Monthly Archives: February 2018

A bit of everything on a February Saturday

I realized something yesterday when I was in Buffalo Wild Wings, something I had forgotten in my post on the opening of the college baseball season.

February 16 is a date which lives in LSU baseball infamy.

It was February 16, 2003 when LSU was swept in a doubleheader at home by….Kansas.

Yes, the same Kansas which is in Lawrence. The same Kansas which is considered a basketball blue-blood. The same Kansas which has a horrible football team right now.

The Jayhawks came to Baton Rouge for a three-game weekend series on the second weekend of the 2003 season. LSU was 4-0 and feeling pretty good about itself, but that good feeling was dampened by a 10-inning loss to Kansas in the series opener.

The second game of the series was rained out, so a doubleheader was scheduled for Sunday.

It was one of the most miserable days I have ever experienced at a sporting event.

It was cold, damp and windy. The old Alex Box Stadium did not have an enclosed press box, and the wind whistled through the “press area” like nobody’s business.

The twinbill started at 9:30 a.m., because the Jayhawks had to make their connecting flight from Baton Rouge to Dallas, and then to Kansas City. No new inning could start after 4 p.m. Yet for some reason, both games were scheduled as nine-inning contests, contrary to the policies of the Big 12 and Southeastern Conferences, which require seven-inning games during conference season when doubleheaders are necessary on Sunday.

That provision is why LSU and Kentucky asked the SEC to play a doubleheader Friday last year in Lexington when rain was forecast for Saturday. Paul Maineri and his Kentucky counterpart, Nick Migione, did not want to play two seven-inning games Sunday. The SEC said okay, and it all worked out.

Kansas ended up winning both games. The second game ended after seven innings due to the curfew. The Jayhawks became the first team to sweep a three-game series in Baton Rouge in three years, the first to sweep a doubleheader from LSU since 1991, and the first to sweep LSU in a doubleheader in Baton Rouge since 1988.

In 2010, Kansas returned to Baton Rouge and won two of three. However, the Bayou Bengals exacted revenge with a sweep in 2016.

Last night, LSU trailed Notre Dame 6-0 going into the bottom of the fifth. However, two home runs, a grand slam by Bryce Jordan and a three-run shot by Josh Smith, lifted the Bayou Bengals to a 7-6 victory.

I texted Bill that I hope every game is not like this. If not, cardiologists might have their hands full in Baton Rouge this baseball season.

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Dawn’s going away soiree at Buffalo Wild Wings last night was fantastic. Had a great turnout, with Jeremy Smith, a former manager at two Buffalo Wild Wings in the area, Zona Rosa and Overland Park north, was there, as were Robb, Victoria, Mike Decker (LOWPOP) and Schylar Reed (SLYCKS). Kevin couldn’t make it because his mother underwent surgery in St. Joseph Thursday. Luckily she pulled through.

Dawn leaves next Saturday. Hopefully we do not lose contact like so many I’ve lost contact with over the years. The five I mentioned in the blog post of December 20 still hurt. So do a lot of my old chums from Arabi Park Middle, even though we communicate on Facebook. The only one I have seen since I left in 1989 is Toni LaRocca, and that was in 2000, when she was working at a Hooter’s in Metairie. She rocked the orange shorts.

Brenda LeBlanc is the one I’m really distressed over, at least among those I knew in Louisiana. She always got back to me in the past whenever I e-mailed her. Now, I haven’t heard from her in almost two years. If I go to Baton Rouge next month, I hope and pray I see her. Maybe I need to light a candle in a church or say the rosary.

I worry about Liz drifting away. She has trouble getting back to me. I don’t want to blame her, but it would be nice to hear from her more often.

Lisa is busy with a new home now and with Liam growing up. Hopefully she and Jeff will be adding to the family soon. Losing her would be tough, too.

I would be devastated if Peggy or Caitlyn exited my life for good. Those are the two I really couldn’t afford to lose.

Actually, it would be worse if I didn’t have Dr. Custer taking care of my health for the most part, Dr. Jones taking care of my vision, and Crista trying to keep me on the right path. All three could choose to be full-time mothers, and while it would hurt, I wouldn’t blame them. I think it’s easier for Dr. Custer since she has boys; the other two have girls, and the mother-daughter bond is usually very strong, as I’ve seen with Peggy and Caitlyn, Chelsea and Courtney.

Yes, I have male friends. Robb, Bill and Dan Borne would be the ones I would cry over losing. I’m not as close to Michael and Herb, but I would be upset if they cut me off, too.

Maybe I hold on to things too long. Then again, my memory can be a good thing.

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I have never understood why restaurant customers in Kansas City order barbecue flavored wings.

Kansas City is home to some of the best barbecue in the world, according to many. I am not a big barbecue fan, but I have had some good stuff from Arthur Bryant’s, Gates and Jack Stack.

If there are so many good and authentic barbecue joints in Kansas City, then why the heck are people going to Buffalo Wild Wings and ordering honey barbecue? I’m dumbfounded. But it’s their decision.

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Many states are holding their high school wrestling state championship tournaments this weekend. Missouri’s is at Mizzou Arena in Columbia, Nebraska’s is at the Century Link Center in Omaha (across the street from TD Ameritrade Park, home of the College World Series), and Louisiana’s is at the Century Link Center in Bossier City, across the Red River from Shreveport in the northwest corner of the state.

Don’t get me started on the debate on where to hold Louisiana’s state tournament. When I lived there, it was at the Pontchartrain Center in Kenner, at the northwest edge of Jefferson Parish. Most schools in Louisiana which wrestle are south of US Highway 190, but apparently Shreveport and Bossier City offered inducements to the Louisiana High School Athletic Association to move the tournament north.

Brother Martin, my alma mater, is on its way to the state championship of Division I. There are three divisions for wrestling in Louisiana, one fewer than Kansas and Missouri.

My problem with Louisiana’s tournament is it is compressed into two days. Worse, in Division I, many wrestlers will have to win five bouts to claim a state championship. To ask them to do so in about 36 hours is too much.

Missouri and Nebraska hold three-day tournaments. Why can’t Louisiana?

Kansas’ state tournaments are at three sites next Friday and Saturday. Three sites is two too many.

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So far, so good on my Lenten promise of not swearing. I just have to keep it up until the end of March, then hopefully continue after that.

Play ball, college style

Sorry, Peggy. I hope I don’t bore you with this post.

The 2018 NCAA Division I baseball season begins today. Nearly 300 teams open today with dreams of being one of the eight fortunate squads to make it to Omaha and the College World Series.

The reality is, only 20 to 30 teams can realistically expect to have a chance to be one of those eight, even though 64 teams make the tournament. Sure, anything can happen in baseball, and everything has happened, but more often than not, the elite will rise to the top and emerge champions.

There have been exceptions, most notably Fresno State, which won the CWS as a #4 (last) seed in a regional in 2008, and Coastal Carolina, which became the second school from South Carolina to win a national championship in 2016. That has to be a sore spot for Clemson, but I’m sure the national championship Dabo Swinney’s football team won six months later far overshadows any lack of success in Omaha.

