Category Archives: National Football League

The missing legend—and great guard play

When I last posted Tuesday evening, I mentioned about my first meeting with three LSU athletics legends, none of whom took the field for the Bayou Bengals. All three–Kent Lowe, Bill Franques and Dan Borne–are still alive and well in Baton Rouge, still proudly representing the purple and gold.

The man I knew prior to the 1994 football media day, Herb Vincent, has gone on to bigger and better things as an associate commissioner of the Southeastern Conference. I was sadly disappointed he didn’t become LSU’s athletic director when Skip Bertman retired in 2008, but Herb, Jamey and Kennedy are very happy in Birmingham.

There was someone else I should have met at the 1994 football media day.

Instead, Michael Bonnette was at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center, recuperating after knee surgery.

Michael suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in a recreational softball game earlier in August. He had just been hired full-time by Herb after five years as a student assistant and graduate assistant in the sports information (now sports communications) office. Michael had the unenviable task of promoting the LSU women’s basketball team during its darkest period, one which saw the Lady Tigers suffer three consecutive losing season, bottoming out at 7-20 in 1994-95 and nearly causing coach Sue Gunter to lose her job. Fortunately, LSU turned it around beginning in 1995-96 and Gunter eventually was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. Sadly, she died in August 2005 of cancer as LSU was in the midst of five consecutive trips to the Final Four.

Michael’s bloodlines destined him for a job in the sports media business. His father, Louis, became McNeese State’s sports information director in 1966, and it was assumed Michael would replace him. Michael made his way 125 miles east and stayed there, but the Cowboys’ post is still in the family, since younger brother Matthew assumed it upon Louis’ retirement in 2011. Louis’ legacy at McNeese is secure, as the playing surface at Cowboy Stadium is named for him.

I met Michael the week before classes started. There were plenty of times I wanted to be far away from him, but the times he bailed me out of trouble and supported me far, far, far outnumbered the bad ones.

In 2000, Michael succeeded Herb as leader of the LSU sports information office and enters his 20th football season at the helm. Michael has lived through the full tenures of three football coaches, worked under four athletic directors, and has witnessed the women’s basketball coaching position pass from Gunter to Pokey Chatman to (temporarily) Bob Starkey to Van Chancellor and now to Nikki Caldwell-Fargas.

Just like the late, great Paul Manasseh groomed Herb for the job, just as Herb groomed Michael for the job, Michael has groomed his students for other jobs, most notably Bill Martin, who’s now in charge at Mississippi State. Michael and Bill are both from Lake Charles, although they went to rival high schools (Michael to LaGrange, Bill to Barbe).

Herb, Kent, Bill, Dan and Michael all deserve sainthood for putting up with me all those year. Unlike the others, Michael isn’t Catholic, so I’d have to see if the Vatican will give him an exemption.

Herb’s adroit handling of Curley Hallman’s four years of misery also deserves him sainthood. I would have gone nuts trying to deal with both sides.

##########################################################################

With this being the National Football League’s 100th season, I’m trying to compile a list of the greatest player at each uniform number.

I can already tell you two of the winners on my list. I never saw either play live, but thanks to NFL Films, I could tell they were legends by time I was 11.

Number 64 is Jerry Kramer, the author and Packers guard who was the brawn behind Vince Lombardi’s famed “power sweep”. Teaming with Fuzzy Thurston and later Gale Gillingham, Jimmy Taylor, Paul Hornung, Elijah Pitts and Donny Anderson all found plenty of green grass in front of them after defenders had been wiped out by the green and gold marauders.

It was a damn shame Kramer had to wait 44 years to get into the Hall of Fame. He should have been a first ballot inductee in 1974, or at worst, inducted by 1988, his last year of eligibility on the writer’s ballot. Thank God this was rectified in 2018, and even better, Kramer was able to give his induction speech on stage in Canton despite being 82 years old. Several men his age were unable to give a live induction speech (Hank Stram, Mick Tinglehoff, Johnny Robinson), or worse, passed away before their enshrinement. With the passing of Forrest Gregg and Bart Starr earlier this year, and Jimmy Taylor’s passing last October, Kramer, Willie Davis, Dave Robinson, Herb Adderley and Willie Wood are the last of the living greats who played for Lombardi.

Old Jerry was also a fine placekicker. In the 1962 NFL championship game, Kramer sliced three field goals and a extra point through vicious winds at Yankee Stadium, providing the margin of victory in Green Bay’s 16-7 triumph over the Giants.

