Kansas’ turn

After watching Washington, Philadelphia and New York get buried under a mountain of snow last Saturday, it looks like it will be Kansas’ is next.

There have been dire predictions of a major snowstorm affecting the Sunflower State Monday and Tuesday, and it looks like the worst will be along the Interstate 70 corridor between Hays and Manhattan. Of course, Russell is in that corridor.  There have been some models which forecast as much as two feet. TWO FEET.

I’m fearing not only that there will be a lot of snow, but there will also be a lot of wind, which would be beyond disastrous. The last thing I want is snowdrifts piled up like you see them at times during Buffalo Bills home games. However, it isn’t looking good.

Of course, the storm would hit during a week I have an appointment with Crista. If I missed that, it would really, really, really anger me. I just have to pray I-70 is clear by Thursday at 7 a.m. The appointment is at 9, but making sure it’s clear early would give me enough time to get there and back without having to rush.

I wanted to get out of Russell Thursday to stock up on a few supplies, but I couldn’t yank myself out of bed. I did make it over to Hays and picked up a few things. I saw more than three people carrying out cases of bottled water. I’m planning on a run to the big cities today, and possibly a stop at Buffalo Wild Wings in Salina on the way home.

It wasn’t until 10:30 yesterday evening that I realized it was the 30th anniversary of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. My old middle school pal Shawn O’Neil posted something about it on Facebook.

I was in the fourth grade at St. Robert Bellarmine Catholic school on January 28, 1986. Someone came up to me during recess after lunch that the space shuttle exploded. I didn’t believe it. I thought this person was joking.

When I got back into the modular classroom behind the main school building, our teacher, Myra Annaloro, turned on the TV and we watched the coverage. President Reagan was scheduled to deliver the State of the Union that evening, but instead he gave a speech from the Oval Office about the six astronauts and Christa McAuliffe, the New Hampshire school teacher who was scheduled to teach video lessons from aboard the Challenger.

The Space Shuttle program was suspended for two and a half years. By time the next launch occurred in September 1988, I was in the seventh grade at Arabi Park Middle, less than a year from leaving for Brother Martin. When I heard the news of the Space Shuttle Columbia’s disintegration as it attempted to re-enter earth’s atmosphere in February 2003, it came as far less of a shock, given what I remembered about the Challenger.

The Challenger’s 1986 mission was barely mentioned by the networks and CNN–Fox News was more than 10 years away–until the night before the launch.

The big news of the weekend, and the week before, were the seemingly invincible Chicago Bears, who won Super Bowl XX less than 48 hours before the Challenger explosion.

The 1985 Bears won their first 12 games before losing in Miami to the Dolphins on Monday Night Football. After beating the Colts, Jets and Lions to close the regular season 15-1, Chicago shut out the Giants 21-0 and the Rams 24-0 to reach the Super Bowl for the first time.

Nobody gave the AFC champion New England Patriots any chance against the Bears. The Patriots were much improved from the team which lost 20-7 in Chicago in week two, and even though New England won road playoff games against the Jets, Raiders and Dolphins to get to the Super Bowl, the Patriots largely capitalized on opponents’ turnovers. New England recovered fumbled kickoffs for touchdowns vs. the Jets and Raiders, and the Dolphins turned it over six times.

The Patriots were largely an afterthought once the teams arrived in New Orleans. Most of the focus was on the Bears, specifically quarterback Jim McMahon, who was receiving treatment an acupuncturist to treat a strained muscle in his rear end. McMahon mooned a helicopter which was trying to spy on the Bears’ closed practice at the Saints’ facility.

McMahon was also at the center of a fabricated controversy.

The Thursday before the game, Buddy Diliberto, the sports director at WDSU, the NBC affiliate which would televise the Super Bowl throughout southeastern Louisiana, claimed McMahon had called New Orleans women “sluts”. It turned out the whole report was false, and Diliberto was suspended.