Of course, my alma mater is one of the teams which ALWAYS believes it will be forming a dogpile on the mound in Omaha in late June. LSU came close to winning its seventh national championship in 2017, but it was swept in two games by SEC rival Florida in the championship series. Not only was it the first time LSU lost when making it to the final round, but it was Florida’s first championship in baseball. The Gators are one of the few schools with a “trifecta”, national championships in the three major men’s team sports of football, basketball and baseball. Michigan, Ohio State and UCLA are also members of this exclusive fraternity.

LSU, Arizona, Arkansas, Miami, Minnesota, Southern California, Stanford and Texas each have a hole in their championship resumes. For most, it is basketball, but for the Razorbacks, it’s baseball. The Wildcats have never come close in football, and the Cardinal (formerly Indians) have never won a recognized football championship, although the school claims two retroactive, minor mathematical formulas from years before World War II.

The Bayou Bengals open their 12th season under Paul Maineri in Baton Rouge against Maineri’s former employer, Notre Dame. LSU played in South Bend three years ago, but it was two midweek games in May, not a weekend series. Of course, playing in South Bend right now is next to impossible due to the harsh climate of the Rust Belt. Maineri enjoyed tremendous success with the Fighting Irish, taking them to the CWS in 2002 against incredible odds, since Notre Dame won a super regional at #1 Florida State. Notre Dame even won a game in Omaha that year, eliminating Rice, the team which shut out Smoke Laval’s Bayou Bengals in two super regional games at Houston. Laval was fired after a 2006 season which saw LSU go 35-24 and miss the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1988.

Maineri led LSU to the 2009 national championship, as the Bayou Bengals defeated Texas in the three-game championship series. LSU won its other five national championships (1991, ’93, ’96, ’97 and 2000) under a one-game championship format, one which was grossly unfair, especially if one team went through its bracket undefeated and lost the title game to a team which lost once in its bracket. LSU was a beneficiary of this in ’93, when the Tigers lost to Long Beach State in bracket play, beat the 49ers in a winner-take-all bracket final, then bested previously undefeated Wichita State for the title. In ’97, undefeated LSU beat once-beaten Alabama in the final, so it worked out. The other three times, LSU beat a fellow unbeaten in the final (Wichita State in ’91, Miami in ’96 and Stanford in 2000).

LSU is a mystery in 2018. The Bayou Bengals were hit hard by graduation and the Major League Baseball draft, and Maineri must find replacements at nearly every position. SEC coaches picked LSU fourth in the West division for the upcoming season, behind Arkansas, Texas A&M and Mississippi State. Florida is the favorite in the East and to win the overall title. LSU got a big break in the schedule, since it does not have to play the Gators nor Kentucky, which was picked second in the East. LSU also gets Arkansas and Mississippi State at home.

One month from today, I’m planning on being in Baton Rouge for LSU’s SEC opener vs. Missouri. I usually try to make one series a season. The easy choices are Missouri and Arkansas, since they are closest to Russell. Last year, I chose Kentucky because (a) I had never been to Lexington during my years at LSU; (b) I knew LSU would be going to Fayetteville in 2019, and I had been there three times before; and (c) Kentucky’s current baseball stadium would be replaced in 2019 by a fabulous new park, so I wanted to see the old place. I have NOT seen the current Alex Box Stadium, since I left Louisiana in 2005 and have been back to the Bayou State only once, and that was after baseball season ended in 2010.

My mentor and friend, Bill Franques (Fran-kez) begins his 30th season as public relations director (technically, communications director or sports information director) for the LSU baseball program. Since Bill turns 55 in July, it means he has spent more than half his life in one place, which is remarkable. For three years (July 1997-June 2000), he technically was a member of the baseball staff as administrative assistant, and then-coach Skip Bertman had him doing other things, like team travel and budgeting. Bill also handles the public address for home games and radio color commentary for road games, so the guy wears many hats around campus. Not only that, but he’s a devoted husband to Yvette Lemoine and doting father to boys William and Benjamin, and daughter Madeline.

Here is a very good article from The Advocate (Baton Rouge) about Bill:

Bill Franques doesn’t like to hear it, but three decades at LSU make him an institution

I have many, many stories about how I have angered Bill through the years, and I might share them in the time leading up to the trip to Louisiana. I’m convinced the man deserves sainthood for putting up with me the way he did. So do a lot of other people. At least two of them have the last name Cox. Two used to work at a particular Buffalo Wild Wings. And three ladies from Hays who have tried to keep me healthy, both physically and mentally, as well as making sure my vision doesn’t get any worse.

College baseball season barely registers in these parts. Wichita State is nowhere near as good as it was in the 1980s and 1990s, and Kansas and Kansas State have almost always occupied the cellar of the Big Eight/Big 12. Missouri had its moments in the 1950s, but it is overmatched in the SEC. The only baseball that matters in this part of the world is happening in Surprise, Arizona, where the Royals are holding spring training.

Florida attorney general Pam Bondi said the state will seek the death penalty against Wednesday’s school shooter. Hopefully it doesn’t take 10 years to execute him if he pleads guilty or is convicted by a jury. I say 10 years because that’s how long it took for Ted Bundy to be put to death after his first conviction for the murders of two Florida State sorority sisters.

Speaking of Florida, tonight may be the last time I see Dawn. She’s moving to Florida next week. I’m afraid she’ll go the way of Brenda LeBlanc and many others I knew in Louisiana. Also, the Daytona 500 is Sunday. Not that I’ll watch much, if any, of the so-called Great American Race.

Humanity run amok

More details continue to emerge from the tragic school shooting in Broward County, Florida. And so does the rhetoric on both sides from people who want to blame the “gun culture” of the United States and others who want to blame the mental health industry and say the shooter was mentally unstable.

I’m not wading into that pool. I know many people on both sides of the debate. Robb has posted plenty on Facebook in the last 24 hours from the left-wing point of view. I’m not responding. I’ll let him rant.

The same goes for a lot of people on the right. It’s not worth it. I thought about listening to the talking heads as I drove to Kansas City today, but I instead opted for sports talk.

The main topic on WHB was Kansas State basketball, since the Wildcats won 82-72 at Oklahoma State last night. The host, Soren Petro, made the case that if K-State can finish 11-7 or 12-6 in the Big 12, some fans who have called for Bruce Weber’s firing will begin to embrace him.

Mikaela Shiffrin, the American skier, won gold in the giant slalom last night (Thursday in South Korea), and when the news shows are not discussing the school shooting, they’re discussing Shiffrin and whatever else is going on in Pyeongchang. The Olympics are on one of the big screens at Buffalo Wild Wings, but I’m not really watching. I’ll look up from time to time, but I’m in my own zone with trivia and blogging.

Back to the school shooting. It is hard to fathom people are that deranged they want to end the lives of others. These people may be human beings, but the elephants I saw at the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans have more common sense and humanity than people like the school shooter in Florida, the one at Virginia Tech, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold from Columbine, and Ted Bundy.

As bad as the killer in south Florida is, he pales in comparison to Mohammed Atta, the ringleader of the September 11 hijackings; their supreme leader, Osama bin Laden; and of course, Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini and the three leaders of North Korea.

I’m glad I don’t have children. I would not want them growing up in such a dangerous world, one where people who don’t get their way will take it out on others, simply because they are miserable sacks of fecal matter who can’t stand someone else’s success.

