State of the Union? No thanks

President Trump delivered his first State of the Union address. Article II, SEcti0n 3 of the United States Constitution requires the president to periodcally report to Congreses on the State of the Union.

The first two presidents, George Washington and John Adams, delivered speeches to Congress in the early years of the republic following ratification of the Constitution. However, the next 24 presidents–Thomas Jefferson through William Howard Taft–did not deliver a single State of the Union speech to Congress, instead delivering it as a written report to the House and Senate.

In 1913, Woodrow Wilson became the first president since John Adams in 1800 to address the Congress to deliver the State of the Union in person. Every president since has followed the tradition of personally delivering the State of the Union to Congress. Presidents in their first year in office do not officially issue a State of the Union, but every one since George H.W. Bush in 1989 has addressed a joint session of Congress early in their terms.

I did not watch the State of the Union. Trump probably talked a good game, but honestly ,will anything substantial get done? I doubt it. Nearly every member of Congress is only concerned about one thing, and that is saving his or her own ass. Getting re-elected is the only rule of politics which matters today, and most of the 535 members of Congress (435 in the House, 100 in the Senate) couldn’t care less about their constituents. They only care about getting back to Capitol Hill and collecting enough years to qualify for a full pension, which is more in one month than what the average Social Security recipient receives in a year.

I followed politics religiously throughout high school. My seventh grade social studies teacher, Lydia Gattuso, a very close friend of my mother, got me interested, and that interest piqued during my senior year at Brother Martin with my civics teacher, Eileen Depreo.

By time I got to LSU, I was still interested in politics, but that began to wane as I got more and more involved working with the athletic department. I just didn’t have time to follow what was going on on Capitol Hill or even at the state capitol, which is two miles north of the LSU campus.

Today, I’m so disillusioned I can’t take it anymore. I used to listen to the political talk channels on SiriusXM on my long drives across Kansas, but today, I’m either playing music from my iPod or listening to the sports talk radio stations out of Kansas City.

Robb and Dawn are progressives, and they have opened up my horizon. There was a time when I was very conservative and could not be persuaded to listen to the other side, but now, I’m willing to consider everything in play. I still consider myself more conservative than progressive, but I am much more pragmatic than I was 20 to 25 years ago.


Today marked two historic events, both of which had serious repercussions.

The first was in 1948, when Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated in New Delhi by right-wing Hindi nationalists who believed Gandhi had capitulated to Muslims during India’s fight for independence, which was achieved in 1947.

Such a shame that a man committed to non-violence met a violent death. Sadly, history repeated itself 20 years later in Memphis.

The second anniversary was one many American would rather forget.

On January 30, 1968, the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese army attacked South Vietnamese and American camps during Tet, the lunar new year. The United States believed there would be no fighting during Tet, but Hanoi, desperate to hang on after taking heavy losses throughout 1967, launched the surprise attack.

Although the anti-Communist forces were victorious eventually, it was reported throughout the United States that the Communist forces were successful. Near the end of the Tet offensive, CBS Evening News anchor Walter Cronkite stated the Vietnam war was
“unwinnable” and the best the Americans could hope for was a “stalemate”.

When he watched Cronkite’s report on February 27, 1968, President Johnson stated “if I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost America”. Thirty-three days later, LBJ announced he would not seek the Democratic nomination for president that year.


The Washington Redskins have agreed to acquire Alex Smith in a trade with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Coincidentally, one of the Redskins’ greatest days was 35 years ago today.

On this date in 1983, John Riggins rushed for 166 yards as the Redskins defeated the Miami Dolphins 27-17 in Super Bowl XVII. It was Washington’s first NFL championship since 1942, and the Dolphins were denied their first title since they won Super Bowls VII and VIII in 1972-73.

That Miami got to the Super Bowl in the first place is a tribute to the late Bill Arnsparger, the Dolphins’ defensive coordinator who constructed two outstanding units during his time with Shula.

The first was the No-Name Defense, the backbone of the team which went 17-0 in 1972. That unit featured future Hall of Fame middle linebacker Nick Buoniconti, safeties Dick Anderson and Jake Scott, the latter of whom was the MVP of Super Bowl VII, and a stout defensive line anchored by tackle Manny Fernandez, who was part of 17 tackles in the 14-7 victory over the Redskins in Super Bowl VII.

In 1982, Arnsparger’s latest creation, the Killer Bees, were the NFL’s best defense. That unit featured nose tackle Bob Baumhower, inside linebacker A.J. Duhe, and defensive backs Lyle and Glenn Blackwood, who were not related.

Duhe was an All-SEC performer at LSU as a defensive tackle. Arnsparger tried Duhe at tackle and end before successfully converting him into an inside linebacker in the Dolphins’ 3-4 defense.

Miami’s offense was great rushing the ball (3rd in the NFL), but putrid passing it (27th, as in next to last). The Dolphins were in a quarterback black hole following Bob Griese’s retirement, with Shula forced to alternate David Woodley and Don Strock (“Woodstrock”), because neither was good enough to win the job full-time.

Thanks to the Killer Bees and a strong running game led by Tony Nathan and Aundra Franklin, Miami went 7-2 in the strike-shortened regular season, then ousted the Patriots, Chargers and Jets in the expanded playoffs to reach the Super Bowl.

Woodley was named the starting quarterback on media day, making him the first–and to date, last–LSU alum to become a starting quarterback in the Super Bowl.

Few expected the Redskins to get to Super Bowl XVII, considering the turmoil the team suffered through only two years prior.

