Author Archives: David

Why do people like the heat?

The high today in Baton Rouge was 40 degrees according to the stupid scale Americans use for temperature (4 Celsius according to every other nation on earth). That was much warmer than it was in Hays, where it was -8 Celsius (17 above on the stupid scale).

COME ON, AMERICA. THE TIME TO CONVERT TO THE METRIC SYSTEM PASSED BEFORE I WAS BORN. GET WITH THE WORLD. AND YOU WONDER WHY MANY THINK AMERICA IS BACKWARDS. 

FROM THIS POINT FORWARD, I WILL REFER TO FAHRENHEIT AS THE STUPID SCALE.

Few in Hays battled an eyelash at it being that cold. It’s winter. It’s Kansas.

I found it to be quite nice this morning. There wasn’t much wind, and it was not too bad for me only in a sweatshirt and turtleneck underneath in the minus teens Celsius. As long as I had my head covered, I was just fine. The wind makes it brutal when it blows, but it wasn’t blowing much today.

Had the high in Baton Rouge been the high in Hays today, many in these parts would have put on shorts. Most would have gone out in short sleeves without a jacket.

Yet in Baton Rouge, they were bundled up more than they were here.

On January 12, 2017, the high in Baton Rouge was a ridiculous 27 Celsius (82 on the stupid scale).

One of my high school classmates, Steve Caparotta, is a meteorologist for the CBS affiliate in Baton Rouge. On his Facebook page, he asked whether those in “Red Stick” preferred hot or cold.

Most said they liked it hot.

What is wrong with those people? Do they not realize it is WINTER, even if it is at a subtropical latitude?

To me, any winter temperature above 7 Celsius (45 on the stupid scale) is too hot. And don’t get me started on it being that ridiculously hot in January.

Those who like it so hot in January need to move to Rio de Janeiro or other equatorial climates. That way they can have it hot and humid for 12 months a year.

I don’t know how ANYONE likes living in hot and humid weather 12 months a year. I wouldn’t last 12 minutes in Brazil. Or any other climate between the Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn.

I hate hot weather. I really hate it. I despise going outside in the summer when it’s so hot you can fry eggs on the sidewalk. In western Kansas, it’s really bad when the wind starts blowing. You might as well stick your head inside an oven.

Do these people who love the heat not realize you can layer up in the cold, but in the heat, you can’t strip down to your birthday suit? I lived in the damn heat and humidity of Louisiana for 29 years. It’s one of the many, many, many things about the Bayou State I do not miss one bit, and the main reason I would never, EVER consider moving back.

To me, Kansas is way too hot as it is. The only reason I would not live in Alaska is because it’s isolated, but if I had my druthers, here are the states I would most like to live in:

  1. Maine
  2. North Dakota
  3. Wyoming
  4. South Dakota
  5. New Hampshire
  6. Vermont (I don’t care if Bernie Sanders is a Senator)

My least favorite:

  1. Florida (if you couldn’t have guessed that, you don’t know me)
  2. Arizona (I love you, Raymie, but it would take a heck of a lot for me to live there)
  3. Louisiana (how did I live there for so long? And I will never forgive my dad for marrying a New Orleans native)
  4. Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, South Carolina, North Carolina all tied
  5. Arkansas EXCEPT the northwest corner
  6. Texas EXCEPT the panhandle

I feel very, very, VERY sorry for those who are going to be living long after I pass away. They’re going to have to deal with the severe consequences of global warming. It’s bad enough now. I can’t imagine what it will be like at the beginning of the 22nd century.

I cower in fear for the summers in Kansas. I’m seriously considering adopting a new sleep/wake pattern for days when I don’t have anything going, and that’s to sleep during the day and not do anything until after sunset. That would have to be altered on days I have appointments and want to do things out of town, but maybe it’s worth looking into.

At least I have two, maybe three, months of good weather still ahead. Then there’s tornado season, then the summer. Kansas sucks.

Throwback Thursday: Scooba

In my post (late) last night, I mentioned watching Last Chance U, the Netflix series about the football team at East Mississippi Community College in Scooba.

The town is on Mississippi’s eastern border. Kemper County, where Scooba is located, has a little under 10,000 residents, and more than 60 percent are African-American. There are only two incorporated villages in Kemper County: Scooba and De Kalb, the county seat.

Kemper County was the birthplace and childhood home of John Stennis, a legendary politician who represented Mississippi in the United States Senate for 42 years (1947-1988). NASA’s test facility not too far from Bay St. Louis on the Gulf Coast is named in Stennis’ honor. My seventh grade science class at Arabi Park Middle ventured there in February 1989.

Scooba is only 40 miles east of the site of one of America’s darkest days of hatred.

Philadelphia, the seat of Neshoba County, was where civil rights workers Andrew Goodman, James Chaney and Mickey Schwerner were arrested the afternoon on June 21, 1964 on trumped-up charges of speeding and disturbing the peace. After five hours in the county jail, the three young men were released and began to driving down Mississippi Highway 19 to Meridian.

Sadly, while Goodman, Chaney and Schwerner were in jail, a dastardly plot was hatched by Neshoba County Deputy Sheriff Cecil Price and numerous members of the Ku Klux Klan. The plan was to follow the civil rights workers down Highway 19 and eventually stop them, then murder them and bury them in an earthen dam.

Eventually Price and his minions, led by trigger man Alton Wayne Roberts, carried out the executions. It wasn’t until August that the bodies of the three murdered men were found.

Price and Roberts were convicted of violating the civil rights of Goodman, Chaney and Schwerner by an all-white Mississippi jury in October 1967. Unfortunately, nobody was prosecuted by the state or the feds for murder.

Scooba (permanent population 700, give or take; many more people are there during the school year) is one of the many places I ventured during my 14 months as the publicity person for Delgado Community College’s athletic teams.

Delgado is the largest community college in Louisiana, a state which has a woefully low number of two-year colleges, but an oversaturation of four-year colleges. For instance, there are so many four-year colleges within 100 miles of downtown New Orleans that I’m not going to sit here right now and try to figure it out. If it were only LSU, Tulane and the University of New Orleans, it would be plenty. But add in Nicholls (Thibodaux), Southeastern Louisiana (Hammond), Southern (Baton Rouge), plus numerous other smaller colleges, and it gets to be too much.

I think there are too many four-year schools in Kansas, but Kansas Wesleyan, Bethany, Bethel and the others in the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference are private. SOuthern, Nicholls, Southeastern and UNO are all funded by the the state of Louisiana, as are several others. LSU complains about not getting enough funding, but if Louisiana had the guts to close some of the smaller universities or convert them to community colleges, it might help the flagship.

Delgado has only three athletic teams: men’s basketball, women’s basketball and baseball. The baseball program has been one of the best junior college programs in the United States since its founding in the mid-1970s under the leadership of Joe Scheuermann, who has been the Dolphins’ coach since 1991, and his father, Louis (Rags), who began the team in 1973 after Loyola University, another private four-year school located literally next door to Tulane, dropped its athletic program. Loyola restarted its program in 1989-90, but it was at a much lower level.

With an utter lack of two-year colleges in Louisiana–the only others with athletic teams are Bossier Parish near Shreveport, LSU-Eunice north and west of Lafayyette, and Baton Rouge Community College–Delgado must go into other states to find games.

Fortunately for the Dolphins, Mississippi has numerous two-year colleges, so they don’t have to travel long distances.

Delgado traditionally plays three Mississippi JUCOs every year: Gulf Coast, about 40 miles north of Gulfport; Pearl River, about halfway between New Orleans and Hattiesburg on Interstate 59; and Meridian, which does not play football nor does it compete in the same conference with the other Mississippi JUCOs due to its strong baseball team, one which has sent hundreds of players to Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Southern Miss.

Scheuermann will rotate the other Mississippi JUCOs onto his schedule, and in my second baseball season there, one of those was East Mississippi.

The team had to stay in Meridian, 40 miles south of Scooba. Fortunately, US Highway 45 is four-laned throughout most of the state, and it provided easy access from Meridian. The original schedule was to play a single game on a Friday night and a single game the next afternoon.

I drove separately from the team. I like my freedom. I rented an SUV at the Baton Rouge airport and drove straight to Meridian. I didn’t rent from New Orleans because it is much easier to do so in Baton Rouge, where I parked my car, walked from the garage to the rental counter, then out to the rental car on the ground level of the garage. In New Orleans, you have to take a shuttle from the terminal to the rental car area, which is at the far western edge of the airport property. Pain in the butt.

It’s an easy drive from Baton :Rouge to Meridian: US 61 to Natchez, US 84 to Interstate 55 at Brookhaven, I-55 to I-20 at Jackson, then to Meridian. All four-lane highway. Much easier than driving from Russell to Norton (sorry, Peggy), especially if deer are congregating on the side of US 283.

The team drove north on US 45 to Scooba and arrived just before 4:30, with first pitch scheduled for 6:00. However, there were fierce thunderstorms gathering in east central Mississippi, and the coaches agreed to postpone the Friday night game and play two seven-inning games the next day. There was no option to play Sunday, since Delgado was going to be traveling to Wesson to play at Copiah-Lincoln Community College Sunday.

With thunderstorms on the horizon, I figured I’d better haul butt back to Meridian. I was doing much faster than the 65 MPH speed limit (I estimate a couple of times I was close to 90) as I tried to beat the thunderstorm back to Meridian.

While I was driving like a bat out of hell, I was also on my phone, talking to Jimmy Ott to discuss the LSU-Arkansas baseball series that weekend on his radio show. I don’t recommend that.

It absolutely poured once we got back to Meridian. But I was safe.

The next day, I drove from Meridian to Philadelphia on Highway 19. Made me think long and hard about just how backwards and cruel Mississippi was until the 1970s. There is a large Indian casino near Philadelphia, and the city has certainly modernized greatly since 1964, but it will always carry the shame of what happened to Goodman, Chaney and Schwerner that Father’s Day.

I remember getting ridiculously sunburned in Scooba. I had to sit outside because there was no press box, and silly me exposed my nearly bald head to the sun on a cloudless day.

Less than two months after my trip to Scooba and side excursion to Philadelphia, Edgar Ray “Preacher” Kilian, one of the members of the lynch mob that killed Goodman, Chaney and Schwerner, was convicted of murder. Kilian was acquitted during the 1967 federal trial because some jurors stated they could not convict a preacher, even though Kilian’s claim to be a preacher was dubious at best.