I worry about my nephew, Lucas, who turns two in March, nor for Peggy’s grandchildren, Finley and Seth. I don’t have much hope for humanity. I hope it gets better. The old saying goes you want the younger generation to have it better than you? Well, that’s not going to be the case if things don’t change.

Sunshine State Sicko

A sick living organism walked into a high school in south Florida today and killed 17 people and wounded many others using an AR-15 rifle. The vermin pulled the fire alarm to force students into the hallway so he could acquire more targets.

The school is in northern Broward County, a little more than 26 miles (42 kilomteres) southwest of where Dawn is moving to. I’m sure this made her shudder.

The walking piece of fecal matter was caputred alive, unlike Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the lowlife scum who perpetrated the Columbine High School massacre in Colorado in 1999. Harris and Klebold were yellow-bellied cowards who didn’t want to face justice, so they shot themselves after ruthlessly executing Rachel Scott, Cassie Bernall, Dave Sanders and 10 others, while wounding dozens more and leaving many survivors with permanent damage.

I’m not getting into the gun control debate. I know it won’t change anybody’s mind one way or the other.

Of course, the entertainment industry is all over social media begging for gun cotnrol, while those on the other side like Laura Ingraham, Dana Loesch, Tomi Lahren and the man occupying the White House are all calling this the work of a sick mind, and that gun control would have not stopped him.

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) said it best when he tweeted that this is not the time or place for politics. The thoughts and prayers should be with the victims of this horrific crime.

It has been said the shooter had exhibited warning signs on social media that he would do something drastic. That’s where the big difference with Columbine lies. If there were Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites in 1999, would Harris and Klebold have been brazen enough to broadcast their intentions? And if so, would authorities in Littleton been able to prevent it? We’ll never know.

I hope Harris and Klebold are rotting in hell, along with the Virginia Tech shooter, the Sandy Hook shooter, Charles Whitman from the Unvieristy of Texas Memorial Tower shooting in 1966, Charles Manson, Susan Atkins (who acutally killed Sharon Tate), Ted Bundy, and the pride of Emporia, Mark James Robert Esssex, the infamous New Orleans sniper.

Speaking of New Orleans, there were two shootings along the parade route Tuesday. One person died, and two others were wounded. Maybe it is time for the major krewes–Rex, Zulu, Endymion, Bacchus, Orpheus, Proteus–to threaten to pull their parades off the street unless things are done to tighten security for the people who attend the spectacle. That might sound like giving in to the criminals, but it has to stop.

How can some human beings be so evil? I wanted to use some really bad language, but I promised Peggy and many others I would not, starting today and hopefully continuing for the rest of time.

The vast majority of humanity chooses good over evil. Sadly, the fecal matter that chooses evil gets all the attention.

Mardi Gras: why did I bother?

It’s just another Tuesday in most of the United States. Most high school basketball teams in Kansas are in action tonight, although Russell High is not one of them. Norton is back on the court tonight vs. Hoxie, and I’m making the 120-mile trek to see Peggy. It means a late night, but I don’t have much work to get done tomorrow morning, so it won’t really put me behind.

In south Louisiana and the Gulf Coast all the way to the Florida panhandle, it is Mardi Gras, the day where people dress in silly costumes and celebrate the last day before Lent, the 40-day period where Christians are supposed to repent for their sins and make sacrifices. It also means no meat tomorrow, nor for the next eight Fridays. It used to be Catholics had to abastain from meat EVERY Friday, but starting in 1967, meat was supposedly okay on most Fridays, especially in the United States and Canada. Some more traditionalist countries still require abstience from meat every Friday, including Ireland and Great Britain.

Mardi Gras in New Orleans is two big attractions in the same city.

One is the French Quarter, where hundreds of thousands of strangers from across the world rub elbows–and many more body parts–getting drunk and having a good time. Pretty much anything goes in the Quater during Carnvial, except complete nudity, sexual acts, and violent crime. The police know they’re not going to get anywhere by arresting every woman who flashes her bare breasts, becuase they would make enough arrests to fill every jail in Louisiana, not just New Orleans. I have never understood why women would show their breasts for plastic beads which cost four cents per pair at the Mardi Gras supply store.

The other main attraction are the parades, where the laws apply and are strictly enforce. Don’t try flashing on St. Charles Avenue; if you do, you’ll have free accomodations in the New Orleans lockup. Parades are supposed to be family friendly, with ornate floats decorated around a central theme, marching bands and other groups which are common sights to those who have been to the pagents more than a few times.

I went to many parades during my formative years. Now that I’ve been gone from Louisiana for 12 1/2 years, I look back and wonder what the fuss was all about.

There used to be several parades in St. Bernard Parish (county), the suburban area east of New Orleans where I grew up. I marched in a few of those parades when I was with the Arabi Park Middle School band in the sixth and seventh grades. The worst was marching in one on a Tuesday night, not getting home until after midnight, then having to go to school in the morning. There were also a couple of parades where the temperatures were below freezing, and that was pure misery. In warmer weather, the band uniforms were tortuously hot. I’m glad I got out of marching band in high school, because I would have hated to have to sit in the bleachers at football games in those hot things.

My parents, brother and I used to go to all of the parades in St. Bernard. There was a parade on Mardi Gras, the Krewe of Arabi, named after the westernmost community in the parish, the one where I grew up. Every Fat Tuesday, the four of us would park in an open lot at the corner of Judge Perez Drive and Rowley Boulevard, and we could wait in the car until the parade passed by. When the parade was ready to come by, we walked to the median (called the neutral ground in New Orleans0 and watched the floats and bands passed. We always ate Popeye’s fried chicken, fitting since the first Popeye’s opened in 1972 at the corner of Judge Perez and Rowley.

The last Krewe of Arabi parade was in 1987. In 1988, we started going to the Krewe of Argus parade in Metairie, the largest community in Jefferson Parish, west of the city. Finally, in 1991, we went to the big kahuna, the Krewe of Rex, who is known in the city as the King of Carnival.

My parents were not keen on us going to parades in New Orleans proper. There was much crime on the parade routes, especially at night, and they had seen it first hand in their early days of marriage. We went to Mid-City from 1986 through ’91, but that was a daytime parade in an area of the city which was nowhere near as dangerous as some areas of St. Charles.

We went to the Krewe of Ednymion, one of the so-called “Super Krewes”, for three years in the early 1990s. The first two years, we stood on Canal Street in the same place we held for Mid-City, then shifted to Orleans Avenue near the start of the parade in 1992. In 1993, my dad and I alone went to Poydras and St. Charles to see Endymion, but we left before the first float arrived.

In 1994, Endymion was the first parade I went to alone. I saw a few of my adult friends at a tavern near the start of the parade route, and that is where I had my first taste of alchol, not counting communion wine.

Ray Maher had the bartender at the Parkway Tavern slip bourbon into my Coca-Cola. I tasted something funny right away, and I immediately washed it out. Ray and the older guys hooted and hollered about that one and reminded me of it for the next 11 years. I am grinning about it right now, but 24 years ago, it had me a little concerned.

Ray and several of my adult friends in New Orleans are members of the Krewe of Thoth, which has the longest route of any Mardi Gras parade.

