Category Archives: History

Celebrate Christopher Columbus!

Happy Columbus Day! Yes, Monday was the OBSERVATION of Columbus Day. Today is the ACTUAL Columbus Day. The New World is 526 years old. Next year it can apply for tax-exempt political group status. Bad joke I know.

Why the hell did LBJ sign the bill in 1968 to move the holiday observations to Monday? What’s wrong with a Wednesday holiday? The celebration of Independence Day didn’t move to July 2 this year when the 4th was on Wednesday. Memorial Day not being on May 30 as it was through 1970 (except when Monday falls on the 30th, which it did in 1977, ’83, ’88, ’94, 2005, ’10 and ’16) and instead being on the last Monday of May does a great dishonor, in my humble opinion, to the men and ladies who made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our freedom. Heck, Veterans Day is always on November 11, and it also honors the millions of living veterans. They deserve their day,  yes, but those who have departed this earth need to have a special designated day, too, not just a Monday to make it convenient for a three-day weekend.

This doesn’t apply to Labor Day, which always has been the first Monday of September.

The app I have been using to track sleep quality said I snored for a total of 10 minutes last night. Hopefully it was just noise from the CPAP. But I feel just fine. I woke up at 0730, the perfect time for today.

It is nasty. Very nasty. Rain everywhere. Chilly. But that’s better than it being 80 and raining. The Chiefs are in Foxborough Sunday night  (if you live in the eastern two-thirds of Kansas or western Missouri and don’t know it yet, you are living under a rock), then are on Sunday night the NEXT week to host the Bengals. That means sports fans in Kansas City can make both the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup race in the afternoon and the football game in the evening. YIPPPIEEE!!!

The rain will definitely affect the big high school football game in Overland Park tonight between Bishop Miege and St. Thomas Aquinas. Aquinas’ stadium at least has some bleachers on the visiting side, unlike Miege, where fans from Rockhurst had to stand shoulder-to-shoulder two weeks ago. A game of this magnitude should be at a larger facility. Children’s Mercy Park, looking in your direction…or what about Kansas’ stadium in Lawrence?

What do I do with this weather? At least until I go to Minsky’s this afternoon. Maybe I’ll see Tori Smith (nee Weber) at Buffalo Wild Wings. She got married last month to her longtime beau Micah. I sent her a (inexpensive) gift from their registry even though I wasn’t invited. I would have (politely) said no anyway. It has nothing to do with the last two wedding receptions I’ve been to. Just wasn’t in the mood.

Last full day of my 42nd year began at 0916.

The meaning of Epton…before it’s too late

Wondering why I use Epton instead of “before it’s too late”? Here is the explanation.

Bernard Epton was a Republican member of the Illinois House of Representatives for seven terms, first elected in 1968 and staying on through the 1982 session. He chose not to run for re-election to the Illinois House in 1983, instead entering the Chicago mayoral race.

As a Republican in a city which had been dominated by Democratic machine politics since the Great Depression, Epton faced a steep uphill climb. Few paid much attention to his campaign during the primaries, instead focusing on a heavyweight battle on the Democratic side.

Chicago mayoral elections are now non-partisan, but they were not in 1983. Therefore, the three most visible candidates would have to battle one another, with only one advancing to the general election.

The incumbent mayor, Jane Margaret Byrne, was the first woman to be elected mayor of one of America’s 10 largest cities. In 1979, she upset Michael Bilandic, who became mayor upon the death of Richard J. Daley, the Boss of Chicago, in December 1976. Bliandic’s inaction during a January 1979 blizzard and Byrne’s subsequent hammering of Bilandic over the issue of snow removal helped her win.

Richard J. Daley’s son, Richard M. Daley, then the District Attorney of Cook County, where Chicago is located, threw his hat into the ring with the support of many of his father’s old supporters and ward bosses.

The third major Democratic candidate was U.S. Representative Harold Washington, vying to become the city’s first black mayor. Washington obviously was much farther to the left than either Byrne or Daley, and he began running for mayor during the first year of his first House term. He was re-elected in 1982 to Congress because his House district was, and still is, overwhelmingly black, but he was drawing the Congressional salary without doing very much on Capitol Hill, instead campaigning for the one job he coveted.

The black vote carried Washington to a narrow victory in the Democratic primary. It figured in the overwhelmingly Democratic City, Washington was home free, right?

Not quite.

Many of the old-line Daley loyalists threw their support to Epton, not wanting a black man to occupy the mayor’s office. Some of Epton’s most conservative backers produced a commercial which ended with the line “Epton…Before It’s Too Late”.

Epton himself was very uncomfortable with the racial overtones of the campaign. He was a liberal and was active in the 1960’s Civil Rights Movement. However, the racially charged campaign continued all the way to the end, where Washington won by a very narrow margin.

Washington won by a more comfortable margin in 1987, but he collapsed and died of a heart attack in his office the day before Thanksgiving 1987. Epton died only three weeks later.

