The hot topic surrounding the NFL these days is the league's choice to use replacement officials and how that decision has been an epic failure.
Talk of this is nothing new to The Fumbler, who found himself in a similar situation early in his prognosticating career.
Fresh out of college, The Fumbler took the world of football picks by storm, quickly becoming the most treasured employee of the NHSFPL (National High School Football Prognostication League). The Fumbler was instantly famous, but his fortune had not yet arrived because he was still signed to his rookie contract, which consisted of one Primanti's sandwich and a six-pack of Iron City per week.
The Fumbler wanted more.
"I was the star of stars," The Fumbler recalled. "Not only was I picking all the winners, but I was the face of the league. I should have been paid like it."
After the NHSFPL denied his demand for a raise, The Fumbler held out, forcing the league to hire a replacement prognosticator. At first, the move seemed like it would work. That was until the new hire began messing up left and right, the most glaring error coming in a syndicated column read by millions around the country.
"He picked Braddock to beat Glassport, and they didn't even play each other that week," said The Fumbler, laughing.
Embarrassed, the NHSFPL made amends with The Fumbler and signed him to a multiyear contract making him the highest-paid prognosticator in the world. Life has been great for both parties since. The current season is a glaring example of that. The Fumbler went 52-13 for the second time in a row, raising his season record to 208-58 (.781).
Here are his thoughts on this weekend's top games:
South Fayette (4-0, 4-0) at Seton-LaSalle (4-0, 4-0), 7 p.m. today -- It's the Brumbaugh Bowl. Luke Brumbaugh starts at quarterback for Seton-LaSalle. His brother, Brett, does the same for South Fayette. The Fumbler considers the Brumbaughs "the Mannings of the WPIAL." Peyton and Eli Manning have gone head-to-head twice in the NFL, with the older brother, Peyton, going 2-0. The Fumbler thinks the younger brother comes out on top this time. Winner: South Fayette.
Jeannette (4-0, 4-0) at Washington (4-0, 4-0), 7 p.m. today -- There was an R&B group in the 1990s named Shai. There's an outstanding running back at Washington named Shai McKenzie. The Fumbler hasn't heard McKenzie belt out any Top 40 hits, but he knows McKenzie has been a hit this season. The second-leading rusher in the WPIAL, he is averaging 15.5 yards per carry. The problem is, he has not seen a defense such as Jeannette's, and with the Jayhawks' edge in big-game experience ... Winner: Jeannette.
West Allegheny (4-0, 4-0) at Central Valley (3-1, 3-1), 7 p.m. today -- His friends call him D-Rob. He's Central Valley star Robert Foster, one of the most dynamic players in the state, if not the country. He shares the nickname with Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson. Foster helped Central Valley defeat West Allegheny by 3- and 4-point margins the past two seasons, scoring a touchdown in both games, including a 95-yard catch two years ago. Once again, D-Rob will lead the Warriors to "D Win." Winner: Central Valley.
Mt. Lebanon (3-1, 3-0) at Woodland Hills (3-1, 2-1), 7 p.m. today -- When The Fumbler goes to the Wolvarena in Turtle Creek to take in a game, he always is sure to make a stop at Triangle Bar and Grill in Swissvale, the home of some of the best hoagies in the area. The Fumbler sometimes will order a Battleship, a hoagie so big it's nearly impossible to eat in one sitting. As far as battles go, the outcome of this one is nearly impossible to predict. The only thing certain is that The Fumbler will be watching with a full belly. Winner: Woodland Hills.
And the rest (home teams in capital letters):
WPIAL CLASS AAAA -- (Foothills Conference) NORWIN over Connellsville; Gateway over HEMPFIELD; McKeesport over ALTOONA; Penn-Trafford over LATROBE. (Northern Eight) NORTH ALLEGHENY over Butler; Shaler over FOX CHAPEL. (Southeastern) UPPER ST. CLAIR over Baldwin; PETERS TOWNSHIP over Bethel Park; Plum over CANON-McMILLAN.
WPIAL CLASS AAA -- (Big Nine) THOMAS JEFFERSON over Albert Gallatin; Trinity over LAUREL HIGHLANDS; ELIZABETH FORWARD over Uniontown; West Mifflin over RINGGOLD. (Greater Allegheny) HOLLIDAYSBURG over Derry; Indiana over HIGHLANDS; Knoch over HAMPTON; Mars over GREENSBURG SALEM. (Parkway) MONTOUR over Ambridge; Hopewell over MOON; CHARTIERS VALLEY over New Castle.
WPIAL CLASS AA -- (Allegheny) Burrell over KITTANNING; Shady Side Academy over FREEPORT; FORD CITY over Summit Academy; EAST ALLEGHENY over Valley. (Century) SOUTH ALLEGHENY over Burgettstown; McGUFFEY over South Park; Steel Valley over QUAKER VALLEY. (Interstate) GREENSBURG CENTRAL CATHOLIC over Brownsville; MOUNT PLEASANT over Yough; Waynesburg over SOUTHMORELAND. (Midwestern) Aliquippa over MOHAWK; RIVERSIDE over Ellwood City; FREEDOM over New Brighton.
WPIAL CLASS A -- (Big Seven) OUR LADY OF THE SACRED HEART over Shenango; NESHANNOCK over South Side Beaver; Union over LAUREL. (Black Hills) Brentwood over CHARTIERS-HOUSTON; CLAIRTON over Fort Cherry; Imani Christian over CARLYNTON; BISHOP CANEVIN over Monessen; CALIFORNIA over Serra Catholic. (Eastern) Avonworth over APOLLO-RIDGE; SPRINGDALE over Leechburg; NORTH CATHOLIC over West Shamokin. (Tri-County South) Jefferson-Morgan over WEST GREENE; CARMICHAELS over Mapletown; BETH-CENTER over West Greene.
NON-CONFERENCE -- Blackhawk over BEAVER; FORT HILL (MD.) over Carrick; DEER LAKES over Charleroi; Franklin Regional over BELLE VERNON; BEAVER FALLS over Keystone Oaks; Kiski Area over PINE-RICHLAND; Liberty Christian (Va.), over PERRY; North Hills over PENN HILLS; STO-ROX over Northgate; BENTWORTH over Vincentian; STEUBENVILLE (OHIO), over Westinghouse.
WPIAL CLASS A -- (Big Seven) Rochester over WESTERN BEAVER. (Eastern) Riverview over WILKINSBURG. (Tri-County South) Avella over GEIBEL CATHOLIC.
NON-CONFERENCE -- Mercersburg Academy over KISKI SCHOOL.
NON-CONFERENCE -- Allderdice over WHEELING CENTRAL CATHOLIC (W.VA.).