Author Archives: David

Red Sunday assured

It will indeed be Red Sunday in Miami Gardens in two weeks.

The Chiefs defeated the Titans 35-24 for the AFC Championship, and the 49ers easily ousted the Packers 37-20 for the NFC Championship to set up Super Bowl LIV.

Kansas City is in the Super Bowl for the first time in 50 years, when Hank Stram’s club, led by Hall of Famers Len Dawson, Buck Buchanan, Bobby Bell, Willie Lanier, Emmitt Thomas and Johnny Robinson, defeated Bud Grant’s Vikings, who were in their five-year period without Francis Asbury Tarkenton. The 23-7 final at Tulane Stadium was considered an upset since Minnesota was favored by 13 to 14 points, but the Chiefs (or Raiders, whom Kansas City defeated in the last AFL Championship game) were far superior to the Jets club which defeated the Colts in Super Bowl III. Joe Namath’s guarantee was an upset, because that Baltimore team, even without Johnny Unitas, was great. Looking back, the 1969 Vikings weren’t.

Minnesota went 12-2, yes, but lost to the Giants and Falcons, both of whom went 6-8, and Joe Kapp was the worst quarterback to start any of the first four Super Bowls, and probably one of the ten worst ever. The Vikings had no outside running threat, their receivers were nowhere near as good as the Chiefs’ Otis Taylor, and their offensive line, which featured future Hall of Famers Mick Tinglehoff and Ron Yary, had never faced a defensive line as large as Kansas City’s. Viking losses in divisional playoff games to the 49ers in 1970 and the Cowboys in 1971 proved the offense didn’t work without Tarkenton. Tarkenton came back from New York in 1972, and while the Vikings made three more Super Bowls, they were overwhelmed each time.

The Chiefs’ other Super Bowl appearance was in the first one, which was known at the time as the AFL-NFL World Championship game. The Chiefs hung with Lombardi’s Packers for a half, but self-destructed after the break, and Green Bay went on to win 35-10 in Los Angeles. Packer wideout Max McGee became the Super Bowl’s first unlikely hero with seven receptions for 143 yards and two touchdowns.

San Francisco will be making its seventh Super Bowl appearance. The 49ers’ only Super Bowl loss was in their most recent trip, a 34-31 loss to the Ravens in New Orleans where John Harbaugh defeated younger brother Jim. The former is still in Baltimore; the latter is coaching his college alma mater in Ann Arbor. Few outside Maryland and the Bay Area remember much about the game itself, but instead the power outage at the Superdome during the third quarter.

The 49ers’ two previous trips to South Florida for the Super Bowl were quite possibly the best and worst Super Bowls ever.

The worst was in January 1995, when the 49ers mauled the Chargers 49-26 in Super Bowl XXIX, the only Super Bowl to match two teams from the same state. The 49ers were favored by anywhere from 17 to 20 points, and it quickly became apparent they would cover that spread and then some. Two California teams playing in South Florida and a horrible match drove ticket prices way down. The Chargers’ starting quarterback, Stan Humphries, makes my list with Kapp for the Super Bowl’s worst.

Humprhies has a Super Bowl ring as the backup for the 1991 Redskins. Fortunately for Joe Gibbs, Mark Rypien stayed healthy throughout that season and he never needed Humphries in an important situation. Then again, the 1991 Redskins might have won Super Bowl XXVI if Gibbs played quarterback himself. That team was loaded.

The other 49ers Super Bowl in South Florida, Super Bowl XXIII vs. the Bengals, was one for the ages, and in my opinion, the best I’ve witnessed.

San Francisco fell to 6-5 in mid-November following back-to-back losses to the Cardinals and Raiders. Steve Young pulled out a game vs. the Vikings with a 49-yard touchdown run in the game’s final minute in one of the best plays I’ve seen live, but vs. the Cardinals (in their first season in Arizona), San Francisco blew a 23-0 lead and lost 24-23, while the 49ers were scuttled 9-3 at home by the Raiders in Mike Shanahan’s biggest victory as coach of the Silver and Black.

With a Monday Night Football game vs. defending Super Bowl champion Washington, Bill Walsh named a healthy Montana as his starter.

The 49ers were off and running. They routed the Redskins 37-21, then won their next three, including a 30-17 victory over the Saints at Candlestick to clinch the NFC West. In the playoffs, San Francisco earned revenge for a 1987 playoff loss to the Vikings with a 34-9 rout before going to Chicago and crushing the Bears 28-3 despite a wind chill of minus-10 Fahrenheit (minus-22 Celsius).

San Francisco was considered an underdog to the Cinderella team of 1988, the Cincinnati Bengals.

The Bengals were 4-11 in 1987, and Sam Wyche (who passed away earlier this month; R.I.P,, Sam) had to win or else in 1988 to keep his job. Cincinnati needed a goal-line stand on opening day to outlast the Cardinals 21-14, but it spurred a 6-0 start and a 12-4 regular season to win the Bengals’ first AFC Central championship since 1981, the year they went to Super Bowl XVI and lost to the Bengals in Detroit.

Cincinnati was powered by 1988 MVP Boomer Esiason, and a powerful running back combination of James Brooks and Elbert “Ickey” Woods, who introduced the “Ickey Shuffle” to the football world. Woods was penalized when he did his dance in the end zone, so he was relegated to doing so on the sideline.

Super Bowl XXIII was the first in Miami in 10 years, and the first at Joe Robbie Stadium (now Hard Rock Stadium), which opened in August 1987. Billy Joel performed a fantastic rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner (he repeated it for Super Bowl XLI in the same stadium), but soon thereafter, the sunny skies over South Florida darkened.

Two serious injuries occurred in the first quarter, with 49ers offensive tackle Steve Wallace and Bengals nose tackle Tim Krumrie taken off the field on carts. Krumrie broke a bone in his left leg, an injury so serious an air cast had to be placed over the leg to stabilize it.

The first half produced little offense, with each team kicking a field goal. 49ers kicker Mike Cofer blew a 19-yard chip shot in the second quarter, and at halftime, it was 3-3, the first halftime tie in the Super Bowl.

The Bengals scored the game’s first touchdown late in the third quarter when Stanford Jennings returned a kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown, putting Cincinnati ahead 13-6. San Francisco answered on a Joe Montana to Jerry Rice touchdown 57 seconds into the fourth quarter to forge the game’s third tie.

Rice ended the night with 10 receptions for 215 yards, both Super Bowl records, and easily won the game’s MVP award.

Jim Breech’s 40-yard field goal with 3:20 to go put the Bengals up 16-13. When the 49ers were pinned at their own 8-yard line following a penalty on the ensuing kickoff, hearts across northern California sank, while those in southern Ohio, northern Kentucky and southeastern Indiana rose. It looked like Cinderella’s glass slipper would not shatter. It looked like the team with the pumpkin-colored helmets would not turn into pumpkins themselves.

Wyche knew all too well no game was over as long as #16 was in charge for the 49ers. After all, Wyche was the 49ers’ quarterbacks coach when they won Super Bowl XVI seven years prior.

How cool was Joe Montana? As the 49ers huddled in the east end zone of the stadium prior to the first play of the drive, Montana pointed out to his teammates that actor John Candy was being shown on the video board.

Montana Magic was never more apparent than the evening of 22 January 1989 in Miami Gardens, Florida.

San Francisco drove 872 yards on 10 plays, leaving it with third and goal from the Cincinnati 10. With the Bengals focused on Rice, and rightly so, Montana spotted his other top wideout, John Taylor, on a post pattern over the middle. Taylor caught the ball in stride in the end zone with 34 seconds left.

San Francisco 20, Cincinnati 16. Bill Walsh announced his retirement in the locker room after the game, and his successor, George Seifert, led the 49ers to a most dominant 14-2 season in 1989 and a 55-10 destruction of the Broncos in Super Bowl XXIV.

The Chiefs and 49ers are infrequent foes, seeing they play in opposite conferences. They don’t even play much in the exhibition season.

They first played in 1971, with Kansas City winning 26-17 at Candlestick on Monday Night Football. The Chiefs did not return to Candlestick until 1985, and they did not defeat the 49ers again until 1994, when the Montana-led Chiefs defeated the Young-led 49ers 24-17 at Arrowhead. In between, San Francisco won in 1975 and ’82 at Kansas City, and again in 1985 and ’91 at Candlestick.

Their last game was in 2018 at Arrowhead, the game where 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was lost for the season with a serious knee injury. Kansas City won 38-28. San Francisco went 4-12, giving it the #2 overall pick in the draft, which it used to take Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa, who will win Rookie of the Year or be a close second.

This will not be the first time the championship of a North American professional sports league will be determined by teams from Kansas City and San Francisco.

In the 2014 World Series, the Giants defeated the Royals in seven games. The teams split the first two games in Kansas City, then the Royals won the third at San Francisco. The Giants rallied to win the next two at AT&T Park (now Oracle park), but Yordano Ventura pitched a gem in game six at Kauffman to take the series to the limit.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy called on ace Madison Bumgarner, the starter and winner in games one and five, to relieve former Royal Jeremy Affeldt to begin the fifth with San Francisco ahead 3-2.

Bumgarner totally shut down the Royals until there were two out in the ninth. Alex Gordon singled and went to third when left fielder Gregor Blanco overran the ball. It looked like Gordon would be able to score, but third base coach Mike Jirschele held up Gordon.