New England started the Super Bowl well enough, recovering a Walter Payton fumble on the game’s first play at the Chicago 19-yard line.

Then it all went south.

On the Patriots’ first offensive play, Tony Eason had tight end Lin Dawson wide open in the end zone. Eason’s pass was on target, but Dawson’s left knee gave way when his shoes got stuck in the Superdome’s notoriously hard artificial turf. Dawson had torn both his anterior cruciate and posterior cruciate ligaments.

On the third play, the Patriots’ star receiver, Stanley Morgan, was open on a post pattern, but Eason’s pass was batted away at the last second by Mike Singletary. New England settled for a Tony Franklin field goal.

That was the high point of Super Bowl XX for the Patriots.

By the end of the first quarter, the Bears were up 13-3. At halftime, the Patriots not only trailed 23-3, they had netted minus-19 yards of offense.

I said MINUS-19 yards. Holy crap.

Eason, who was drafted 15th overall by the Patriots in 1983 (instead of Dan Marino) was pulled in the second half for veteran Steve Grogan. The Kansas State alum fared no better, even though he led New England’s lone  touchdown drive in the fourth quarter against Chicago’s reserves, which included a rookie linebacker from California named Ron Rivera.  Yes, that is the same Ron Rivera who will be coaching the Panthers in Super Bowl 50.

New England finished with a Super Bowl record low 7 net yards rushing. Their 123 total yards were six more than the record low the Vikings recorded in Super Bowl IX vs. the Steelers at Tulane Stadium 11 years prior.

Final score: Bears 46, Patriots 10.

The 1985 Bears may be the best one-season team in NFL history. They do not deserve any more credit than that, simply because the second Super Bowl championship didn’t come in 1986, 1987 or 1988, and it still hasn’t come as the 2016 season is now a little more than seven months away.

McMahon was relatively healthy in 1985, the biggest reason why the Bears were able to win and win big. From 1975 through 1984, Walter Payton had performed heroically while playing behind one of the worst collection of quarterbacks any team could ever hope to assemble in a 10-year period. Other than McMahon, some of the quarterbacks who handed the ball to Payton included Bobby Douglass, Gary Huff, Bob Avellini, Vince Evans, Greg Landry, Steve Fuller and Mike Tomczak. Not exactly a Pro Bowl lineup. Landry was the best of the bunch, but that was in the early 1970s when he was with Detroit. By time he got to Chicago, he was decrepit, having taken savage beatings with the terrible Colts teams of the early 1980s and in the USFL.

McMahon got hurt often in 1986, and even though the Bears went 14-2, they were a one-dimensional offense which had to rely on the defense to keep the score down. The defense couldn’t hold up its end of the bargain in the playoffs, and the Redskins won in Chicago 27-13. Washington won again in Chicago in 1987, and in 1988, the Bears were routed at home in the NFC championship game by the 49ers, even though it was 17 degrees with a wind chill of minus-17 at kickoff.

Yesterday was the 20th anniversary of Super Bowl XXX, the last time the Cowboys reigned as champions. Dallas was heavily favored against Pittsburgh, and it appeared the Cowboys would make it easy, leading 20-7 early in the second half. However, the Steelers rallied to within 20-17 and had the ball in the fourth quarter with the chance to tie or take the lead, but Neil O’Donnell threw the interception which clinched the game for the Cowboys. Larry Brown returned the pick to the Steelers’ 3, and Emmitt Smith cashed it in from there. Dallas won 27-17, but unlike its routs of Buffalo earlier in the decade, it had to earn this championship.

The only Super Bowl played on January 29 sucked. 49ers 49, Chargers 26. I’ll leave it at that.

About David

I am a sportswriter for a group of weekly newspapers in small towns across northern Kansas. I grew up in New Orleans, went to college at LSU and wandered in the wilderness until Hurricane Katrina finally put me on the path to my current job.

Posted on January 29, 2016, in History, National Football League, Uncategorized, Weather and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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