I didn’t follow the election as it happened in 1983, since I was too young to understand. However, I read about it two years later as Washington was in the midst of his first term.

That election came up in a course on Louisiana politics during my first semester at LSU in the fall of 1994. The professor, Louisiana legend T. Wayne Parent, one of the country’s foremost political scientists, tried to explain how the closed primary system worked, since many in Louisiana, especially those who didn’t start voting until 1975 or later, had only know the open primary, where all candidates run on a single ballot, and if nobody gets an outright majority in the first election, then a second primary (or general election or runoff) is held.

Dr. Parent explained how Washington advanced to the general election even though he did not get a majority over Byrne and Daley. He couldn’t quite remember the Republican candidate, so I shouted EPTON! He and my classmates were amazed.

Louisiana politics was one of my three favorite classes at LSU. The others were involving constitutional law during my last full year there. If I could do it all over again, I think I would have done much better in a lot of my classes. I’m not blaming my autistic spectrum disorder, but I think it didn’t help.

Sunshine State Sicko

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mardi Gras: why did I bother?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hard for me to get up

If you have not seen my Instagram or Facebook accounts in the last 30 hours, you may not know I stopped on top of Interstate 435 at the Kansas-Missouri state line yesterday between Wyandotte County and Platte County.

Here are a couple of pictures I took:

It took a bit of courage for me to get out of my car and take those photos. I am afraid of heights.

Very afraid.

There were so many things I missed out on when I was a child because I was too scared to go up.

Now I did ride a gondola suspended over the Mississippi River with my father and brother during the 1984 Louisiana World Exposition in New Orleans. How I convinced myself to go, I still don’t know. Of course, the only cameras around back in 1984 used film, and most were quite bulky, so it wasn’t practical to take photos. Too bad, because they would have been breathtaking.

A few months after hovering over the Mississippi, my family made the infamous trip to Disney World, one which I’ve discussed ad nauseam in this blog. I had no desire to go on any roller coasters or other dangerous rides, even though I met the height requirement.

Four years later, the Steinle family went to Astroworld in Houston. My father and brother went on a few high-rise rides, but my mother and I wussed out and stayed on the ground.

In 1992, again, my father and brother went to the top of the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. My mother and I were not having it. I was very tempted to go up in the Arch when I was in the area for Lisa’s wedding last October, but since I was staying in St. Peters, 35 miles west of downtown, I didn’t do it. If Lisa and Jeff would like to take me up in the arch, I’m game.

I could not stand sitting in high seats at outdoor sports stadiums. I was just fine sitting at the top of the Superdome, simply because there was a roof and I had no idea the sky was above. But outdoors? Forget it.

In 1992, my father, brother and I went to two St. Louis Cardinals games at the old Busch Stadium. The first night, we sat in the outfield bleachers, about 440 feet from home plate. The second night, my father bought tickets in the upper deck behind home plate. I couldn’t do it. I walked around the concourse all night while my brother watched the game. My father stayed with me much of the time, and I feel terrible. Really terrible.

My fear of heights was a reason we sat in the ridiculously hot bleachers at the Texas Rangers’ old Arlington Stadium instead of the upper deck behind home plate. I feel bad for making my family accommodate my fear of heights.

I am very glad I never sat in the upper decks of LSU’s football stadium. I went up there one Saturday morning a few hours before a game, but I got scared. Really scared. I ran down the ramps as fast as I could.

Some of the high school football stadiums I covered games were harrowing.

University High, a laboratory school on the east side of the LSU campus, played its home games on one of the fields at LSU’s practice facility when I was covering games in Baton Rouge. The “press box” was actually an open-air shelter which was only accessible by a rickety old ladder. While some could climb the thing in 30 seconds, it took me more than one minute, sometimes two or three, to make it all the way up there. I was shaking like a leaf every time I was up there.

If I had to do it all over again, I would have covered the games from the field. I proved I could do it just fine when I moved to Kansas, writing down the information then feeding it to the computer. But I was on a deadline in Baton Rouge, and doing stuff on the field would have cost me 20-30 minutes, which could have been very bad if a game ran late.

Today, University High plays at a modern stadium with a real press box nowhere near as high.

Memorial Stadium is Baton Rouge’s largest high school stadium, seating over 20,000. It was once a home for Southern University’s football team, and hosted many small college bowl games and playoffs. It was once home to numerous teams in Baton Rouge, but now only a handful of teams use it, since the rental fees charged by the Baton Rouge Recreation Commission (BREC) are too high for most schools to afford. Many of the public schools, especially those in more economically depressed areas, can’t make enough off ticket sales to pay the rent, plus officials and security.

In November 1999, I covered a high school football playoff game at Memorial Stadium between Eunice and Capitol, which is about a mile from Memorial Stadium. I was also asked by the local cable company to provide color commentary for its tape-delayed broadcast in place of Rob Musemeche, the usual color man who could not be there that night due to a family commitment.

About 45 minutes prior to kickoff, the play-by-play man, Dennis McCain, and myself went to the top of Memorial Stadium’s press box.

