WADHAMS, Mich. - Deer hunting season began Thursday here in Michigan.
I, alas, do not have a hunting license. For reasons ranging from idle stupidity
to pure laziness, I failed to get the required safety course paperwork in time
to purchase a license. Now, I'm left at home with a beautifully reconditioned
.303-caliber Short Magazine Lee-Enfield rifle and several bandoliers of ammunition.
Meanwhile, herds of lean, muscular bucks pause each morning in my front yard
on their way to the slaughter that awaits them at the hands of my rube neighbors
and their Wal-Mart purchased weapons.
The Lee-Enfield leaning forlorn against my bookshelf is a weapon of staggering
beauty. This particular firearm was manufactured at England's Birmingham Small
Arms factory in 1917, making my bolt-action weapon a veteran of the First World
War. Its classic design served the British Empire admirably for the first 50
years of the 20th century. Despite several modifications, the Lee-Enfield is
easily recognized for its characteristic angled magazine that slopes into the
trigger guard. My version, the SMLE No. III, is defined by the lack of barrel
protruding past the wood stock.
The Lee-Enfield has a glorious history in the annals of weaponry. It was first
carried by the Tommies in Flanders Field, repelling Kaiser Wilhelm's legions
in France during the Great War. Later versions of the rifle were the standard
British and Commonwealth weapon of World War II and Korea.
In the 1980s, a band of Mujadeen fighters in Afghanistan was able to repulse
the local communist military with nothing more than their Lee-Enfield rifles.
Impressive firepower, indeed.
I, on the other hand, have yet to fire my Lee-Enfield. Despite its vaunted
history, I have no idea how it will perform in the field.
The Cleveland Browns discovered Sunday how their raw, untried weapon executes.
With running back James Jackson hobbled by an ankle injury, the Browns were
forced to employ the enigmatic Ben Gay. He responded against Baltimore's grand
defense, while splitting time with Jamel White, with 56-yards rushing and a
critical first-half score. He also burned Baltimore's feeble special teams with
66 yards on a pair of kickoff returns.
Butch Davis unveiled, by necessity, his Lee-Enfield not against a 10-point
buck, but a pack of charging African rhinos out for blood.
And the rhinos, for all their obese ferocity, proved not up to the task. Gay,
on first viewing, seems to have the leg-churning combination of strength and
speed needed to take the Browns' mediocre offense to the next level. Toss in
a couple of free agent linemen - and a couple more out of the draft - and Cleveland
is all of a sudden a legitimate threat to score from anywhere on the field.
Now, on to making fun of Ravens coach Brian Billick.
The victory over Baltimore is particularly enjoyable after reading a month-old
Sporting News cover story about that team's technological wizardry. Mullah Billick
is celebrated for his use of multimedia computer gadgetry to game-plan for an
One can almost picture Billick crouched alone over a computer terminal - surrounded
by autographed pictures of himself - late at night in some dark office of the
Ravens' headquarters. In a room lit only by the computer monitor's dull light,
Lord Billickmort madly pounds away at the keyboard in a feverish attempt to
map out every play imaginable by man or beast.
"I've done it, by Jove," he says to himself. "I've charted every
single solitary play possible. Now those Eastern media liberals will have to
give me the respect I so richly deserve. After all, I AM Brian Billick. Après
moi, les deluge!"
That scene may be fanciful, but the lordly and arrogant Billick is exactly
the kind of man to quote Louis XIV without batting an eye. Both men had little
use for the Third Estate (or the Fourth, for that matter …).
"L'etat c'est moi," Louis once said. "I am the state."
And, of course, Brian is football. Just ask him.
While Billick may be the master of the cold, hard computer, the most basic
elements of mathematics makes his number crunching far less valuable than all
the fawning press over his embrace of technology would indicate. It's called
algebra. While I struggled mightily with its various concepts throughout secondary
school, I did understand that a mathematical equation with one variable is far
more preferable to multiple unknowns. For example, 2+X=4 is simple to decipher.
Football, however, is a game with myriad unknowns, from wind speed to dunce,
weeping quarterbacks that toss four interceptions. Billick's Dr. Strangelove-like
reliance on technology will prove his undoing. It did twice against Cleveland.
OK, enough football nonsense. It's time for some celebratory relaxation. After
Sunday's swearing and teeth-gnashing, I plan to spend Monday - one of my rare
days away from the City Desk - supine on my home office futon, drinking several
high-octane Singapore Slings, reading Adm. Mahan's The Influence of Seapower
Upon History and enjoying the music of uber-dope singer J.J. Cale.
I deserve it. So do the Browns.