Picked off | AspenTimes.com

Picked off

Jon Maletz
Aspen, CO Colorado

Like shooting fish in a sink. I’ve never tried it, but my good friend, Dan Thomas, assures me it’s a sure thing. Considering the fact that he grew up in rural Virginia, where hunting was a required high school course, I have no reason to doubt him.

(I wonder if he wore a camouflage tux and doe urine cologne to the prom.) I thought emerging victorious from The Times’ Pigskin Picks experiment would be the latest sure thing. This was Peyton Manning in the red zone. This was Pete Carroll eliciting a commitment from a five­star recruit. Seriously, what are the odds the sports guy loses a sports contest when pitted against a copy edi­tor, publisher and an advertising director?

My only concern was whether it would be a fair fight. After all, this test of sports mastery (and lack thereof) seemed to suit me like $1.50 pizzas and “The Big Lebowski.” Sports is what I know ” there’s a reason I did­n’t go into real estate or poli­tics; my idea of reform is going from 2-10 to the Rose Bowl in one year.

I watch highlights and award-winning television analysis as many as three times a day (1. because I’m a tad obsessed, and 2. There’s not a whole lot going on in my life on any given evening).

I’ve been on ESPN’s Game­day. I’ve covered college football ” it was at Syracuse, where the team has been so offensive that lately I’ve been telling people I went to Colgate.

I woke up at 8 a.m. on my day off to watch Lloyd Carr’s resignation press conference (couple that with a Target run, and I had quite the productive morning). I eat Flutie Flakes. I know how many yards Appalachian State quarterback Armanti Edwards racked up against the Delaware Blue Hens in the Foot­ball Championship Subdivision championship game. I know Delaware’s nickname is the Blue Hens.

I know USC linebacker Ray Maualuga crochets in his spare time ” not really, but Syracuse strength coach Ryan Cabilese’s favorite fruit actually is pineapple.

It’s a sickness, people.

I know West Virginia’s offensive line served up more pancake blocks than IHOP this season, and Louisville’s head coach is Steve Kragthorpe (this does­n’t make me all that unique, I just like saying his name as often as possible).

I’ve logged so many hours navigating online football sites that I’m considering changing my nickname to Christopher Columbus ” scratch that, Vasco da Gam­ma sounds much cooler.

I meticulously study statistics. I weigh the pros and cons of the spread versus the West Coast offense and contemplate the best ways to attack overzealous 4­3 defenses.

Kragthorpe.

I know I’m not in the same league as LSU blogger Dandy Don, who routinely imparts such poignant insights as, “One of my longtime readers called me from New Orleans to tell me that the French Quarter was crowded with Tiger fans celebrating the arrival of the Tigers.” (He’s full of this stuff.) But I had to be the most worthy of the adversaries, right?

Wrong. The jubilation of my fast start was quickly replaced with waning self confidence and hesitation. I steadily lost ground with each passing week. And, by season’s end, I wasn’t competing for a national title, I was playing in the Bell Helicopters Armed Forces Bowl. I peed down my leg. I was the Cal of Pigskin Picks.

To quote famed scholar Mike Tyson, I “faded into Bolivian.” (Leave it to Tyson to hit the nail on the side of the head.) Something unexplainable, inexplicable and unex­pected- able happened. I wound up third behind the publisher and former copy editor Dan Thomas. What’s next: Emeril Lagasse losing a cook-off?

I feel like Ross Perot, or like Colt Brennan after Tues­day’s Sugar Bowl ” attendants are still peeling the Hawaii quarterback off the Superdome turf.

I’m a humble individual. I extend my heartfelt congratulations to those who topped me in the final standings. But I’m still convinced they cheated.

Did Jenna Weatherred receive insider information from Dennis Franchione? Is her office some kind of college football nerve center? Did she confer with some confidential informant each week, or have Kirk Herbstreit on speed dial?

I have to take some credit for Jenna’s success. After all, she was conspicuously absent one week at pick time, at which point I decided the fair thing to do was choose all the favorites and her beloved Texas Longhorns. She finished 9-1, and now I’m writing this.

While sports editor Nate Peterson won’t say as much openly, the shame and disap­pointment in his eyes is hard to overlook.

I’m perplexed. Maybe obsessing about each pick did more harm than good ” I thought these recurring headaches were the result of being a little too “merry” this holiday season, but I could be wrong. Pick­ing Notre Dame to beat Army and Air Force really came back to bite me in the … standings.

Notre Dame performed about as well as John Travolta in “Battlefield Earth.” The Irish surrendered so much ground to opposing offenses, they could’ve measured yardage in miles. Charlie Weiss made Bill Callahan look like Bill Walsh.

Now, both our faces are red, Charlie.

There can only be a lone star in this con­test, and it seems fitting someone from Texas experienced the glory. But that does­n’t mean I’m not pissed.

The only sure thing is this: Apparently, I’m not as big a deal as I thought.

Kragthorpe.

jmaletz@aspentimes.com


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