FOOTBALL'S in the air. Everywhere I go, I get asked, "How are the Rainbows going to do?"
Football feeling is in the air
At this stage, I tell everyone that they can't get any worse. The football 'Bows have been down for so long that anything looks up to them.
While we await the colleges and the preps to start donning their pads, the National Football League will begin its preseason Down Under on Saturday - with the two-time defending Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos playing the San Diego Chargers.
Denver will be flying 16,706 miles round-trip for the game at Sydney's Stadium Australia, site of the 2000 Olympics.
It's one of 64 NFL preseason games. It all begins in earnest - if preseason games can be viewed that way - Monday night at the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio, between the new-era Cleveland Browns and the simply aging Dallas Cowboys.
Preseason might be just a euphemistic way of saying exhibition. But it sure beats watching the Extreme Games and other trash sports during the summer.
So welcome back, Carter - whether it's Minnesota's Cris, Georgia's Quincy or Hawaii's Dwight.
SOME NFL pre-preseason notes to get the juices stirring:
The San Francisco 49ers currently rank as the NFL team of the 1990s. With a 109-35 regular-season won-lost record, only Dallas and Kansas City, at 93-51, come close.
Dallas fans feel three Super Bowl victories qualify their 'Boys to be called the Team of the '90s. But the Broncos can match that if they pull off an unprecedented Three-Peat. But don't count on it, Denver fans. Read my lips: Bubby Brister.
Besides, making it to the Super Bowl is hardly a noteworthy criteria. Remember, no team played in more Super Bowl during the '90s than the Buffalo Bills with four appearances.
San Francisco was the Team of the '80s as Green Bay was of the '60s and the Pittsburgh Steelers of the '70s.
In terms of strength of schedule, the Oakland Raiders rank No. 1. Their opponents' combined 1998 record was 146-110 - eight more victories than those of the Jets and Tampa Bay, who share second place. Newcomer Cleveland has the easiest schedule, playing teams who have combined for 155 losses.
Thanks to their preseason hop to Australia, the Chargers will travel the most air miles this season - 34,220. In contrast, both Cincinnati and Baltimore will fly fewer than 10,000 miles.
During the regular season, though, no NFL team flies more than the 49ers, who after all, play in the geographically challenged NFC West which includes Atlanta, New Orleans, St. Louis and Carolina.
The Cowboys, Chiefs and New England Patriots will all wear special patches commemorating their 40th season.
With John Elway's retirement, Brett Favre's Green Bay uniform figures to top the list of best-selling NFL jerseys with Dallas' Troy Aikman second and Miami's Dan Marino third.
Dat Nguyen, the Dallas rookie linebacker out of Texas A&M, is the first Vietnamese to play in the NFL and only the seventh of Asian ancestry.
The others are Pittsburgh's Hines Ward, whose mother is a native of Korea, and Detroit wide receiver Johnnie Morton, whose mom is Japanese-American.
Also, Lloyd Lee (San Diego), Eugene Chung (Kansas City) and John Lee, who kicked for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1986, are Koreans. The first Asian to play in the NFL was Walter "Sneeze" Achiu, an Oregon native, who played for the Dayton Triangles in the 1920s.