I did not fare well.

I was very unsteady, and I could feel my knees quaking. Dennis was very patient with me and helped me a lot, and we made it through the opening spiel before returning to the press box for the game.

I wish I had a camera to take a picture from the top of the Memorial Stadium press box. You can get a great shot of the Louisiana capitol, the tallest in the United States, as well as traffic flowing on nearby Interstate 110 and other state government buildings.

My biggest fear of driving in Louisiana was breaking down and/or getting into an accident on one of the numerous bridges over the Mississippi River between New Orleans and Baton Rouge. The I-435 bridge in western Kansas City is high, yes, but nowhere near as high as the structures in Louisiana, most of which are more than 100 feet over “Old Man River”.

I would like to stop on the Kit Bond Bridge in Kansas City and get a shot, but there is too much traffic to do it safely.

As for high places in Kansas City, I have gone to the top of Kauffman Stadium to take pictures. I have considered watching a game from there.

We all have our fears. Maybe I need to conquer some. Heck, I’m going to be 42 later this year. Gotta start sometime.

State of the Union? No thanks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The second anniversary was one many American would rather forget.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That play turned momentum permanently in favor of Washington.

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

The call: 70 chip.

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

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

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

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

Touchdown, Redskins. Game, set and match.

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

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

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

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

Day of memories

A lot of things happened on January 22 in the past.

Three of those came before I was born.

On January 22, 1973, the following occurred:

  • The Supreme Court of the United States legalized abortion in Roe v Wade. Harry Blackmun wrote the majority opinion, although much of it was crafted by William Brennan, the leading progressive on the court for over 30 years. Byron White and William Rehnquist dissented. If you’re looking for my opinion on this case, keep waiting. Not here. Not now.
  • Lyndon Baines Johnson, the 36th President of the United States, died of a massive heart attack at his ranch in Johnson City, Texas. LBJ was in poor health throughout his post-presidential life, and it was only a matter of time before his bad habits caught up with him.
  • George Foreman battered Joe Frazier in Jamaica, winning by TKO in the second round to claim the World Heavyweight Championship. Referee Arthur Mercante, also in charge of Frazier’s epic 15-round unanimous decision over Muhammad Ali in 1971 in New York City, mercifully stopped the fight after Frazier was knocked down for the sixth time. Howard Cosell shouted “DOWN GOES FRAZIER” after the first knockdown, the most iconic line uttered by the man who always bragged he “Tells It Like It Is”.

January 22 just happened to be one busy day in one of the most hectic months of the last 50 years. To wit:

  • January 7–Mark James Robert Essex went full commando in downtown New Orleans, killing seven–including three members of the New Orleans Police Department–and wounding 19 others in a siege at the Downtown Howard Johnson’s Hotel. It was discovered later that Essex killed two other NOPD members on New Year’s Eve and also was the probable culprit for the Rault Center fire of November 29, 1972, which killed six.
  • January 14–The Dolphins defeated the Redskins 14-7 in Super Bowl VII to complete their 17-0 season. Also that day, Elvis Presley performed in Honolulu to a worldwide audience over over one billion (none in the United States and Canada; the concert was not aired until April in those countries).
  • January 27–The Paris Peace Accords were signed, ending U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War.

Two events of January 22 in the 1980s I remember much better.

The first Super Bowl I recall watching from beginning to end was Super Bowl XVIII, January 22, 1984 in Tampa.

The Redskins were the defending champion, having beaten the Dolphins in Super Bowl XVII. Washington went 14-2 in 1983, scoring a then-NFL record behind a dynamic offense led by quarterabck Joe Theismann, the NFL’s Most Valuable Player, and running back John (The Diesel) Riggins, who scored a then-NFL record 24 touchdowns. Theismann had one of the NFL’s best receivers in Art Monk, who would be healthy for Super Bowl XVIII after missing the 1982 playoffs with a leg injury. Washington’s defense was overshadowed by its offense, but the Redskins had a stout unit, led by tackle Dave Butz, end Dexter Manley, linebacker Neal Olkewicz, and safety Mark Murphy, as well as a rookie cornerback from Texas A&I (now Texas A&M-Kingsville) named Darrell Green.

The Raiders were in their second season in Los Angeles. They had a superstar running back of their own in Marcus Allen, as well as speedy receiver Cliff Branch and sure-handed tight end Todd Christensen. Jim Plunkett did not have the big numbers Theismann had, but he was a fearless leader who had survived terrible stints in New England and San Francisco. Oakland’s defense was powered by a secondary led by cornerback Lester Hayes and safety Mike Haynes, acquired from the Patriots during the season. Up front, Oakland had a pair of studs at end, Lyle Alzado and Howie Long, while linebacker Ted Hendricks was still going strong in his 15th–and final–NFL season.