Kramer, drafted in 1958 in the third round out of Idaho, missed the entire 1964 season when he needed to have slivers of wood removed from his abdomen, an operation which nearly killed him. He recovered to play four more seasons, helping the Packers win three consecutive NFL championships and the first two Super Bowls. He retired following the 1968 season.

Runners-up: Dave Wilcox (49ers LB, 1964-74); Randall McDaniel (Vikings G, 1989-2001)

Number 73 was slightly more challenging. Very slightly.

Like Kramer, this man also was a great offensive guard.

John Hannah toiled for 13 seasons for the Patriots and is, in my opinion, still the greatest to play for the franchise. Sorry (not sorry), Tom Brady.

Hannah was a two-time consensus All-American for Bear Bryant at Alabama, where he led the Crimson Tide to unprecedented offensive success in the Wishbone, which Bryant adopted in 1971 after seasons of 6-5 and 6-5-1 in 1969 and ’70. He is still regarded by many as the greatest offensive lineman to ever play college football.

Chuck Fairbanks, who took the Patriots job in January 1973 after six seasons at Oklahoma, wasted no time in selecting Hannah in the first round. By 1976, the Patriots reached the playoffs for the first time since 1963, and Hannah was a big reason, opening huge holes for Sam “Bam” Cunningham while giving Steve Grogan more than enough time to spot Russ Francis, and later, Stanley Morgan.

Hannah reached the Super Bowl with the Patriots in 1985, his final season. The Bears’ 46 defense, led by Dan Hampton, Mike Singletary and Richard Dent, proved to be too much for New England, which lost 46-10.

The Patriots won the AFC East in 1986, but starting in 1987, they went into a steep decline, bottoming out in 1990 when they went 1-15 and were outscored 446-181.

That wasn’t the worst thing which happened to New England in 1990.

Four players were charged with sexually harassing Boston Globe sportswriter Lisa Olson, and owner Victor Kiam doubled down by calling Olson a “classic b***h”. Two years later, the Patriots very nearly moved to St. Louis, but the hiring of Bill Parcells in 1993 and Robert Kraft’s purchase of the franchise in 1994 kept the team in Massachusetts.

Sadly, the good feelings about Kraft would evaporate a few years later.

Runners-up: Ron Yary (Vikings OT, 1968-82); Joe Klecko (Jets DL, 1977-87); Leo Nomellini (49ers DT/OT, 1950-63)

Goodbye July (until next time)

I’ve slept only 9 1/2 hours the previous two nights, yet I feel nowhere near as groggy as I have the previous few nights in Russell. Is it the CPAP mask? Or has it been a better bed in the hotels in Salina and Kansas City? I hope it keeps up the rest of the trip and when I get back to Russell Sunday.

Last night in front of the Hy-Vee on 64th Street near Interstate 29, I saw a woman holding a sign saying she is sleeping in her car. I often wonder if they’re telling the truth or not. If they are telling the truth, I wish I had more money to help them. If they are lying, then I have nothing but scorn.

It rained hard this morning. I had to get out due to an 0900 appointment. The sun is back out now, but more rain is heading to Kansas City. Not that I mind. As long as it’s dry Sunday for the ride west.

##########################################################################

Peggy is in New York City with family (not her children). Her birthday was Monday, and last night, she posted pictures of herself all over social media attending a performance of Hamilton. That’s out of character for her, but I’m glad she’s enjoying herself. She deserves it.

I have no desire to visit New York City. I’m not into Broadway plays, and I am certainly not into places where people are packed in like sardines. The farthest east I’ve been is the Baltimore-Washington airport, and I’m not keen on visiting either city. There is so much history in Washington, but between the crowds and security, I don’t see where it’s worth it. I would love to live in Maine, but southern New England, NYC and New Jersey? Heck no. Philadelphia? Maybe to see Independence Hall, but that’s it.

I have been to Pittsburgh. PNC Park, where the Pirates have played since 2001, is gorgeous. I didn’t go inside Heinz Field, but it’s nice from the outside. I would like to see the Pocono Raceway in northeast Pennsylvania. I’m not a big NASCAR fan, but the track’s triangular shape makes it one of the three most fascinating in stock car racing. The others are the road courses, Sonoma in California and Watkins Glen in upstate New York. Most of the others, not counting the restrictor plate tracks (Daytona and Talladega), don’t have much to differentiate themselves.

Dallas and Houston were more than big enough for me, thank you. At least in the Texas cities, Los Angeles and Chicago, you can drive places. New York doesn’t allow for it, at least in all of Manhattan and The Bronx, and most of Brooklyn and Queens. Staten Island would be the only borough I could stomach. I don’t think I’d make it on the Subway. Besides, it’s dangerous.