Thoth starts much farther west than most parades that roll along St. Charles Avenue. It starts at the corner of Tchoupitoulas (CHOP-i-TOO-las) and State Streets by the Missisippi River and goes north on Henry Clay to Magazine, and then to Napoleon, where it follows the route taken by Bacchus and most other Uptown parades (not Rex, which starts at the corner of South Claiborne and Napoleon to head south towards St. Charles). The Thoth route takes in numerous hostpitals for people with special needs, and Children’s Hospital, one of the nation’s elite pediatric faciltiies.

I atteneded Thoth in ’92 and ’93 with my dad, then ’94 alone. The good thing about Thoth’s starting potnt was there was plenty of parking at the Audubon Zoo, which was not that far of a walk to Henry Clay Avenue. In those days, the parade started at the corner of Henry Clay and Magazine and headed south towards Tchoupitoulas, so I would go down Henry Clay and see eveyrone I knew before the parade started.

Every time I was at Thoth, I was bombarded with beads, doubloons and cups. There was a scramble among other parade goers for the trinkets. Looking back, I should have let them have most of it.

The 1994 Thoth parade is the last one I ever attended. Two days later, Mardi Gras came and went with me sitting at home. By Mardi Gras 1995, my life was in total turmoil, and I was seriously considering the end. I had a terrible go of it at LSU that year, and I wondered if life was worth living. However, most of it was self-inflicted.

If I ever returned to New Orleans, Thoth would be the ONLY parade I would consider attending. And even then, it would be only 50/50.

Bacchus and Endymion, the parades which feature celebrity guests, are too big for my taste. I can only remmeber John Goodman and Chicago appearing in Endymion one year. I can’t tell you who was there in the other years. This year, Rod Stewart rode in Endymion with former Saints player Steve Gleason and current player Alvin Kamara. J.K. Simmons was King of Bacchus.

Sorry, I don’t need to see celebrities in person to feel my life has meaning. I got my fill in July 1992 when I happened to see Bill Clinton and Al Gore jogging in downtown St. Louis during their campaign.

During the rest of my years in Louisiana, I often had sporting events to keep my mind away from Mardi Gras, whether it be LSU baseball games or high school events. When Mardi Gras fell late in the calendar (late February or early March), it happened to be on a day when the Louisiana High School Athletic Association scheduled basketball playoff games. The LHSAA would grant south Louisiana schools the option to play the game Monday or Wednesday of that week, but in north Louisiana, the games went on as scheduled, and many south Louisiana schools had to give up Mardi Gras to drive four to five hours for a game, then make the long return trip. Fortunately, the players and coaches could sleep in because there was no school on Ash Wednesday.

Sadly, the Mistick Krewe of Comus, traditionally the last parade of Mardi Gras, has not held a parade since 1991, due to a boneheaded ordinance by the late Dorothy Mae Taylor, who insisted all krewes must prove to the city that they do not discriminate based upon race or religious orientation.

Comus and two-other old-line krewes, Momus and Proteus, quit parading, although Proteus returned in 2000 after a seven-year hiatus.

Most of Comus’ members–all male, all white, all Protestant–are also members of the Pickwick Club, one of the world’s most exclusive private clubs. How exclusive? Drew Brees can’t get in after winning a Super Bowl, simply because he’s a native of Texas. Warren Buffett? Nope. Bill Gates? Nope. Donald Trump? Nada.

Rex’s members are members of the secretive Boston Club. Until the ordinance, Rex was also all WASP, but now the krewe admits blacks, Catholics and Jewish men. The original ordinance would have forced krewes who wanted to parade to be coed, but that was removed to allow the all-male and all-female krewes, which are most, to parade as long as their racial barriers came down.

Not that I care. I wouldn’t want to waste my time and money with it anyway.

Zulu has been rolling for over two hours now, and Rex for over an hour. Yippee. It’s just another day for me.

Jim Garrett (1930-2018), football lifer

Jim Garrett, the father of Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett, died yesterday at age 87. Jim Garrett was a scout for the Cowboys when Jason was a backup quarterback for the team during their glory years, when Dallas won three Super Bowls in four seasons, led by Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin and a stout defense which featured Darren Woodson and Russell Maryland.

Prior to joining the Cowboys as a scout near the end of Tom Landry’s 29-year tenure as coach, Jim was an assistant coach for three NFL teams, including a two-season stint in 1976 and ’77 under Hank Stram with the Saints. Garrett was New Orleans’ secondary coach and de facto defensive coordinator, although the title was not yet in vogue.

Below is a link to a NFL Films documentary documenting the Saints’ preparations for a November 1976 game vs. the Packers in Milwaukee, as well as footage of the game itself. Green Bay won 32-27. Garrett is featured at 23:10 and 31:48.

1976 Saints prepare for Packers

Garrett was one of two assistants on Stram’s Saints teams to earn a Super Bowl ring later in their NFL careers.

Like Garrett, John Beake did not earn his coaching on the field.

Beake, the running backs coach for Stram’s Saints, and mentor to the talented but troubled duo of “Thunder” (Tony Galbreath) and “Lightning” (Chuck Muncie), later became an administrator, and was the general maanger of the Broncos when they won Super Bowls XXXII and XXXIII in 1997 and ’98. Undoubtedly John Elway learned much from Beake before becoming Denver’s current GM.

In 1978, Garrett moved to Cleveland when Sam Rutigliano, the Saints’ receivers coach under Stram, became head coach of the Browns. He ended his NFL coaching career under a rookie coach named Marty Schottenheimer for the second half of the 1984 season.

Rutigliano’s Browns became famous as the “Kardiac Kids” in 1979 and ’80, winning hte AFC Central divison in the latter season before losing infamously in the playoffs to the Raiders, who won in Clevleand despite it being 1 degree (minus-18) at kickoff with a wind chill of minus-36 (minus-38). Just say “Red Right 88” in northeast Ohio and most will know what you mean.

Schottenheimer was named head coach of the Browns after Art Modell fired Rutigliano eight games into that season. Schottenheimer’s first game as an NFL head coach was a 16-14 loss to the Saints in Clevleand’s former home, Municipal Stadium. The winning points came on a 53-yard field goal by future Hall of Famer Morten Andersen.

In 1985, Garrett was named head coach at Columbia University, the Ivy League school in Manhattan. Garrett took over a team which went 0-10 in 1984 and led it to another 0-10 finish, extending what would become a 44-game losing streak, the longest in NCAA Division I at the time.

The elder Garrett was fired a few days after the conclusion of the 1985 season when allegations of player abuse surfaced, both physical and verbal. According to the New York Times, Garrett slapped one player across the breast plate of his shoulder pads and another on the back of his helmet. It was rough, yes, but nowhere near as bad as Mark Mangino many years later saying a player would “become an alcoholic like his father” and telling another “to go back to the hood and get shot with your homies”.Nor was it anywhere near as bad as Woody Hayes slugging Clemson middle guard Charlie Baumann in the 1978 Gator Bowl, the incident which ended Hayes’ 28-year tenure at Ohio State.