Washington defeated the Raiders 37-35 at RFK Stadium in week five, rallying from a 35-20 deficit in the fourth quarter to do so. The Redskins’ only losses were each by one point on Monday Night Football, at home vs. the Cowboys in the opener and at Green Bay two weeks after the game with the Raiders.Washington blew away the Rams 51-7 in the divisional playoffs, but barely beat the 49ers 24-21 in the NFC championship. San Francisco coach Bill Walsh (he will be mentioned later in this post, and with good reason) was incensed over two very marginal penalties called against the 49ers on the drive which led to the Redskins’ game-winning field goal, and he would use those calls as  a rallying point for 1984, when San Francisco tore apart the league by going 15-1 in the regular season and winning Super Bowl XIX.

Los Angeles lost twice to division rival Seattle and suffered an inexplicable December loss at home to the Cardinals, but came on strong in the playoffs, routing Pittsburgh 38-10 and Seattle 30-14.

Many of the scribes who considered themselves experts on professional football felt Super Bowl XVIII had the potential to be one of the best Super Bowls ever.

Instead, it was a super rout.

The Raiders scored following Washington’s first possession when Derrick Jensen blocked a Jeff Hayes punt and recovered it in the end zone for a touchdown. A touchdown pass from Plunkett to Branch early in the second quarter made it 14-0. The Redskins got a field goal later in the period, but one of the most disastrous plays in the history of championship football was about to occur.

The Redskins had the ball inside their own 20 with 12 seconds to go in the first half. The smart play would be for Theismann to take a knee and for Joe Gibbs and his players to regroup during the long halftime.

Instead, Gibbs sent in a play called Rocket Screen.

During the October game with the Raiders, Theismann and Joe Washington executed it to perfection. Theismann dumped off to Washington in the right flat, and the ex-Oklahoma speedster took it for 67 yards to set up a Redskin touchdown as part of the Redskins’ 17-point rally in the fourth quarter.

Los Angeles defensive coordinator Charlie Sumner believed Gibbs might call the play even though very little time remained in the half, and made an important substitution.

Sumner sent in 6-foot-4 reserve linebacker Jack Squirek, a second-year player from Illinois, in for Matt Millen (yes, THAT Matt Millen). Millen was angry that Sumner removed him, but Squirek was a better pass defender than Millen, who was a defensive tackle at Penn State before becoming a linebacker when he was drafted by the Raiders in 1980.

Squirek was asked to play man-to-man coverage against Joe Washington. If Washington caught the screen pass and broke contain, he would have a chance to gain enough yardage to set up Moseley for a field goal attempt to end the first half.

Rocket Screen did lead to a score.

Theismann dropped back and looked left for Joe Washington. Instead, Squirek caught the ball in stride at the 5 and pranced into the north end zone of Tampa Stadium.

Game, set, match, Raiders. It was 21-3 at halftime, and the Redskins’ reign as champion had 30 minutes to run.

Washington scored a touchdown on its first drive of the second half, but it was far too little, too late.

Later in the third quarter, Allen gobbled up huge chunks of real estate on his way to a then-Super Bowl record 191 yards. He scored two touchdowns during the stanza, the second on a remarkable 74-yard run on the final play of the period.

On the play, 17 Bob Trey O, Allen started out as if he would sweep left end, but reversed his field when confronted by Redskins strong safety Ken Coffey. Allen found a crease up the middle and avoided a diving tackle attempt by Olkewicz near midfield. Green and Anthony Washington gave chase, but were hopelessly behind the 1981 Heisman Trophy winner from USC.

The 74-yard jaunt sewed up MVP honors for Allen and was the icing on the cake of the Raiders’ 38-9 victory.

However, to many who watched, Super Bowl XVIII is not remembered for Allen, Squirek or Theismann, but instead for a commercial which aired during the third quarter.

In honor of George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984, published in 1949, Apple Computers aired a commercial where its new product, the Macintosh, would free the human race from the sinister grip of Big Brother and allow for the continued free will of man and the free exchange of ideas.

The commercial, created by famous movie director Ridley Scott, never aired again, but it is remembered by many not only as the greatest Super Bowl ad ever, but the greatest ad ever, period, regardless of air time or air date.

Five years later, the second–and last–Super Bowl played on January 22 produced one of the great championship games in NFL annals.

Super Bowl XXIII, played on January 22, 1989, marked the return of the big game to South Florida after a ten-year absence. This was the first Super Bowl played in the Dolphins’ palatial new facility, known then as Joe Robbie Stadium, in honor of the Miami owner, who built the $115 million stadium without a dime of taxpayer assistance.

The stadium now known as Hard Rock Stadium is a much better facility for football today than it was when it opened in 1987.

Robbie built the stadium with baseball in mind as well, thinking the area would receive a Major League Baseball expansion team in the near future, which it did when the Marlins joined the National League in 1993.

When the Marlins received their own stadium in 2012 (that’s another story for another post), the NFL required the Dolphins to make major renovations to the facility in order to host another Super Bowl. Current owner Stephen Ross complied, and the Super Bowl returns to South Florida in February 2020.

Super Bowl XXIII was a rematch of Super Bowl XVI, with the Bengals taking on the 49ers.