I used to get very jealous of Peggy and her family going on vacations, and others posting pictures from their vacations. But I finally asked myself why, because many of the activities are not things I enjoy.

Going to the beach is very, very, very low on my bucket list, if it even makes the bucket list. I can think of thousands of places I would rather be than a beach in the hot sun. I burn easily in the sun, I don’t swim, and I can’t build a sand castle or anything else to save my life. My family took a trip in 1984 to the Mississippi Gulf Coast, but I hardly remember anything about it because there was nothing to remember.

When people post pictures of trips to Walt Disney World, especially in the spring, summer and early fall, I scratch my head. Way too hot and humid. I lived in a sauna for 29 years. I now live in an oven, which is slightly more tolerable. If I HAD to go to a Disney park, it would be the one in Anaheim. I would take the risk of dying in an earthquake.

The day I want to stand in line for two to three hours for a ride or exhibit is the day I need to exit this planet. To do so with screaming children? Those who do so are either brave or foolish. I won’t say which. My brother and sister-in-law took their honeymoon to Orlando at Thanksgiving 2013 without my then 13-year old niece. They were smart. I hope they do not go back with her and my now 3 1/2-year old nephew.

Besides, I hated my trip to Orlando in 1985. Hated it. Bad hotels, a terrible meal in a truck stop in the Florida panhandle, a blown tire on Interstate 75 in Gainesville, plus all the lines, not to mention we’d be back in school the day after getting home. I advise STRONGLY against vacations during the school year unless it’s during the Christmas/New Year’s period.

Going to the lake? I live close to Wilson Lake, and I’ve been once because I was forced to cover a fishing tournament. I loathed it. Again, not interested in lying out in the sun. Also, if I never went to a lake in Louisiana, why would that change?

Peggy’s family goes skiing a lot. I wish I grew up in a colder climate, but it wasn’t to be. I’m too clumsy to ski.

Besides, those things are not meant for a single person with absolutely zero prospects of changing that. I would not want to go on a tour with a bunch of strangers. It would be very hard in many ways; having to follow the group would be worse to me than not knowing anyone.

Like Neil Diamond crooned, I’m a Solitary Man.

##########################################################################

Nick Buoniconti, the great middle linebacker on the Dolphins’ Super Bowl championship teams in 1972 and ’73, passed away this morning at 78. He played for seven seasons with the Boston Patriots, who released him after the 1969 season. Don Shula, hired by Miami in February 1970, immediately signed him. Buoniconti became the heart of the “No-Name Defense” which also included standouts like Manny Fernandez, Bill Stanfill, Jake Scott and Dick Anderson.

Buniconti retired after the 1976 season, the year before the Dolphins drafted Bob Baumhower and A.J. Duhe, who became the leaders of the “Killer B’s” who led the Dolphins to Super Bowl XVII, where they lost to John Riggins and the Redskins.

Buoniconti has a connection to Kansas City, both on and off the field.

On the field, Buoniconti had one of his greatest games in the famous double overtime playoff game on Christmas Day 1971, making 20 tackles.

Three weeks later, Buoniconti had a game to forget in Super Bowl VI. The Cowboys confused Buoniconti to no end with misdirection, rushing for 252 yards, a Super Bowl record which still stands. Buoniconti was popped time after time by Dallas guards John Niland and Blaine Nye, and center Dave Manders. The Miami star suffered a concussion and was in a fog in the locker room, one of the many disappointments for the Dolphins that day. The good news was they didn’t lose a game which counted for 20 months thereafter.

Duane Thomas, who rushed for 95 yards and a touchdown in the Cowboys’ 24-3 rout, was originally voted the game’s Most Valuable Player. However, the NFL caught wind of this and demanded the writers vote again. This time, Roger Staubach won. The league did not want the award going to the surly Thomas, who ignored reporters the entire season and clashed incessantly with Tom Landry and Tex Schramm.

Buoniconti redeemed himself the next two Super Bowls.

In Super Bowl VII, his interception on an underthrown Billy Kilmer pass led to the Dolphins’ second touchdown, and it was enough to defeat the Redskins 14-7 and complete Miami’s 17-0 season. Scott was the game’s MVP and Fernandez made 17 tackles.