In 1980, Riggins held out for the entire season in a contract dispute with owner Jack Kent Cooke, who in 1979 was ordered by Judge Joseph Wapner, later the star of The People’s Court, to pay $42 million in a divorce settlement to his wife of 45 years, Barbara. The settlement forced Cooke to sell the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Kings to Dr. Jerry Buss, who developed the former into an NBA dynasty in the 1980s.

Washington went 6-10 in 1980 and fired coach Jack Pardee. His successor was Joe Gibbs, a 40-year old career assistant who gained fame as the architect of the “Air Coryell” offense in San Diego which featured Dan Fouts, Kellen Winslow, Charlie Joiner and John Jefferson, and later Chuck Muncie and Wes Chandler.

Gibbs flew to Centralia, Kansas to meet Riggins on his farm, and convinced “The Diesel” to return to the NFL. However, Gibbs at first did not make Riggins the focal point of his offense, instead choosing to install the full Air Coryell package, with Art Monk filling the role Joiner did in San Diego.

Gibbs also did not believe Joe Theismann was the right man to run the offense. The Redskins tried backup Tom Owen in the preseason, but the experiment failed miserably. Theismann got his job back when the regular season began, but the Redskins lost their first five games under Gibbs, thanks to a leaky defense.

Gibbs saw the light and realized he had the plowhorse running back he didn’t have for most of his tenure in San Diego. The Redskins became more balanced, and won eight of their last 11 games of 1981.

In 1982, the Redskins’ offense was the most diversified in the NFL, with Riggins and Theismann protected by a massive offensive line known as “The Hogs”. In addition to Monk, Washington struck gold with tiny receivers Charlie Brown and Alvin Garrett, nicknamed “The Smurfs”.

Meanwhile, Washington’s defense was vastly improved under coordinator Richie Pettitbon, an All-Pro defensive back during his playing days with the Bears, Rams and Redskins. The Redskins had a fearsome front four, led by Dave Butz and Dexter Manley, a solid linebacking corps anchored by Neil Olkewicz, and a ball-hawking secondary featuring Mark Murphy, Tony Peters and Jeris White.

However, the Redskins’ Most Valuable Player was its straight-ahead kicker, Mark Moseley, who set an NFL record at the time by converting 23 consecutive field goals. The 1982 season was so strange that Moseley was named the league’s MVP by the Associated Press, the only time a specialist has won the honor.

The 1982 Redskins won all but one of their nine regular season games, losing in week five to the Cowboys. In the playoffs, Washington steamrolled the Lions and Vikings before ousting Dallas 31-17 in the NFC championship game, the third consecutive year the Cowboys fell one win short of the Super Bowl. Following its loss in ’82, Dallas did not get that far again until 1992, when Jimmy Johnson’s Cowboys won Super Bowl XXVII.

Washington was clearly the superior team throughout Super Bowl XVII, but somehow the Dolphins led 17-10 at halftime. Miami got both of its touchdowns on big plays, a 76-yard pass from Woodley to Jimmy Cefalo and a 98-yard kickoff return by Fulton Walker, the first kickoff return TD in Super Bowl history.

The Redskins used a 44-yard gain on a reverse by Garrett to set up a field goal in the third quarter. Theismann was intercepted twice in the period, and a third pass was almost picked off.

Late in the quarter, Theismann found himself under siege from Duhe, Baumhower and Kim Bokamper. Theismann attempted to pass, but Bokamper batted the ball high in the air. The Dolphin end caught the ball at the Redskins’ 1-yard line, but before he could secure the pigskin, Theismann knocked it away.

That play turned momentum permanently in favor of Washington.

With a little over 10 minutes to go, the Redskins had a fourth-and-inches at the Miami 43. Gibbs did not hesitate, keeping his offense on the field and sending in extra tight ends for the short-yardage play.

The call: 70 chip.

The Redskins lined up a tight I formation, with two tight ends, Rick “Doc” Walker and Don Warren, and a third, Clint Didier, in as a wingback. Didier motioned from left to right, stopped in front of Walker, then came back left.

Miami cornerback Don McNeal attempted to follow Didier in motion, but as Didier cut back, McNeal slipped. He quickly regained his feet, but the slip was enough to alter NFL history.

Theismann handed to Riggins, who followed massive left tackle Joe Jacoby. The Diesel broke through the line and was met by McNeal, who could only grab a hold of Riggins’ jersey.

Riggins easily busted through McNeal’s  attempted tackle and outran Glenn Blackwood to the end zone.

Touchdown, Redskins. Game, set and match.

Even though Miami was down only 20-17, it was finished. The defense had been on the field too long, and the offense was totally impotent. Shula pulled Woodley for Strock, but it did no good. The Dolphins could not move, and when the Redskins got the ball back, they bled seven minutes off the clock before scoring on a touchdown pass from Theismann to Brown.

Fortunately for Shula and Dolphins, most of the rest of the NFL–the Redskins excepted–did not believe Dan Marino could be a starter in the NFL. When he was still sitting there at the 27th overall selection, Shula pounced. That turned out well for the most part, although Marino only played in one Super Bowl, losing to Joe Montana’s 49ers in Super Bowl XIX after Marino’s second season.

The Redskins were even better in 1983, scoring 541 points, but they were destroyed 38-9 by the Raiders in Super Bowl XVIII. Theismann would never play in another Super Bowl, suffering a gruesome broken leg in a 1985 Monday Night Football game vs. the Giants which ended his career. Gibbs, however, would lead the Redskins to victories in Super Bowls XXII and XXVI with different quarterbacks, Doug Williams in the former and Mark Rypien in the latter.

Thank you for reading yet another novella. Have a good night and a better tomorrow.

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 30, 2018, in Current Events, History, National Football League and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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