Coincidentally, the same day of the evil act in Neshoba County, Jim Bunning pitched a perfect game for the Phillies against the Mets in Shea Stadium. The next year, when Sandy Koufax threw a perfecto vs. the Cubs in Los Angeles, New Orleans was battered by Hurricane Betsy at the same time. And Woodstock was being held at the same time Hurricane Camille lay waste to the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

The third season of Last Chance U came to Kansas. The 2017 Independence Community College football team was highlighted, and episodes should be available for streaming in the spring. If the Netflix producers thought driving from Scooba to Wesson was a grind, I hope they were ready for Independence to Garden City. Russell to Norton is tough enough, though I will never complain, because two of my favorite people on earth call Norton home.

I’ve got to get some sleep. I’m supposed to have my first session with Crista in almost a month tomorrow at 8. Supposed to. I’ll leave it at that.

More than 57 channels and nothing on

Confession: I cannot stand Bruce Springsteen. I cannot stand his far left-wing views. I’m not big fan of Trump, but Bruce’s hatred knows no bounds. I have ZERO Springsteen songs on my iPod, and I have played exactly ZERO Springsteen songs in my more than 10,000 plays of TouchTunes jukeboxes at Buffalo Wild Wings over the past four and a half years. Liz, Lisa, Tori and others at B-Dubs have never asked me to play Springsteen, and I’m not going to bring it up.

However, the title of this post is a take on a Springsteen song title because it’s appropriate here.

Weekday television in January is torture.

I cannot stand regular season college basketball. It’s mostly pointless. I want LSU to do well, of course, and I also follow Kentucky very closely. I love rubbing the SEC in the faces of the Kansas, K_State and Wichita State fatalists here.

I quit watching the NBA almost 30 years ago, and I will never start watching again. I follow the Milwaukee Bucks, but I do not watch games, period. The only reason I know how the Bucks are doing is because I get text alerts on their games.

The NHL isn’t on enough to watch, and besides, NBC only wants to show American teams. I really cannot stand many American teams, especially those in the south: Arizona, Carolina, Nashville, Florida, Tampa Bay and Dallas are all high on my shit list. The Stars are there mostly because of the way they fucked the fans in Minnesota by moving in 1993. The only other option is to buy the NHL’s streaming package, but that’s a little expensive. I’m not that invested in the game that I want to drop that kind of money. If the Quebec Nordiques ever return, that may change.

Thank God for streaming.

I have been known to binge watch a few shows on Hulu, Netflix and iTunes. Two of my guiltiest pleasures are a pair of Disney shows starring Peyton List, Jessie and Bunk’d. However, I’m more into stars other than List on those shows: Debby Ryan, the titular Jessie Prescott on Jessie; and Miranda May, who plays goofy farm girl Lou Hockhauser on Bunk’d.

I saw in the Jessie wikia where the character’s birthday was October 13, 1993. That happens to be the same day Tiffany Trump was born. It also was my 17th birthday.

I feel bad for Tiffany. Hopefully Debby is not cursed by this, even if it was just a character she played (FYI, Debby’s real life birthday is May 13, 1993).

Also, List co-starred in a TV movie, A Sister’s Nightmare, with Natasha Henstridge and Kelly Rutherford, in 2013. It’s worth checking out.

Tonight, I began to watch Last Chance U on Netflix. It chronicles the football program at East Mississippi Community College, where many players who could not make it a Division I university transfer to the school in tiny Scooba (think Russell if it had a JUCO) in hopes of getting back to the big time.

I should have been watching from the start, because my past took me to Scooba and many other points on the map in Mississippi.

I would go into it now, but it’s almost midnight. There’s only so many Jessie episodes I can watch in one day. Until then…

UCF update: an electronic billboard greeted motorists in Tuscaloosa today, begging national champion Alabama to schedule a home and home series against the Knights. If UCF is looking for sympathy for going 13-0 and not being selected for the CFP, this is not the way to go about it. ENOUGH ALREADY.

Saban vs. Osborne vs. Snyder: NO CONTEST!

For those who have been buried under a rock today, Alabama is the champion of major college football AGAIN.

The Crimson Tide won its fifth title in nine seasons last night, rallying from a 13-point deficit to defeat Southeastern Conference rival Georgia 26-23 in overtime.

Nick Saban has coached at Alabama 11 seasons, which happens to be the exact same length as his combined tenures at Toledo (one season), Michigan State (five) and LSU (five). He has won 127 games at Alabama and 218 overall as a head coach. Saban has now coached six national championship teams, tying him with Bear Bryant for most by any coach. The first was at LSU in 2003.

The 66-year old Saban has an excellent chance to winning more games in 25 seasons as a head coach than Tom Osborne did at Nebraska from 1973-97. Saban needs 33 to surpass “Dr. Tom”, and barring something calamitous, Saban will make it with room to spare. Saban will get to 300 barring something unforeseen, and I would bet on him passing Bryant’s mark of 323, which was the major college record until broken by the disgraced Joe Paterno and later Bobby Bowden.

I am well aware Osborne is revered in the Heartland, but I cannot accept he belongs on college football coaching’s Mount Rushmore ahead of the man in charge in Tuscaloosa.

Sorry,  Husker nation, but Saban runs circles around Osborne in most every way you cut it.

Alabama rarely gets to play weaklings in the SEC like Nebraska did in the Big Eight, and Saban will usually challenge the Tide with a very difficult non-conference game at a neutral site, whereas Osborne loaded up on lesser teams, especially later in his career. Nebraska could pencil in Kansas, Kansas State and Iowa State as sure-fire victories nearly every year before the first day of practice. Osborne never lost to KU or K-State, and very rarely bowed to the Cyclones. Missouri was terrible during most of Osborne’s last 14 years in Lincoln. Colorado had a very dark period in the late ’70s and early ’80s before Bill McCartney arrived. Oklahoma State sank to the bottom after it was hit hard by NCAA probation after the departure of Barry Sanders in 1989. Even Oklahoma fell off its perch following Barry Switzer’s resignation.

The SEC is not 14 powerhouses, but the Crimson Tide has to play three of the stronger programs in the conference every year: Auburn, LSU and Texas A&M. And the Tide will have to play a hard game to win the SEC championship, save for 2011 and ’17, when they won the national title without playing in the SEC championship game.

Saban has learned to do more with less. Coaches cannot work with student-athletes more than 20 hours a week during the season, a restriction which wasn’t in place until Osborne’s last years in Lincoln. Osborne was notorious for three-hour, full pads practices during the season and during bowl preparation, and I have to believe that was a big reason the Cornhuskers often bombed in bowl games. Saban knows when to back off and save his players’ bodies. His practices are fast-paced, but much shorter, and there is nowhere near the hitting Osborne had.

Saban has to deal with strict scholarship limits. When Osborne succeeded Bob Devaney, the NCAA was in its second year of scholarship limits, but it was 105. It was reduced to 95 in the 1980s and 85 in the ’90s. Saban has always had to deal with the 85 limit, except his one year at Toledo in 1990.

Osborne could get any player he wanted in Nebraska, even though Nebraska’s population is so small he had to go out of state. Not only that, but there are no major programs in North and South Dakota, and the two Kansas schools were usually so pitiful that the top players there wanted to escape, either to Lincoln or Norman.

Saban on the other hand has to deal with Auburn within the Yellowhammer State. Whenever he goes recruiting in the south, he’s battling Florida, Georgia, LSU, Texas A&M, Florida State, Miami and others for the big names.

Osborne rarely had turnover on his coaching staff. Saban, meanwhile, has constant turnover, mostly because his assistant coaches are in high demand. Last night, he beat Kirby Smart, who was the Crimson Tide’s defensive coordinator for nine seasons before returning to Georgia, his alma mater. Jeremy Pruitt, Smart’s successor at Alabama, will be coaching Tennessee next season. Jimbo Fisher, Saban’s offensive coordinator at LSU, moved from Florida State to Texas A&M. Will Muschamp, who coached with Saban at LSU and the Miami Dolphins, is at South Carolina after four seasons at Florida. Jim McElwain, the offensive coordinator on Saban’s first two national championship teams at Alabama, coached the Gators for nearly three seasons before being canned last October.

Osborne never wanted to change his offense or defense, until he finally realized the old 5-2 defense he ran was no match for the speed of Florida State and Miami in bowl games. It wasn’t until the Huskers went to the 4-3 that Osborne won a national championship.

Saban, meanwhile, adapts nicely to his personnel. He ran the 4-3 at Michigan State and LSU, but is running mostly a 3-4 at Alabama, although the Tide presents multiple looks which give offensive coordinators nightmares. Offensively, Saban would prefer to play smashmouth, but if he has a gifted quarterback, he won’t be afraid to open it up, like he did with Rohan Davey at LSU and A.J. McCarron at Alabama.

Osborne is one of two college football coaches who is revered like the Almighty Himself in this part of the United States.

Time to compare Saban to the other one.

Bill Snyder, who has coached at Kansas State since 1989, save for a three-year retirement between 2006-08, is already in the Hall of Fame, since there is a rule an active coach can be inducted once he turns 75. Saban will most certainly be inducted five years after he retires or turns 75, whichever comes first.

Nobody will deny Snyder has performed near-miracles at K-State, given how putrid the Wildcats were prior to his arrival. K-State was the only major college program to lose 500 games when Snyder arrived. Since then, Wake Forest has assumed the mantle of the lowest winning percentage among Power Five schools (surprising given how bad Kansas has often been), but the worry is

However, I cannot, will not, must not rate Snyder ahead of Saban. No way.

Saban and Snyder are diametrically opposed as far as scheduling philosophies.

Saban would rather the Tide play all Power Five non-conference opponents, but realizes he does not call the shots in scheduling, and thus has to take on teams from outside the Power Five in order for Alabama to keep its athletic department in the black. Saban is not afraid to take on the big games away from Tuscaloosa, such as facing Florida State in 2017 at Atlanta, or USC in 2016 at Arlington.

Snyder, on the other hand, loves cupcakes so much he could get sponsorship deals from Betty Crocker and Duncan Hines. His scheduling formula is a source of constant ridicule outside of Kansas, as it should be. He attempted to buy his way out of a home game with Auburn after the Wildcats played at Jordan-Hare under Ron Prince, but Jay Jacobs made the buyout financially prohibitive. Snyder tried the same with Miami and couldn’t get out of it. Yes, K-State is starting to schedule SEC schools, but it’s Vanderbilt, Mississippi State and Missouri. I’m not saying it has to be Alabama and Georgia, but LSU and Texas A&M would be a major upgrade.

Saban recruits mostly high school players, young men he can mold and shape over four or five years. Snyder wants the “mature” player, and that’s why K-State almost always signs more junior college players than any other Power Five program. It may be a quick fix, but Saban’s methods have been far more effective.

