One sultry day in Miami this summer, when the horse racing at Calder became so dreary that I actually diverted my mind to another sport, I penciled in the date of the game I was determined not to miss: Nov. 19, a Monday night. Raiders at Dolphins. My two favorite teams head to head.
More rational people might have chosen the Giants at 49ers. Sure they're both undefeated at the moment. But they are so good that they arouse all the emotion of a Czechoslovakian film with subtitles.
I will still revel in the deeds of the Silver and Black and Miami's born-again defense. But every gambler has the right to change his mind once in a while. And I must admit that the game I would most love to watch is happening this week. You thought Brown-Columbia was a treat? Savor the possibilities of Colts-Patriots at Foxboro.
These titans of the artificial turf are battling for the coveted trophy I award every year -- the Smashed Windshield Award. It goes to teams that play a game so unattractive that if you leave two tickets to the event on your dashboard, someone will smash your windshield and leave two more.
This clash could change pro football as we know it. What's the difference between it and Brown-Columbia? The Brown and Columbia players care.
In this week's Foxboro debacle, both teams boast more than bad records. They brandish bad attitudes. These teams aren't building but retreating. And it's a team effort on both sides -- beginning with management.
The travails of razor magnate Victor Kiam in New England have been amply chronicled. Kiam and his soon-to-be former minion, Pat Sullivan, outdid themselves two weeks ago. Steve Grogan, who cares more than his 44 slothful teammates combined, volunteered to rescue the Patriots from the blight of Marc Wilson -- despite the fact that Grogan has severe chronic neck and back problems. "Thanks a lot," said the Patriots. "But would you mind signing this waiver so we aren't responsible if you sacrifice your body for us?"
To equate any pro franchise with the Colts, you must go back to the formative years of basketball's Cleveland Cavaliers. After Ted Stepien bought the club, he made so many poor trades that the NBA actually had to intrude and bar him from making deals. The main difference between Stepien and the Irsays: Stepien got run out of town by daylight.
Robert Irsay and son Jimmy have fashioned an epoch of ill judgment in the past few years. They gave up franchise linebacker Cornelius Bennett and a slew of draft choices in a complicated three-way deal. What they got is simpler to comprehend: Eric Dickerson. Now, if the Colts show any unity at all, they'll unite in their dislike for the runner.
This year Jim Irsay outdid himself. He bought a classic Jerry Glanville smoke-and-mirrors show and decided that Jeff George would be his future. His present now drifts aimlessly without Pro Bowl offensive lineman Chris Hinton, spectacular wide receiver Andre Rison and a first-round pick. Indianapolis fans are not happy. But the Irsays hold a fine trump card. They are very friendly with those Mayflower moving van folks who spirited them out of Baltimore one night.
Those fighting Patriots, favored by 1, come armed with an awesome 0-4 home record for the season. The Colts boast that they are 5-15 on road artificial turf. But the key stat is that the Patriots have won four of their last five final home division games. A weak vote, but a real one, for a weak team. Patriots minus 1.
Elsewhere, the Saints are 7 over the Bucs. The Saints are coming off a big victory over Cincinnati. But they are only 2-5 after winning and allowing under 14 points. The Bucs have won six of their eight indoors. I claimed before the season that the Bucs were better than people thought. Even when I'm wrong, I stick with my opinions. Take Tampa Bay plus 7 against a team that has lost six straight to the NFC Central.
The Dolphins are 3 over the Jets. The Dolphins are good at last, they make me happy -- but they are very lucky. With the exception of their wide receivers, the Jets are not pretty to watch. But even counting the days before their new regime, they are a gritty 8-3 as home dogs. I'll take them over my favorite team. Jets plus 3.
The Broncos, underdogs at San Diego, will probably be without John Elway. Substitute Gary Kubiak is seldom equated with Sammy Baugh. But sometimes class overcomes injuries. The Broncos are better than the Chargers, and a win is almost mandatory for their playoff chances. In the excitement of election week, you may have overlooked the fact that the dog is 4-0 in San Diego games the week after they have played indoors. Broncos plus 3.
On Monday night, the Eagles are 3 over the Redskins. The trends here are overwhelming. The Redskins lead this series 64-41-5. They are 6-0 as underdogs on carpets, not counting Giants games. And their three losses are to teams that are undefeated. Should a team that has lost only to the 49ers and Giants be a three-point underdog against a team that bowed to the Cardinals and Colts? The Eagles are 1-3 in this tough division. And the last four teams that have routed the Patriots have lost the following week. There is no apparent logic in this trend, except that perhaps they can't stop laughing after watching the game films. Laugh all the way to the bank. Redskins plus 3.
Last week: A slight fender bender on the interstate of life. The Browns, getting 2 1/2 from the Bills, got their coach fired in a 42-0 disgrace. The Cowboys, getting 4 1/2, outplayed the Jets most of the way but contrived to lose, 24-9. Jerry Glanville ran out of revenge motivation as his Falcons lost in Pittsburgh, 21-9. The Dolphins, laying 2 1/2 at Indianapolis, crushed the Colts, 27-7. And the Redskins saved the weekend by coming back, laying 2 1/2 and beating Detroit by 3 in overtime.
Total for week: 2-3.
Total for season: 26-19.
A final thought: Like me, the Redskins had a letdown for the first three quarters last week. We're both determined that it won't happen again.