WEEK 4: So-Called Expert defeated by Grich et al.

The So-Called Expert has been humbled and humiliated — in historic fashion.

It wasn’t my most lopsided loss, but it certainly was my worst week of picking winners – or should I say best week of picking losers? – in 24 years of predicting NFL games since launching an annual contest against selected readers back in 1989.

Sure, it was a tough week to pick. Suffice to say, it’s unusual when eight home teams lose and 10 underdogs win outright and seven games are decided near the end, including three in overtime and one by replacement refs who apparently wanted to get out of Seattle alive rather than overturn a blown call on the final play of the game.

But those are merely asterisks attached to a wild week in which I picked only three winners in 16 games. Three! With a percentage like that, I couldn’t even get a job throwing luggage on the conveyor belt at the local airport.

No excuses; I had a horrible week that actually got worse before the Green Bay-Seattle abomination on “Monday Night Football.” After visiting a podiatrist and learning the source of my recent right-foot pain was a stress fracture in my fourth metatarsal, I stepped in a hole outside a post office and sustained a high left-ankle sprain. No golf this week; I guess I’m being punished for my picks.

It’s not much consolation, but it’s also possible that guest prognosticator Bobby Grich also set a contest record for worst record by winning guest: 6-10. Doesn’t matter; there’s no such thing as an ugly victory in this contest, so Grich wins five dozen golf balls from our sponsors, a set of Winn grips and a new Aldila driver shaft.

In truth, there were many mediocre records posted by the nearly 300 participants in calgolfnews.com’s “Football Pool and Golf Ball Challenge,” but Doug Minamide emerged from the pack to win the Week 3 contest with an impressive 12-4 record. He must know how to factor in referee error. (By the way, it’s not too late for you to join the fun by registering to pick the games every week at calgolfnews.com.)

For the record, I finished ahead of only two contestants in this week’s Golf Ball Challenge, one of whom is a neighbor across the street whose name I won’t mention because his wife makes great cookies and desserts. And it must be noted that Cathy, my better half, beat me by six games this week. Why didn’t I consult her?

The only thing that makes me feel a little less like a blithering idiot is that  longtime NFL expert Cris Collinsworth picked only one more winner than I did in Showtime Sports’ “Inside the NFL” contest.

And now it’s time to turn the page, as Angels manager Mike Scioscia likes to say. Another week, another challenger trying to take me down and win enough golf balls to survive any “Tin Cup” disaster.

This week’s guest prognosticator is Todd Anderson of Tempe, Ariz., who was selected for sending in an anecdote about getting to caddie for Charles Barkley in 2004, back when – you’ll be surprised to read this – he wasn’t such a terrible (excuse me, turrr-i-bull) golfer.

While working for the Non-profit Caddie Foundation of Arizona, Anderson received a phone call asking if he could caddie for Michael Jordan the next day at Moon Bay Country Club in Phoenix, the private club where Todd watched Annika Sorenstam become the first woman to shoot 59 in an LPGA event in 2001.

“Of course I said yes without hesitation,” Anderson said.

But he was disappointed when Jordan was a no-show . . . “until I recognized ‘The Mouth of the South,’ Charles Barkley,” as well as NBA star Vince Carter and two other basketball pros. That’s when Todd knew that this day would be memorable.

“Believe it or not, Barkley wasn’t that bad of a golfer,” Anderson said, comparing his swing then to the guy with the halting, lurching, shoulder-drooping hitch in his swing that America got to see up close and personal during his lessons with Hank Haney on The Golf Channel’s “The Haney Project” a couple of years ago.

“Only one time I remember his swing breaking down, when he tried to stop and he topped his tee shot.”

Anderson said Sir Charles was “very competitive” that day during the NBA players’ $50-a-hole partner skins game.

Naturally, Chuck entertained everyone in the group, Anderson recalling he “shared stories about his various exploits in Vegas, told a dirty joke or two and used language common on the golf course among friends.”

When they got to the ninth green, Barkley needed to make a 20-footer to tie the skin.

“Are you going to give me this one?” he asked his buddies.

“I mumbled, ‘They’ll give you the next one after this,’ ” Anderson said.

That elicited a few laughs, so Barkley stepped away from his ball and said, “Everyone’s a comedian!”

Comedian? Not exactly.

“Actually, you will never guess what I do for a living,” Anderson said to Barkley.

After Barkley missed the putt and picked up the 2-foot gimme, he had to know.

“So what do you do when you’re not caddying?” he asked.

“I’m a minister,” Todd said.

Suddenly, Barkley became a new man.

“He cleaned up all his language, no more stripper stories, no more stories about how much money he lost in Vegas,” Anderson said, laughing.

And after his next missed putt, Sir Charles didn’t even curse.

“He said, ‘God . . .  bless me!’ ” Anderson recalled.


There was another funny moment when the group got to the 13th hole, where Anderson said “a burglar alarm was going off at a house and the backdoor was swinging open when a motorcycle cop pulled up with his gun drawn.”

As they watched from the golf course, Anderson stepped in front of Barkley.

“I’ll take a bullet for you,” he said jokingly. “I know where I’m going if I die today.”

Barkley’s retort was a classic: “Yeah, but do you want to go today?

A native of Hartford, Conn., Anderson, 49, grew up on the East Coast, attended Messiah College in Pennsylvania and then Lutheran Brethren Seminary in Minnesota. He moved to Arizona in 2001 in time for the Diamondbacks to win the World Series and was serving as pastor at Desert Rose Church in Tempe when it closed in February.

