Voice of the Fan

EDITOR'S NOTE:**Texans fan Alan J. Burge continues to write his "Voice of the Fan" column for HoustonTexans.com. His latest installment is below. Alan's views do not necessarily reflect the views of the organization.

Pro Bowl and More

**Let's have a show of hands.  Who watched the Pro Bowl yesterday?

I'll confess to having the television on in the background and catching a glimpse or two, but to say I actually watched the game would be a stretch.

I did watch enough to know that it rained early in the game and that Peyton Manning was on the sideline whining about the balls being slick after several of his passes went sailing awry.

I watched enough to know that Jerome Mathis had a really nice kickoff return of 54 yards, a nice special teams downing of a punt on the opponent's one-yard line, and was credited for a fumble when the ball inadvertently bounced off his leg after he decided to not field a punt inside the 10-yard line. That play nearly resulted in a touchdown for the NFC when the ball bounced into the end zone after touching Mathis' leg, but it was recovered by a teammate and ruled a touchback.

I watched enough to be concerned about star players getting hurt in a meaningless exhibition.

Mathis didn't disappoint Texans fans on Pro Bowl weekend. He showed that he belonged with the big boys in both the skills competition and on the field as a special teams player. Mathis' final line was one punt return for 12 yards, four kickoff returns for 109 yards, including the 54-yarder, and one fumble.

But as much as I like seeing Mathis blowing by would-be tacklers on kickoff returns, I'd rather see him blowing by cornerbacks on deep post routes. Let's hope that wunderkind Kyle Shanahan can help Mathis develop that part of his game and maybe some day he and Andre Johnson can return to the Pro Bowl and Mathis won't have to worry about shagging kicks.

Mathis did very well in the NFL's Fastest Man competition. After advancing to the finals in the 40-yard dash, Mathis proved his world-class speed to fans around the league by losing a photo finish to Falcons cornerback DeAngelo Hall in the finals.

But apparently everything didn't go well for Mathis last week. Based on a report, Mathis was late for the team picture, much to the chagrin of his coaches. When repeated calls to his hotel room and cell phone went unanswered, Mathis finally awoke, but not until hotel staff went to his room to rouse him. Next time, bring a louder alarm clock, Jerome.

As an aside, I wonder how San Diego Chargers special teamer and University of Houston product Hanik Milligan feels after finishing behind Bills punter Brian Moorman in a preliminary heat of the 40-yard event?

Now if you'll allow me to go David Barron on you for a minute, the best programming of the day may have been the season-ending episode of NFL Sunday Countdown. Hearing Chris Berman's voice in the background as I tinkered around the backyard almost made it seem like a real football day.

But instead of the usual pre-game banter between Berman, Michael Irvin, Tom Jackson, and Steve Young, there was some interesting and provocative discussion on various league issues and other news.

The crew went off on the officiating, citing several examples of questionable calls during the playoffs, including the one in the Super Bowl when Matt Hasselbeck was penalized 15 yards for a "low block" when he was actually tackling Pittsburgh's Ike Taylor during an interception return.

The crew made a unanimous call for a formal review of the officiating process and its personnel. Good idea. They also made a call for full-time officials. Good idea, again.

When we hear about mammoth television contracts being signed between the league and the networks, and the fact that each team's share of television revenue alone is nearing $100 million dollars per season, it's time to set aside a fund for full time officials who can hone their skills year round instead of taking a break from teaching biology class at a local high school to call an NFL game.

No disrespect to all the hard working officials out there, but my guess is that you would be even better if you did it full time.

Then, in a feature of "More or Less," each member of the ESPN crew was asked to say "more" or "less" to the question: Reggie Bush 1,000 yards?

Interestingly, Steve Young and Tom Jackson both said "less" in the context of Bush being more of a role player than an every-down back. Irvin was the only one to say "more," but added that the question didn't specify whether return yardage was included in the 1,000 total.

Next, during their annual "what's wrong with the Colts" bull session, Jackson discussed his theory for the annual Colts demise. Jackson said "the Colts don't do well against the 3-4 like New England and Pittsburgh run because they don't see it that often." If that's not a bitter pill to swallow, Texans fans, I don't know what is.

Finally, Chris Mortensen reported that Ken Whisenhunt withdrew himself from consideration for the Oakland head coaching job last week because "he could never get a feel from the owner how much control (if any) he would have over personnel and roster decisions."

Mortensen went on to say that Davis had been heard saying that if he were 20 years younger, he would coach the team.

Count your blessings Texans fans.  It could always be worse.

You can email Alan Burge at: *aj_texans@yahoo.com*

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