However, the Ivy League is not the SEC, and Columbia wasn’t willing to take the risk, so Garrett was dismissed. After being out of football in 1986, he was hired by Tex Schramm as a scout in Dallas, and stayed through the coaching tenures of Jimmy Johnson, Barry Switzer, Chan Gailey and Dave Campo, retiring in 2004, when Bill Parcells was in charge.

Columbia wasn’t Jim Garrett’s first coaching job in New York City. He was an assistant with the Giants under Alex Webester in the early 1970s.

Ironically, three of Garrett’s sons, Jason, Judd and Jim III, had all transferred from Princeton to Columbia to play for their dad. All three ended up going back to New Jersey, and Jason ended up becoming the Ivy League’s all-time most accurate passer, completing 66.5 percent of his throws.

However, Jason Garrett could not prevent the Tigers from losing 16-13 to Columbia in the Big Apple on October 8, 1988, allowing the Lions to snap their long losing streak. Colubmia is no longer associated with football futility; its 44-game losing streak was destroyed by Prairie View A&M, which lost 80 consecutive games from 1989 through September 1998.

Jim Garrett’s only professional head coaching gig came in the infamous World Football League, where he piloted the Houston Texans in 1974. These Texans wore green and gold, not the “battle red”, “liberty white” and “deep steel blue” of the NFL Texans, and played in the Astrodome, as bad a football stadium as one could find.

The Oilers and Astros both played to scores of empty seats in the Astrodome in those days, so you have to figure the Texans before family, friends and a few others who were totally clueless. Indeed they did, and before the season was over, the Texans moved to Shreveport and became the Shreveport Steamer. The Steamer became Louisiana’s second professional sports team at the time, only days before the Jazz began their maiden NBA season in the Big Easy.

Dallas hasn’t been to the Super Bowl since 1995, when Switzer’s Cowboys defeated Bill Cowher’s Steelers. In fact, Dallas hasn’t even played for an NFC championship since winning Super Bowl XXX. Too bad Jim Garrett, by all accounts a good guy, didn’t get to see his son reach the big game with the 2016 Cowboys, who went 13-3 in the regular season but choked in the playoffs vs. Green Bay.

Will the passing of his father spur Jason Garrett on to bigger and better things in 2018? It will be difficult given the reigning Super Bowl champion resides in the same division.¬† Dallas should be better than the Giants and Redskins, but to say it will surpass the Eagles is a stretch no matter whom Philadelphia starts at quarterback. Even Ezekiel Elliott for 16 games isn’t going to make all the difference.

======================

Yu Darvish signed with the Cubs. I’m shocked…NOT. Like the Brewers or the Twins had a chance against the Evil Empire junior grade. That groan you just heard came from Milwaukee and St. Louis, and smaller ones emanating from Los Angeles and Washington.

Manchester City beat Leicester City 5-1 to keep its stranglehold atop the Premier League. It was 1-1 at halftime, but Pep Guardiola’s club is simply too good. It would be fascinating to see this year’s City team play some of Sir Alex Ferguson’s best Manchester United clubs.

Elsewhere in the Prem, Tottenham beat Arsenal 1-0, Swansea continued its climb out of the drop zone by beating Burnley in Wales, Everton easily dispatched Crystal Palace, while Stoke and Brighton drew.

Tomorrow morning (noon in Britain) finds Bournemouth traveling to Huddersfield as the latter tries to battle its way out of the drop zone. The Cherries looked like they would have to battle the drop earlier in the year, but a 3-0 victory at Chelsea followed by a home decision over Stoke has pushed Eddie Howe’s club into the top half. It has to be troubling to Sunderland, Hull City, Middlesbrough, Aston Villa, Norwich City and the current stragglers in the Prem like West Bromwich Albion and Stoke that a club which plays in an 11,464-seat stadium can be in the top half of the league. Howe should be coaching an international team for those efforts.

Bournemouth’s Vitality Stadium (Dean Court) is the Cameron Indoor Stadium of the Premier League. Manchester United, Arsenal and Tottenham may have the large, flashy stadiums, but Bournemouth has the atmosphere and the fans right on top, much the way Duke has it over North Carolina, Louisville, Syracuse and Virginia in ACC basketball.

In fact, all three matches tomorrow favor the away side. After Bournemouth-Huddersfield, it’s Manchester United at Newcastle and Liverpool at Southampton.

The Olympics are on. My mother is glued to the TV set. YAWN.

At least 58 college basketball games, give or take a few, are on today. That’s 58 more, give or take a few, than I’m watching.

Kinda bored. But it beats being out at an event which might cause trouble.

Dog days of February

Boredom has set in for your intrepid blogger.

Almost nothing has gone on for me since I returned from Kansas City Monday. I was dead tired most of Monday, falling asleep every 2-3 hours. How I got my work done for Tuesday is beyond me. But it got done. So did my work for Wednesday.

Thursday, I thought about going to Salina. But I woke up at 8:30, then got drowsy again watching The Price Is Right, and then I said no thanks, Salina will be there. I hated to go another week without seeing Lorena and a few others at Buffalo Wild Wings, but I will make sure I go next week before I go to Kansas City.

This morning marked the first time I left the house since returning from Missouri. I had an appointment with Crista, and also did some things in Hays I needed to get done, like pick up medicine and check my post office box. The session with Crista went well, and I went straight home.

I discovered this afternoon the McDonald’s in Russell was closed. It has been a weird week here, with two days of school canceled due to illness. The United States has been hit by an influenza epidemic this fall and winter, and Kansas and Missouri happen to be the states which haven been hardest hit. Russell called off school Wednesday, went back yesterday, but called it off again today, postponing tonight’s basketball game vs. Beloit.

Ironically, Beloit had to close school Tuesday in order to sanitzie its facilites.

Norton was closed the last two days. Peggy isn’t sick, thank God. The Bluejays had to call off their scheduled basketball games at Plainville tonight, as well as cancel a wrestling dual, which isn’t a big deal, since the state qualfiying tournaments are next Friday and Saturday.

Still, I’m not missing going out to events. It’s good for my mental health. And the mental health of the athletes, coaches and fans.

With the NFL season over and Major League Baseball still more than a month away, it is nothing but basketball for sports on telelvision, save for the Winter Olympics the rest of February and an occasional NHL game.

I can’t stand the NBA, period. College basketball is irrelevant until March 13, the night of the first NCAA tournament games. I haven’t watched the Olympics since 1988, and I’m not going to start again. The NHL? If Gary Betttman wasn’t so gaga over every team south of 37 degrees latitutde, I could get more into it. Also, NBC would rather show the Rangers, even though they stink, than the Maple Leafs.

I’m doing my best not to eat meat on Fridays since Lent is starting Wednesday. I have made it through the last two Fridays, and it would have been three had I not eaten at Pizza Hut with Peggy in Norton. Not blaming her at all.

Last Friday, I managed to avoid the meat, eating only cheese curds at Buffalo Wild Wings and then a cheese pizza with mushrooms and black olives at Minsky’s. Problem was, I went over eight hours between eating, and by time Lindsay took my order, I was feeling pretty bad. Not recommending that.

Speaking of Kansas City, next Friday is Dawn’s last visit to Buffalo Wild Wings. Time marches on. I just hope I don’t lose contact with her like I have with too many. Thankfully, Peggy and Caitlyn haven’t left my life, and I still have contact with Lisa.