Salvador Perez then popped up to Pablo Sandoval in foul ground. Sandoval squeezed the final out, giving San Francisco its third World Series title in five seasons. Of course, the Royals redeemed themselves one year later, with a lot of help from the bumbling Mets.

Let the hype begin.

Vegas' deadline, David Glass' two acts, and something else ranch doesn't go with

CORRECTION from the last post: the next FOUR College Football Playoff national championship game sites have been named. It will be Miami, Indianapolis, Los Angeles and Houston, in that order, from January 2021-24.

The 2025 and 2026 games will probably go to two of these three sites: Las Vegas, Minneapolis and Detroit. I blacked out earlier and forgot all about the Raiders’ stadium in Nevada (named Allegiant Stadium), which opens either later this year or in 2021. I’ll take a guess and say 2025 goes to Minneapolis since the NFL will want to host Super Bowl LIX in Las Vegas, and 2026 heads to Nevada.

The construction schedule in Vegas is tighter than a pair of skinny jeans. If the stadium cannot be completed on time for the Raiders, they’re screwed. They have the option to play in Oakland for 2020, but would (a) fans attend and (b) the Athletics acquiesce? It may force the Raiders to become tenants in Santa Clara with the 49ers, or else play as many games as possible on the road early in the season.

The NFL could conceivably schedule the Raiders’ first eight games on the road, a game in London or Mexico City, and their bye week within the first 10 weeks, leaving them to play weeks 11-17 in Vegas. It would be highly unusual, but what else can you do? If the NFL were to schedule it that way and the stadium were ready in September, the game sites with the AFC West teams could be flip-flopped.

The College Football Playoff committee says it will let northern cities without climate-controlled stadiums bid, but how many fans would attend if the game were in New Jersey, which would entail the exorbitant costs of traveling to and from New York? Foxborough, where it’s a nightmare to get to and from the stadium, no matter if you’re flying into Boston or Providence? Seattle? Better hope Oregon or Washington has a magical season like LSU just completed, and I can imagine how many residents of the Pacific Northwest would react to legions of invaders from Alabama, South Carolina or elsewhere in the south.

One city which cannot host: Chicago. Soldier Field’s capacity falls a little more than 3,000 seats short of the minimum of 65,000. However, the CFP committee would be wise to grant a waiver if the nation’s third-largest city wants the game.

As the Chiefs prepare for what they hope will be their biggest victory since 11 January 1970, there was some sad news out of the Truman Sports Complex.

Former Royals owner David Glass passed away last week at 84 due to complications from pneumonia. This came only two months after the sale of the Royals from Glass to John Sherman was approved by the other 29 MLB owners.

Glass was named the Royals’ CEO at the end of the 1993 season, a little less than three months following the death of founder Ewing Kauffman. Glass was the representative of the Kauffman trust which owned the team until he bought the majority stake before the 2000 season.

During the 1994 Major League Baseball players’ strike, Glass was one of the hardest of the hard-liners, demanding a salary cap and pleading poverty, claiming small-market Kansas City could not compete with the Yankees, Red Sox and the other big-market teams. Glass’ biggest allies were the White Sox’ Jerry Reinsdorf and the Brewers’ Bud Selig, who had been acting Commissioner since the ouster of Fay Vincent in September 1992. Selig got the full-time gig in 1998.

While Orioles owner Peter Angelos refused to use replacement players during 1995 spring training, Glass endorsed the idea wholeheartedly. Thankfully for Glass, future Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor forced the owners to allow the union players back to work before any regular season games were played with scrubs.

Glass, who was once the CEO of Walmart (then known as Wal-Mart), ran the Royals like the discount giant, slashing salaries to the bone in order to pocket large profits from revenue sharing and MLB television rights.

To be blunt, Glass was probably the most hated man in Kansas City for the first decade of the millennium.

The Royals lost 100 or more games four times in five seasons between 2002-06, bottoming out with a 56-106 disaster in 2005. Somehow, Glass and a dying Lamar Hunt convinced Jackson County, Missouri voters to approve almost $500 million in improvements to Kauffman and Arrowhead Stadiums in April 2006, although a proposed rolling roof was rejected. Hunt did not live to see the improvements to his baby; he died in December 2006.

In June 2006, Glass revoked the press credentials of two reporters who asked questions he deemed too critical. The Baseball Writers Association of America got involved, and Glass was forced to back down.

The questions were asked at Dayton Moore’s opening press conference as the Royals’ general manager.

Glass owed Moore a debt of gratitude, for if not for him, Glass would be as reviled now as he was then.

Moore took advantage of most of the high draft picks the team received for losing and turned them into future standouts Alex Gordon, Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer. Heavy investment in Latin American scouting yielded Salvador Perez, Kelvim Herrera and Yordano Ventura, and a trade with the Brewers sent Lorenzo Cain and Alcides Escobar to Kansas City for Zack Greinke, the 2009 Cy Young Award winner who wore out his welcome one year later.

Glass went from goat to hero in 2014 and 2015.

The 2014 Royals made the franchise’s first postseason appearance since winning the 1985 World Series, sweeping past the Angels and Orioles before losing Game 7 of the World Series to the Giants and Madison Bumgarner’s bionic arm.

One year later, the boastful Royals took advantage of the error-prone Mets and won the World Series in five games. Reportedly more than 800,000 people turned out for the victory celebration two days after the series ended, but I think it was closer to 400,000.

Even though the Royals lost over 100 games in 2018 and ’19, Glass’ legacy was secure. He brought Kansas City from the bottom of the barrel to the top of the mountain in 10 years, allowing Royals fans to look down their noses at title-starved fan bases in Baltimore, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dallas-Fort Worth, Denver, Detroit, Los Angeles, Milwaukee (UGH), Oakland, Pittsburgh and Queens. Houston and Washington were on that list until the past three seasons.

Glass was Richard Nixon in reverse. Had Nixon announced he would not run for re-election in 1972, he could have gone out a hero for negotiating peace with the Soviet Union, opening trade between the United States and China, and ending the quagmire in Vietnam. Instead, many remember Nixon for one thing only: Watergate.

I’d like to know why Old Chicago serves ranch with its calzones. I noticed this tonight at the Hays restaurant when two ladies ordered them. I was there to play some more trivia. It was packed, as were all other fine dining establishments in Hays.

I don’t like ranch, but people I care about very much (you know who you are) love it. However, it just doesn’t seem right with a dish loaded with pepperoni, sausage, mozzarella cheese and maybe vegetables.

I posted twice today to make up for the previous three days of non-posting. I won’t bore you any further.

Thawed and posting

Sorry I went three days without posting. Not much happened to write home about, save for my session Thursday with Crista. Let’s say I was not in the right frame of mind.

I was going to go to Hays tomorrow for an appointment, but I rescheduled due to icy roads. I’m there today, killing time at Taco Bell and playing trivia on my phone. I am going to need Sudafed when I get back to Russell because my nose is stuffed.

LSU’s football team visited the White House yesterday and was greeted by President Trump, who attended the championship game in New Orleans. Joe Burrow, the Heisman Trophy winning quarterback and future Cincinnati Bengal (barring something out of far left field), said it best that political affiliations didn’t matter; visiting the White House on invitation by the President of the United States is an honor.

Too bad too many athletes are turning this honor into a political statement. The Warriors famously refused to visit 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue after their 2017 and 2018 NBA championships because coach Steve Kerr and several players detest Trump. Disgraced ex-Red Sox manager Alex Cora did not accompany the Red Sox after their 2018 World Series championship. Several members of the Patriots and Eagles boycotted following their Super Bowl championships.

The ONLY good thing about the Raptors winning the NBA championship in 2019 is we didn’t have to hear about boycotting Trump. They were warmly received by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Candaian Parliament in Ottawa. Too bad Brian Mulroney was the last Canadian Prime Minister to host a Stanley Cup champion, the Canadiens in 1993.

These teams should be grateful to visit one of the most elegant residences on the planet. It wasn’t always the case.

The 1972 Miami Dolphins, the NFL’s only undefeated and untied champion, didn’t visit the White House until 2012, by which time Richard Nixon, who was in office at the time (and a huge Dolphins fan), had been dead for 18 years, and two of his successors (Ford and Reagan) had also passed on. Three members of the ’72 Dolphins–Jim Langer, Bob Kuechenberg and Manny Fernandez–did not attend because they disagreed vehemently with President Obama. Sadly, Langer and Kuechenberg are no longer with us.

The 1985 Bears were scheduled to visit the White House a few days after winning Super Bowl XX, but the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion less than 48 hours after the victory over the Patriots scuttled that.

Today, there was a short parade on LSU’s campus from the School of Music and Dramatic Arts down Victory Hill to the Pete Maravich Assembly Center, where more than 13,000 fanatics stuffed the “Deaf Dome” to greet Burrow, Coach O and all the rest. Two assistants were absent: Joe Brady, now the Panthers’ offensive coordinator, and Dave Aranda, now Baylor’s head coach.

LSU fans should gloat and enjoy it. It may be a long time before another championship.