Not surprising, he’s a fan of the undefeated Arizona Cardinals (though he’s embarrassed to say he didn’t pick them over the Eagles last week in the Golf Ball Challenge) and is an avid golfer who once appeared on a golf reality TV show “Weekenders Golf Tour” that aired locally on CBS in Arizona.

He’ll soon be heading back to the East Coast to a new church and a new home in New Jersey, but he’ll bring his allegiances and his love of God and golf with him.

Ready or not, it’s time for this week’s NFL predictions, with a lot of golf balls on the line, as always.

“I hope you have a bad week,” Pastor Todd said cheerfully.

Can’t be any worse than last week. I hope.

Here are the So-Called Expert’s picks, noting the three games on which Anderson and I disagree:

Cleveland Browns (0-3) at Baltimore Ravens (2-1): Ravens. Rout of the Week. Cleveland is one of two winless teams and Ravens coming off exhilarating victory over AFC rival Patriots. Thursday is a much better night to watch season premieres this week.

San Diego Chargers (2-1) at Kansas City Chiefs (1-2): Chargers. But I’m not as certain after Bolts failed to show up at home for last week’s game against Falcons. Did Chiefs really rally from a 24-6 deficit to win in New Orleans? Stunning.

Oakland Raiders (1-2) at Denver Broncos (1-2): Broncos. Come back, Tim Tebow, all is forgiven. Just kidding. Peyton Manning’s first two losses as a Bronco were to undefeated teams — at Atlanta and at home to Houston. Nothing to panic about. I am surprised Raiders rallied to beat Steelers, however.

San Francisco 49ers (2-1) at New York Jets (2-1): 49ers. Niners were humbled by Vikings, so I expect them to bounce back with a vengeance. Jets were lucky to beat Dolphins, thanks to a missed field goal in OT and a stupid timeout just before Dolphins had an OT field goal blocked.

Minnesota Vikings (2-1) at Detroit Lions (1-2): Lions. (Anderson picked Vikings.) If backup QB Shaun Hill hadn’t completed 10 of 13 for 172 yards and 2 TDs in relief of Lions injured starter Matthew Stafford last week, I’d give Vikings a shot, too. We’ll see if Vikings QB Christian Ponder can win a big division road game.

New England Patriots (1-2) at Buffalo Bills (2-1): Patriots. New England has a losing record for the first time since 2003. Think about that. Bills’ two victories are against Browns and Chiefs, so let’s just say first place in division is a mirage.

Carolina Panthers (1-2) at Atlanta Falcons (3-0): Falcons. I took a peek at Falcons’ schedule and don’t see any games in which they will be a decisive underdog. Could this be their year? Will Week 11 showdown against Arizona be their ultimate test?  Sorry, but I was wrong when I thought Cam Newton was ready to take next step.

Tennessee Titans (1-2) at Houston Texans (3-0): Texans. As I wrote at beginning of season, Houston could go all the way if its skill players remain healthy. QB Matt Schaub lost the tip of his earlobe last week, but that’s no big deal. Titans scored 44 points in Week 3 after totaling 23 points in first two games. Huh?

Seattle Seahawks (2-1) at St. Louis Rams (1-2): Seahawks. OK, OK, I believe Pete Carroll’s team is charmed.  What do you expect to happen when you have a wide receiver named Golden? It would be fitting if Rams pulled the upset, but I think Seattle’s defense is too good.

New Orleans Saints (0-3) at Green Bay Packers (1-2): Packers. (Anderson picked Saints.) Pastor Todd didn’t want to call it his Upset of the Week, but it certainly would qualify if it happened. Green Bay will be very angry after getting jobbed in Seattle.

Miami Dolphins (1-2) at Arizona Cardinals (3-0): Cardinals. This is Pastor Todd’s “Upset of the Week,” even though Arizona is undefeated and favored by 6 ½ points. Go figure. Dolphins missed an OT field goal last week. That’s as close to winning as they’re going to get until Week 6 against Rams.

Cincinnati Bengals (2-1) at Jacksonville Jaguars (1-2): Bengals. Cincinnati is much better than I thought after blowout loss in Baltimore in season opener. Jacksonville is just as bad as I thought before pulling out last-minute victory against Colts.

Washington Redskins (1-2) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-2): Buccaneers. How many millions of us overreacted to Robert Griffin III leading the Redskins to an “upset” in New Orleans in Week 1? Saints still haven’t won. If there is justice in the world, Tampa Bay offense will take a knee on final play and get knocked backwards.

New York Giants (2-1) at Philadelphia Eagles (2-1): Giants. For the first time this season, I’m not picking Eagles. Twelve turnovers (including nine by Michael Vick) isn’t an accident. And who would have thought Eli Manning is better than his brother in fourth quarter?

Chicago Bears (2-1) at Dallas Cowboys (2-1): Cowboys. (Anderson picked Bears. ) Have no idea yet whether either one of these teams will make the playoffs. Maybe we’ll know more after Monday night. Can’t wait for the last play in the end zone.

Byes this week: Indianapolis Colts (1-2), Pittsburgh Steelers (1-2).

Last week: Bobby Grich, former Angels star, 6-10; So-Called Expert 3-13.

Season totals: SCE 24-24, Guest prognosticators 23-25.

Week 3 “Football Pool and Golf Ball Challenge” winner: Doug Minamide 12-4.

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