I might eat a cheeseburger for breakfast. I doubled up on eggs today. I can decide when I wake up. Of course, if I skip breakfast, it’s moot.

Posting for the sake of posting

I was so dead tired yesterday after driving back to Russell. I kept falling asleep.

It’s been more than 48 hours since Super Bowl LII ended, and I still am in disbelief the Eagles won. I’m glad they did. I have had it up to here with the Patriots winning so much. If Belchick and Brady weren’t such egotistical jerks, it wouldn’t be so bad. But because Belichick is anti-social and Brady is arrogant, it makes it easy to dislike that team.

Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels was all set to be the head coach of the Colts, but this evening, he reneged and decided to stay with Belichick and Brady. McDaniels was a colossal failure during a brief stint as Broncos head coach in 2009 and most of 2010. He alienated just about everyone within Denver’s organization, and nobody was sad to see him go. Maybe Indianapolis dodged a bullet.

I really don’t have anything else to add. My title for this post pretty much sums it up. Time to get some sleep. I should have been in bed two hours ago, honestly.

 

Super Sunday–at least in two out of 197 countries

Super Bowl LII is now a little under two hours away.

I am still in Kansas City, but no way in hell am I watching at an establishment. I went to Buffalo Wild Wings last year and it was a zoo. Amazingly, I played trivia throughout and did not fail to answer a question.

Today, I’m sitting in room 229 of the TownePlace Suites near KCI, blogging away and getting ready to leave tomorrow morning. I’ll get some work done and munch on the rest of my Outback meal. I devoured the large bone-in ribeye earlier, and I still have some coconut shrimp left, plus a couple of QuikTrip pretzel dogs, which are divine. Too bad they aren’t around all the time. I’ll be in bed pretty early I think.

It snowed between 11 and noon today. There was a two-car accident on Interstate 29 south near 112th Street, one mile south of the airport. I made sure I didn’t go over 45 MPH (70 km/h) on I-29, and much, much less than that on Barry Road. Made it back safely.

Today is the equivalent of a national holiday. It’s highly unlikely there will be much activity anywhere in Kansas City after 5:00

The Super Bowl  is the biggest single day sporting event in the United States and Canada, yes.

But the biggest sporting event on earth? Nope. Not even close.

More sporting fans watch the FIFA World Cup every four years than anything else. Football, the kind played with the round ball, is the world’s most popular sport, and it is one understood by people in every nation, save for a few ignoramuses in the United States and Canada who refuse to acknowledge association football (soccer) as a major sport alongside gridiron football, baseball, basketball and hockey.

I’m betting the ratings for the Super Bowl in the United Kingdom will be no more than one-tenth of what they were for today’s Premier League match between Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur. Sure, the Super Bowl kicks off at 11:30 p.m. (2330) British Standard Time, but I would venture to say there are many more people who would stay up at that hour to watch Liverpool-Tottenham than the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles.

The NFL has grown by leaps and bounds since the first Super Bowl in January 1967, but seriously, how many countries can realistically play gridiron football outside of the U.S. and Canada? Most African residents probably have no idea what American football entails, and certainly, most nations can’t afford it. Shoot, many in Africa are living on less per year than what it takes to outfit someone to play high school varsity football, which is north of $1,000 when you consider a helmet ($350), shoulder pads ($300), shoes ($200) and the other necessities.

Association football is easy. All you need is a ball, two goals or other objects to serve as such, and a field. Basketball is almost the same, with nets and rims instead of goals. Baseball is a little more price, but the balls are much cheaper than gridiron footballs, and one metal bat is enough for everyone to use.

The problem with ice hockey? It’s impossible in many areas of the world due to the climate. Heck, outdoor rinks are impractical in Kansas because it often gets above freezing for long periods during the winter. And certainly nobody would ever dream of outdoor hockey in Louisiana.

I have the sense of dread the Patriots are going to win. Again. If Brady wasn’t a giant douche and crybaby, and Belichick was not so angry all the time, maybe we could celebrate their success. But Belichick is a summa cum laude graduate of the school of anti-social behavior, and Brady never misses an opportunity to tell us he’s better than you and me, so I won’t hold my breath.

All I know is that by 2100 tonight, it will all be over until September 6.

Better (44 years) late than never

The Professional Football Hall of Fame has righted a wrong which has existed for more than 40 years.

Jerry Kramer, the legendary right guard on the Green Bay Packer teams coached by Vince Lombardi, is finally earning his bronze bust in Canton.

WHAT TOOK THE HALL OF FAME SO LONG?

Kramer was one of the best guards who has ever played the game, past or present. He and Fuzzy Thurston led the Green Bay sweep, the single most feared offensive play of the 1960s. There are few playbook diagrams in football lore which are more recognizable than the sweep. When you say sweep in a football contest, Lombardi’s Packers should always come up first.

Anyone who grew up watching football in that era, who has caught up by watching NFL Films like I have, can picture Kramer (#64) and Thurston (#63) leading Paul Hornung and Jim Taylor around the flanks of some of the NFL’s best defensive units assembled, including Minnesota’s Purple People Eaters, the Rams’ Fearsome Foursome, the Cowboys’ Doomsday, and some defenses without names but led by Hall of Famers, like those of the Colts (Gino Marchetti and Art Donovan), Lions (Joe Schmidt), Bears (Dick Butkus) and Giants (Sam Huff).

How powerful was the Green Bay sweep? Tom Landry, the genius who led the Cowboys for 29 seasons (1960-88), developed the Flex defense to combat it. In that alignment, the left end and the right tackle–in the Cowboys’ case, Bob Lilly–off the line of scrimmage in order to better ready the play instead of getting caught in the mess that is the line of scrimmage. Lilly ran the Flex to perfection and was a first ballot Hall of Famer in 1980. Lilly, in my opinion, is the greatest defensive tackle to ever play the game. He is the sine qua non for the position, now and until the end of time–or at least the end of my time on earh.

Kramer was drafted by Lombardi’s predecessor, Scooter McLean, in the fourth round of the 1958 draft out of Idaho. Kramer grew up in Sandpoint in the Idaho panhandle, and with the University of Idaho right there in Moscow, it made sense.

When Lombardi arrived from the Giants in 1959, he installed Kramer at right guard, where he stood between two men who have already earned their busts in Canton, center Jim Ringo and right tackle Forrest Gregg. The Packers went 7-5 in 1959, their first winning season since 1946, and in 1960, Green Bay won the Western Division at 8-4, spurred by Hornung’s then-NFL record 176 points–in 12 games–a record which stood until LaDanian Tomlinson broke it during a 16-game schedule in 2006.

The 1960 Packers lost a thrilling 17-13 decision to the Eagles in the NFL championship game in Philadelphia, with Jim Taylor tackled inside the Eagles’ 10 on the game’s final play by Chuck Bednarik, who played every snap of the game at center and linebacker. Bednarik was a no doubt first ballot Hall of Famer in 1968.

In 1961, the Packers won their first NFL championship since 1944, destroying the Giants of Huff and Y.A. Tittle 37-0 in the title game at what was then known as City Stadium (renamed Lambeau Field in 1965). As good as the 1961 Packers were, going 11-3, the 1962 Packers were even better.