Some of the same players who were part of the 49ers’ first championship team in 1981 were still with the squad seven years later, most importantly Joe Montana. However, Montana had gone through a dip in his career following the victory over Miami in Super Bowl XIX after the 1984 season. He had a major back injury in 1986 which required surgery, and although he led the 49ers to an NFL-best 13-2 record in 1987, he struggled in a divisional playoff loss to the Vikings and was pulled from the game in favor of Steve Young, who had been acquired in a trade with Tampa Bay before the 1987 draft.

In 1988, Walsh could not make up his mind between Montana and Young through the first half of the season. San Francisco was wildly inconsistent, one week defeating Minnesota when Young scored the game-winning touchdown on a 49-yard scramble around left end on which Young somehow kept his balance, then losing the next week to the Cardinals by blowing a 23-0 lead and losing 24-23.

With the Niners 6-5 and two games behind the Saints in the NFC West, Walsh made Montana the full-time starter. The move paid off, as San Francisco won its next five games, including a 30-17 victory over New Orleans in week 15, to clinch the division championship.

In the playoffs, the 49ers blasted the Vikings 34-9, then went to Chicago and pummeled the Bears 28-3 despite a minus-18 wind chill factor.

This would be the first Super Bowl appearance for Jerry Rice, who had already established himself as one of the NFL’s all-time great receivers in just his fourth season. The Mississippi Valley State product set the league on fire in 1987 when he caught a record 22 touchdown passes in only 12 games. That record would stand for 20 years, when Randy Moss took advantage of the full 16-game slate to haul in 23 scoring passes from Tom Brady.

San Francisco’s underrated defense still featured Ronnie Lott in the secondary, but had a new star in pass rushing ace Charles Haley, who had the freedom to roam and line up at either end or linebacker. 0

The Bengals were a vastly different bunch from the 1981 team which lost to the 49ers in the Pontiac Silverdome, save for veterans Cris Collinsworth, Eddie Edwards and Reggie Williams.

In 1984, Boomer Esiason took over the quarterback duties from all-time Bengals passing leader Ken Anderson. By 1988, the left-hander from Maryland was the NFL’s leading passer, triggering a no-huddle attack which featured fleet receivers Eddie Brown and Tim McGee, plus bruising tight end Rodney Holman. Esiason was protected by an offensive line anchored by Anthony Munoz, one of the NFL’s all-time best offensive tackles.

The Bengals’ running game was led by the versatile James Brooks and a tough fullback from UNLV named Elbert Woods, who became famous as Ickey Woods. The Ickey Shuffle, Woods’ dance after touchdowns, became a national fad as the Bengals began the season 6-0 and went on to a 12-4 record, a far cry from the 4-11 mark of 1987.

Cincinnati defeated Seattle and Buffalo to win its second AFC championship and send coach Sam Wyche, a former Bengals quarterback, into a matchup against his mentor. Wyche was an assistant to Walsh in 1981. Walsh was also a longtime Bengals assistant under Paul Brown before becoming the coach at Stanford in 1977.

The expected offensive explosion didn’t happen in the first half. Each team could muster only a field goal, and each team saw a player suffer a horrific injury.

First to go was 49ers offensive tackle Steve Wallace, who suffered a broken ankle. A few plays later, Bengals nose tackle Tim Krumrie also broke an ankle, but his injury was even more gruesome than Wallace’s.

The first touchdown did not come until late in the third quarter, and it was on a kickoff  return by the Bengals’ Stanford Jennings. The 49ers went to the final period down 13-6.

On the first play of the fourth quarter, Montana hit Roger Craig for 40 yards to the Bengal 14. Monata’s next pass was almost disastrous for San Francisco, for it hit Cincinnati defender Lewis Billups in the hands.

Had Billups hung on, it might have been curtains for the 49ers.

Instead, Montana made the Bengals pay dearly. He found Rice in the left flat, and #80 did the rest, battling his way past the Bengals secondary to the pylon for the touchdown which tied the game at 13.

With 3:20 to go, Jim Breech nailed a 40-yard field goal which put Cincinnati up 16-13. The 49ers could only return the ensuing kickoff to their own 15, but were further backed up by an illegal block in the back.

With 3:10 remaining, San Francisco was at its own 8-yard line. It would take at least 60 yards to get into field goal range, but that was no sure thing, as Mike Cofer shanked a 19-yard attempt in the second quarter.

Before the first play of the drive, Montana added some levity to the situation when he pointed to the big television screen in the west end of the stadium and said “Hey, isn’t that John Candy?”.

It worked.

Montana led the 49ers on a drive for the ages, as 10 plays moved the ball 82 yards to the Cincinnati 10 with 39 seconds to play. Now the Bengals had to stiffen and hope they could force the 49ers to try a field goal.

With everyone expecting Montana to look for Rice, who finished with 11 receptions for 215 yards, both Super Bowl records, Joe Cool instead found the other wideout, John Taylor, in the middle of the end zone.

