Chris Gocong is funnier than anyone realized. He's funnier than he realized, too.

Earlier in the week, the Eagles linebacker was talking to a Comcast SportsNet reporter about the gravity of Sunday's repeat clash with the New York Giants. There was a grave this-is-a-must-win discussion before things inevitably turned to wide receiver Plaxico Burress. You may have heard that Burress is fond of firearms (as well as wearing sweatpants to nightclubs and maiming himself).

Gocong was asked how not having Burress on the field might affect the Giants. Pause. Pensive look. "That's one less bullet for them to fire," Gocong said with an astonishingly straight face.

Either the man is a master of deadpan humor or he didn't realize what he'd said. Sometimes, you open your mouth and a little bit of genius slips out, unplanned.

Beyond the unintentional comedy, the exchange had significance. It made me understand what the Arizona win really meant. It meant the Eagles have to keep talking about must-wins and how "every game is a playoff game now." It meant they had to talk about how the Burress nonsense helps them on Sunday in a terribly important game. It meant the questions leading into the matchup were all what-if oriented: What if they run the table and make the playoffs? Will Donovan McNabb stay? Will Andy Reid never leave?

Mostly, though, beating the Cardinals meant everyone - the players, the coach, and especially the media - must continue the charade. At least through Sunday, and maybe longer.

While there's still a chance, however slim, that the Birds win out and then do something wonderful and unexpected in the playoffs, everyone refuses to acknowledge the long odds against that happening. (See the end of this column to learn exactly how long.) Why darken the mood when you can whistle the Eagles' fight song as you stroll past the graveyard?

And so, when McNabb was asked if he feels as if he has any long-term job security as the starting quarterback, he wasn't sure what to say. Deep down, he knows he's probably out of here after the season. And he knows we all know it, too. But he can't say that because the Giants game is


, and you have to keep up appearances.

Rather than answer honestly, he sat in silence for what felt like forever. "Uh," he said, searching for something innocuous or appropriate to offer. "I am the quarterback, and I will be the quarterback. So if that's where you're going with it, I don't look at anything else that's happened."

Then, he stood up, said, "Gotta go," and all but ran from the podium. The only thing missing was a puff of cartoon smoke in his wake.

And the pretense continues. McNabb is the quarterback. Reid is the coach. The Giants game is serious, because all games are serious for a serious team that's serious about winning.

That's what they keep telling us, but all I can think is: Seriously?

Ever get the feeling you're not wanted? Happens to me all the time - usually when I show up at Mom's for dinner.

About a week ago, the Phillies sent an e-mail asking the media to have lunch with the new front-office hierarchy: general manager Ruben Amaro Jr., and assistant GMs Scott Proefrock, Benny Looper and Chuck LaMar.

The lunch went down yesterday at the Mission Grill. I'm guessing it was a swell time with tasty food. I don't know for sure. I wasn't there.

Shortly after receiving my invitation, I RSVP'd and thanked the Phils PR people for including me. About 3.5 seconds later, the Phils responded by sending this missive to everyone on the chain: "Please disregard the previously sent e-mail invitation. The message was sent to a broader list of recipients than anticipated."

Translation: We accidentally CC'd the guy with the tilted head, and he's not getting within a fungo length of Ruben Amaro Jr.

Somewhere, my mother nods approvingly.

This came via an Inquirer staffer and friend, along with a note that read: "What will marketing types stoop to next?"

"If only Giants star Plaxico Burress had stayed in bed. . . . The Plax Bed ($20,000), formerly known as the Safe-T Bed by Hollandia International, has a heavy-duty safe built right into the bed. Plaxico could have 'safely' slept through the night and had a 'safe' place to keep his treasured artillery."

That's, at once, a terrible and brilliant promotional gimmick.

This week, Chester broke ground on the area's professional soccer stadium, which will sit along the Delaware River near the Commodore Barry Bridge. The structure is being built for a reported $115 million. Last year, the Phillies had a team salary of about $98 million. Meanwhile, the Cowboys are building a far-too-extravagant field that's going to cost at least $1.3 billion. My question is, how do you build a stadium for $115 million these days? Does it come with seats or is it BYOS? . . . says the odds of the Eagles making the playoffs are 35-1. Meanwhile, the odds of their winning the Super Bowl are 80-1. If you're wondering, 18 teams have better shots to win the Lombardi Trophy than the Birds.