How good was Lombardi’s fourth squad? So good to be considered one of the greatest teams ever to take the field in the NFL>

Green Bay outscored its opponents 415-148 in 1962. It destroyed the Eagles 49-0 in Philadelphia, holding ridiculous advantages in total yardage (628 to 54) and first downs (37 to 3). Jim Taylor won the NFL rushing championship and was named the Associated Press’ most valuable player. It marked the only time during the nine-year career of Jim Brown (1957-65) that he did not lead the league in rushing.

The Packers’ lone defeat was a 26-14 setback in Detroit on Thanksgiving, a loss which may have steeled Green Bay’s resolve for the stretch drive.

In the championship game, the Packers and Giants met again, this time in Yankee Stadium. The temperature at kickoff was 18 degrees Fahrenheit (minus-8 Celsius), and the winds were gusting as high as 45 miles per hour (70 kilometers per hour), dropping the wind chill to minus-18 (minus-28 Celsius). Some Packers insisted the conditions in the Bronx that day were more brutal than a certain game in Green Bay five years later, one which will come up later in this post.

The star of the NFL championship game? Jerry Kramer. Not only did Kramer and his line mates help Taylor gain 85 yards against the rugged Giants defense, but #64 kicked three field goals, which were the difference in the 16-7 Packer victory. Kramer was pressed into emergency duty at kicker after Hornung was unable to kick due to leg injuries.

Hornung was suspended for the 1963 season after it was discovered he and two Lions, Alex Karras and John Gordy, were betting on NFL games. The Packers went 11-2-1, but the two losses were to the Bears, who went on to defeat the Giants for the NFL championship.

Kramer was a first team All-Pro in 1963, the third time in four years he earned the honor. He only missed out in 1961 due to missing six games with an ankle injury which required surgery. Gregg moved over from right tackle to right guard and earned All-Pro honors in Kramer’s stead.

It got worse for the Packers, and specifically Kramer, in 1964. While Hornung returned to the fold, Green Bay slumped to 8-5-1, and Kramer missed all but two games with severe internal injuries which required a colostomy. The injuries were, in fact, life-threatening, and some believed Kramer had passed away due to erroneous radio reports which had him confused with an ex-Packer.

Kramer and the Pack were back in 1965, defeating the Colts in an epic overtime playoff to determine the Western Division champion. Green Bay defeated Cleveland 23-12 at a muddy Lambeau Field for the NFL championship, with the iconic play of the game coming when Kramer and Thurson escorted Hornung on the sweep to the game’s final touchdown. It turned out to be Jim Brown’s last football game; he retired in July 1966 to pursue a movie career in a contract dispute with Browns owner Art Modell.

(Brown knew Modell was a snake oil salesman from the start. Too bad most in Cleveland didn’t learn that until 1995 when Modell took the Browns to Baltimore.)

Kramer was a first team All-Pro again in 1966, helping Green Bay go 12-2 and win its fourth NFL championship, a stirring 34-27 win over the Cowboys in the Cotton Bowl. The Packers clinched the victory on the game’s final play, when future Hall of Fame linebacker Dave Robinson pressured Don Meredith into throwing a wounded duck which was intercepted in the back of the end zone by Tom Brown.

The victory gave the Packers the privilege of playing in the first AFL-NFL World Championship Game, where they would meet the Kansas City Chiefs. The buildup to the game was so intense that Lombardi reportedly drove his team harder than he ever had prior to a game. The other NFL owners, led by Modell, Wellington Mara and Carroll Rosenbloom, kept wiring Lombardi messages how important it was that the established league dominate their upstart counterparts, even though the AFL-NFL merger had been hammered out by Tex Schramm, Lamar Hunt and Rozelle in June 1966.

The Packers’ second touchdown was on a sweep, with Taylor following Kramer and Thurston to paydirt. The Chiefs were within 14-10 at halftime, but the Packers dominated the final 30 minutes and went on to win 35-10.

The 1967 Packers struggled during the regular season, but their 9-4-1 record was enough to win the weak Central Division over the Lions, Bears and Vikings. In the Western Conference championship game, Green Bay yielded an early touchdown to the Rams, but rolled from there, winning 28-7 at Milwaukee against a team which it lost to two weeks earlier in Los Angeles.

The Cowboys destroyed the Browns to win the Eastern Conference, setting up a rematch for the NFL championship, this time in Green Bay.

On the morning of New Year’s Eve, the Packers, Cowboys and more than 62,000 other residents of Green Bay awoke to a Wisconsin version of Siberia.

In a span of 18 hours, the mercury had plunged from 25 degrees Fahrenheit (minus-4 Celsius) to minus-16 Fahrenheit (minus-27 Celsius). The wind was howling out of the northwest at 25-30 miles per hour (40-48 kilometers per hour), creating a wind chill of minus-36 Fahrenheit (minus-38 Celsius).

Unlike baseball, football is played in all kinds of weather, so the game kicked off as scheduled at 1:05 p.m. Central. By then, the mercury had risen all the way to minus-13 (minus-27).

The Cowboys looked like they would be blown out of Green Bay in the first 17 minutes, falling behind 14-0. However, the Packers got sloppy, allowing Dallas to narrow the deficit to 14-10 by halftime.

Through the first 25 minutes of the second half, the 1967 Packers bore a striking resemblance to the teams which would represent Green Bay for the next 24 seasons: bumbling and ineffective. The Cowboys had only one big play in that time, but it went for a touchdown on a 50-yard halfback option pass from Dan Reeves to Lance Rentzel.

With just under five minutes left, Green Bay took over at its own 32-yard line following a punt.

What followed was one of the most memorable drives in NFL history.

The Packers found they could move the ball with short passes in front of the Dallas secondary, which was playing especially deep, fearing a big pass from Starr to clutch receiver Boyd Dowler, who caught a long touchdown pass in the second quarter. Starr took full advantage, using two running backs to devastating effect.

The running backs were not Hornung, who retired after being selected in the 1967 expansion draft by the Saints, and Taylor, a Louisiana native who was traded to the Saints that summer. Instead, it was Donny Anderson, the Packers’ first round draft choice in 1966, and Chuck Mercein, whom Lombardi claimed off the scrap heap after he was waived by Giants coach Allie Sherman.

A 19-yard pass from Starr to Mercein brought the ball into the red zone, and on the next play, Mercein almost scored when he took a trap to the Cowboy 1. The play, called 65 Give, saw left guard Gale Gillingham, who replaced Thurston in the starting lineup in 1967, pull right, and Lilly followed him instead of staying home. With left tackle Bob Skoronski sealing off Cowboy end George Andrie, who scored Dallas’ first touchdown when he returned a Starr fumble 9 yards, Mercein had daylight. Only a tackle by Cowboy cornerback Mike Johnson saved the touchdown.

Johnson’s tackle almost saved the championship for Dallas.

On first and second down, Starr handed off to Anderson, but he slipped on the icy field and never reached the goal line.

The field was rock solid frozen due to a miscalculation by Lombardi and stadium grounds crew. The night before the game, a tarpaulin was placed on the field, and a heating grid installed underneath Lambeau Field for $80,000 ($591,000 in 2017 dollars) would be able to melt any ice and keep the field soft.