Outside of recruiting, Snyder’s are so unorthodox that they would never work in Tuscaloosa. Saban is not known as a media-friendly coach in the mold of Mack Brown, Pete Carroll or Steve Spurrier, but Snyder is far worse with the press than Saban. Snyder was the first college football coach to completely shut the media out of practice, tightly limit access to players (there is only a very small window each week to contact players at K-State), and not allow the media to talk to assistant coaches at all. Saban has done that, too, but Snyder was the first and took it to an extreme in a time when there was more open access.

Saban and Snyder are very similar in that they put in very long hours at the office. That’s one regard where Spurrier had it right: work smart, not long.

K-State is dreading the day Snyder retires or dies. It knows it will be an also-ran in the Big 12 once that happens.

Would Snyder have won big at Iowa had he been Hayden Fry’s successor instead of leaving for Manhattan? I doubt it. You can’t argue with the results at K-State, but Snyder’s program is not for everyone.

Saban, meanwhile, won big at two SEC schools, and if he had stayed longer at Michigan State and not been hamstrung with severe penalties early in his tenure at East Lansing, the Spartans would have been elite under his watch. Toledo went 9-2 in Saban’s only season there, so that’s another notch in his belt.

Osborne and Snyder did it at one place. It’s impressive yes, but for Saban to do it wherever he’s been makes him one of the greats.

Soul-crushingly bad list, part III

MIAMI DOLPHINS

The selection: 1981 AFC divisional playoff, the “Epic in Miami” vs. the Chargers–yes, I can understand this selection somewhat, since the Dolphins lost 41-38 in overtime. However, Miami rallied from a 24-0 deficit despite having the woefully bad quarterback tandem of David Woodley and Don Strock (“WoodStrock”), scoring on the final play of the first half on a hook-and-ladder. Miami’s opportunity to win in regulation was foiled by Chargers tight end Kellen Winslow, who blocked Uwe von Schamman’s field goal attempt on the final play of the fourth quarter. San Diego won it late in overtime on Rolf Bernsichke’s three-pointer. Winslow caught 13 passes for 166 yards despite severe dehydration.

The Epic in Miami was heartbreaking, but not as soul-crushing as December 21, 1974.

The Dolphins were the two-time defending Super Bowl champions, looking to win their fourth consecutive AFC championship. Their first playoff opponent was the Raiders, who were steamrolled 27-10 in Miami in the previous year’s AFC championship game.

The general consensus among scribes who knew anything about professional football was the winner of Miami at Oakland would be awarded the Vince Lombardi Trophy the evening of January 12 in New Orleans. The Steelers were formidable thanks to the Steel Curtain and Franco Harris, but the press was still not convinced Terry Bradshaw was starting quarterback material. The NFC’s best, the Rams and Vikings, had their flaws. The Cowboys were not in the playoffs for the only time between 1966 and 1983. The Redskins were too old and offensively ineffective. The Bills had O.J. Simpson and no defense. The Cardinals were in the playoffs for the first time since 1948.

Miami took charge on the opening kickoff when rookie Nat Moore returned it 89 yards for a touchdown, silencing the Oakland Coliseum. The Raiders’ first drive ended on a Kenny Stabler interception, but they got it in gear the next time they had the ball and scored on a pass from the Snake to Charlie Smith. Miami took a 10-7 lead at halftime on a Garo Yepremian field goal.

In the third quarter, Stabler found Fred Biletnikoff in the right corner of the end zone for another TD, and the scoring would go back and forth throughout the second half. Oakland took a 21-19 lead in the fourth on a 75-yard bomb from Stabler to Cliff Branch, only to have that lead erased on Benny Malone’s 23-yard run with 2:08 to go.

The Raiders, who lost a 1972 divisional playoff game on Harris’ Immaculate Reception, looked like they would suffer heartbreak again.

Instead, Stabler showed why he was the NFL’s Most Valuable Player in 1974, completing passes of 18 and 20 yards to Biletnikoff to help Oakland reach the Miami 8 with 35 seconds left.

Stabler rolled left and appeared to be caught from behind by Dolphins defensive end Vern Den Herder, but the Snake got the pass away. It fell into a crowd where Clarence Davis had to battle three Dolphins for the ball, but somehow Davis snatched the pigskin away from linebacker Mike Kolen and fell to the turf in front of back judge Ben Tompkins, who immediately signaled touchdown.

Griese and Miami got the ball back one more time, needing a field goal to win, but an interception preserved Oakland’s 28-26 victory.

Had the NFL adopted rules which gave home field advantage to the teams with the best record and not a predetermined formula in 1974, not 1975, this game would not have happened. Miami would have hosted Pittsburgh and Oakland would have welcomed Buffalo in the divisional round.

As it turned out, the Raiders did not win the Super Bowl. They didn’t make it to New Orleans, falling 24-13 to Pittsburgh in the AFC championship game at Oakland. Two weeks later, the Steelers beat the Vikings 16-6 for the first of four championships in six seasons. The Raiders’ title had to wait until 1976.

Miami is still in search of its first championship since 1973. The Dolphins lost Super Bowl XVII to the Redskins and XIX to the 49ers.

Honestly, none of Miami’s Super Bowl losses were surprising.

–In Super Bowl VI, the Cowboys had the experience from losing the previous year’s game to the Colts, while the Dolphins were in their fourth playoff game all-time.

–In Super Bowl XVII, the Dolphins had the league’s top defense, but they were well overmatched by the Redskins’ Hogs and John Riggins. Also, David Woodley and Don Strock had no business playing quarterback in a Super Bowl. Don Shula figured it out and drafted Dan Marino three months later.

–In Super Bowl XIX, Marino was coming off his record-setting regular season, but Joe Montana had a more balanced offense. San Francisco also had a far superior defense.

MINNESOTA VIKINGS

The selection: 1998 NFC championship game at home vs. Atlanta. The Vikings went 15-1 in the ’98 regular season, scoring a then-NFL record 556 points. Minnesota, led by MVP quarterback Randall Cunningham and dynamic receivers Cris Carter and rookie Randy Moss, simply shelled opposing defenses all season, save for a 27-24 loss at Tampa Bay in week nine.

Atlanta came into the game 14-2, but were in the NFC championship game for the first time. Minnesota led 27-20 in the final five minutes, only to see Gary Anderson miss a 39-yard field goal, his first miss of a field goal or extra point all season. The Falcons drove to the tying touchdown, and Morten Andersen kicked Atlanta to Super Bowl XXXIII in overtime.

Another case of very short-term memory by the author of this list.

All of the Vikings’ Super Bowl losses occurred prior to the 1977 season, so few people under 50 can remember any of them. Of those four losses, three cannot be considered soul-crushing.

The Vikings were underdogs in Super Bowl VIII vs. Miami. The Dolphins of 1973 were, to many, better than the undefeated 1972 team, because that year’s Miami squad played a tougher schedule and was more dominant in the playoffs, including the 24-7 pasting of the Vikings at Rice Stadium. Minnesota, on the other hand, played in a putrid division (nobody else in the NFC Central finished above .500) and were defeated by two of the best three teams on its regular season schedule, the Falcons and Bengals. The better tam won.

In Super Bowl IX vs. Pittsburgh, the Vikings had the experience edge, but the Steelers were the more talented team, except at quarterback, where Fran Tarkenton was far ahead of Terry Bradshaw at that time. Both teams had Hall of Fame defensive tackles (Joe Greene for Pittsburgh, Alan Page for Minnesota), but the Steelers had the better linebackers, led by Hall of Famers Jack Ham and Jack Lambert. Minnesota’s offense gained a mere 17 yards rushing and 119 total, and the Vikings’ only score came on a blocked punt. Better team won.

Oakland came into Super Bowl XI with very few players remaining from the Super Bowl II squad which lost to Vince Lombardi’s Packers but John Madden had much better offensive weapons, led by Stabler, Branch and Biletnikoff, plus tight end Dave Casper. By this time, many thought the Vikings were doomed to fail a fourth time, and sure enough, they were. Raiders win 32-14, and it wasn’t even that close, given Minnesota scored its second touchdown in the game’s final minute against Oakland’s scrubs. The Raiders proved they were the far superior team.

Super Bowl IV hurt for Minnesota. The Vikings came into Tulane Stadium as 14-point favorites over the Chiefs, the losers of Super Bowl I, and many felt the Jets’ victory over the Colts the previous year was a fluke, that the AFL was still the inferior league.

The lens of time, however, reveals this was not as big an “upset” as it was made out to be in 1970. The Chiefs had so many Hall of Famers on their defense–Bobby Bell, Curley Culp, Buck Buchanan, Willie Lanier (who wasn’t on the team in Super Bowl I) and Emmitt Thomas–and played enough “exotic” schemes (at least for 1969) that Minnesota was befuddled when Kansas City lined up. All Stram had to do was line up Culp or Buchanan over Vikings center Mick Tingelhoff (a future Hall of Famer) and Minnesota’s blocking schemes were blown up.

Offensively, Len Dawson was a much better quarterback than Joe Kapp. Stram devised plans to double team ends Carl Eller and Jim Marshall and throw outside to Otis Taylor, Frank Pitts and shifty halfback Mike Garrett, plus run traps and misdirection plays to fool Page, which happened often in the Chiefs’ 23-7 win.

Having studied the 1969 season statistics, Kansas City should have been favored, in my humble opinion.

However, the most soul-crushing playoff loss in Viking history occurred in Bloomington in the 1975 NFC divisional playoff vs. Dallas.

The Vikings came in 12-2, even though their schedule was pretty bad. Fran Tarkenton had the best year of his career and was the consensus choice as league MVP. Chuck Foreman scored 22 touchdowns, only one off the record set that season by O.J. The Purple People Eaters were at their suffocating best.

Dallas was the wild card team out of the NFC at 10-4, one game behind the Cardinals. The Cowboys missed the playoffs in 1974 by going 8-6, and many thought 1975 would be a “rebuilding” year. Bob Lilly, possibly the greatest defensive tackle who ever played the game, retired after ’74, while defensive teammates Lee Roy Jordan, Jethro Pugh, Larry Cole and Mel Renfro were aging. The offensive line was now without All-Pro guard John Niland and center Dave Manders. The running game was in flux, as Calvin Hill and Walt Garrison were gone, and Tony Dorsett was still two years away.

However, the Cowboys had Roger “The Dodger” Staubach, and that was enough to give Tom Landry’s team a fighting chance in any game.

Indeed, Staubach was never better than the afternoon of December 28, 1975 in Metropolitan Stadium.

With just over three minutes to play, Minnesota led 14-10 and had the ball. It looked like the Cowboys would once again come up short in their quest for their third NFC championship.

