at some point don’t you think they will have to address the Finley situation? All season they’ve said they see him as a Packer, hope to re-sign him if he’s healthy, kept his locker intact, etc. Seems like at some point they will have to address it.

I don’t know what the final verdict will be on Jermichael Finley’s future with the Packers, but don’t we need to have the ability to read between the lines? Do we really need everything to be spelled out in bold letters for us? At what point should we develop some football savvy?

Jeffrey from West Allis, WI

Vic, you’ve voiced concern on several occasions regarding Clay Matthews’ recovery from his thumb injury. Do you know something we don’t know?

When I interviewed Matthews at his locker stall at the start of spring practices, he spoke of his continued rehab and of not practicing in the spring. He spoke of “being smart” about the injury and of hoping he’ll be ready to go at the start of training camp. I sensed concern and a degree of uncertainty in his voice. All of that, in my opinion, is a big-letters invitation to read between the lines, and when I read between the lines I see the word caution. In my opinion, it would be careless reporting for me not to convey concern for Matthews’ recovery.

Ben from Fremont, NE

To piggy back on the Hail Mary question from yesterday, shouldn’t M.D. Jennings have just batted the ball down during the “Fail Mary,” instead of going for the interception? I was taught early on to just knock the ball down in situations like that. Game over; we win, right?

Easier said than done. Jennings was in awfully tight quarters. Were his arms free enough to make a batting motion? If he batted it down, could he be sure the ball wouldn’t have hit somebody’s knee and popped back up into the air? Did he even have the time to think all of that out? What needed to happen there is the right call needed to be made. Jennings intercepted the pass. He did the right thing. He made the play. The officials blew the call, and so did the league by allowing those clowns to decide something so dramatic. The good news is that game didn’t have major impact on the events that would follow, except that it ended the replacement officials era, probably forever. How could the league ever use replacement officials again?

Jason from Dillsburg, PA

Vic, am I the only one who thinks the jockocracy is actually making the game’s presentation less enjoyable? Do you ever miss Dennis Miller?

No, I don’t miss Miller. I miss Howard Cosell, and the reason I miss him is because he was one of those rare broadcasters who has a feel for the special moment and the ability to make it special. There’s too much screaming going on these days. Gus Johnson makes every play sound as though it’s the “Immaculate Reception.” I want an even and measured presentation that knows when the right time is to turn up the volume. It’s one of the things I love about Bill Raftery doing college basketball. He knows how to seize the moment: Send it in, Jerome. Joe Buck is best at that when it comes to pro football play-by-play guys. Al Michaels has always been good at it.

Mark from Stewartville, MN

Vic, the thing that jumps out at me when I read your work is that you have great respect for the men who coach and play professional football. What is it about these men that engender such respect?

I’ve always regarded football as a noble sport. My respect for football was born on that practice field in my hometown, where the tackling dummy hung from a rope that was tied to a slab of cement (please, no concrete explanation, OK?) that was formed by a bucket that had been cut away after the stuff in it hardened. That’s where I saw my first football hero, McKinley Combs, who Cookie Gilchrist explained to me in an email shortly before he died that McKinley was Cookie’s cousin. I should’ve known. When you fall in love at the tender age of nine, nothing can ever dull the memory of that love. It’s forever in your soul. I am a hopeless football romantic. I love the men that play and coach the game because I can’t stop loving the game. I would lose too much of myself if I stopped loving football.

Mitch from Wausau, WI

Vic, I know you’ve addressed this subject before, but I find it hard to believe that nobody made a sound in the Chicago press box when Cobb caught that last touchdown. What was the reaction in the press box and how hard was it to not show any emotion?

I wasn’t in the press box at that point. By then, I was in the interview room where the Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers postgame interviews would be conducted. The room was full of reporters preparing their equipment for the interviews. It’s what our jobs demand; events move quickly following a game. I was sitting in a folding chair I had angled so I could look directly at the TV monitor. I had my laptop on my lap and I was writing and re-writing my bulletin game story, which I post on packers.com for each game when the final “gun” sounds. The action was fast and furious, and I was feverish to keep pace. I paused for the big play. This was it, and I was staring at the TV, my fingers hovering above the keys of my laptop. I have no doubt there was a major reaction within the room when the pass was completed, but I can’t remember hearing anything. I know I didn’t make a sound. I put a top on my story, wrote a headline and prepared to hit the send button. I also remember that when that game ended and I hit send, I was filled with joy, not only for the Packers’ performance, but for mine. I know my readers can’t understand or appreciate any of that, but that’s what happened and it’s kind of that way every week. You celebrate the win; I go to work. “The trouble with writing a column is it’s like running a railroad. You have to keep the stock rolling. You can never step back and admire or even take stock of what you've done. Because you’re on to the next one.” – Jim Murray. You might enjoy reading “Still No Cheering in the Press Box,” and Jerome Holtzman’s “No Cheering in the Press Box.”

