Well, hallelujah! Real football is back. I know because my boss called, and as soon as the phone rang, and I shook the sand off it, I heard him say, in his patient, caring way, and not every boss is this understanding:

“BAAAACK TO WORRRRK!”

So here I am. And I know what you are thinking. “Where was he during the strike? How did he do? What was his record?”

And I will tell you.

Let me open my bag. Ah. OK. Here are my picks from the first replacement week. They are on a large sheet of yellow paper with lots of little notes and figures written in the margins. Wait. No. Actually, those are question marks. And there’s a little ketchup stain over here. Oops. Let’s just flick that off. It’s dried now.

“HOW DID YOU DO?” I hear you ask.

Well. Hang on. Let me find Week 2. Wait a sec. . . . OK. Yeah. Here it is. On this, well, what is this? A cocktail napkin? Heh-heh. Um. Yeah. I remember now. It was this little French place, with– well, never mind. The ink is a little smeared here. I think, yes, we have a game right here: Philly- 3-4561 . . . No. Wait. That’s a phone number.

“WHAT WAS YOUR RECORD?”

Let’s look for Week 3, shall we? I know I had it in here some . . . where.
. . . Yep. No. Oh gosh. Ha. I can’t believe this. A beach towel? I wrote them on a beach towel? What a crazy nut. What a kook. A beach towel! What was I doing at the beach? I can hardly remem–.

“HOW DID YOU DO? WHAT WAS YOUR RECORD? ENOUGH WITH THIS!”

My record?

Well. Uh. Let me see.

Let me add these up.

Zimminy . . . grmp . . . thisph. . . .

OK.

This is how I did during three weeks of replacement football picking:

I got every game right.

And now this week’s picks. . . .

LIONS 30, PACKERS 20: The Lions got a lot better during the strike. Really. I’m not kidding. What they got better at was golf. Football, they play about the same.

NY GIANTS 21, ST. LOUIS 14: On the Cardinals’ first play, Vince Coleman singles up the middle. He steals second. He steals third. Ozzie Smith comes to bat and . . . oops, wrong Cardinals.

CHICAGO 18, TAMPA BAY 10: Here’s Tampa Bay luck for you. Its last game before the strike was against the Bears. Its first game back is against the Bears. I would not want to play for Tampa Bay.

DENVER 28, MINNESOTA 17: A new rule in sports. Every team must play in the Metrodome once a month. Every team.

HOUSTON 35, ATLANTA 13: Before the strike, this would have been a boring game. But now it’s a real boring game.

NEW ENGLAND 20, INDIANAPOLIS 13: Doug Flutie, who after winning the Heisman, getting a $7 million contract in the USFL, joining the world champion Bears, while never once proving he can play pro football, had just one wish: to return to New England. And it was granted. I bet he made money in the stock market last week, too.

WASHINGTON 36, NY JETS 10: Mark Gastineau is hit! He’s down! His teammates are gathered around him! They’re laughing! They’re the ones who hit him!

DALLAS 21, PHILADELPHIA 6: During the strike, Cowboys GM Gil Brandt mailed newspaper clippings of each game to the parents of the scab players. What’s he sending them now? The laundry?

PITTSBURGH 35, CINCINNATI 31: While he was on strike, did Esiason’s friends still have to call him “Boomer”?

MIAMI 38, BUFFALO 24: It must have been tough to get the Dolphins back to work. Don Shula blew his whistle, they dropped the volleyball, packed up the cooler, and walked over to the practice field.

SAN FRANCISCO 20, NEW ORLEANS 19: Joe Montana is so bland, you can’t even get mad at him for crossing the picket line.

SEATTLE 31, LA RAIDERS 17: Don’t tell me about Bo Jackson. I don’t want to hear about Bo Jackson. Let a guy run a few wind sprints before he changes the future of the team, OK?

SAN DIEGO 38, KANSAS CITY 24: If the Chargers wind up making the playoffs, they’d better mail a nice check to their replacements, who went 3-0, which is more than the reel team would have done.

CLEVELAND 17, LA RAMS 13: Eric Dickerson wants out. The players were split during the strike. They are 1-4. The Rams are not a happy bunch. And they have to go to Cleveland? Ugh.

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