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THE INSIDE TRACK | T.J. SIMERS

Palmer's Talent Leaves Him in an Altered State

August 16, 2000|T.J. SIMERS

Watching the convention, hearing from all those "great states," and knowing from visits that there's nothing great whatsoever about Nebraska and Iowa--throw in Utah too--I decided it was time to talk to our "favorite son."

You know, the boy I never had.

My wife gives birth to two children, both girls, one becomes an accountant and the other, of all things, a basketball player. Me, as you know so well with all this sports expertise, and I get one who gets giddy at the sight of a new calculator and one who charges into another girls basketball player and then apologizes while helping her up.

I'm just going to proceed as if Carson Palmer is my son, hoping he warms to the idea by the time he leaves USC and signs his mega-million-dollar contract to play in the NFL.

Meantime, of course, I will tutor him at USC, beginning with this piece of advice: Enough already with everyone holding hands in the huddle.

"It wasn't my idea--not me," the kid said. "We can change that."

*

THAT'S MY BOY, but watching him practice Tuesday, that's about all I can tell him. He already knows to throw the ball only to Kareem Kelly. All he has to do is throw it in the general vicinity of the sophomore phenom as he did at the morning workout, and Kelly will go up, get it and keep on running to the end zone. If USC's defense can't stop him, you think UCLA has any chance?

"I know where my money's at," said Palmer, which sounds like some kind of potential NCAA scandal, but I don't want to know anymore.

Palmer was eating lunch with his old man Tuesday. Well, he was eating with me, but I like to think of myself as his old man, and the kid suddenly blurts out: "You know what I dream about when I go to sleep at night?"

I'm thinking Britney Spears or maybe Chelsea Clinton.

"I dream about running in the winning touchdown in the Orange Bowl," he said. "You know, I wish I could be a tailback."

Son, we have to talk.

I wish I could have the sports editor's job--OK, that's not a good example, because who knows? Listen, I wish I had an arm like you, kid--now that's where the money's at. You take that wing and the Trojan defense, which includes 19 of the top 22 players returning from a very good unit, and you could be Paul Hackett and win with this team.

And if I'm not mistaken, my son, my boy, the last time you tried to run like a tailback, you suffered a broken collarbone, which explains why every USC coach can be heard yelling at one time or another in practice, "Carson, throw the ball away when you're in trouble."

*

I KNOW, I know--you're going to be in trouble playing behind this offensive line, but Sultan McCullough and Malaefou MacKenzie look like an awesome tandem at running back, and there's that defense that can keep every game under control. Just don't jump out to any 21-point leads.

"Carson needs to capture this team," Hackett said. "He needs to stay healthy and (blah-blah-blah) and (blah-blah-blah) and the sky's the limit."

As you know, my son, my boy, Hackett's a wordy sort, but he's right. You have to be standing healthy at season's end for the Trojans to win, and for us to be in position down the road to cash in big.

I think this is the beginning of a beautiful relationship--don't screw it up, kid.

*

SPEAKING OF MY daughter, the accountant, who thinks a big night out on the town is shopping at Office Depot, I found her a husband.

Mike Van Raaphorst is 6 feet 5, filling her requirement for someone taller than my beanpole, he's a backup quarterback at USC, which is still a step up from having her eye on a Notre Dame kicker, and he's already working on his MBA with USC picking up the tab. Just maybe no more parents' plus loans.

He graduated from USC last May with something like a 3.8 grade-point average, and while that's probably a 3.4 at Notre Dame, he has been accepted into a program that only takes on experienced business types, and will attend classes at night so he can make football practice. He's headed for a career in high finance, which makes him the perfect Office Depot date.

And he has already worked for Pat Haden the last two years, so he's well-connected, which means he probably won't have to look for work in the great states of Nebraska, Iowa and Utah.

I suppose it's important too that he's handsome, but I've never felt that stopped anyone from getting ahead. After all, they run my picture in the paper.

"We're talking about a special guy here," Hackett said, and I think he was referring to Van Raaphorst. "The idea is to get him into a pro training camp next season, but if not, I would think he would be a strong candidate to be a graduate assistant with the football team here. He's just a gifted person. . . .

"He also has a girlfriend," Hackett added.

I say let the competition begin.

*

SPEAKING OF HACKETT, the guy has guts. He was under fire a year ago for his team's shaky performance, but was willing to take on an extra monster game against Penn State in the Meadowlands.

"A great move if we win, and call me an idiot if we lose," he said.

Why wait? It's a great move whether the Trojans win or lose. By playing the extra game to start the season, Hackett was allowed to take his team to Irvine for a three-week training camp instead of remaining on campus and practicing 20 hours a week while being distracted by incoming coeds.

The Trojans may lose in the Meadowlands, but the payoff might result in a Rose Bowl appearance. If not, he's an idiot.

*

THAT BUSINESS ABOUT Kevin Malone calling each beat reporter who covers the Dodgers on Monday to tell them Davey Johnson is safe for the rest of the year. . . .

Disregard.

*

TODAY'S LAST WORD comes from Scott in an e-mail:

"After Monday's game, you wouldn't dare comment on Kevin Brown's outing--or would you?"

As a practice, I do not comment on anyone's outing.

*

T.J. Simers can be reached at his e-mail address: t.j.simers@latimes.com.

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