It’s just coincidence, but LSU has sewn up all four of its national championships in New Orleans, a mere 75 to 80 miles east-southeast of LSU’s campus. If that trend continues, LSU’s next championship won’t come before 2027, since the sites through 2023 have been named, and the college football playoff folks want a large rotation of cities, not a few as used to be the case for the Super Bowl.

Miami , Los Angeles and Houston will host the next three championships. It figures Minneapolis, Detroit and Indianapolis will all host soon, since all those cities have retractable roofs. Charlotte, Nashville, Baltimore and Washington will all want to host, even though the weather is a roll of the dice compared to Florida and California.

A few people posted on social media that LSU clinched its 1958 national championship by defeating Clemson in the Sugar Bowl.

Not true.

However, it was true the Bayou Bengals clinched their championship in the Big Easy, defeating Tulane 62-0 in their regular season finale. LSU did not play the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and thus had to wait out the results from that weekend to find out if they would hold on to the top spot.

When the polls were released 1 December 1958, LSU held a comfortable margin over No. 2 Iowa. That was the final poll for the Associated Press and United Press International. The AP first conducted a post-bowl poll in 1965, went back to ending polling after the regular season in 1966 and ’67, then made the post-bowl poll permanent in 1968. The UPI did not switch to a post-bowl poll until 1974, a move roundly criticized.

The Hawkeyes were awarded the Football Writers Association of American (FWAA) national championship after they defeated California in the Rose Bowl, feeling LSU’s victory over Clemson was unimpressive.

Between 1960 and 1973, Minnesota (1960), Alabama (1964), Michigan State (1965), Texas (1970) and Alabama (1973) all lost their bowl game after finishing first in the UPI poll Minnesota and Alabama in 1964 were also first in the final AP poll. The bowl losses opened the door for Alabama in 1965, Nebraska in 1970 and Notre Dame in 1973 to win the AP poll.

Ole Miss won the FWAA championship in 1960 and Arkansas did so in 1964. Arkansas’ claim is more widely recognized than Ole Miss’, as the Razorbacks were 11-0 after defeating Nebraska in the Cotton Bowl, while Ole Miss tied at home against an LSU team which went 5-4-1. The Rebels also try to claim championships in 1959 and 1962 by retroactive computer polls, but I can count the number of non-Ole Miss fans who count those on one hand. I don’t recognize them.

Notably, LSU was named No. 1 in five other seasons by computer polls or some other methods. The Bayou Bengals don’t recognize those titles. 1958, 2003, 2007 and 2019 count.

The participants for Super Bowl LIV will be determined tomorrow.

I really don’t care for either team in the AFC championship.

I don’t like Nashville, period, and I hated the way the late Bud Adams screwed the good people of Houston by sabotaging the Oilers following their 1993 playoff loss to the Chiefs to ensure fans would stay away from the Astrodome and the NFL would approve the move to Tennessee.

Chiefs fans have become arrogant and entitled the past two seasons. They’re saying it is their right to be in Super Bowl LIV after they were screwed by the officials and the overtime rules in last year’s AFC championship game vs. the Patriots. No, the Chiefs weren’t screwed. Don’t fall behind by an ungodly amount of points on your home field, even if you were playing the Patriots.

If I HAD to pick a side, it would be the Chiefs, since they haven’t been to the Super Bowl since January 1970. Besides, I know a few Chiefs fans, although many have become as cocky as Royals fans were during their glory years of 2014 and ’15.

I don’t like anything about Nashville. NOT A DAMN THING. I hated the place when I visited for LSU baseball games vs. Vanderbilt. Nashville looks down its nose at Memphis as a crime-ridden hellhole whose musical icon could dance and not sing and became a morbidly obese drug addict at the end, and think East Tennessee is nothing but hillbillies riding around with shotguns in the back of pickups. And don’t get me started on how Nashville has an NHL team and Quebec City and Hartford don’t.

Sorry, but I’ll listen to Elvis over any country music which came out after 1989 any time. Last I checked, the University of Tennessee, a nuclear power plant and many hydroelectric plants are in East Tennessee.

As for the NFC, I don’t dislike the Packers, but I would rather not see Aaron Rodgers highlights on NFL Network and ESPN 18 hours a day. Even worse, we’d see more of Danica Patrick than a human should have to. It would be nice for Kyle Shanahan to lead the 49ers to a championship and redeem himself for all the bad calls he made as Atlanta’s offensive coordinator when the Falcons blew that lead to the Patriots three years ago.

Here’s hoping for a lot of red in Miami Gardens. If it is 49ers-Chiefs, I’m wondering if Joe Montana will toss the coin seeing he played for both teams.

It’s been football overload this week. Thankfully after tomorrow night, nothing until 2 February (the Pro Bowl doesn’t count).

LSU completes its mission

The lights were out in the basement at 1224 North Brooks at 20:10 last night. The CPAP mask was on, and I was going to try to get as much sleep as possible.

I woke up at 00:48, went back to bed, then was up for good at 03:50.

I waited a few minutes before venturing to The Advocate website.

The header screamed “THIS IS FOR ALL OF US”.

It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out LSU defeated Clemson to become the 2019 Division I Football Bowl Subdivision national champion.

The Bayou Bengals fell behind the Tigers from South Carolina 17-7 early in the second quarter, the first time LSU has trailed by more than seven points since losing 29-0 to Alabama in November 2018.

I felt 95 percent sure LSU would not lead wire-to-wire, as it did against Oklahoma in the Peach Bowl and Georgia in the SEC championship game. I figured Dabo’s boys would build a two-score lead at some point, which it did.

By halftime, the tenor of the game changed 180 degrees.

LSU scored three touchdowns to turn that 17-7 deficit into a 28-17 lead.

Clemson scored early in the third quarter and added the conversion to make it 28-25, but Trevor Lawrence and his team did not score again.

Final: LSU 42, Clemson 25. The Bayou Bengals joined the 2018 Clemson Tigers as the only college football teams to finish 15-0 since 1900. The others to win 15 (or 16) without a loss played in the 1890s, before the NCAA was founded.

Ed Orgeron proclaimed his 2019 team the “best ever”.

He has many great points.

LSU, which was ranked #6 in the Associated Press preseason poll, defeated the teams ranked #1 (Clemson), #2 (Alabama), #3 (Georgia) and #4 (Oklahoma) in that poll. That never happened until 2019.

LSU defeated seven top-10 teams: the four aforementioned teams, plus Texas, Florida and Auburn.

Joe Burrow had a season for the ages, throwing 60 touchdown passes (yes, he did so in 15 games, but four TD passes per game is incredible), finishing with 467 yards and five TDs against Clemson.

Burrow is headed to Cincinnati barring something cataclysmic. The Bengals would be asinine not to pick him first overall in the upcoming NFL draft.

LSU fans got a dose of bad news late this afternoon when it was announced Joe Brady, the 31-year old wunderkind who came to Baton Rouge and installed the high-powered passing attack Bayou Bengal fans could only have dreamed about prior 2019, would be going back to the NFL as offensive coordinator for Matt Rhule and the Panthers.

The worry is without Brady, Orgeron and Steve Ensminger will resort to the prehistoric offense which hastened Les Miles’ demise. I don’t think it will happen, but Orgeron needs to move swiftly and decisively to fill this hole.

Coaching turnover is an inevitable part of football. However, Brady is going to the NFL, not to another SEC school. The bad news is he’ll be facing the Saints twice a year.

Many fans would have been mighty disappointed had LSU lost last night, but many might not have been. The Bayou Bengals defeated Alabama two months ago to end an eight-game losing streak to the Crimson Tide, and Nick Saban was sitting next to Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreit all night in a suit and tie, which meant he wasn’t on the sideline coaching Alabama.

With that in mind, I hope LSU fans who are 25 and under are grateful for the success the Bayou Bengals have enjoyed since 2000.

LSU’s WORST record since 2000 is 8-5, which occurred in 2008, one year after LSU defeated Ohio State for the BCS national championship.

I’m old enough to remember LSU suffering through six consecutive losing seasons from 1989-94. Two words: CURLEY HALLMAN.

Hallman, who only got the LSU job because Brett Favre was his quarterback at Southern Miss–gifted to him by Jim Carmody–and Joe Dean was too freaking cheap to hire anyone better. Dean got bamboozled by Hallman’s record as a drill sergeant and he was an assistant on national championship teams at Alabama (1973) and Clemson (1981).

Too bad Hallman put together a mostly incompetent staff, save for Phil Bennett. He didn’t recruit all that poorly, because Gerry DiNardo came in and took LSU to three consecutive low-level bowl games from 1995-97.

I’ll never forget just how excited LSU fans were over a 6-4-1 regular season in 1995 which sent the Bayou Bengals to the Independence Bowl to face Michigan State When LSU defeated Nick Saban’s Spartans 45-26, LSU fans reacted like they were well on their way to a national championship.

Yes, there was a national championship coach in the house in Shreveport on 29 December. Only he was wearing green, not purple.

LSU went 10-2 in 1996 and won the Peach Bowl. It was one of the worst 10-2 teams I’ve seen. The Bayou Bengals played a pillow soft schedule, and in the two biggest games, they were routed 56-13 by eventual national champion Florida and 26-0 by Alabama when Shaun Alexander rushed for 291 yards.

Then came the most overrated win in LSU athletic history, the 1997 game vs. then-No. 1 Florida, which it promptly pissed away a week later by losing to Ole Miss.