Montana’s dart nestled snugly in Taylor’s hands as the clock showed 34 seconds to play.

San Francisco was Super Bowl champion for the third time, 20-16. Walsh announced his retirement in the locker room immediately after the game. Rice, of course, was named MVP.

It’s almost January 23, so that’s it for now.

Quasi-home field advantage: a split decision

I’m writing this at a semi-ungodly hour because I figured it was better to get it out there while it’s fresh in my mind. I don’t do that enough with this blog.

Much has been made about the Vikings’ quest to become the first time to play a Super Bowl in their home stadium. Minnesota is the first team to reach the conference championship game in the same season it is hosting the Super Bowl.

Seven teams previously reached the playoffs in the same season it hosted a Super Bowl, but none got past the conference semifinals. Those were the 1970 Dolphins (lost to Raiders in AFC divisional), 1978 Dolphins (lost in AFC wild card to Oilers), 1994 Dolphins (lost to Chargers in AFC divisional, blowing 21-6 lead), 1998 Dolphins (lost to Broncos in AFC divisional), 2000 Buccaneers (lost to Eagles in NFC wild card), 2014 Cardinals (lost to Panthers in NFC wild card) and 2016 Texans (lost to Patriots in AFC divisional).

If you’re keeping score, the Saints have NEVER made the playoffs in a year they have hosted the Super Bowl. In fact, only once have they even posted a winning record in a Super Bowl hosting year, going 9-7 in 1989, and it took a three-game winning streak in December over the Bills, Eagles and Colts with John Fourcade as the starting quarterback to do so. The Saints’ records in seasons hosting the Super Bowl: 5-9 (1969), 4-8-2 (1971), 5-9 (1974), 3-11 (1977), 1-15 (1980, the year of the “Aints” and the bag heads), 1985 (5-11), 1989 (9-7), 1996 (3-13), 2001 (7-9) and 2012 (7-9).

Even though no NFL team has yet to play a Super Bowl on home turf, two teams played in college stadiums in their metropolitan areas: the 1979 Rams in Super Bowl XIV at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena; and the 1984 49ers in Super Bowl XIX at Stanford Stadium.

Today is a perfect day to talk about this, since Super Bowls XIV and XIX were played on January 20 of their respective years. That will never happen again, unless the NFL moves up the start of its season to mid-August. Not happening.

Pasadena is 15 miles (24 kilometers) northeast of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Coincidentally, 1979 was the last year the Rams played in the Coliseum until 2016. The Rams moved to Anaheim Stadium in Orange County in 1980 under an agreement signed in 1978 by then-owner Carroll Rosenbloom, who died under mysterious circumstances in April 1979. The team passed to his widow, Georgia, who soon remarried for the seventh time and became Georgia Frontiere. Georgia was a vicious old hag who swiped the Rams for her birthplace, St. Louis, where they played from 1995 through 2015 before returning to where they belonged.

The 1979 Rams were a hot mess. Yes, they won their seventh consecutive NFC West division championship, but benefitted from a down year by the Falcons, who were a playoff team in 1978, and a Saints team which had a potent offense led by Archie Manning and Chuck Munice, but a porous defense which allowed the Seahawks to score 38 points two weeks after the Rams held Seattle to an NFL record low minus-7 yards total offense. That porous Saints defense also allowed the Raiders to score 28 points in the fourth quarter of a Monday Night Football game in New Orleans to turn a 35-14 lead into a 42-35 loss.

Los Angeles somehow went on the road and beat the Cowboys in what turned out to be Roger Staubach’s final football game, and then the Buccaneers to reach Super Bowl XIV.

Awaiting Ray Malavasi’s club were the Pittsburgh Steelers, who were aiming for their fourth Super Bowl championship in six seasons. The Steelers were aging, but still were the dominant force in the NFL in 1979, thanks to their explosive offense, which featured Terry Bradshaw throwing deep to John Stallworth and Lynn Swann more than ever. Pittsburgh still had Franco Harris in the backfield, but Chuck Noll took advantage of the 1978 rules changes which opened up the passing game (allowing blockers to use open arms and extended hands, and limiting the amount of contact against a receiver) better than any coach in the NFL.

Pittsburgh ousted Miami in the divisional playoffs, then outlasted AFC Central rival Houston to reach the Super Bowl. It would be the first time the Steelers would play a Super Bowl on the west coast, having won Super Bowl IX in New Orleans in Tulane Stadium’s last NFL game, then X and XIII in Miami. The latter game was the last Super Bowl at the Orange Bowl, and the last in Miami until the 1988 season, by which time Joe Robbie Stadium (now Hard Rock Stadium) had opened.

Nobody gave the Rams a prayer. Los Angeles was led by inexperienced quarterback Vince Ferragamo, who was ineffective after taking over for the injured Pat Haden. The Rams did have a stout defense, led by future Hall of Fame end Jack Youngblood, who was playing with a broken bone in his leg suffered during the win over Dallas, but the ineffective offense didn’t figure to be much of a challenge for the Steel Curtain, even though perennial All-Pro linebacker Jack Ham was out with an ankle injury.