However, the Cowboys stopped the Vikings and got the ball back at their own 15 with just under two minutes left. Dallas survived a 4th-and-16 from its own 25 with a 25-yard pass from Staubach to Drew Pearson, a play where Minnesota believed Pearson was out of bounds when he caught the pass, but the officials ruled he was forced out by the Vikings’ Nate Wright.

One play later, Pearson and Wright jostled again as Staubach launched a high arching pass deep down the right sideline. The ball came down at the 4, where Pearson outfought Wright, made the catch and backed into the end zone.

The Vikings believed there was offensive pass interference. Page argued so much he was ejected. Tarkenton, whose father died watching the game back at his home in Georgia, came onto the field to berate an official, leading to Vikings fans throwing numerous objects onto the field. A whiskey bottle hit back judge Armen Terzian in the head, rendering him unconscious. (Terzian would become more infamous in 1978 when Chiefs coach Marv Levy called Terzian an “over-officious jerk” during a game in Buffalo.)

Dallas defeated Minnesota 17-14, then routed Los Angeles 37-7 in the NFC championship game, but fell 21-17 to Pittsburgh in Super Bowl X.

The Vikings are now two wins away from playing in Super Bowl LII in their own stadium. This list may need to be updated. But for now, Staubach’s Hail Mary trumps all else.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

The selection: 2010 NFC wild card game at Seattle, where the defending Super Bowl champion Saints lost 41-36 to the Seahawks, who won the ridiculously weak NFC West with a 7-9 record. The game became famous (or infamous in Louisiana) for the “Beast Quake”, when Marshawn Lynch rumbled 67 yards for the game-clinching touchdown and prompted the crowd at CenturyLink Field to cheer so loud it registered on a seismograph at the University of Washington’s geology department.

Had to think about my hometown team long and hard with this one. Yes, losing to a 7-9 team in the playoffs was more annoying than soul-crushing. Saints fans, and many other football fans across the country, decried the fact a 12-4 team had to go on the road in the playoffs against a team with a losing record.

However, my choice for the Saints’ most soul-crushing playoff loss goes back to my youth. In fact, the 30-year anniversary of this game was just last Wednesday.

It was New Orleans’ very first NFL playoff game, the 1987 NFC wild card game at home vs. Minnesota.

From 1967 through 1986, the Saints posted exactly zero winning seasons. They went 8-8 in both 1979 and ’83 and were in position to make the playoffs going into December, but each time, New Orleans stumbled.

In 1979, the Saints were 7-6 and held a 35-14 lead in the third quarter against Oakland on Monday Night Football. Instead of clinching their first non-losing season in franchise history, the Saints imploded, giving up 28 unanswered points to the Raiders, who won 42-35. The next week, Dan Fouts came to the Superdome and carved up the Saints like a turkey in a 35-0 laugher, knocking New Orleans out of the playoffs. The Saints won their season finale in Los Angeles against the Rams in the Rams’ last home game at the Los Angeles Coliseum for almost 37 years.  The next season, New Orleans lost their first 14 games and finished 1-15, but more importantly, introduced the world to the practice of wearing paper bags at games to hide their shame of supporting terrible teams.

Four years later, the Saints only needed to beat the Rams in the regular season finale to go to the playoffs. The Saints did not allow an offensive touchdown, but the Rams scored a safety, two touchdowns on interception and another TD on a punt return. Los Angeles’ only offensive points were Mike Lansford’s 42-yard field goal with two seconds left to give the Rams a 26-24 victory and leave New Orleans in the cold again.

In 1985, Tom Benson bought the Saints from original owner John Mecom, who made overtures to Jacksonville about moving the franchise there. It took intervention from Louisiana Governor Edwin Edwards to force Mecom to sell to an owner who would keep the team in Louisiana.

Saints coach Bum Phillips, hired by Mecom in 1981, resigned with four games to go in 1985. Soon thereafter, Benson hired Jim Finks, the architect of championship teams in Minnesota and Chicago, as general manager. Finks then hired Jim Mora, who coached the Philadelphia/Baltimore Stars to two United States Football League championships and one runner-up finish, as Phillips’ successor.

The Saints went 7-9 in Mora’s first season of 1986. The next season, New Orleans split their first two games, winning at home vs. Cleveland and losing at Philadelphia before NFL players went on strike. One game was cancelled, and three more were played with replacement players. The Saints went 2-1 in the replacement games before the regulars came back for the sixth game vs. San Francisco.

Morten Andersen, the future Hall of Fame kicker, made five field goals for the Saints, but his game-winning attempt was no good, allowing San Francisco to get out of the Big Easy with a 24-22 win.

After the game, Mora went nuclear. Two of the most famous lines ever uttered by an NFL coach were spewed in the Saints’ locker room:

  • We’ve got a long way to go. We’re close, and close don’t mean shit (censored). And you can put that on TV for me.
  • Could of, would of, should of…the good teams don’t say coulda, woulda, shoulda. They get it done, okay? I’m tired of saying coulda, woulda, shoulda.

Those statements lit a fire under the Saints, who won their next nine games, clinching the franchise’s first winning season and playoff berth. New Orleans’ 12-3 record was the second best in the NFL, trailing only San Francisco’s 13-2.

Minnesota, meanwhile, scraped into the playoffs at 8-7. The Vikings were all but eliminated from the postseason when they lost their regular season finale at home to the Redskins, but the next day, they were revived by the Cowboys, who beat the Cardinals in what would be the Cards’ final game representing St. Louis.

Saints fans had already booked reservations in Chicago, where the Saints would face the Bears in the divisional round if they beat the Vikings.

New Orleans started very well, recovering a fumble deep in Minnesota territory on the Vikings’ first possession and converting it into a touchdown pass from Bobby Hebert to Eric Martin.

After forcing the Vikings to punt on their second drive, the tide turned sharply against the Black and Gold.

The Saints fumbled the punt, and Minnesota converted it into a field goal. When the Saints punted after their next possession, Anthony Carter, the Vikings’ All-Pro receiver, returned it 84 yards for a touchdown, and Minnesota was ahead to stay.

Any faint hope the Saints had of a comeback died on the final play of the first half when Wade Wilson completed a 44-yard Hail Mary to Hassan Jones, making it 31-10.

Final: Vikings 44, Saints 10.

New Orleans would not win its first playoff game until 2000, when it beat the defending champion Rams. And of course, 2009 was nirvana for the Saints and their long-suffering fans, thanks to Breesus and victory in Super Bowl XLIV.

The Saints and Vikings meet again next Sunday. Minnesota won in the regular season opener at U.S. Bank Stadium, the site of the rematch, as well as Super Bowl LII.

Okay enough for tonight. More later in the week.

 

Soul-crushingly bad list, part II

Back to more of CBS Sports’ bad list of the most soul-crushing playoff defeat in each NFL team’s history.

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

The selection: Super Bowl XLIV, when Peyton Manning lost to his hometown club, the Saints, led by Drew Brees. New Orleans trailed 10-6 at halftime, but coach Sean Payton’s gamble to start the second half with an onside kick paid off, turning the tide permanently in the Saints’ favor. Tracy Porter’s 74-yard interception return in the fourth quarter sealed New Orleans’ 31-17 victory, the Saints’ first championship.

If that’s the most soul-crushing loss in INDIANAPOLIS Colts history, fine. Okay.

But the Colts played in Baltimore from 1953-83, and had a few decent players. Johnny Unitas? Remember him? What about Gino Marchetti? Art Donovan? Lenny Moore? Raymond Berry? Yeah, they’re all in the Hall of Fame. And there were some darn good players who didn’t make it to Canton during the Baltimore years, including Bubba Smith, Mike Curtis, Bert Jones, Roger Carr, Lydell Mitchell and Joe Ehrmann, among others.

In 1968, the Colts came to training camp angry. Don Shula was entering his sixth season as the team’s coach, and while Baltimore had been a big winner throughout Shula’s tenure, the Colts had come up short when it counted.

Baltimore was waxed 27-0 by Cleveland in the 1964 NFL championship game. The next year, the Colts faced the Packers in an playoff to determine the Western Division champion. Baltimore led 10-0, only to see Green Bay come back, tying the game on a controversial Don Chandler field goal, one which Colts players, coaches and fans swore was no good, but ruled good. The Packers won in overtime, then defeated the Browns for the NFL title in Jim Brown’s last football game.

In 1967, Baltimore won 11 of its first 13 games. It did not lose in that span, tying the Rams and Colts in consecutive games in October. The Colts played the Rams in Los Angeles in the final game of the regular season, needing to win or tie to win the Coastal Division championship.

That season, the NFL expanded to 16 teams when the Saints came into existence. The NFL grouped teams into four four-team divisions, two in the Eastern Conference and two in the Western Conference. The Colts and Rams were in the same division with the Falcons and 49ers (don’t get me started on that–not this time anyway). Unlike previous seaosns, when teams who were tied atop a divsion at the end of the regular season would engage in a playoff to determine the champion, the NFL instituted a series of tiebreakers in 1967 so the playoffs were not delayed. There were now two rounds of playoffs, the conference championship games and the league championship game, prior to what was then the AFL-NFL World Championship Game, of course now the Super Bowl.

Guess what? The Colts were bitten in the butt by the new rules.

The Rams won 34-10, sending Baltimore home at 11-1-2, while 9-5 Cleveland and 9-4-1 Green Bay played on. The Packers beat the Rams to win the Western Conference, beat Dallas in the Ice Bowl for the NFL title, and then rolled over the Raiders in Super Bowl II, Vince Lombardi’s last game as Green Bay’s coach.

The Colts had one slight problem in 1968: the sore right elbow of John Constantine Unitas.

Shula did not believe Unitas was healthy enough to withstand the punishment of a 14-game season, and thus traded with the Giants for journeyman Earl Morrall, who had no chance of starting with some guy named Fran Tarkenton already there.

Morrall had the best year of his career and was named the NFL’s Most Valuable Player. The defense, led by Smith and Curtis, was savage. Baltimore went 13-1, losing only to the Browns, now led by Leroy Kelly, in the regular season. Baltimore eased past Minnesota to win the Western Conference, then mauled the Browns 34-0 at Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium (aka the Mistake By the Lake) to advance to Super Bowl III.

Waiting for the Colts were the New York Jets, led by their flamboyant quarterback, Joseph William Namath, aka Broadway Joe and Joe Willie. The Jets’ high-flying attack, led by glue-fingered receivers Don Maynard and George Sauer, avenged their loss in the Heidi Game by edging the Raiders 27-23 for the AFL title.

You know the rest of the story.

Oddsmakers establish Colts as favorites anywhere between 18 to 21 points. Namath guarantees a Jet victory the Thursday before the game. Namath delivers on his guarantee, 16-7.