With mostly his own players, DiNardo had two horrible years in 1998 and ’99, which was a blessing in disguise, because it forced LSU to open its wallets to pay for a quality coach. That quality coach was Nick Saban, a choice which angered many fans who considered him a “Yankee” from Michigan State.

Saban went 48-16 in five seasons in Baton Rouge. Les Miles followed and went 114-34 over the next 11-plus campaigns, combining for 25 more wins than Charles McClendon had in 18 seasons (137-59-7).

It wasn’t all wine and roses for Orgeron, either. LSU fans were up in arms after losses to Alabama and Florida in November 2016, and many hoped Tom Herman would leave Houston to come to Baton Rouge. When it was announced Orgeron would get the job full time two days after LSU defeated Texas A&M to close the 2016 regular season, a collective groan could be heard from Shreveport to Port Sulphur, from Lake Providence to Cameron, and many points in between.

Orgeron’s seat heated up again when LSU lost at home to Troy in 2017, and again when Alabama came to Baton Rouge in 2018 and laid the 29-0 beatdown on the Bayou Bengals.

Today, no coach in college athletics is more beloved by his or her fan base than Ed Orgeron. More so than Nick Saban, Coach K, Bill Self, Geno Auriemma, and Dabo.

Part of me wishes I were in Louisiana to experience the season. The other part says I’m better off from a distance. Regardless, it’s history. Time to let the pros take it from here.

Tuning out the Tigers

You would think I would be watching LSU and Clemson play for college football’s national championship (at least for the highest level).

I’m not.

I am so convinced Clemson will win I am not watching.

The game kicked off at 19:15. I am self-censoring. The TV is off. I have set my devices to do not disturb. I am not checking any sports sites. I think I’ll go to bed really early, considering I rose at 05:00 and have a lot of work to get done tomorrow morning.

The last time I self-censored was the night of the 2016 presidential election. I watched some crap on LMN, then went to bed early. I had no earthly clue who had won what state.

I went to bed convinced Hillary would win, just as almost every major media outlet predicted.

It wasn’t until I came upstairs, where my mother had the TV tuned to Today, when I learned Trump won.

When LSU played Alabama for the BCS national championship in January 2012, I didn’t watch the game, but I made the mistake of looking at Twitter. It was there I learned just how badly LSU was getting its ass kicked by Alabama. Of course, a few jerks had to rub it in.

This season, I purposely did not watch most of the first half in LSU’s game at Alabama and the Peach Bowl vs. Oklahoma. I didn’t see a score until I came upstairs, because my mother was watching. In each of those games, the Bayou Bengals built up a big enough lead, making it okay to watch. Not tonight. It won’t be that easy vs. Clemson.

Tonight, no social media, Nothing. If I want to watch the game, I can watch a replay on ESPN+. Something tells me those wearing orange are going to be much happier tonight than those wearing purple and gold.

More sports woe in Houston.

Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred suspended Astros General Manager Jeff Luhnow and Manager A.J. Hinch for the 2020 season for their roles in Houston’s sign stealing throughout the 2017 postseason, which ended with the Astros defeating the Dodgers in the World Series.

Houston was also fined $5 million, believed to be a record for a major sports league due to an on-field incident. Too bad Roger Goodell doesn’t have the guts to fine the Patriots that much.

Astros owner Jim Crane went one step farther than Manfred, immediately firing Luhnow and Hinch. Houston has a huge hole in the rotation now that Gerrit Cole is in the Bronx, but it still has many strong pieces in Justin Verlander, Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Carlos Corriea and George Springer. The question is who will manage them, and who will step into this mess?

I didn’t mention the Oilers blowing the 35-3 lead in Buffalo in the 1992 playoffs, but I figured you knew about that already. It has been repeated ad nausem following the Texans’ collapse yesterday in Kansas City.

On the other hand, Chiefs fans are convinced more than ever the Super Bowl is their destiny. Mahomes is God. The Titans might as well stay in Nashville. Bring on the 49ers or Packers.

Before the season, a Kansas City Star online poll asked “What would it take for you to consider the Chiefs season a success?”. I don’t remember the exact split, but at least 80 percent said either “get to the Super Bowl” or “win the Super Bowl”. If the Titans win Sunday, mental health professionals will be in high demand in the so-called “Chiefs Kingdom”.

Good night, blogosphere. Hopefully I’m waking up to good news in a few hours…but I have my doubts.

Houston, you have yet another problem

Houston called itself “Clutch City” after the Rockets won back-to-back NBA championships in 1994 (vs. the Knicks, led by Patrick Ewing) and 1995 (vs. the Magic, sweeping an Orlando team led by Shaq).

After the last three months, a more appropriate moniker for Houston is “Choke City”.

It began with the Astros. After winning a franchise record 107 games in the regular season, Houston nearly choked in the American League Division Series vs. the Rays, needing a victory in the winner-take-all Game 5 to advance to the American League Championship Series.

The Astros ousted the Yankees in six to move into the World Series for the second time in three years, where Houston would face the Washington Nationals, who were making their first World Series appearance.

Many experts expected the Astros to win the first two games at Minute Maid Park, then go to the nation’s capital and win two of three there.

Instead, Houston lost the first two games at home. The Astros rallied to win the next three in the District of Columbia to gain the series lead, only to choke it away by losing the sixth and seventh games in Texas. It became the first best-of-seven series in any of the three major sports (MLB, NBA, NHL) which use that format where the road team won every game.

Today, the Texans joined the Astros in Houston sports infamy.

Bill O’Brien’s team built a 24-0 lead early in the second quarter of an AFC divisional playoff in Kansas City.

By halftime, the Chiefs led 28-24, as Patrick Mahomes joined Doug Williams as the only quarterbacks to throw four touchdown passes in one quarter of a playoff game. Williams did it in the second quarter of Super Bowl XXII, when the Redskins turned a 10-0 deficit vs. the Broncos into a 35-10 halftime bulge. Washington won 42-10, and Williams was the game’s Most Valuable Player.

Kansas City won 51-31 and earned the right to host Tennessee in next Sunday’s AFC championship game.

Green Bay held on to defeat Seattle 28-23 in the NFC, sending the Packers to Santa Clara to face the 49ers for the other spot in Super Bowl LIV in Miami (Gardens) Feb. 2.


A team from Houston has not played in the AFC championship game since 1979, when the Oilers lost to the Steelers for the second consecutive year. Bum Phillips’ team was hurt by the officials making a bad call on a pass to Mike Renfro which was ruled incomplete but was in fact a touchdown, but it probably wouldn’t have mattered.

Even worse, Houston fans have to watch their former team play in its third AFC championship since relocating to the Volunteer State. The Titans defeated the Jaguars in 1999 before losing to the Rams in Super Bowl XXXIV, but lost to the Raiders in 2002.



Barely an hour after the game ended at ARrowhead, a Houston Chronicle columnist wrote it was time for Texans coach Bill O’Brien to leave, reminding readers of past Houston sports failures. One of them was the famous 1983 NCAA men’s basketball title game, when Jim Valvano’s underdog North Carolina State Wolfpack shocked the mighty Houston Cougars, nicknamed “Phi Slamma Jamma” , when Lorenzo Charles caught Dereck Whittenburg’s airball and slammed it through the net with no time remaining. That Houston team featured two of the NBA’s 50 Greatest Players, Clyde Drexler and (H)Akeem Olajuwon.

It wasn’t the first time a team from Kansas City stuck it to a team from Houston.

In 1993, the Oilers hosted the Chiefs in an AFC divisional game. Houston entered on an 11-game winning streak, but Kansas City, led by Joe Montana, prevailed 28-20. Following that loss, the Oilers’ fan support plummeted to subterranean depths, and after the 1996 season, they were on their way to Tennessee.

In 2015, the Astros were up 2-1 on the Royals in an American League Division Series and led Game 4 through seven innings. Kansas City rallied to win that game, won Game 5 in Kansas City, and eventually won the World Series. Houston’s 2017 World Series championship took the sting out of the 2015 setback, but the one in 2019 will be hard to forget, no matter if the Astros win another championship or not.

Despite superstars like Yao Ming, Tracy McGrady, Chris Paul and James Harden playing for the Rockets in recent years, Houston has not played for an NBA championship since 1995. The window is wide open with the Warriors in free fall, but the Rockets will be severely tested by the two Los Angeles teams in the West, and hopefully Milwaukee if they make it to the Finals.

Approximately 26 hours from now, LSU will either have completed its greatest football season ever, or one of its most disappointing. Hopefully it’s the former. However, I would feel much better about this if the opponent were wearing scarlet and gray instead of orange. Something tells me Dabo is the younger, hipper version of LSU’s former coach–the one in Tuscaloosa, not the one in Lawrence–and has a dynasty going in the the South Carolina uplands.

Partying like its 1969 (and January 1970)

Stupid mouse. Now I have to start over. Actually, I’m the stupid one for not saving my draft.

Yesterday was the 50th anniversary of Super Bowl IV, when the Chiefs, led by quarterback Len Dawson, running back Mike Garrett and receiver Otis Taylor, “matriculated the ball down the field” well enough to defeat the Vikings 23-7 in the last Super Bowl to match the NFL and AFL. The merger of the leagues was to take effect after this game, per the terms of the 1966 agreement brokered by Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt, Cowboys general manager Tex Schramm, and NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle.

