Column: NBC throws out celebrity tourney welcome ‘Matt’ |

Column: NBC throws out celebrity tourney welcome ‘Matt’

Steve Yingling, Tribune sports editor

The American Century Championship has most definitely extended a welcome “Matt” for NFL quarterbacks to the July 14-19 tournament at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course.

No fewer than four NFL quarterbacks with the first name Matt have been invited to the 20th edition of celebrity golf’s longest-running event: Matt Leinart of the Arizona Cardinals, Matt Ryan of the Atlanta Falcons, Matt Cassel of the Kansas City Chiefs and Matt Schaub of the Houston Texans are all prepared to test their games in front of a national audience.

All four quarterbacks will be making their first appearances in the event, so perhaps spectators should be wearing the helmets.

Now all NBC needs to do is invite Matt Lauer, so he can do the interviews.

There, however, are more marquee-name quarterbacks in the field: Drew Brees, Tony Romo, Jay Cutler, Carson Palmer and Ben Roethlisberger. Retired QBs John Elway, Dan Marino, Jim McMahon, Joe Theismann and Vinny Testaverde are among the 87 entrants as of March 30. As anyone who has followed a few of these tournaments knows, the list of celebrities can change numerous times between now and July.

Speaking of Cutler, he switched teams on Thursday in a blockbuster trade between the Broncos and Bears. Chicago gave up two first-round draft picks, a three-round choice and starting quarterback Kyle Orton. Now the Bears have their best quarterback since McMahon led them to the 1986 Super Bowl title.

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Cutler, a Pro Bowl quarterback, became disgruntled when new Broncos’ coach Josh McDaniels tried to shop him for Cassel this winter.

There are enough NFL coaches in the field that I’m sure that Cutler and the Broncos’ missteps will be topics of discussion. Dick Jauron of the Buffalo Bills, Wade Phillips of the Dallas Cowboys, Ken Whisenhunt of the NFC champion Arizona Cardinals and Jack Del Rio of the Jacksonville Jaguars are committed to the tournament unless the demands of their looming training camps pull them away.

As usual, NBC has worked feverishly to bring fresh faces to the tournament: Mixed martial arts fighter Chuck Liddell, poker player Daniel Negreanu, former all-pro receiver Cris Carter, former NBA All-Star Alonzo Mourning and Hall of Fame shortstop Ozzie Smith are entered.

The 6-foot-10 Mourning won’t be the tallest player to ever participate in the championship. That distinction belongs to “The Admiral” David Robinson, who measures 7-1. The former San Antonio Spurs’ center withdrew in 1994 after carding rounds of 86 and 94.

Pac-10 and Oregon State fans ” me included ” will be happy to note that former Beavers’ quarterback Derek Anderson of the Cleveland Browns intends to play.

Since boxer Oscar De La Hoya is returning to the tournament for the first time since 1996, maybe he really is retired. The 36-year-old De La Hoya has won 10 world titles in six weight classes.

Fans can breathe easy, favorites Charles Barkley and Michael Jordan are planning to play. Barkley may even have a different game to display to spectators.

” Tribune Sports Editor Steve Yingling can be reached at (530) 542-8010 or