Now how was that not soul-crushing? Lose a game you were expected to win and win easily? A loss so bad the Colts didn’t recover in ’69, going 8-5-1 and prompting Shula to leave Baltimore for the Dolphins?

Fortunately, the Colts only lost the game. Safety Rick Volk was knocked into orbit somewhere between Uranus and Neptune after colliding more than a few times with Jets running back Matt Snell. He had to be rushed to the emergency room of a Miami hospital after going into convulsions. Some feared he might die, but he recovered and made a key interception in Super Bowl V which helped the Colts defeat the Cowboys.

I don’t care if Indianapolis has had its fair share of heartache–the 1995 AFC championship game when Jim Harbaugh’s Hail Mary at PIttsburgh fell off the chest of Aaron Bailey and fell to the turf, Peyton Manning’s playoff struggles vs. the Patriots until the 2006 breakthrough, losing to the Chargers at home in 2007. Super Bowl III trumps all.

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

The selection: 1995 AFC divisional playoff at home vs. the Colts, when Lin Elliott missed three field goal attempts in a 10-7 loss.

Most Chiefs fans under 55 forget anything which happened before Marty Schottenheimer’s arrival in 1989. Yes, the Chiefs were pretty bad from 1972-88, playing in ONE playoff game (losing 35-15 to the Jets in 1986), but one game sent Kansas City into its deep, dark depression.

Christmas Day, 1971. Chiefs vs. Dolphins in an AFC divisional playoff, the first home game for a Kansas City team in a professional postseason.

The Chiefs were down to one, possibly two, home games at Municipal Stadium. Arrowhead Stadium would be open in August 1972, giving the Chiefs their own facility for the first time in franchise history after sharing Municipal with the Athletics and Royals from 1963-71 (except 1968, the interregnum between the Athletics moving to Oakland and the Royals coming into existence as an expansion team) and the Cotton Bowl with the Cowboys as the Dallas Texans from 1960-62.

Kansas City won three AFL championships (1962, ’66, ’69) in the league’s ten seasons, but all four playoff games to win those titles were on the road: Houston in ’62, Buffalo in ’66, then Shea Stadium and Oakland in ’69. Of course, both Super Bowls were away from Kansas City, too, with the Chiefs losing the first to Green Bay in Los Angeles, then beating Minnesota in the fourth at New Orleans’ Tulane Stadium.

Finally, playoff football was coming to Missouri (the Cardinals had yet to reach the playoffs since moving to St. Louis in 1960, and never played a home playoff game in 28 seasons in the Gateway City), and the Chiefs had a fine team which went 10-3-1. Many considered this to be Hank Stram’s strongest team, better than the one which won Super bowl IV.

Quarterback Len Dawson had a superb season at age 36. Receiver Otis Taylor was a consensus All-Pro who scared the bejesus out of cornerbacks and safeties. Ed Podolak was a solid running back who was excellent at catching the ball out of the backfield. The offensive line was punishing. The defense, anchored by Hall of Famers Buck Buchanan, Curley Culp, Bobby Bell, Willie Lanier and Emmitt Thomas, was suffocating.

I’m sure Lamar Hunt had many a dream in the fall of 1971 about his Chiefs taking down the Cowboys in New Orleans at Super Bowl VI. Many thought the game would come to pass.

In their second season under Don Shula, the Dolphins unseated the Colts as AFC East champion. Bob Griese was the consensus choice as the NFL’s Offensive Player of the Year, and Miami had a powerful one-two running attack of Larry Csonka and Jim Kiick, better known as “Butch and Sundance”, a homage to the western which gave us the iconic song “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head”. The Dolphin defense was one of the league’s best, anchored by middle linebacker Nick Buoniconti and featuring standouts such as Manny Fernandez, Bill Stanfill, Dick Anderson and Jake Scott.

Last weekend, Kansas City experienced bitter cold. But on December 25, 1971, it was 62 degrees when the Chiefs and Dolphins got underway.

With the Chiefs already ahead 3-0, Lanier intercepted Griese on Miami’s second drive, and it led to a touchdown on a screen pass from Dawson to Podolak. However, the Dolphins would come back from the 10-0 deficit with 10 points of their own in the second quarter, and this set up quite a slugfest in the second half.

The teams traded touchdowns in the third and fourth quarters. The Chiefs took the lead twice, but each time the Dolphins countered. Following Griese’s strike to Marv Fleming which tied at 24-24 with 1:36 to go, Podolak returned the ensuing kickoff 78 yards to the Miami 22. Three running plays lost three yards, but the Chiefs were in easy field goal range for Jan Stenerud, the man who would become the first pure kicker inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1991. However, he missed an earlier attempt from nearly the same distance in the second quarter, and his accuracy was well down from his high standards of the previous four seasons.

Indeed, Stenerud missed the 32-yard attempt. The two misses prompted Hank Stram to decline the opportunity for Stenerud to attempt a 68-yard field goal on a free kick after Dennis Homan fair caught Larry Seiple’s punt on the final play of the fourth quarter.

In overtime, Buoniconti blocked Stenerud’s 42-yard attempt, and Miami’s Garo Yepremian was short on a 52-yard try. The game went into a second overtime, only the second game in professional football history to reach the sixth period.

The Chiefs were also involved in the other double overtime game to that point, winning the 1962 AFL championship as the Dallas Texans over the Houston OIlers. In that game, the Texans’ Abner Haynes erroneously chose to kick off to begin overtime instead of taking the wind as Stram had wanted. The Texans waited out the Oilers long enough to gain the wind in the second overtime, and Tommy Brooker connected on a 25-yard field goal for a 20-17 triumph at Houston’s Jeppesen Stadium, which is now the site of the University of Houston’s TDECU Stadium.

Dawson was intercepted by Scott in the second overtime. Csonka, who had been bottled up by Lanier, Culp, Buchanan and the rest of the Chiefs’ defense, finally busted loose on a trap play. Yepremian nailed a 37-yard field goal, and after 22 minutes, 40 seconds of overtime, the Dolphins were a 27-24 winner.

Miami blanked Baltimore 21-0 at the Orange Bowl for the AFC championship, but were no match for Dallas in Super Bowl VI. The Dolphins were gashed by Duane Thomas and Walt Garrison for 252 yards rushing, and the Cowboys won 24-3. Through the first 51 Super Bowls, the ’71 Dolphins are the only team not to score a touchdown, although other teams (’72 Redskins, ’74 Vikings, 2000 Giants) did not score an offensive touchdown.

The next season, the Dolphins opened in Kansas City at Arrowhead. Miami won 20-10 in a game nowhere near as close as the score–the Chiefs’ only touchdown came with nine seconds left in the game–and the Dolphins did not lose again until September 23, 1973.

Kansas City spent the next 14 seasons in purgatory, failing to reach the playoffs until 1986. Stram was fired after going 5-9 in 1974. He would then coach the Saints in 1976 and ’77, going 7-21, and infamously becoming the first coach to lose to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in December 1977.

And no, I did not give any consideration to today’s meltdown vs. the Titans.

LOS ANGELES RAMS

The selection: Super Bowl XXXVI. The Rams entered as 14-point favorites following a 14-2 regular season which included a 24-17 win over the Patriots at Foxborough. Yet New England won 20-17 on a 48-yard field goal by Adam Viantieri on the game’s final play.  The Patriots’ quarterback, some guy named Tom Brady, was named the game’s MVP. “The Greatest Show on Turf” was denied its second Super Bowl title in three seasons.

Okay, I will go along with that as the most soul-crushing playoff loss in ST. LOUIS Rams history.

There are plenty of candidates as far as the LOS ANGELES Rams go.

Super Bowl XIV? Not close. The Steelers, aiming for their fourth championship in six years, were heavy favorites to beat the 9-7 Rams. However, Los Angeles scrapped and clawed at Pittsburgh throughout before finally succumbing to two Terry Bradshaw-to-John Stallworth bombs in the final period. The 31-19 tally was no indication of how close the game was. It hurt the Rams, but I’m sure most fans were not grieving for long.

The 1967 NFL Western Conference championship? Yes, the Rams came in at 11-1-2 compared to 9-4-1 for the Packers, and Los Angeles beat Green Bay 27-24 at the L.A. Coliseum two weeks prior to this contest. However, the Packers had proven time and time again they were money in the playoffs under Vince Lombardi, the 1960 NFL championship game loss to the Eagles excepted, and this game was in cold, but not frigid, Milwaukee, not Los Angeles.

Losing 51-7 to the Redskins in the 1983 NFC divisional playoff? Nope. The Redskins were too powerful for a Rams team which had been carried to the playoffs by rookie Eric Dickerson, who rushed for 1,808 yards that season.

The award goes to FOUR games with one common denominator.

Chuck Knox was the Rams’ coach in all of them.

1974 NFC championship at Minnesota–this was the expected matchup for the right to go to Super Bowl IX.

The Vikings and Rams both finished the regular season 10-4. In the regular season, the Rams bested the Vikings 20-17 in Los Angeles, but due to the NFL’s method of predetermined playoff sites–one which would be scrapped in 1975 to give home field advantage to the team with the better record–the Rams were forced to venture to the Twin Cities after beating the Redskins 19-10 in the divisional playoffs. The Vikings, who routed the Cardinals 30-14 in the other NFC divisional playoff, were looking to get back to the Super Bowl after their humiliation by Miami in Super Bowl VIII.

The Rams caught a huge break with the weather. It was 31 degrees in Bloomington on December 29, 1974, which prompted some Viking fans to venture to Metropolitan Stadium in shorts. Vikings coach Bud Grant, who did not allow the use of heaters on his team’s sideline, was less than pleased. He was hoping for about 31 degrees colder.

In a defensive struggle, the Vikings led 7-3 at halftime, but in the third quarter, a 73-yard pass from James Harris to Harold Jackson moved the Rams to the Viking 1.

Los Angeles came away with nothing.

Tom Mack, a Rams All-Pro guard who would eventually be enshrined in Canton, was called for a false start, which apparently came after some pointing and screaming from Vikings defensive tackle Alan Page, a future Hall of Famer himself, and not from anything Mack did. Replays showed Mack did not move.

The drive ended when Harris was intercepted in the end zone by Wally Hilgenberg. The Vikings took over at the 20 and drove 80 yards to the touchdown which put the game on ice. The Rams scored a late TD, but it was not enough. Minnesota won 14-10.

1975 NFC championship game at home vs. Cowboys–the Rams went 12-2 in ’75, aided no doubt by a putrid NFC West which saw no other team win more than five games. However, one of Los Angeles’ two defeats was an 18-7 setback on opening day at Texas Stadium to a Cowboys team which went 10-4 and was the wild card to the NFC playoffs, finishing one game behind the division champion Cardinals.

