It's official. I've become a troglodyte.

It happened about the time

American Idol

moved to the top of the ratings, people started wearing flag pins, iceberg lettuce became a culinary pariah, and the Colorado Rockies won a pennant.

And while the gaps between my tastes and all popular culture continue to widen into canyonesque chasms, it's in sports where they're most notable.

Among the things I don't understand in sports are:

The NFL.

Ratings, attendance, revenue and Eagles decals tell us that pro football is the most successful sport ever devised.

And yet, the league has gone out of its way to foment unnecessary labor unrest by deciding to cancel its basic agreement with the players two years before it was due to expire.

The Eagles.

As the players and coaches never tire of telling us, they have got one of the most complex passing schemes in football.

And yet, complex passing schemes apparently don't require competent wide receivers.

Ryan Howard.

The guy is one of the most impressive home-run hitters in Phillies history and, by all accounts, a nice young man.

And yet, despite a batting average that's sinking faster than the dollar and a strikeout rate whose ascent rivals the price of gasoline, he still pauses at home plate to admire his home runs.

Chase Utley.

The Phillies star has girls throwing themselves at him, has the president of the United States singing his praises, has superstar statistics, and has a multimillion-dollar future.

And yet, the guy always looks as if he needs a laxative.

The Flyers.

Every off-season, the team vows it will get swifter, sleeker, more mobile, and better-equipped to deal with the NHL's rules changes.

And yet, every year we get mean-spirited, lumbering redwoods from western Canada in the draft; a blue-line collection that couldn't outskate Moose Vasko; and penalty boxes and suspension lists filled with orange-and-black.

Horse racing.

The sport, marred by declining interest, on-track deaths, and too much racing, desperately needs a super horse.

And yet, Big Brown, his breeding rights sold for $50 million, likely won't race after the Belmont Stakes. The sport's sole purpose appears to be identifying talented horses who can win enough big races so they can be sold for tens of millions in order to produce more horses whose careers will be ended prematurely by greed and shortsightedness.

Why not a tie?

They say we are products of our environment.

Not Tom Brady.

Brady plays football in Boston, the garden of Greenpeace, the epicenter of the eco-friendly.

So what did the Edsel-mouthed Patriots quarterback buy his linemen?

Gas-guzzling $68,000 SUVs.

That's how to put the offensive in linemen.

NASCAR note of the week.

Bad news for this space. Lowe's Motor Speedway chief Humpy Wheeler is retiring. (Wonder if he had a great fall?)

Conspiracy theory.

I like Sen. Arlen Specter. I've even voted for the guy. But enough with Spygate already.

Here's one question I have about the Pennsylvania Republican's quixotic quest: How can the man who came up with the Single Bullet Theory suddenly buy into a goofy conspiracy?

Question of the day.

Why does the Celtics' Paul Pierce always look as if he's about to slap somebody in the face?

Contact staff writer Frank Fitzpatrick at 215-854-5068 or ffitzpatrick@phillynews.com.