It was fitting the final game involving an AFL team was played in New Orleans. The Big Easy was represented in the U.S. House by Thomas Hale Boggs, who helped the NFL and AFL secure an antitrust exemption to allow for the merger. Louisiana’s junior U.S. Senator, Russell B. Long, son of Huey and nephew of Earl, was the manager of the antitrust exemption in the Senate. The bill was signed by LBJ in October 1966. As a reward, New Orleans was awarded an expansion team, which began play as the Saints in 1967.

Ironically, Hunt nearly moved the Dallas Texans to New Orleans instead of Kansas City in early 1963. There was a slight problem with that idea: segregation.

Tulane Stadium did not allow black patrons to sit in prime seating areas for Green Wave games (nor did any other stadium in the Southeastern Conference at that time). No way that would be kosher for a professional league, especially one which had a large number of black players.

No state of the former confederacy other than Texas had a professional sports franchise until the Braves moved from Milwaukee to Atlanta in 1966, but Atlanta was fortunate to have a progressive mayor, Ivan Allen, who initiated desegregation in the ATL before the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964. New Orleans wasn’t as bad as Birmingham and Montgomery as far as treating blacks as a lower life form, but mayors Chep Morrison and Victor Schiro weren’t rolling out the red carpet, either.

The field at Tulane Stadium in Super Bowl IV was a mud pit. Anyone who has watched highlights of the game (there is an excellent video chronicling the game on YouTube) knows why the NFL required the Saints and Tulane to install artificial turf (Poly-Turf) in March 1971 when the Big Easy was awarded Super Bowl VI, which was played in January 1972.

Super Bowl IV was the first to be played without a week off between the league (later conference) championship games and the finale. This wouldn’t be the case again until January 1983, when the playoffs had to be expanded in the wake of the 1982 players’ strike which reduced the regular season from 16 games to 9. The next time there was only one week scheduled between the conference championships and Super Bowl was the 1990 season.

The off week is a necessity. Players need time to work out ticket arrangements, coaches need extra time to game plan, business managers need time to figure out flights and hotels, and fans need a week off from football, period (the Pro Bowl doesn’t count).

Strangely, there was a week off for the Chiefs and Raiders before the AFL championship game.

In 1969, the AFL held a semifinal playoff round, with the division champions (Jets in the East, Raiders in the West) hosting the runner-up from the opposite division (Chiefs in the West, Oilers in the East).

The AFL’s 1969 regular season ended one week earlier than the NFL’s. The weekend of Dec. 20-21 would have been used for tiebreaker games, but with no tiebreakers needed, the semifinals were held those days, with the Chiefs defeating the Jets 13-6 on Saturday and the Raiders mauling the Oilers 56-7 on Sunday.

While the AFL rested the final weekend of 1969, the NFL held its semifinals. The Vikings edged the Rams 23-20 to win the Western Conference, and the Browns crushed the Cowboys 38-14 to win the East.

The NFL championship game in Minnesota was a 27-7 rout for the Vikings, and it wasn’t that close. Cleveland was probably glad to be going to the AFC after losing 52-14 to the Cowboys in the 1967 semifinals and 34-0 to the Colts in the 1968 NFL championship.

The AFL championship provided much more drama.

Kansas City was seething its last four games to Oakland.

After the Chiefs won 24-10 in Kansas City in 1968 in a game where Hank Stram used the Straight-T formation and passed only three times, the Raiders rolled over the Chiefs twice in Oakland, 38-21 and 41-6, the latter being a playoff for the AFL Western Division title. The Raiders lost the AFL championship to the Jets, who went on to prove Joe Namath prophetic.

In 1969, the Raiders swept the Chiefs, 27-24 in Kansas City and 10-6 in Oakland.

The Raiders, coached by a 33-year old newbie named John Madden, had their suitcases loaded onto buses in the Oakland Coliseum parking lot. If Oakland won, it would immediately head to San Francisco International Airport and fly to New Orleans that night.

Oakland scored in the first quarter to go ahead 7-0, but that was all.

Kansas City’s “Redwood Forest” defense, led by five future Hall of Famers, hled the Raiders the rest of the way, and the Chiefs rallied to win 17-7 for their third AFL championship and second trip to the Super Bowl.

The Vikings were immediately installed as 14-point favorites. Many experts, especially those loyal to the NFL like Sports Illustrated’s Tex Maule and notorious gambler Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder, thought the Jets’ victory in Super Bowl III was a fluke. On the other hand, many of the Chiefs on the team in 1969 were on the field in Los Angeles three years prior, and Kansas City’s defense was superior to New York’s.

On the Tuesday prior to the Super Bowl, NBC’s Huntley-Brinkley Report broke news of several NFL players who had ties to a Detroit bookmaker, Donald “Dice Dawson”. The two most prominent names on the list were Namath (no surprise) and Len Dawson (shocking).

Six hours after the report aired, Stram addressed the media and had Len Dawson, no relation to Dice, read a statement. Stram and his quarterback vehemently denied the report. It turned out the reports were false. So much for there not being fake news in 1970.

Namath ran afoul of Rozelle in the summer of 1969 after it was discovered gamblers and mafia members were hanging out at Bachelor’s III, the Manhattan bar Namath owned. Rozelle ordered Namath to divest himself of holdings in Bachelor’s III. Namath initially refused and retired, but one month later, he reversed course and returned to the Jets. I’m guessing Bear Bryant had a lot to do with Namath coming back, much more so than Weeb Ewbank.

The Vikings featured the NFL’s best defense in 1969, led by the “Purple Gang”. Minnesota’s defense had three future Hall of Famers in end Carl Eller, tackle Alan Page and safety Paul Krause, as well as end Jim Marshall, an ironman who played in 282 consecutive games over 19 seasons. How Marshall isn’t in the Hall of Fame is a travesty.

Stram thought he could beat the Vikings with short, quick passes to the sideline with his speedy receivers, Taylor and Frank Pitts. The key was to make sure Eller and Marshall were blocked. To do this, Stram had a running back and/or tight end Fred Arbanas assist his tackles, Jim Tyrer (on Marshall) and Dave Hill (on Eller) chip the ends.

“King Henry” also ran reverses, traps and counters to take advantage of Page’s quickness and keep him off-balance.

On defense, Stram often shifted one of his tackles, Buck Buchanan or Curley Culp (both are in the Hall of Fame), directly over Minnesota’s All-Pro center, Mick Tinglehoff. All NFL teams were running the standard 4-3 defense in 1969, which meant centers could fire out and block a middle linebacker instead of having to deal with a man right on him.

By putting Culp or Buchanan on Tinglehoff, it freed middle linebacker Willie Lanier, another future Hall of Famer, to roam free where needed.

Minnesota’s offense, while effective, was primitive in 1969. With Fran Tarkenton in New York and Chuck Foreman and John Gilliam still years away, the Vikings relied mostly on two straight-ahead runners, Bill Brown and Dave Osborn, and reckless quarterback Joe Kapp, whose wobbly passes were similar to those thrown by Billy Kilmer, the Saints’ starting quarterback at that time.

Stram, at the request of NFL Films President/Executive Producer Ed Sabol and son Steve, agreed to wear a wireless microphone during the game. When the highlights of Super Bowl IV were released in the summer of 1970, it became the gold standard for all future NFL Films productions.

The Chiefs took a 9-0 lead on three Jan Stenerud field goals, then caught a huge break in the second quarter when Charlie West fumbled a kickoff. Kansas City lineman Remi Prudhomme, who played on the same field for LSU in its victory over Syracuse in the 1965 Sugar Bowl, recovered, setting up the Chiefs in the red zone.

With second and goal on the Vikings 6-yard line, Stram famously called for “65 Toss Power Trap”.

In what became one of the most iconic play calls in Super Bowl history, the Chiefs offensive line influenced Page and Eller to their left, and with Marshall sealed off by Tyrer, Garrett ran through a gaping hole to the game’s first touchdown. Kansas City led 16-0, and that was the score at halftime.

The halftime show at Super Bowl IV featured a recreation of the Battle of New Orleans. Bad idea. A couple of the actors portraying soldiers lost fingers, and what was left of the grass on the field was gone.

Minnesota drove to a touchdown by Osborn in the third quarter to make it 16-7, but Kansas City put the game away for good later in the period when Taylor took a short pass at the right sideline, broke an attempted tackle by Viking cornerback Earsell Mackbee, then outran Karl Kassulke the rest of the way to a 46-yard touchdown.

Chiefs 23, Vikings 7 would be the final. Dawson was named Most Valuable Player, and President Nixon called the winning coach and quarterback in the locker room.

Kansas City hasn’t been back to the Super Bowl. The closest the Chiefs have come were AFC championship game losses to the Bills in 1993 and Patriots in 2018. The most crushing playoff loss was on Christmas Day 1971, when a strong Chiefs team lost to the upstart Dolphins in the NFL’s longest game (82 minutes, 40 seconds of playing time) in what turned out to be the final football match at Municipal Stadium.

Minnesota got back to the Super Bowl three times over the next seven seasons, but each game wasn’t close. The Vikings lost 24-7 to the Dolphins in VIII, 16-6 to the Steelers in IX (the last NFL game at Tulane Stadium; my parents were there, if only for a half), and 32-14 to the Raiders in XI. Minnesota lost NFC championship games in 1977, 1987, 1998, 2000 and 2009.