The Rams blasted the Cards 35-23 in the divisional playoffs, which Jack Youngblood returning an intercepted screen pass 47 yards for a touchdown. The Cowboys, meanwhile, shocked the 12-2 Vikings 17-14 in Bloomington on a 50-yard pass from Staubach to Drew Pearson, the pass which would give rise to the term “Hail Mary” in football.

The Rams, led by quarterback Ron Jaworski and running back Lawrence McCutcheon, acted as if they would rather be anywhere but the L.A. Coliseum on the fourth day of 1976. The Cowboys won 37-7.

1976 NFC championship game at Minnesota–the third time is the charm for Knox and the Rams, right?

Nope.

With fourth-and-inches inside the Viking 1 in the first quarter, Knox eschewed going for it and instead sent in Tom Dempsey, he of the deformed right foot and 63-yard field goal in 1970, to convert an 18-yard try. Instead, the Vikings’ Nate Allen blocked the kick, and Bobby Bryant raced 90 yards the other way for a Minnesota touchdown.

The Rams cut a 17-0 halftime deficit to 17-13, but the Vikings put the game away in the fourth quarter on a 12-yard touchdown run by reserve Sammy Lee Johnson. Minnesota was on its way to its fourth Super Bowl loss in eight seasons, a position the Rams would gladly have begged for.

1977 NFC divisional playoff at home vs. Vikings–one year to the day after the 1976 NFC title game loss, the Rams met Minnesota again, this time at the Coliseum.

No bad weather. Sunny and 70, right?

Instead, Mother Nature unleashed her full fury on southern California, unleashing a torrential rainstorm the day after Christmas which turned the grass of the Coliseum into a sea of mud. And certainly a field in Los Angeles did not have the advanced draining of one in Miami, so the Vikings and Rams would be forced to slog through a quagmire to get to Dallas for the NFC championship game.

One advantage Los Angeles held was the Vikings would be without Fran Tarkenton, who was out with injuries which come with being a 37-year old quarterback. Instead, journeyman Bob Lee would start.

The Rams’ starting quarterback was Pat Haden, the ex-USC Trojan and Rhodes Scholar. One of his backups was none other than Joe Namath, the same Broadway Joe I mentioned earlier.

Given the conditions and Tarkenton’s absence, defenses ruled the roost. Through three quarters, the Vikings led 7-0.

The Rams had two chances to score early in the fourth quarter, only to be foiled by an interception and a missed field goal. The Vikings scored on a short field following a punt to make it 14-0, and Los Angeles would not score until the game’s final minute. The Rams recovered an onside kick, but the drive went nowhere and the Rams were done. Again.

Knox’s assistants were begging him to put Namath in the game throughout. They felt Joe Willie still had magic in his arm despite the rest of his body resembling that of a 70-year old with arthritis. Namath never got in the game, and less than three months later, he retired.

Knox was fired soon after this loss and went to Buffalo, where he coached the Bills to two playoff appearances in five seasons. In 1983, Knox went to Seattle, where his nine-year run included three playoff trips, the first in franchise history. He would go back to the Rams in 1992, but suffered through three woeful seasons before getting out of coaching for good.

The good news? The Rams saved themselves the embarrassment of a likely blowout in Dallas the next week. The Cowboys squashed the Vikings 23-6, then battered the Broncos 27-10 in Super Bowl XII.

I lied. I said there were four soul-crushing Rams losses. Turns out there’s a fifth.

1978 NFC championship game at home vs. Dallas–that the Rams went 12-4 after what happened in the offseason was a minor miracle.

The Rams originally hired George Allen, who coached the team from 1966-70, to replace Knox. Allen himself was fired after the 1968 season by the late Dan Reeves, who owned the team from the time it moved from Cleveland to Los Angeles in 1946 through his death in 1971, but a player revolt prompted Reeves to bring Allen back. George lasted two more seasons before going to Washington, where his Over the Hill Gang got the Redskins to Super Bowl VII.

By the end of 1977, Allen wore out his welcome in the nation’s capital, and the Rams, desperate to get over the hump and make the Super Bowl, brought Allen back. But after two exhibition games, Carroll Rosenbloom, who acquired the Rams in 1972 after swapping the Colts with Robert Irsay (talk about a disaster), had enough and sent Allen packing.

Into the breach stepped Ray Malavasi, a longtime Rams assistant. Los Angeles won its sixth consecutive NFC West title in ’78 and crushed the Vikings 34-10 at home in the divisional playoffs.

The defending Super Bowl champion Cowboys started slowly, losing four of their first ten games, including one to the Rams at the Coliseum. However, Dallas righted the ship when it counted, winning its final six regular season games, then overcoming the fiery Falcons 27-20 in the divisional playoffs behind backup quarterback Danny White, who came into the game when Staubach was knocked out on an illegal hit by Atlanta’s Robert Pennywell.

Had it been 2017, Staubach would have been in the NFL’s concussion protocol and might not have played vs. the Rams. However, it was 1978, and Tom Landry declared Staubach good to go in L.A.

It turned out the Rams’ offense was so pitiful, and Tony Dorsett was so wonderful (101 yards, 1 TD), that Landry would have gotten away with sitting Staubach.

Los Angeles turned the ball over five times in the second half. Pat Haden broke his hand with eight minutes remaining, forcing Malavasi to go with Vince Ferragamo. Not surprisingly, the final score came when Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson intercepted Ferragamo and returned it 68 yards for a touchdown to put the exclamation point on Dallas’ 28-0 victory.

Rosenbloom drowned off the coast of Florida in April 1979, leaving the team to his widow, Georgia. Oh boy. That would be a disaster for all except Georgia and the city of St. Louis.

NEW YORK GIANTS

The selection: 1997 NFC wild card playoff at home vs. Vikings, where the Giants blew a 19-3 halftime lead and lost 23-22.

Wow. That’s really stupid. Beyond stupid. Does anyone think the ’97 Giants would have beaten both the 49ers and Packers on the road to reach Super Bowl XXXII? Hell no.

If you want a soul-crushing playoff loss under Jim Fassel, all you have to do is look up Super Bowl XXXV, where New York didn’t score an offensive point in being destroyed by the Ravens, and the 2002 NFC wild card game where the Giants blew a 38-14 third quarter lead and lost 39-38 in San Francisco.

But let’s forget Jim Fassel. To find a soul-crushing Giants playoff loss, you have to go back. Way back. Way, way, way back.

December 28, 1958. Giants vs. Colts at Yankee Stadium for the NFL championship. An emerging Baltimore quarterback named Unitas, aided by stud runner Lenny Moore and wonderful wideout Raymond Berry, against a Giants defense led by Andy Robustelli,  Sam Huff and Emlen Tunnell, all future Hall of Famers. New York’s superstar, Frank Gifford, against Art Donovan, Gino Marchetti and a tough Colts D. Weeb Ewbank coaching the Colts, matching wits with Giant assistants Vince Lombardi and Tom Landry, both of whom won many, many games as head coaches. h

The Yankees may have ruled New York in the 1950s, winning the World Series six times in the decade, led by baseball’s most transcendent talent of the time, Mickey Mantle. Yet the Giants, led by the telegenic Gifford, had closed the gap to the point where the Yankees were 1 and the Giants were 1A.

In 1958, the Yankees and Giants had to massage the city’s wounded sports psyche. The Dodgers and baseball Giants left at the end of 1957 for California. The Knicks were terrible, and the NBA didn’t register a blip on the sports scene outside of New England to begin with. The Rangers were taking nightly beatings from the Canadiens, Red Wings, Black Hawks and Maple Leafs and battling the Bruins to stay out of the NHL’s cellar. The AFL was still more than a year away. The Islanders? Yeah right, they’ll really put a pro team on Long Island.

This game more than any propelled professional football into America’s sports pantheon. Prior to this contest, the professional game lagged far behind the college version, especially in places outside the northeast. There were no NFL teams south of Washington, thanks to Redskins owner George Preston Marshall, who steadfastly refused to allow teams in what he claimed was “his” territory. The only teams west of the Mississippi River were the 49ers and Rams. The Colts were in the WESTERN division despite being east of several teams in the Eastern division, including the Redskins, Steelers, Browns and Cardinals, who were in Chicago in 1958, but would move to St. Louis in 1960.

Texas, despite its rabid high school football fan bases and the presence of the Longhorns, Aggies and Horned Frogs, among others, still didn’t have a pro team. Atlanta could care less about the NFL. Georgia and Georgia Tech were more than enough football. Same in with New Orleans, where most fans were glued to what was happening in Baton Rouge, where LSU went 11-0 and won the national championship in 1958.

The Giants took a 3-0 lead in the first quarter on a 36-yard field goal by Pat Summerall. The Colts dominated the second quarter, scoring on a 2-yard run by Alan Ameche and a 15-yard pass from Unitas to Berry to make it 14-3.

With Baltimore ready to put the game out of reach, New York’s defnese held at its 1, then drove the length of the field the other way for a Mel Triplett touchdown. In the fourth quarter, the Giants regained the lead on Gifford’s 15-yard touchdown reception from Charlie Conerly.

With it fourth and inches on their own 40 later in the game, the Giants opted to punt rather than go for it. Staring from their own 14, the Colts drove to the New York 13, and Steve Myhra kicked a 20-yard field goal with seven seconds left.

In 1958, NFL regular season games which were tied after 60 minutes stayed that way. The first 26 NFL championship games had a clear winner after 60 minutes. What now? Certainly college football did not have overtime in 1958, and many a bowl game had ended deadlocked.

There was a thought the Colts and Giants would have to come back the next Sunday and play it all over again, which was the rule at the time in the “other” football (soccer). Or would the Colts and Giants simply be declared co-champions?

Finally, referee Ron Gibbs ordered Ewbank and Giants coach Jim Lee Howell to send out their captains for another coin toss. It was time for the first sudden death overtime in the history of football at any level. The first team to score would win.

The Giants won the toss, but they went three-and-out. The Colts took over and drove 80 yards on 13 plays. Unitas completed four passes for 59 yards on the march, including receptions of 33 and 12 yards by Berry.

With the Colts on the Giant 8, NBC’s transmission from New York went dead. Television views saw static (except those within 75 miles of New York City, which was blacked out under NFL rules at the time). Someone ran on the field and was chased down by the NYPD, creating enough of a delay for NBC technicians to restore the feed.

Television viewers saw Ameche plunge over from the 1 to give the Colts a 23-17 victory. One month later, Lombardi was named head coach and general manager of the Packers. That turned out pretty well for the New Jersey native and former Block of Granite at Fordham.