Instead of the expected rout, the Rams gave the Steelers all they could handle and then some. Los Angeles led 13-10 at halftime, and after yielding a 47-yard Bradshaw to Swann touchdown pass early in the third quarter, the Rams struck back on a halfback option pass from Lawrence McCutcheon to Ron Smith to go back in front 19-17.

The Steelers finally remembered they were the three-time Super Bowl champions in the fourth quarter. Pittsburgh took the lead for good on a 73-yard touchdown pass from Bradshaw to Stallworth on a play where the Rams’ secondary became confused and cornerback Rod Perry had no safety help deep down the middle (sound familiar, Saints fans?), and extinguished the Rams’ last flicker of hope when Lambert intercepted Ferragamo in Steeler territory with under six minutes left. The Steelers added an insurance touchdown to make the final 31-19, but many agreed it was one of the best Super Bowls played up to that point.

Five years later, the 49ers played just 30 miles (48 kilometers) from their home at Candlestick Park to take on the Dolphins in what was expected to be the greatest quarterback battle in NFL history.

Miami, making its fifth trip to the Super Bowl under Don Shula, was powered by the rocket arm of Dan Marino, who rewrote the NFL record book in his second year in the league.

Marino, who somehow fell all the way to 27th in the first round of the 1983 NFL draft before Shula swiped him, threw for 5,084 yards and 48 touchdowns in 1984, both NFL records at the time. It was a good thing Marino had a record-breaking year, because (a) Miami’s running attack was next to non-existent, and (b) the “Killer Bees” defense had lost its sting. The Dolphin defense was reeling following the departure of its architect, Bill Arnsparger, who took the head coaching job at LSU at the end of the 1983 season. Add in injuries to All-Pro linebacker A.J. Duhe and nose tackle Bob Baumhower, and Miami was a in a whole heap of trouble against Montana and the man who made the West Coast Offense as common as the off-tackle play in the NFL, San Francisco coach Bill Walsh.

Montana led the 49ers to a 15-1 regular season in 1984, with only a three-point loss to the Steelers marring their ledger. Jerry Rice had not yet arrived–he would the next season–but San Francisco still had plenty of weapons, with steady Dwight Clark, imposing tight end Russ Francis and versatile running back Roger Craig all catching loads of footballs from Montana. San Francisco also had a far more stable running game, thanks to Craig and Wendell Tyler.

The 49ers also had a very good, if underrated, defense, even though linebacker Jack “Hacksaw” Reynolds was in his final NFL campaign, and future Hall of Fame end Fred Dean held out until late November. San Francisco’s strength was its secondary, where all four players made the Pro Bowl: cornerbacks Eric Wright and Dwight Hicks, and safeties Carlton Williamson and Ronnie Lott, another future Hall of Famer wearing the red and gold for Walsh and Eddie DeBartolo Jr.

The expected showdown turned into a rout.

Miami led 10-7 at the end of the first quarter, but 21 unanswered points by the 49ers in the second quarter turned the Super Bowl into a super blowout, something which would become quite common in the near future.

Other than Montana’s performance, Super Bowl XIX was most notable for President Reagan performing the coin toss via satellite from the White House (the former Governor of California had to stay in Washington because of presidential inauguration ceremonies; since January 20, 1985 was a Sunday, Reagan took the oath of office privately at the White House and publicly the next day in the rotunda of the Capitol).

San Francisco won 38-16 and would go on to win two more titles in 1988 and ’89 to become the team of the decade. Miami has yet to return to the Super Bowl. Marino played 17 seasons in the NFL and set numerous records, many of which have been broken, but only reached the AFC championship game twice more, losing to the Patriots in 1985 and the Bills in 1992, both times at home. Shula retired after the 1995 season with an NFL record 347 victories.

Strangely enough, Shula is one of three coaches to lose four Super Bowls, having been in charge of the Colts when Joe Namath delivered on his guarantee in Super Bowl III. The other four-time losers didn’t win one, Marv Levy of the Bills and Bud Grant of the Vikings.

Mentioning Grant is a great segue to the current Vikings, who have thrived under Mike Zimmer despite the quarterback conundrum facing this team the past two seasons.

In August 2016, Teddy Bridgewater, the first-round draft choice out of Louisville in 2014, suffered a horrific knee injuries, tearing all three ligaments (anterior cruciate, posterior cruciate and lateral collateral) during a non-contact practice drill. The injury was so serious his career was in jeopardy. He missed all of 2016 and did not play in 2017 until near the end of the year.

Before the 2016 season, the Vikings traded a first-round draft choice to the Eagles for Sam Bradford, the oft-injured former #1 draft choice of the Rams and Heisman Trophy winner from Oklahoma.

This season, Bradford was injured early, but the Vikings got a career year from Case Keenum, a journeyman who had been mediocre at best in previous stops with the Texans and Rams. Minnesota has the league’s #1 defense, not surprising given Zimmer was an outstanding defensive coordinator in Dallas and Cincinnati before going to the Vikings.