Dale from Kettering, OH

In Cliff Christl’s piece on Bob Mann, Mann mentioned that Lisle Blackbourn wasn’t quite up to speed with the NFL passing game, and that made me wonder about the effect the 1978 rules changes had on coaches. Was there a percentage of coaches that couldn’t or wouldn’t change?

They all changed or they got changed. What’s most interesting about the rules changes of 1978 is that the one coach that would’ve been voted least likely to change, is the coach who changed first and used the rules changes to win the next two Super Bowls.

John from Milwaukee, WI

Vic, my wife and I will be in Nashville for our 40th anniversary and plan to take in the preseason game on Aug. 9. Are there fan activities scheduled there for a preseason game? What is the best BBQ in Nashville?

Fan activities? I don’t know. Barbecue? I know. There’s a place on Broadway. You’ll see the line out the door. It’s hardcore, now. I’m talkin’ lips, snouts, brains. I might see you there, if you got the guts. They got guts, too.

Nick from Clinton, IA

Please, I beg you, do power rankings again. I would be on pins and needles every day.

That’s why I can’t do them. Fans today don’t know how to read power rankings. The best thing about power rankings are the people that take them seriously. That’s pure comedy, but we’re too afraid of offending people nowadays, and that’s why I can’t do them. The asterisk taught me a lesson. My favorite power rankings of all-time is Steve Harvey’s “The Bottom Ten.” I couldn’t wait for the next week’s rankings to come out. My all-time favorite was when Army, Navy and Air Force had bad teams and Harvey grouped them together and made “The Pentagon” No. 1 in his rankings. They were something like a combined 4-26. Northwestern was a “Bottom Ten” power back then; so was Columbia. That was beautiful stuff. When did we stop laughing? Why did we stop laughing?

Jacob from Hemlock, MI

You’re an NFL owner and someone says Roger Goodell. What comes to mind? What about if you’re a player?

Ten-year labor peace; my brain.

Justin from Philadelphia, PA

You’ve suggested the Redskins should change their name to the Redshirts.

Not anymore. The big reason I suggested Redshirts is so they didn’t have to abandon the song, “Hail to the Redskins.” It’s a great song that everybody can sing. I have fond memories of covering games at RFK and listening to fans sing “Hail to the Redskins.” “Hail to the Redshirts” would’ve been a seamless change, but recently I found myself humming the song, and when I got to the tom-tom drum part of the song, it hit me: The song has to go, too. What were we thinking for all these years? I’m ashamed of my own insensitivity.

Marty from San Francisco, CA

Vic, I just read the story by Roy Blount Jr. published by SI about his year with the Steelers. I’m assuming you were there when he was? What are your memories of him in camp? How did the team respond to what he wrote? Could he do the same today?

The book is “About Three Bricks Shy of a Load” and it is a masterpiece, mostly because Roy is one of the most talented sportswriters – he wrote news, too – in American history. The players loved him. I also remember giving Roy my press pass to the Hall of Fame Game several years later, so he could go inside and find the guy that had his. I waited outside for what seemed like an eternity for Roy to return with my press pass. That’s Roy. He’s a very calm and even-tempered Southern gentleman. I move faster, but I don’t write nearly as well. Roy is one of those guys in the logjam at No. 2.

Jeff from Las Vegas, NM

Vic, I read the article on the Packers profit vs. revenue. The Packers are owned by shareholders that receive no dividend. Why is there ever a profit and where does it go?

Making a profit is the goal, because profit is reinvested in the franchise to secure its future.

Brett from Green Bay, WI

Where is your press box seat in the stadium, Vic? Is it a good view?

Second row, middle of the press box. It’s good ground. It’s very good ground.

Lyle from Rockford, IL

Will the Packers make the playoffs?

I say yes, but I acknowledge the possibility that it could be no.


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