The Giants would continue to take punches to the gut in the coming years, losing four more championship games over five seasons.

They lost the next year to the Colts in Baltimore, 31-16. Not long thereafter, Tom Landry was on his way to Dallas to take over the reins of the expansion Cowboys. He did okay, too.

In 1960, the Giants traded for a new quarterback, Y.A. Tittle, who had put up huge numbers in San Francisco. However, New York’s championship hopes died that season when Chuck Bednarik knocked out Frank Gifford on a vicious hit in the Eagles-Giants game at Yankee Stadium. Philadelphia went on to win the NFL championship.

Gifford sat out 1961 due to his injuries, but the Giants bounced back to go 10-3-1 and win the East, only to be destroyed 37-0 by Lomardi’s Packers in Green Bay. The two teams met again in 1962 at Yankee Stadium, with Green Bay winning 16-7 thanks to tough running by Jimmy Taylor and three field goals by Jerry Kramer.

In 1963, the Giants got back to the title game, only to be stymied by the Bears in Wrigley Field 14-10. Nobody knew it at the time, but both teams were in for very, very long dry spells.

The Giants crashed and burned in 1964, going 2-10-2, and they would not return to the playoffs until 1981. The Bears played in two playoff games between 1964 and 1983, losing both, despite having Gale Sayers, Dick Butkus and Walter Payton on the roster at various times.

Thank you for reading my novella. Part three coming tomorrow.

Soul-crushingly bad list, part I

Today, CBS Sports’ website listed the most “soul-crushing” playoff loss for each NFL franchise.

The list is beyond stupid, and incredibly short-sighted.

All of the losses listed occurred in my lifetime, which means the person or people who put it together can’t remember anything beyond 10 minutes ago, the same way people claim Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback (or NFL player) who ever lived and Bill Belichcik is the greatest NFL coach (if not all of professional sports) who ever lived.

Here is the link to the list:

https://www.cbssports.com/nfl/photos/each-nfl-teams-most-soul-crushing-playoff-loss/33/

Here are my BIG problems with the list, starting with five teams:

CHICAGO BEARS

The selection: 2010 NFC championship game vs. Green Bay

How the heck can a playoff game involving JAY CUTLER be a soul-crushing loss? The fact the Bears got to within one win of Super Bowl XLV with Cutler is a miracle in and of itself, just as reaching Super Bowl XLI with Rex (Wrecks) Grossman is just as miraculous.

My choice: 1942 NFL championship. The Bears came in as two-time defending champions. Their opponents, the Washington REDSKINS, lost to Chicago in the previous two NFL championship games by the combined margin of 110-9. The Bears won 73-0 at Washington in 1940 and 37-9 at Wrigley Field one year later.

Instead of a three-peat, the REDSKINS pulled off a 14-6 stunner at Griffith Stadium, Washington’s last championship until John Riggins, Joe Theismann and the Hogs helped Joe Gibbs win the first of his three Super Bowls in 1982.

Losing the 1934 NFL championship game after going undefeated in the regular season hurt. So did losing 47-7 to the Giants in 1956. As for post-George Halas playoff losses, the divisional round flameout in 1986 vs. the Redskins at home one year after rolling through the NFL and squashing the Patriots in Super Bowl XX is a much better choice than 2010.

DALLAS COWBOYS

The selection: 2014 NFC divisional playoff at Green Bay, the game where Dez Bryant apparently caught the game-winning touchdown pass, only to be overruled by replay.

Apparently, the Cowboys’ 29 seasons under Tom Landry never existed, and the Cowboys did not lose three Super Bowls in the 1970s.

In fact, the Cowboys did lose three Super Bowls in the 1970s, and the combined margin of those defeats was ELEVEN points. ELEVEN. To lose games by 3, 4 and 4 points has to be soul-crushing, right? RIGHT?

The Cowboys forced SEVEN turnovers vs. the Colts in Super Bowl V. The Cowboys’ defense was so good that day that linebacker Chuck Howley was named the game’s Most Valuable Player, the ONLY player to ever earn the honor while playing for the LOSING team. Howley intercepted two passes, one of those in the end zone when the Colts were driving for the tying touchdown early in the fourth quarter.

Dallas led 13-6 at halftime after knocking the great Johnny Unitas out of the game with injured ribs, but the Cowboys could not handle success. They fumbled at the Baltimore goal line early in the third quarter, and in the fourth, Craig Morton (Roger Staubach was strictly a spectator) was intercepted twice, once by Rick Volk to set up the tying touchdown, and the second by Mike Curtis which led to Jim O’Brien’s game-winning 32-yard field goal with five seconds left. Soul-crushing? For the time being, it was, but the Cowboys bounced back by demolishing the Dolphins 24-3 in Super Bowl VI.

Super Bowl X was a tough loss for the Cowboys, but I don’t consider it to be soul-crushing. Dallas was a substantial underdog to the defending champion Steelers, and Dallas led most of the game until Pittsburgh dominated the fourth quarter, scoring what turned out to be the winning points on a 64-yard touchdown pass from Terry Bradshaw to Lynn Swann on a play where Dallas defensive tackle Larry Cole gave Bradshaw a concussion. The Cowboys didn’t quit, though, cutting the margin to 21-17 on a touchdown pass from Staubach to Percy Howard (the only catch of his NFL career) and then driving into Steeler territory in the final seconds before Staubach was intercepted by Glen Edwards.

Super Bowl XIII? Soul-crushing to the extreme. Jackie Smith’s dropped pass. The phantom pass interference call against Benny Barnes when Swann was too clumsy to get out of his way. Umpire Art Demmas throwing a block on Charlie Waters which allowed Franco Harris to score a touchdown. Randy White fumbling a botched kickoff and leading to the score which made it 35-17. Dallas scoring twice in the final eight minutes before finally running out of time.

Yet HOW the HELL is the 2014 divisional game vs. Green Bay more soul-crushing that Super Bowls V and XIII, or the 1994 NFC championship game which ended Dallas’ bid for a three-peat?

DENVER BRONCOS

The selection: 2012 AFC divisional playoff loss to the Ravens, after giving up a 70-yard TD pass to Jacoby Jones to tie the game, then losing in double overtime.

Have the Broncos not lost FIVE Super Bowls? Yes, they have. Three of them–XII vs. Dallas, XXI vs. the Giants and XXIV vs. San Francisco–had Denver as huge underdogs. I’ll give the Broncos a pass.

The other two? Not so much.

In Super Bowl XXII, the Broncos were favored over the Redskins, albeit by a field goal or less in most sports books. The teams were thought to be evenly matched, except at quarterback, where Denver had John Elway, who was named the NFL’s Most Valuable Player in 1987, while the Redskins had finally settled on Buccaneers and USFL alum Doug Williams in the playoffs after Gibbs vacillated between Williams and Jay Schroeder throughout the 12 games played by union players. (One game was canceled due to a players’ strike, and three others were played using replacement players, although several union players crossed picket lines. Nobody on the Redskins did.)

Although Washington still had several players who were on the Super Bowl XVII winning (and XVIII losing–more on that later) squad, the Redskins’ quarterback quandary led many to believe the third time would be the charm for the Broncos, who were one year removed from a 39-20 pasting by the Giants in the big game.

It started so well for the Broncos, who led 10-0 by the middle of the first quarter. Through the first 21 Super Bowls, no team had overcome a deficit of more than seven points to win.

Then the second quarter arrived, and the Redskins morphed into the greatest offensive juggernaut the NFL has ever seen.

Williams threw FOUR touchdown passes in the period, and Timmy Smith ran for a 58-yard touchdown on his way to a then-Super Bowl record 204 yards rushing. By the end of the onslaught, it was 35-10, and Marion Barry announced the plans for the Redskins’ victory parade later that week during halftime.

Final: 42-10. Denver was crushed even worse in XXIV (55-10), and Elway was branded a loser despite his impressive resume. In the final two years of his career, Elway redeemed himself with victories over the Packers and Falcons in XXXII and XXXIII.

Following the win over Atlanta, Denver didn’t get back to the Super Bowl until it faced Seattle in Super Bowl XLVIII, the first Super Bowl to be played outdoors in a temperate climate, at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.

It was expected to be one of the greatest Super Bowls ever, with the Seahawks’ league-leading defense, “The Legion of Boom”, facing Peyton Manning, who came to the Broncos in 2012 following 13 seasons with the Colts. Manning led the Broncos to the highest scoring season in NFL history, threw 55 touchdown passes, and won his fifth NFL MVP award.

On the first play from scrimmage, the expected great game turned into a great stinker, at least as for the Broncos.

That play saw Denver center Manny Ramirez (not the famous baseball player) snap the ball wide of Manning. The pigskin rolled into the end zone, where Knoshon Moreno had to bat it over the end line for a safety to avoid yielding a touchdown.

Manning later threw a pick-six to Malcolm Smith, and Denver looked as outclassed as Elway’s teams were by the Giants, Redskins and 49ers.

Seattle won 43-8. Manning and Denver won Super Bowl 50 two years later, but Broncos fans still cringe when mentioning the Seahawks and that game.

Now tell me how a playoff game in an early round is more soul-crushing than losing two Super Bowls in which the Broncos were favored, or at worst an even-money bet?

DETROIT LIONS

The selection: 2014 NFC wild card game at Dallas, which the Lions lost 24-20. In the game, a defensive pass interfernce penalty was not called against the Cowboys with Detroit leading 20-17. Had the Lions gained the automatic first down, they very well may have run the clock out.

Okay, the Lions have been mostly wretched for the last 60 years. Not much playoff history to go on. But I can cite some games which far outweigh the above:

  • 1970 NFC divisional playoff at Dallas–in the lowest scoring playoff game in professional football history, the Cowboys prevailed 5-0 at the Cotton Bowl. Detroit, which came in riding a five-game winning streak, reached the Dallas 29 in the final minute, but Greg Landry’s last pass was intercepted by Mel Renfro at the 11.
  • 1983 NFC divisional playoff at San Francisco–the Lions had a chance to reach the NFC championship game, but usually reliable kicker Eddie Murray missed a 47-yard field goal in the final minute, allowing the 49ers to escape 24-23.
  • 1991 NFC championship at Washington–the Lions enjoyed a spectacular regular season, thanks to the prolific running of Barry Sanders, but the Redskins rolled 41-10 on their way to crushing the Bills in Super Bowl XXVI.
  • 1993 NFC wild card vs. Green Bay–the Lions lost 28-24 on a last-minute touchdown pass from Brett Favre (WHO?) to Sterling Sharpe. Detroit has not hosted a playoff game since.