Instead, the heating element instead created condensation on the tarp, which froze immediately when removed due to the bitter cold. The heating element was never designed to work in temperatures below 20 degrees (minus-7), and instead of keeping the field in playable condition, it made things worse.

Lambeau Field’s gridiron was now as hard and slick as a supermarket parking lot following an ice storm. Traction was next to nothing. The Cowboys, who didn’t think it would be that cold, did not have sneakers, and not surprisingly, they had a devil of a time staying upright all game. The Packers didn’t fare much better, but at least they had footwear for the occasion.

With 16 seconds to play, the Packers called their last timeout prior to third down. Green Bay could have opted to send in kicker Don Chandler for an 8-yard field goal (the goalposts were on the goal line from 1933 through 1973) and play overtime, or try to win the game right there, knowing that if the Cowboys held, the Packers would not have time to line up and run another play, or get the field goal team on the field, unless they wanted to play with 10 men and let Kramer kick the field goal.

Starr suggested to Lombardi that they run a wedge play, which normally would call for the ball to be handed off to the fullback, in this case, Mercein. However, Starr decided on the sideline with Lombardi to keep the ball himself, thinking he could get good enough footing at the south goal line of the stadium to follow Kramer and center Ken Bowman into the end zone.

Kramer felt he could wedge the Cowboys’ other defensive tackle, Jethro Pugh, whom had a higher center of gravity than Lilly, who had his way with Gillingham most of the day, save for the run by Mercein which got the ball to the 1.

Lombardi may have been portrayed as an autocrat, but in reality, he was very open to suggestions by his players and gave Starr the freedom to call audibles and make the blocking calls at the line for Kramer, Gregg and the rest.

The ex-Block of Granite from Fordham told Starr to “run the play and get the hell out of there”. Lombardi did not want to take his chances in overtime, remembering well what happened in the 1958 NFL championship game, when he was an assistant for the Giants and Johnny Unitas led the Colts to the winning touchdown on a run by Alan Ameche.

Starr brought in the play, 31 Wedge, to the huddle. Mercein thought he would get the ball, but when Bowman snapped it to Kramer, Bart began to move forward.

Indeed, Kramer found enough of an opening to push back Pugh, and Starr followed him and Bowman into the end zone.

Green Bay 21, Dallas 17. The Packers had another NFL championship, and two weeks later, they routed the Raiders 33-14 in Super Bowl II at Miami’s Orange Bowl to cement Lombardi’s fifth championship in seven seasons. Green Bay’s 1965, ’66 and ’67 teams are the last to win three consecutive NFL championships.

What nobody knew was one more lasting legacy was in the works.

Throughout the season, Kramer chronicled the season in a diary. Following Super Bowl II, he and sportswriter Dick Schaap turned the diary into a book, Instant Replay, which is one of the greatest tomes ever written by an athlete. The title Instant Replay was directly related to the replays of the final play of the Ice Bowl which Lombardi watched with CBS broadcaster Tom Brookshier in the Packers’ locker room following the game.

Kramer was a second team All-Pro in 1968, even though the Packers slumped to 6-7-1 under Phil Bengston. He retired after the 1968, joining a list of Lombardi-era Packers to hang it up. Gillingham would be the last of that group to call it a career, playing until 1976, by which time Starr was in his second season as Packers coach.

In 1974, Kramer first became eligible for the Hall of Fame. He was a finalist 11 times with the selection committee, but never got the requisite 80 percent approval to receive his gold jacket and bronze bust.

Lombardi was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1971, less than a year after his death due to colon cancer. Taylor was the first player from the great Packer teams to earn enshrinement in 1976. Since then, Starr, Hornung, Gregg, Ringo, Robinson, Willie Davis, Henry Jordan, Ray Nitschke, Willie Wood and Herb Adderley all earned induction, as did later Packer legends James Lofton, Reggie White and Brett Favre. I’m not saying Kramer should have come before all of them, but certainly it should have occurred long before 1988, his last year of eligibility on the main ballot.

Kramer must be rated one of the five best guards to ever play the game. If I had to select a 22-man all-time team, Kramer would be my starting right guard, with Patriots legend John Hannah at left guard. The rest of the line would be Anthony Munoz (Bengals, 1980-92) at left tackle, Gregg (Packers, 1957-69) at right tackle and Bednarik (Eagles, 1949-62) at center.

Hannah, who played for New England for 13 seasons (1973-85) but did not win a championship (the Pats made Super Bowl XX in Hannah’s final season and were crushed 46-10 by the Bears) and the Raiders’ Gene Upshaw are the only two I can think of who would be on Kramer’s plane. Hannah, in fact, would have my vote as the greatest Patriot of all time, even ahead of Thomas Edward Brady.

And no, Brady is not my starting quarterback. Not even on my roster. Give me Unitas, Montana, Peyton, Sammy Baugh, Bradshaw, Tarkenton, Jurgensen, Staubach and Graham. Heck, I’ll take Stabler, Dawson, Griese and Tittle before TB12.

Other guards in the Hall of Fame–Billy Shaw, Joe DeLamielleure, Randall McDaniel, Larry Little, Mike Munchak, Will Shields and Russ Grimm among them–were fine players, no doubt, and are worthy of their spots in Canton. But Kramer, Hannah and Upshaw were on another level, at least in my opinion.

Kramer is the oldest player being inducted this August, having turned 82 last month. Thankfully, he is alive to receive this honor, unlike Lombardi and Henry Jordan, who were honored posthumously.

Three of this year’s inductees are players I really didn’t like: Ray Lewis, Randy Moss and Terrell Owens. But I knew they would be getting in eventually, so there’s no use to complain. Brian Dawkins and Brian Urlacher were a little surprising to me getting in on such a loaded ballot, but they are deserving.

Robert Brazile, a standout linebacker for Bum Phillips’ Oilers, joins Kramer as a seniors inductee. Phillips’ defense was one of the greatest of the 1970s, if not all time, as evidenced by three Hall of Famers: Brazile, end Elvin Bethea and nose tackle Curley Culp. The problem was, the Oilers were in the same division as the Steelers, whose Steel Curtain had Joe Greene, Jack Ham, Jack Lambert and Mel Blount.

Bobby Beathard, the architect of the Redskins’ Super Bowl XVII and XXII championship teams, was inducted as a contributor. Fitting, since coach Joe Gibbs is already in the Hall, and standouts Grimm, Art Monk, John Riggins and Darrell Green were inducted previously. Dexter Manley might have made it if not for drug issues, and Dave Butz and Joe Jacoby should be in.

Many years ago, NFL Network did a show on the 10 best players not in the Hall of Fame. Kramer was #1, Stabler was #2. That needs to be updated, thankfully.

Super Bowl LII starts in just over six hours. I am soooooo excited….so excited I would rather get a root canal. Without anesthesia. This looks like a blowout, but the Patriots could pull it out late and piss everyone off like they did against the Seahawks and Falcons. Either way, if New England wins, the Brady and Belichick butt sniffers will once again be telling us how they are the greatest who ever lived and you’re stupid if you don’t believe that.

ENOUGH. Actually, it was enough the LAST TIME the Patriots played the Eagles in the Super Bowl, and that was in February 2005.