Observations, insinuations, ruminations and unvarnished opinions . . .

ALL NFL Hall of Famer Franco Harris did was give a ringing TV character endorsement to that no-good SOB, Joe Paterno, and rip that wonderful, sinless Penn State Board of Trustees for the timing of the former legend's firing.

Franco's old coach was fired for stuffing a child rape allegation against former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky where the Sunshine Laws don't shine.

The former Steelers great, author of NFL Films fave, the "Immaculate Reception," fell far short of the end zone when discussing the Un-Immaculate Deception. In fact, Franco was fired by the Pittsburgh area Meadows Race Track and Casino, where he was hired less than a month ago to do meet-and-greet. Kind of what MLB suspended Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle for doing in Atlantic City back in the day before every Native American tribe had a casino.

Well, they sort of fired Harris for the audacity of sticking up for the cranky old man who suspended him briefly before the Cotton Bowl his senior year for showing up late for a team meeting. And who says JoePablum is more permissive than Dr. Spock?

One of the horse track/casino's legal big brains must have said, "Whoa, let me check to see if the First Amendment is still in effect.''

Make that sort-of fired . . .

"In light of the recent developments with Franco Harris regarding Joe Paterno's dismissal, Franco and the Meadows have mutually decided to put their business relationship on hold at this time, while these matters are looked into further," a release said.

An isolationist senator named Hiram Johnson gets some credit for saying when World War I broke out, "The first casualty when war comes is truth."

Actually, it was a Greek playright from the 525 BC era named Aeschylus who said, "In war, truth is the first casualty."

It's as true now as it was when the spear was favored over words as a weapon. Just don't stick up for old Youknowwho. It could be hazardous to your health.

Kershaw as in Koufax

Most years, Roy Halladay's numbers would have made him close to a lock for the National League Cy Young. But most years, the next Sandy Koufax or Steve Carlton isn't around.

Amazing the Dodgers, with carpetbagger, cash-register-draining owner Frank McCourt hogging the headlines, had a Matt Kemp as the MVP favorite and Clayton Kershaw a Cy lock.

Despite an election where no less than 12 pitchers received votes in the mandatory 1-10 format, including top fivers Halladay (second), Cliff Lee (third) and Cole Hamels (fifth), the 23-year-old lefthander reaped 27 of 32 first-place votes.

His numbers were Koufaxian: 21 wins, 2.28 ERA and 248 strikeouts. For good measure, Kershaw became the first Dodgers pitcher since Orel Hershiser in 1988 to add a Gold Glove to his pitcher's triple crown.

That's the good news. The bad news is that by the time the arbitration-eligible All-Star is in line for the really huge money, the budget deficit will be so massive, they'll be paying him in tractor trailers filled with $100 bills. Better make that a fleet of trucks. If Albert Pujols scores that $200 million, 10-year Marlins deal, that'll be 2 million $100 bills.

Budding controversy

Commissioner Bud Selig said yesterday the expansion of the postseason wild-card format by one team in each league could come as early as next season. Sale of the Houston Astros to business tycoon Jim Crane was approved, but the league-balancing, schedule-unbalancing Astros move to the American League won't happen until 2013. Selig, however, seems determined to plow ahead with a format where the two wild cards in each league will meet in a one-game, Russian roulette play-in that is going to leave one of them extremely bitter. One-and-done might work superbly in the NFL and March Madness, but it makes baseball's once-sacred, 162-game regular-season marathon about as relevant as the NBA and NHL regular seasons.

Yet, the division winner that winds up meeting the play-in survivor will still be locked into the perilous best-of-five format that has a habit of leaving teams with their league's best records doing yardwork. I have a suggestion that will never fly, of course. Make the wild-card survivor play a possible four games on the road in a 2-1-2 format. Hey, split on the road, win your home game and you go back up 2-1. It's not as daunting as it sounds. How many teams up 3-2 in a best-of-seven series would kill to go back on the road needing just a split to pop the champagne?

Trivia time

There are 11 players with exactly four letters in their names who had at least one 40 home-run season. Name them.

Even Googlers will work overtime to get it . . .

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