GREEN BAY PACKERS

The selection: 2003 NFC divisional playoff at Philadelphia, when the Eagles converted a 4th-and-26 en route to the tying touchdown. Favre threw an interception in overtime, and the Eagles converted it into the game winning field goal.

Right city, wrong year in this case.

Try the 1960 NFL championship game.

In Vince Lombardi’s second season as Packers coach, Green Bay had gone from 1-10-1 in 1958 to 8-4 and the NFL Western Division championship, earning it the right to play the Eagles at Franklin Field for the league title. There was no Super Bowl in this era, so it was all or nothing on the day after Christmas.

The Eagles, led by quarterback Norm Van Brocklin and “Concrete Charlie” Chuck Bednarik, the NFL’s last two-way player (center and middle linebacker), trailed 6-0 early in the second quarter before gaining the lead on a touchdown pass from Van Brocklin to Tommy McDonald. A field goal later in the period sent Philly to the locker room ahead by four.

The score stayed that way until early in the final stanza, when Bart Starr hit Max McGee (already establishing himself as a big-time performer in big-time games) from 7 yards out to make it 13-10 Packers. The Eagles regained the lead with 5:21 to go on a 5-yard run by Ted Dean, leaving Green Bay plenty of time to win.

The Packers reached the Eagle 22 in the final seconds with no timeouts. Starr found Jimmy Taylor on a flare pass, but he was tripped up by rookie Bobby Jackson then pounded to the ground by Bednarik at the 10 as the final seconds bled away. The gun sounded, and Bednarik growled to Taylor, “You can get up now. This game is over!”.

Philadelphia hasn’t won a title since, losing in Super Bowls XV and XXXIX. The Packers would fare much better, winning five NFL championships and Super Bowls I and II under Lombardi. Green Bay added titles in XXXI and XLV later.

Part two includes: someone forgot the Colts once played in Baltimore and a certain guarantee; the longest NFL game ever; and “The Greatest Game Ever Played”.

 

A needed trip to Norton

I ventured to Norton tonight for the first time since late September to see the Bluejays play Stockton in basketball. The main reason I went was to see Peggy and Caitlyn, both of whom I had not seen since early November. They are two of my “irreplaceables” whom I blogged about before Christmas.

Sadly, one of my irreplaceables is leaving soon. More on that in another post.

Peggy told me Caitlyn is transferring from Johnson County Community College to Ottawa University to start the spring semester. It’s a good move for Caitlyn, since her brother, Conor, attends Ottawa, and her sister, Courtney, lives in rural Miami County with Andy and Finley. Poor Chelsea in Colby with Sam and Seth, but at least Peggy gets down there enough so she doesn’t feel left out.

Norton won both games–girls 56-48 and boys 47-41. The Bluejay boys are starting over after losing all of their key players from the last two seasons, which saw Norton reach the Class 3A state tournament. Norton’s girls are finding a rhythm even without Caitlyn and Baylee Miller, who was the starting point guard for the last two seasons.

Norton played tonight instead of Friday because it is hosting its huge wrestling tournament Saturday, and this gave the school an extra day to prepare. In fact, wrestling mats were being rolled out immediately after the boys game ended.

The big news wasn’t the games.

Rather, it was a double homicide which took place in rural Graham County northeast of Hill City. The Graham County Sheriff’s office and the Kansas Bureau of Investigation identified the suspect and told residents in northeast Graham County, southern Phillips County and northern Rooks County to lock their doors, cars and other valuables.

At first, Peggy thought I might have to take US 36 east to Phillipsburg and then US 183 to Hays before jumping on I-70 to get back to Russell. But when I saw KWCH report the suspect was moving towards Phillips County between Phillipsburg and Stockton, I figured it was best I just go back the way I came, US 283 from Norton to WaKeeney and then I-70 to Russell.

I saw FIVE deer on 283. Four were on the sides of the road just south of the Norton/Graham county line, and the fifth was a fawn crossing south of Hill City. No trouble, but deer always worry me, having creamed one on 183 north of Hays six weeks after moving to Kansas, then clipping one between Washington and Belleville on 36 in September 2012.

Going to sleep late tonight. No reason to get up early. Nowhere to go, really. Kansas City is a great place to avoid, especially Saturday when the Chiefs play the Titans at Arrowhead to open the NFL playoffs. The way I figure, every sports bar in the area will be loud and obnoxious. If the Chiefs win, then the fans will be whooping it up and hollering all night. If they lose, then the fans will be emptying their vocabularies of expletives. No thanks.

 

Happy New Year, Kansas City (at least so far)

Kansas City may have suffered from bitter cold the last few days of 2017 and the first few days of 2018, but most sports fans in the city are over the moon.

Yes, Kansas’ men’s basketball team lost last night to Texas Tech, the first time the Red Raiders have ever won in Lawrence, and that dates back to when the Big 12 was formed for the 1996-97 basketball season. Tech didn’t play every year in Lawrence until 2010-11 after Colorado and Nebraska left and reduced the conference to ten teams, but that is a long time to go without a win in a given facility.

However, Kansas City’s professional sports teams are on cloud nine.

The Chiefs have bounced back from their miserable 1-6 slide to win four consecutive games heading into the playoffs. What has Chiefs fans more excited than the AFC West championship–the first time Kansas City has won division titles in back-to-back seasons in franchise history–or the playoff game Saturday at Arrowhead vs. the Titans is the play of rookie quarterback Patrick Mahomes II.

Mahomes, drafted 10th overall by Kansas City after the Chiefs traded with Buffalo to move up 17 spots in the first round of the 2017 draft, saw his first regular season action and performed well, passing for 284 yards and leading the Chiefs on a game-winning drive in the closing seconds at Denver last Sunday. Mahomes’ performance may prompt the Chiefs to trade Alex Smith prior to the 2018 draft, or at the latest, during training camp. Smith will be the starter in the playoffs, but if he doesn’t get the Chiefs to the AFC Championship game, he’s likely departing One Arrowhead Drive very soon.

The Royals don’t start their 2018 campaign for almost three months, but earlier today, their fans were sent into ecstasy when it was announced first baseman Eric Hosmer was offered a 7-year, $147 million contract by the club.

Hosmer, who was drafted second overall in 2008 behind Steven Strasburg, the All-Star pitcher for the Nationals, has become arguably the second most popular player in Royals franchise history behind George Brett. Hosmer came up to the Royals in 2011 and has been a mainstay in Ned Yost’s lineup ever since, leading Kansas City to the American League pennant in 2014 and the World Series championship in 2015.

It was widely expected Hosmer, along with third baseman Mike Moustakas and center fielder Lorenzo Cain, would leave Kansas City before the 2018 season. The thought was if the Royals fell out of the 2017 playoff chase early enough, they would trade any or all of the players in order to get something in return, but Kansas City hung around long enough to convince Dayton Moore to keep the players around. The Royals faded and finished 80-82, their second consecutive non-winning season since winning the World Series (they were 81-81 in 2016).

Hosmer, Moustakas and Cain all received one-year, $17 million qualifying offers from the Royals in November. The players all rejected them and tested the free agent market.

So far, no takers.

The only player who has received interest is Hosmer, who was offered 7 years and $140 million from the Padres, who are in the midst of a massive rebuild. Right now, it looks like Hosmer will be back in Kansas City.

Moustakas and Cain might be forced to take a one-year deal in Kansas City and retest the market next winter, or else take a bargain deal from another team.

Kansas City fans wanted Hosmer back. Looks like they’ll get their wish.

Now if only the NBA and/or NHL would return to Kansas City…keep dreaming.

UCF still claims its title

The University of Central Florida is doing its best to erase any bit of sympathy it might deserve (in my opinion, it deserves NONE) from going 13-0 and not being selected for the College Football Playoff.

After coach Scott Frost, who is taking over his alma mater, Nebraska, and athletic director Danny White (yes, the same Danny White who played for the Cowboys) claimed the CFP consciously and deliberately kept the Knights out of the top four to keep the power schools in the playoff (read: Alabama), now UCF says it will fly a national championship flag over Spectrum Stadium.

ENOUGH.

UCF has nobody to blame but itself for not putting together a strong enough non-conference schedule in order to gain more respect from the CFP committee and those who vote in the Associated Press and coaches polls.

The Knights have FOUR non-conference dates to play with, unlike the Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12, which have nine conference games and only three conference games. If UCF wanted to gain respect, it would only schedule Power 5 conference opponents (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC), and would make every effort to play at least one of those Power 5 schools in the Sunshine State (Florida, Florida State or Miami).

If UCF has to play three or all four of its non-conference opponents away from Orlando, that’s the breaks. Why would Alabama, for instance, give up a home game in its 102,000-seat stadium in Tuscaloosa to play in UCF’s 45,000-seat stadium? Even if UCF moved the game to Camping World Stadium, where the Citrus and Camping World bowls are played, it would still fall 30,000 seats short of what Bryant-Denny holds. Why in the world would the Crimson Tide want to give up millions in ticket revenue, not to mention what would be taken out of the economy of Tuscaloosa, just in the name of fairness?

If it were up to Nick Saban, the Group of Five schools would not have the chance to play the Alabamas of the world. Saban would rather the Power Five schools play only other Power Five schools, and I see his point. Saban cannot schedule this way at Alabama because the athletic department claims it needs seven home games to pay the bills. The Tide could still schedule someone lesser, say Kansas or Oregon State, instead of Mercer, Charleston Southern, Chattanooga or Florida A&M, and not to have to return the trip.

When Bobby Bowden was hired at Florida State in 1976, the Seminoles were not anywhere near the power they were in the 1990s and recently under Jimbo Fisher. To get the Seminoles publicity, he took on any all comers, and played most of them away from Tallahassee.

For instance, the Seminoles played LSU five consecutive seasons from 1979-83. All five games were in Baton Rouge, where Tiger Stadium seated 30,000 more than Doak Campbell in Tallahassee. Florida State won four of the five, losing only in 1982. Florida State also made trips to Ohio State and Nebraska without the Buckeyes and Cornhuskers coming to the Florida panhandle.

The only major teams which played in Tallahassee consistently were Florida and Miami, simply because there were long-standing deals in place for home-and-home series.

When the Seminoles began to win and win big, Doak Campbell was expanded to the point where it was financially feasible for the powerhouses Florida State always played on the road to come to Tallahassee, and those teams did make their way south.

Could UCF play its way into a Power Five conference? If Virginia Tech ever defects to the SEC, then UCF might be a candidate to move into the ACC. But if the Knights want that respect, it has to be earned.

The title game is Monday night in Atlanta between Alabama and Georgia. Sorry, UCF. You are undefeated but not a champion.