The Vikings’ drought is guaranteed to last another year, thanks to their 27-10 loss to the 49ers yesterday in Santa Clara. Seattle or Green Bay will visit Levi’s Stadium next Sunday to determine the NFC championship.

I’m wondering if older Minnesota fans or players might have had a feeling their team was cursed since the Vikings played on the 50th anniversary of Super Bowl IV.

The Chiefs, meanwhile, have a golden opportunity to end their Super Bowl drought.

If Kansas City defeats Houston this afternoon, it will host Tennessee in the AFC championship.

That’s because the Titans went to Baltimore last night and shocked the Ravens 28-12, ending Baltimore’s 12-game winning streak.

The Ravens had the NFL’s best record, 14-2, thanks in large part to Lamar Jackson’s record-setting season. The former Heisman Trophy winner from Louisville set a league record for most rushing yards by a quarterback in a single season, while also throwing 32 touchdown passes.

Hardly anyone gave the Titans a chance, yet the last team to qualify for the playoffs is now one win away from its first Super Bowl since 1999, when Jeff Fisher’s club lost to the St. Louis Rams’ Greatest Show on Turf.

The Titans knocked out the Patriots in the first round of the playoffs. After downing the Ravens, I’m not so certain the Chiefs or Texans might be looking forward to facing Tennessee. Then again, playing at home beats playing in Baltimore.

For Baltimore sports fans, I rate it as the biggest shocker since the Orioles lost to the Miracle Mets in the 1969 World Series.

In case you don’t know that story, the Orioles won 109 games in the regular season before sweeping the Twins in the first American League Championship Series. Baltimore had three of the American League’s most dominant pitchers in Jim Palmer, Dave McNally and Cy Young Award winner Mike Cuellar, along with a powerful lineup featuring Boog Powell, Brooks Robinson and Frank Robinson.

The Mets didn’t finish above eighth in the National League in any of their first seven seasons. Yet in 1969, Tom Seaver won the Cy Young, Jerry Koosman came of age, and a 22-year old flamethrower from Alvin, Texas named Lynn Nolan Ryan gave the club from Queens a staff just as good as Baltimore’s.

At the plate, the Mets couldn’t match the Orioles, but their outfield may have been the best defensive trio the game has seen: Cleon Jones in left, Tommie Agee in center and Ron Swoboda in right.

The Mets came from as far back as 11 games down in July to overtake the Cubs to win the National League East, then swept Hank Aaron’s Braves in the first National League Championship Game.

Baltimore won the first game of the World Series at home, but lost game two. Nobody in Charm City panicked…yet.

After the Mets blanked the Orioles 5-0 in game three, featuring two spectacular catches by Agee, Baltimore fans began to wonder if this was truly their year.

Swoboda made one of the most spectacular catches in World Series history in game four, robbing Brooks Robinson of an extra base hit which would have given the Orioles the lead. Instead, it was just a sacrifice fly which tied the game. The Mets won in the bottom of the 10th when Baltimore reliever Pete Richert’s throw hit Mets pinch hitter J.C. Martin in the arm, allowing Rod Gasper to score from second.

Baltimore led 3-0 through five innings of game five, but when Mets manager Gil Hodges proved to home plate umpire Lou DiMuro that Jones was hit by McNally by showing DiMuro a speck of shoe polish on the ball, the Orioles knew they were doomed.

Indeed they were.

Series MVP Donn Clendenon followed Jones with a two-run home run. Baltimore’s lead disappeared when Al Weis led off the seventh with a homer, and in the eighth, Swoboda doubled home Jones with what proved to be the Series-winning run. Swoboda later scored an insurance run when Powell booted a two-out grounder by Jerry Grote.

When future Mets manager Dave Johnson flied out to Jones, pandemonium erupted at Shea.

The Orioles got their World Series title in 1970 by defeating the Reds in five, and added another in ’83 with a five-game win over the Phillies. Baltimore lost to the Pirates in seven in both 1971 and ’79.

This habit of post-midnight posts is not a good one. I’ve got to cut this out.

40 years ago: LSU's tragic night

LSU and Clemson still have approximately 69 more hours of waiting before facing off in New Orleans to crown 2019’s college football champion, at least for the highest level.

Forty years ago, college football was all but wrapped up after New Year’s Day. Alabama’s 24-9 victory over Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl, combined with Ohio State’s 17-16 loss to Southern California in the Rose Bowl, ensured Bear Bryant would win his third consensus national championship and sixth overall with the Crimson Tide. Three years and 25 days after defeating Lou Holtz’ Razorbacks, Bryant died of a massive heart attack in Tuscaloosa at age 69.

Sadly, on New Year’s Day 1980, another college football coach–one who recently came to the Southeastern Conference–had less than 10 days remaining on this earth.

Robert “Bo” Rein was named LSU’s coach on November 30, 1979, six days after the Bayou Bengals lost their regular season finale to Tulane in New Orleans. Rein had the unenviable task of filling the shoes which would be vacated by Charles Youmans McClendon, who led the Bayou Bengals from 1962-79, piloting LSU to a 137-59-7 record.

McClendon, who played for Bryant at Kentucky and was an assistant to Paul Dietzel on LSU’s 1958 national championship team, was forced out by LSU’s Board of Supervisors for one major reason: the inability to beat Alabama. Sound familiar? I’m sure a former LSU coach now residing in Lawrence agrees.

McClendon’s teams beat Alabama in 1969 and 1970, when the Crimson Tide suffered its only major downturn in Bryant’s 25 seasons.

Alabama was 6-5 in 1969 and 6-5-1 in 1970, losing to Tennessee and Auburn in both of those seasons as well. The 1969 team lost at Vanderbilt, the last time the Tide has lost in Nashville to the Commodores. The 1970 team lost 42-21 to USC in Birmingham, the game which convinced Bryant and his administration it was time to desegregate.

It didn’t hurt LSU had two of its best teams of the 20th century in 1969 and ’70.

The 1969 team’s lone loss was by three points to Archie Manning’s Ole Miss Rebels in Jackson. Even with the loss, LSU was expecting to receive an invitation to the Cotton Bowl to play the winner of the season-ending showdown between Texas and Arkansas, both of whom were expected to be undefeated heading into the December 6 showdown in Fayetteville. However, Notre Dame opted to end its self-imposed bowl ban which dated to the Four Horsemen and Rockne, and with the Irish now in play, the Cotton Bowl jumped on Ara Parseghian’s team. The Sugar Bowl took Ole Miss instead of LSU, and the Bayou Bengals opted to stay home despite a 9-1 ledger and a No 7 ranking in the final regular season Associated Press poll.

One year later, LSU lost its season opener by two points to Gene Stallings’ Texas A&M Aggies. A&M did not win again in 1970, and by the end of 1971, Stallings was no longer the coach at his alma mater. LSU’s other loss was 3-0 to then-No. 2 Notre Dame in South Bend. When LSU’s plane landed in Baton Rouge the evening of November 21, McClendon learned LSU would be invited to the Orange bowl if and only if the Bayou Bengals defeated Tulane and Ole Miss in their last two games.

No sweat.

LSU took down a strong Tulane club in New Orleans 26-14, then came home and mauled the Rebels 61-17 to win the SEC championship and the date with Nebraska in Miami. The Bayou Bengals fought the Cornhuskers to the wire, but Nebraska prevailed 17-12 for the AP national championship after losses earlier in the day by UPI national champion Texas and Ohio State.

In 1971, Bryant changed Alabama’s offense to the Wishbone, the attack which helped Texas win 30 consecutive games prior to the loss to Notre Dame on New Year’s Day 1971.

LSU played Alabama tough in most years, but the Tide and their attack were simply too much. From 1971-79, Alabama won or shared the SEC championship in every season except 1976, shared two national championships (1973 with Notre Dame, 1978 with USC), and as mentioned before, won the 1979 title outright.

The Bayou Bengals won nine games in 1971, ’72 and ’73, but when LSU went 5-5-1 in 1974 and 4-7 in 1975, LSU fans demanded McClendon’s ouster. It was originally announced McClendon would coach through the 1978 season, but when Dietzel became LSU’s athletic director in early 1978, he extended McClendon for an extra year.

Rein was a popular choice to succeed “Cholly Mac”. He was a standout football and baseball player for Ohio State, helping the Buckeyes win the 1966 College World Series. He was an assistant for Woody Hayes at his alma mater and Holtz at North Carolina State. When Holtz left Raleigh for his disastrous season with the New York Jets, Rein was tapped as his successor.

Strangely enough, Rein left NC State to serve as an assistant to Frank Broyles at Arkansas in 1975. Broyles resigned as coach after the 1976 season, but remained as the Razorbacks’ athletic director for the next 32 years. Broyles the AD named Holtz to succeed Broyles the coach. I’m sure neither dreamed Arkansas would one day be in the SEC.