I am not a Vikings fan, but it would be nice to see them in the Super Bowl at home (as the designated visiting team), especially if the opponent were the Patriots. The crowd noise of U.S. Bank Stadium would be the ultimate neutralizer to Tom Brady, the greatest quarterback of all time, if “all time” is limited to the 21st century.

By 9:30 Central time tomorrow night, we’ll know who’s going to be playing in Minneapolis February 4. Then crank up the hype machine!

Lots of loss in 2018–with 347 days to go

Tuesday night,  Washington State backup quarterback Tyler Hilinski was found dead at his apartment in Pullman with a gunshot wound in his head. It was discovered Hilinski killed himself with a shotgun.

Hilinski backed up Luke Falk, who became the Pacific-12 Conference’s all-time leading passer in 2017. However, Hilinski had his moment during the season, leading the Cougars to a comeback victory over Boise State in triple overtime in September.

Hilisnki isn’t the most notable person who has passed away within the first 18 days of 2018, but it’s one of the most tragic deaths.

The biggest loss in the sports world was that of Keith Jackson, the legendary college football play-by-play announcer, as well as the first play-by-play announcer for Monday Night Football on ABC in 1970.

Jackson passed away at age 89 last Saturday, silencing one of the last surviving voices of football’s early years on television.

Jackson’s death came on the heels of the passing of Dick Enberg, the longtime NBC play-by-play man, in late December.

The last remaining old-time play-by-play man left is Jack Whitaker, who turns 94 later this year. Whitaker was one of the play-by-play men for CBS during Super Bowl I, and he is the ONLY living play-by-play man from any of the first 21 Super Bowls. Al Michaels is the only other Super Bowl play-by-play announcer from any of the first 34 games still living. Michaels will call his tenth for NBC February 4.

Enberg broadcast eight (XV, XVII, XX, XXIII, XXVIII, XXVIII, XXXII) for NBC from 1980-97, taking over as NBC’s Super Bowl voice from the great Curt Gowdy.

Some of the other big names we’ve lost so far in 2018:

  • Brendan Byrne, former two-tern Governor of New Jersey and the original namesake of the arena at the Meadowlands (now the Izod Center).
  • Carmen Cozza, football coach at Yale from 1968-96. He will be best remembered for the last game of his first season, when the Bulldogs squandered a 29-13 lead by allowing Harvard to score 16 points in the game’s final 42 seconds to secure a tie. The headline in the Harvard Crimson the following Monday read “Harvard Beats Yale, 29-29”. Cozza’s first Yale team featured Calvin Hill, who went on to a very productive NFL career with the Cowboys and Browns.
  • Jerry Van Dyke, actor best known for his role Luther Van Dam on the ABC series Coach.
  • John Young, astronaut who walked on the moon during Apollo 16 in 1972 and also flew on the first space shuttle mission with Columbia in 1981.
  • Bruce Hood, longtime National Hockey League referee. Hood was in charge of Game 4 of the 1970 Stanley Cup Finals when Bobby Orr scored 40 seconds into overtime to give the Bruins a 4-3 victory over the Blues and clinched Boston’s first Stanley Cup since 1941. Hood was forced to retire in July 1984 after he was severely criticized for not controlling a game between the Nordiques and Canadiens earlier that year which featured numerous brawls.
  •  John Tunney, former U.S. Representative and Senator from California, son of heavyweight boxing champion Gene Tunney, who defeated Jack Dempsey in two legendary bouts in the 1920s. Tunney, who held the seat now occupied by Diane Feinstein, died the same day as Jackson.
  • Doug Harvey, Baseball Hall of Fame umpire who officiated in the National League from 1962-92. He was nicknamed “God” by several players. His tight zone was the tightest of all NL umpires during his tenure–he did not give an inch off the black of home plate.
  • John Spellman, Governor of Washington 1981-85, the last Republican to hold the office.
  • Jo Jo White, Basketball Hall of Famer who was an All-American at Kansas and a two-time NBA champion with the Celtics. His number 10 hangs from the rafters at TD Garden with teammates Dave Cowens, John Havlicek and Don Nelson, along with all the other Celtic legends like Bird, Russell, Cousy and many others. Paul Pierce joins that fraternity next month.
  • Dolores O’Riordan, lead singer for the Irish band The Cranberries, who had a smash hit in 1993 with “Linger”.
  • Edgar Ray “Preacher” Kilien, one of the masterminds of the murders of civil rights workers Andrew Goodman, James Chaney and Mickey Schwerner in June 1964. I don’t think anyone shed a tear. I certainly didn’t. Too bad he only had to spend 12 1/2 years at Parchman Farm, the Mississippi State Penitentiary. He should have been there 40 years before that. Hopefully he joined Cecil Price, Alton Wayne Roberts and all the other evil doers in a special corner of hell.

Time marches on. I’m sure this list will grow in 2018. Hopefully nobody I care about makes it.

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.