Up the Middle with Skitch Hanson: NFL, I Can’t Stay Mad at You

Today, Scratchbomb once again hands over the reins to nationally syndicated sports columnist Skitch Hanson, as we’ve done many times before. You may know Skitch as the author of the highly popular syndicated column “Up The Middle.” You may have read his best-selling book If You Can’t Fix It, Don’t Break It, and Other Homespun Aphorisms I Heard My Mechanic Say. He’s also a frequent guest on ESPN’s sportswriters panel show Opinions! You can follow Skitch on Twitter here. Without further ado, here’s Skitch.

When you say “summer,” some people think of sandy beaches, crashing waves, little drinks with umbrellas in them. But for me, when I hear someone say “summer,” first I wonder why they are just saying one decontextualized word; it seems odd, if you ask me. But then I think of the glory of NFL training camp. 350 pound defensive tackles running around in tiny shorts, glistening with sweat. Coaches screaming expletives through the blazing heat, while also wearing tiny shorts. Fans standing around and squinting. If you can think of a better way to spend a 97 degree August afternoon, I’d like to to hear it!

So when the NFL lockout dragged through June and July, I feared this summer would be a complete loss. I wasn’t having a great summer to begin with. First, my editor wanted a feature on the surprising Pittsburgh Pirates, but I haven’t been welcome in that locker room since that time I accidentally broke Andy Van Slyke’s kneecap with a fungo bat. (Long story short: I thought a saw a moth land on him.) Then, we had a bit of an ant problem at the Hanson household, which all started when my special fridge in the basement conked out, thus inviting the critters inside to feast on all the melted stores of frozen brownie batter I saved over the winter. All of this came on the heels of those trying two weeks when my wife locked herself in the bathroom with 12 boxes of Franzia and ordered one amulet after another from QVC.

No matter. All that’s in the past now (although my wife still is holed up in the washroom). The NFL is like that girlfriend who treats you badly, but you’ll always take her back when she bats her eyes and says she’s sorry, because…well, we all know why, right, fellas? That’s right, because she makes a killer pot roast. Of course, in this case, “killer pot roast” stands for “exciting grid iron action,” served up with a side of “Hail Mary passes” and a bowl of “thrilling playoff matchups” for desert.

Even though I’ve been covering the NFL labor situation since day 1, this sudden lockout resolution really took me by surprise. Granted, for the last month I’ve been covering it from a Day’s Inn out in Lawrence, Kansas. My editor said I should cover the ongoing negotiations between the owners and the players’ union from here. I tried to explain that none of the talks were happening anywhere near here, but he said it was the best place for me. So I can’t say I’ve had a bird’s eye view of the process, but I did get to see the historical site where William S. Burroughs first tried heroin.

Though I accept the NFL’s return with open arms, I still have to give a wag of my finger to those greedy players. If they had accepted the owners’ terms months ago, we would have never gone through this ordeal, and I wouldn’t have had to pitch potential articles to curling magazines as a fall-back plan. (I’ve read more about brooms than one man ever should.) This is not France or China or some other country where we go on strike every time the government takes away your fifth coffee break, fellas. This is America, where you do whatever your boss tells you to do, because the thought of losing your job and your health insurance fills you with a primal, bone-shaking terror.

Do you think I wanted to cover that bungee jumping competition in Death Valley? Or that cow-pie chucking contest in Bismarck? Of course not. I didn’t like doing these things any more than I liked walking into my office and finding the boss urinating on my treasured autographed picture of Angela Lansbury. But the boss makes the rules, and we all have to abide by them with gritted teeth, even when those rules are expanded to allow him to pee on your most beloved possessions.

Who am I kidding? I can’t stay mad at the players! I can’t stay mad at anyone right now! Not even my wife, though I found an empty bottle of Grey Goose and several open condom wrappers in her car. For the NFL is back and all is right with this part of my world!

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I’ve received many letters and emails in the last year or so, asking why I stopped doing my “some things I think about things I think” feature in my column. To be honest, at some point I just plum forgot! When you write so many columns and drink as many diet sodas as I do, the mind just doesn’t retain information as well as it used to.

But since at least 12 of you have asked for it, here is the return of Some Things I Think About Things I Think!

  • Brett Favre: You’ve done this act countless times over the past few seasons, and I think I speak for everyone when I say, Keep it up! Can’t wait to see you in Philly or Indy or whichever team will have you next!
  • A note to the girls in Bridesmaids: You don’t have to work “blue” to be funny. Just ask Vicki Lawrence. 
  • Broccoli rabe: Sorry, don’t get it.
  • Asdrubal Cabrera is having an amazing season, but there’s something about that name I still don’t trust.
  • Call me crazy, but that Ashton Kutcher is gonna be a star.
  • Heard some Montgomery Gentry from a gas station PA system, and I have to say I was impressed.
  • Who has been better than Jamey Carroll this season? I would say several players have been.
  • Do they still make nail clippers?
  • What is going on with Congress these days? Could somebody tell me? I don’t watch the news too often.
  • Of all the high priced free agents who never won a World Series, Carlos Beltran never won one the most.
  • Finally saw that show Breaking Bad. I think it’s a little too intense for a program about a chemistry lab.
  • My wife just kissed some muscular, dark-haired stranger and left the house with him, arm in arm, as if I wasn’t even here. Must be Tuesday.
  • I often wonder what Christopher Cross is up to.