Led by Rein, All-America offensive lineman Jim Ritcher (who started for the Bills in all four of their Super Bowl appearances) and linebacker Bill Cowher (the future coach of the Steelers), NC State enjoyed great success in Rein’s four seasons, going 27-18-1 with victories in the 1977 Peach Bowl over Iowa State and the 1978 Tangerine (now Citrus) Bowl over Pittsburgh. The 1979 Wolfpack won the 1979 Atlantic Coast Conference championship, but did not go to a bowl game, while rivals Clemson and Wake Forest did.

Ironically, the Deamon Deacons, coached by John Mackovic, lost 34-10 to LSU in McClendon’s last game, the 1979 Tangerine Bowl.

While McClendon got the 1979 Bayou Bengals, led by quarterbacks David Woodley and Steve Ensminger, ready for Wake Forest, Rein and his coaching staff hit the recruiting trail hard in search of new talent.

On January 10, 1980, Rein and an assistant coach drove to Shreveport to visit with a recruit from Fair Park High, long a power in northwest Louisiana. Following the visit, Rein arranged for a private plane owned by a construction company to fly him back to Baton Rouge. The assistant would stay overnight in Shreveport and drive to another visit the next day.

Travel was much different in 1980 than it is in 2020 in two major respects.

First, LSU did not own its own plane as it does today. Ed Orgeron, as well as predecessors Miles and Nick Saban, have enjoyed a plane provided by the Tiger Athletic Foundation, LSU’s athletic booster club, to travel long distances.

Second, driving between Shreveport and Baton Rouge was a lot more arduous.

Interstate 49 had been proposed in the early 1970s by then-Governor Edwin Edwards, but in January 1980, two months before he left office and gave way to Dave Treen, the highway was still only a dream.

Before I-49, it required a very long journey on two-lane highways to make the trek. One option was to take Louisiana Highway 1 through New Roads and Marksville through to Alexandria, Natchitoches and Shreveport. The other was to take US 190 to Krotz Springs, then pick up US 71, which also went through Alexandria, but bypassed Natchitoches and instead went through Coushatta to Bossier City, on the opposite bank of the Red River from Shreveport.

My family made the long and lonely drive up US 71 on trips to Kansas in the 1980s. It took about five hours to get from Baton Rouge to Interstate 20. We’ll never forget the rocks along the highway in Bunkie which cracked the windshield of our old station wagon in 1986.

When I-49 was finally completed in 1996, that trip was cut to under four hours. With the speed limit now at 75 MPH (121 km/h) on I-49 from Shreveport to US 190 at Opelousas, fast drivers can make it in three hours, 25 minutes.

The assistant coach drove Rein to Shreveport Regional Airport, which fronts the eastbound lanes of I-20. Rein climbed aboard the Cessna 441, piloted by 48-year old Lewis F. Benscotter Jr., for what should have been a 50-minute flight to Ryan Field (now Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport).

There was a line of severe thunderstorms over central Louisiana, so the air traffic control tower at SHV instructed Benscotter to fly east into Mississippi, paralleling I-20, then turn south over Vicksburg, which would parallel US 61.

Shortly after takeoff just after 22:00, Rein and Benscotter were incapacitated. The plane kept climbing, all the way to 41,600 feet (12,700 meters), well above its ceiling maximum of 35,000 feet (10, 668 meters). The cabin pressurization malfunctioned, and without oxygen at high altitudes, Rein and Benscotter slipped into unconsciousness.

The doomed plane flew over Tennessee and North Carolina. In a sad twist of irony, the plane passed directly over the NC State campus.

Air Force fighter planes from Norfolk attempted to contact the plane. Nothing. The Cessna finally ran out of fuel off the coast of Virginia and nosedived into the Atlantic shortly after 01:00 Eastern.

Robert “Bo” Rein was 34 years old. He had been LSU’s coach for all of 42 days. His final record: 0-0-0.

Technology in 1980 was primitive. ESPN debuted four months earlier, but it did not have the resources to send someone to Baton Rogue, and besides, most Americans didn’t have cable. Of course, most households didn’t have a computer, and the Internet was for government use only.

Most found out by reading an evening newspaper (Baton Rouge’s evening paper, the State-Times, was still publishing, as was the States-Item in New Orleans; the Russell County News was published four days a week then and delivered in the late afternoon) or watching Roger Mudd (substituting for Walter Cronkite on CBS), John Chancellor (NBC) or Frank Reynolds (ABC) on the evening news. If you had a friend or relative in Louisiana, you found out sooner I’m sure.

Herb Vincent, who was born and raised in Little Rock but grew up an LSU fan, was about to begin his second semester in Baton Rouge when Rein’s plane went down. He may have been the first LSU student to learn of the tragedy from legendary LSU sports information director Paul Manasseh.

Vincent was one of only a handful of students on campus that Friday, because classes for the spring semester were to start the following Monday. The only other students on campus were LSU’s men’s basketball, women’s basketball and wrestling teams, those who had important jobs, and possibly a few football players lifting weights.

Nearly 20 years after Rein’s tragic death, an eerily similar fate befell golfer Payne Stewart four months after his victory in the U.S. Open at Pinehurst. A private plane which was scheduled to ferry Stewart, his agent and three others from Orlando to Dallas went well off course. By time it ran out of gas, it crashed into a field in South Dakota.

In 2015, a documentary about Rein was aired by the SEC Network. It was well-produced, thanks in large part to Herb’s guidance.

Jerry Stovall, the 1962 Heisman runner-up and an assistant to McClendon in the late 1970s, was named Rein’s successor less than 48 hours after the plane crash. Stovall did the right thing by keeping all of Rein’s assistants, while also adding Pete Jenkins, in hindsight the best thing he did in his four seasons.

It’s speculated Rein may have led LSU to great glory in the 1980s. Even with Georgia assuming superpower status thanks to Herschel Walker, Florida ascending, Auburn becoming elite again under Pat Dye, and Alabama still competing well under Ray Perkins and Bill Curry, the Bayou Bengals could have ruled the roost under Rein if he had been able to keep the best high school players from Louisiana at home.

It’s also fair to speculate if Rein lived, Bill Arnsparger never leaves the Dolphins and gets another shot at being an NFL head coach; Mike Archer would have coached the Miami Hurricanes at some point, either succeeding Howard Schnellenberger or Jimmy Johnson; Curley Hallman would have still been in Hattiesburg long after Brett Favre departed for the NFL; and Gerry DiNardo would have languished at Vanderbilt a few more years.

Nick Saban stays at Michigan State until he finds more money somewhere else. In fact, he may very well have ended up at Alabama in 2001 after it fired Mike DuBose.

Les Miles coaches three more years in Stillwater before succeeding Lloyd Carr at his alma mater, Michigan.

On the other hand, something tells me Ed Orgeron is coaching the Bayou Bengals right now anyway. Orgeron would have come to LSU right out of college and stayed in Baton Rouge, resisting overtures from Ole Miss and at least 20 other Power Five schools.

Rein retires at 70 after the 2015 season, and Big Ed leads LSU into the 2016 season opener vs. Wisconsin at Lambeau Field. Joe Burrow comes to LSU from Ohio State with Rein’s encouragement, wins the 2019 Heisman, and all is right with the world (unless Clemson wins).

That’s the beauty of what-if. The not so beautiful part? It couldn’t happen, because the man at the center of this what-if left us far too soon. Rest in Peace, coach Rein. You would have been a great one.

Rumblings from Red Stick (too bad I'm not there)

So much for posting every day this year. I missed yesterday. I’m a bad boy. However, given my lack of posts over the last two and a half months of 2019, 9 out of 10 ain’t bad, to paraphrase Mr. Meat Loaf.

If Matt Rhule has his way, Joe Brady will be a one-year wonder with LSU. The new Panthers coach has targeted Brady, the wunderkind who turned Joe Burrow from a former Ohio State backup into this year’s Heisman Trophy winner, to be his offensive coordinator. Ed Orgeron and LSU athletic director Scott Woodward are going to give Brady a significant pay raise if he remains in Baton Rouge, but LSU can’t match the resources of an NFL team, especially considering Rhule will make more than $8 million per season.

LSU plays Clemson for the national championship Monday in New Orleans, and the casinos are worried Burrow, Brady, Orgeron and the team in purple and gold take the golden trophy west on Interstate 10.

Sports books across the nation are reporting heavy action on LSU, by far the most one-sided action for a championship game since the first College Football Playoff in January 2015. For every nine dollars bet on money lines, eight is on LSU, while the spread action is 4-to-1 in favor of the Bayou Bengals.

It’s hard to believe Alabama did not receive anywhere near the action in its three national championship games vs. Clemson, two of which the Crimson Tide lost. However, the public is betting LSU is more battle-tested by playing in the SEC than Clemson is in the ACC, although the South Carolina Tigers had a much tougher semifinal vs. Ohio State than the Bayou Bengals did vs. Oklahoma.

If LSU wins, the casinos will take a bath. If Clemson wins, the bettors will take the bath.

This is a disturbing trend for the Bayou Bengals.

Sports books are reporting they have not seen this much one-sided action on a championship football game since Super Bowl XLVIII, when most of the betting public put their money on the Broncos, believing Peyton Manning would cap a record setting season by winning his second championship.

Instead, the Seahawks demolished Denver 43-8, and the books made almost $20 million, a Super Bowl record.

Yesterday’s Baton Rouge Advocate had a wide-ranging interview with former LSU athletic director Joe Alleva, who was forced out of the job last year after 11 years in Baton Rouge. Two things Alleva said were of particular note.

First, Alleva did not want to hire Jimbo Fisher, then at Florida State, to be LSU’s football coach. Alleva, who had ties to the ACC during his days as Duke’s athletic director, did not want to give in to Fisher’s exorbitant demands, demands which were similar to those Nick Saban made at LSU and Alabama before taking each of those jobs. The most exorbitant of which was a fully guaranteed contract, which would have to run at least eight years and pay Fisher at least $7 million per season.

Late in the 2015 season, it was rumored LSU would fire Les Miles, who led the Bayou Bengals to the 2007 national championship but whose teams had slipped following the 2011 BCS championship game loss to Saban’s Crimson Tide. Most thought Fisher would be the successor, but Alleva now says it wasn’t so.

Alleva didn’t want to fire Miles in 2015, and when LSU defeated Texas A&M 19-7 in the regular season finale, Alleva went to the locker room after the game and told the media Miles would be back in 2016.

Four games into 2016, Alleva fired Miles following losses to Wisconsin and Auburn. Orgeron was named interim coach, then got the full-time position two months later, angering many LSU fans at that time. Of course, it has all worked out.

Ironically, Woodward hired Fisher at A&M, giving in to Jimbo’s demands with a 10-year, $75 million contract which is fully guaranteed. Not even Saban had that at LSU, nor does he have that at Alabama. Like Saban, Fisher does not owe a buyout if he leaves College Station.

The second nugget from Alleva’s interview which struck me was regret over hiring men’s basketball coach Will Wade.

Wade came to LSU from VCU after Johnny Jones was fired following a disastrous 2016-17 season. Wade was suspended in March 2019 when the NCAA announced LSU was under investigation for numerous violations, and did not coach the team in its last regular season game or in the SEC and NCAA tournaments, where LSU lost in the Sweet 16 to Michigan State. Wade was reinstated following the season, but the NCAA is still investigating.

Alleva told Advocate sports columnist Scott Rabalais “he got bad information” about Wade. Hmm.

What wasn’t discussed was hiring the awful Nikki Caldwell-Fargas to coach LSU’s women’s basketball team.

LSU went to five consecutive women’s Final Fours between 2004-08, but hasn’t been close since. LSU has slipped to an SEC afterthought under Caldwell-Fargas, while former league doormats Mississippi State and South Carolina have become powerhouses, with the Gamecocks defeating the Bulldogs in the 2017 national championship game after State ended Connecticut’s record 110-game winning streak in the semifinals.

LSU women’s basketball has fallen into gross disrepair since the glory days of Seimone Augustus and Sylvia Fowles. It was never going to eclipse football, baseball or men’s basketball in importance, but now it is far behind gymnastics, softball, and track and field, and even men’s golf has won a national championship recently.

Someone, either the UCLA, where Caldwell-Fargas coached before leaving for LSU, or the late Pat Summitt, who coached Caldwell at Tennessee, sold Alleva a bill of goods. This was a terrible hire, one which Woodward must rectify switfly, or the PMAC will again become a tomb for women’s games the way it was in the mid-1990s before Sue Gunter got it back on track.

Alleva blundered big time by not going after Kim Mulkey when there was a vacancy in 2011. Mulkey, who has coached Baylor to three national championships, grew up 45 minutes from LSU’s campus in Hammond, then went on to become an All-American at Louisiana Tech and a gold medalist on the 1984 United States Olympic team. Alleva should have taken a blank check to Mulkey and asked her to fill it in. Even if she stayed in Waco, Alleva would have won fans for going for it. Instead, he copped out and hired someone who is getting circles run around her by Dawn Staley and Vic Shaffer.

The only good things I can say about Caldwell-Fargas is (a) she’s a woman coaching women’s basketball, and (b) she is nowhere near as inept as the men leading Power Five women’s basketball teams in my current home state. Kansas State hiring Jeff Mittie and Kansas hiring Brandon Schneider were only eclipsed by the Wildcats hiring Ron Prince and the Jayhawks hiring Turner Gill, Charlie Weis and David Beatty.

It’s a good thing I was in Kansas City last weekend. This weekend is promising snow and ice, plus the myriad of travel problems it causes.

Stupid is and stupid does, and 1994 sucked

WARNING: I’m going to use some NSFW language. I’m sorry. However, some people deserve my complete scorn.

My brain is completely fried.

To wit: a Buzztime trivia question just listed five countries, and I had to pick the one which did NOT border Libya. The choices: Algeria, Chad, Tunisia, Egypt and Uganda. I mindlessly picked Tunisia, thinking it bordered only Algeria.

How stupid am I?

Uganda is MUCH farther south. I didn’t look at all the answers. I got Tunisia confused with Morocco, which is WEST of Algeria. I should have known Tunisia is wedged between Algeria and Libya along the Mediterranean.

Earlier tonight, I forgot Carmelo Anthony was still playing for Houston. I should have known he signed with Portland earlier this year.

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The front page of Wikipedia lists four events which occurred on a given date.

One of the events listed Monday (January 6) was the attack on figure skater Nancy Kerrigan at the United States championships in 1994.

The first thing which came to mind: 1994 was mostly a horrible year.

I was forced to attend my high school graduation ceremony that May. I felt like a tool in the red cap and gown I was forced to wear by Brother Martin High. Graduation caps (more accurately mortarboards) and gowns should be one color: BLACK. Worse than the cap and gown was having to see over 200 people I didn’t want to see again.

I begged the administration to let me forgo the graduation ceremony and simply receive my diploma in the mail, or in person at the school. Nope. My parents wouldn’t let me fake illness, either.

I was angry as hell Brother Martin fired Rebecca Hale. If you’ve ready some of my previous posts, you know how much I admire Rebecca.

I learned of Rebecca’s termination three weeks before graduation. I should have stayed home to protest that, or worn something with her initials.

Graduation wasn’t nearly as bad as the asinine “Ring Mass” I was forced to attend at St. Louis Cathedral in August 1993. I am Catholic and I believe in God, but I do not like going to Mass. I hate the sounds of an organ, especially when played by a man. I especially hate the Mass in English. Too much freaking singing. I have never forgiven my parents for this.

Another thing…rings should only be given when you GRADUATE from high school. I never wore my Brother Martin ring in school.

I was upset when I didn’t go to my senior prom two weeks before graduation. Looking back, that was a very good thing. Now I’m overjoyed I didn’t.

As bad as getting out of high school was, worse was to come.

The first was O.J. Simpson murdering Nicole Brown and Ronald Goldman in the late hours of June 12, followed by the infamous freeway chase led by Al Cowlings later that week. The son of a bitch was running, and that told me right then and there Orenthal James Simpson was the “real killer”. O.J. had better admit to it on his deathbed.

Two months after O.J. committed double murder, Major League Baseball players went on strike. The third major MLBPA strike since 1972 forced the cancellation of the last seven weeks of the regular season, as well as the entire postseason.

The 1994 MLB season was horrible anyway, with too many home runs and three divisions for the first time, but the strike made it even worse.

While the MLB strike raged on, I started college at LSU. I was living in a crappy dorm room on the east edge of campus near the law school and University High, the Laboratory school where LSU employees send their kids for free and LSU students majoring in education get their first teaching experience. My classes and the athletic department offices were on the complete opposite side of campus, and that was a pain in the butt. I rode a bicycle in order to avoid walking, and I thus became the biggest klutz to ride a bike on a college campus.

LSU’s football season was miserable. The Bayou Bengals suffered through their sixth losing season, leading to coach Curley Hallman’s firing with two games remaining. He was allowed to coach those two games, and wouldn’t you know, the Bayou Bengals beat Tulane and Arkansas to finish 4-7.

Gerry DiNardo was hired two weeks after the season ended. The next day, LSU associate athletic director Herb Vincent fired me from my student job in the sports information office. I cried a lot then, but it was the right decision. I was way too immature to hold a high-pressure job, or probably any job. My parents didn’t force me to find a summer job in high school. Good thing they didn’t, because it would have been disastrous.

The 1994 NFL season was crappy. There were the Cowboys, attempting to become the first team to win three consecutive Super Bowls under new coach Barry Switzer; the 49ers, who spent a crapload of money on free agents like Deion Sanders, Rickey Jackson and many others in an attempt to dethrone the Cowboys; and 26 other teams who were just there for show.

It was inevitable the Cowboys and 49ers would play for the NFC championship, which they did. When San Francisco prevailed 38-28, it was inevitable the 49ers would beat the living daylights out of the AFC champion. San Francisco did, mauling the Chargers 49-26 in a game which wasn’t that close.

One of the very few good things about 1994 was meeting some people who helped me along the way: Bill Franques, Dan Borne, Michael Bonnette and Kent Lowe. I met Herb in the summer of 1993. I also met Sam King, Scott Rabalais and Dave Moormann from The Advocate, who helped me become a freelancer with the newspaper a few years later. And I got to know LSU defensive coordinator Phil Bennett, who was much more gregarious and astute than his boss.

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Geez, here I go again. I screwed up a question which asked the first rookie with 30 home runs and 40 stolen bases in a season in 2012. It was Mike Trout, but I didn’t think it was. I thought Trout was in MLB earlier than 2012. What the hell man?

I’m going to sign off before I say anything worse and/or make myself look more foolish.