Buoniconti’s jarring hit on Viking runner Oscar Reed in Super Bowl VIII on fourth and one from the Miami 6-yard line forced a fumble which Scott recovered. Minnesota, trailing 17-0 late in the first half when the play occurred, had very little hope of winning at that point. After Reed’s fumble, all hope evaporated. Miami won 24-7 in maybe the most lopsided Super Bowl, at least as matchups go, since the game began in January 1967.

Buoniconti was not elected to the Hall of Fame by the Professional Football Writers Association, earning enshrinement in 2001 thanks to the seniors committee. He waited 19 years (he was first eligible in 1982) after his playing career ended to get in. Too long, but nowhere near as bad as the 44 endured by legendary Packers guard Jerry Kramer. That Kramer wasn’t inducted in the 1970s is a travesty. Only two of Lombardi’s Packers were elected on the first ballot: Forrest Gregg and Bart Starr, both in 1977,

Following his retirement, Buoniconti and ex-Chiefs quarterback Len Dawson were selected by the five-year old Home Box Office network to host a new weekly NFL highlights show.

Inside the NFL became appointment television for football fans for the next 25 seasons largely due to the banter between Len and Nick, and later Cris Collinsworth. My parents recorded the show when we couldn’t watch it live; from 1982-86, that was a Betamax machine which cost $800 at Christmas 1986. I wish we still had it.

HBO inexplicably fired Len and Nick in early 2002. We watched for a little while longer with Cris and Dan Marino leading thee way, but quit soon thereafter. My parents and I ignore it now. I can’t stand Warren Sapp in particular.

In addition to his playing and broadcasting careers, Buoniconti was an advocate developing a cure for paralysis, a cause which he unfortunately had too much experience with.

Nick’s son, Marc, played football for The Citadel until he was rendered a quadriplegic while making a tackle vs. East Tennessee State in October 1985. For the past 33 years, Nick raised tens of millions dollars for the Mark Buoniconti Project, which funds research for a cure for paralysis.

Nick struggled with dementia in the last years of his life, and it’s likely he had CTE, which has afflicted thousands of football players at all levels. Buoniconti is donating his brain to the CTE project for research.

Sadly, the Dolphins have lost two of their greats from the championship teams in 2019. Guard Bob Kuechenberg, who also started in Super Bowl XVII, passed away in January.

##########################################################################

I’m playing Michael McDonald and the Doobie Brothers at Buffalo Wild Wings. The infamous Michael McDonald look-alike, Bill, who smokes like a chimney and chugs beer like a frat boy, is here. Ugh.

Another novella completed.

Trivia and tacos

Today’s trivia adventure comes from the Taco Bell at 1730 Vine Street in Hays, Kansas USA.

That’s right. I am a little under 1.6 kilometers (1 mile) from The Golden Q, where I normally play trivia in Hays. If you read my blog post from last Wednesday, you know The Q is undergoing a massive renovation which has closed its kitchen until next Tuesday, and the air conditioning and televisions are not functioning.

Buzztime updated its app last week. The questions now appear on the screen with the answers. The only drawback is clues are not given for Lunchtime and Countdown, meaning it’s all or nothing, unless lightning strikes and you figure it out in the middle of the question. For Late Shift, the game which runs from 2200 to closing, and others like it, the wrong answers wipe out. The app still cannot handle the hour-long games Tuesday through Saturday meaning if I want to play SIX Wednesday and Thursday at 1930, I have to be somewhere, which means Salina this week.

I had to come to Hays today to get my eyeglasses adjusted. Dr. Jones did it herself. I also had to get the correct case, which wasn’t a big deal.

Nickole Byers in Ellis called me while I was driving to Hays. I called her back and she wanted information on tournaments for the upcoming school year in case we wanted to print programs for them. Therefore, I stopped at Taco Bell to work.

I decided I would see how far away Buzztime could pick up the signal from The Q so I could play.

It worked. I’m about ready to leave to go home because I am dead tired. I didn’t get a lick of sleep last night, and it wasn’t because anything was wrong; for some reason, I couldn’t fall asleep even after taking Seroquel. I think I’ll be in bed very early tonight, because I would like to wake up early tomorrow, go to Wichita to get my car cleaned, then come back to Salina for trivia and a haircut with Amber.

##########################################################################

I understand why Wimbledon instituted a tiebreak in the deciding set of matches when the score reaches 12-12. The All-England Lawn Tennis Club does not want marathon matches such as 2010, when John Isner and Nicholas Mahut needed 138 games to decide the fifth set, with Isner prevailing 70-68.

That’s right. ONE HUNDRED THIRTY EIGHT games. It took 11 plus hours over three days to complete.

Back to yesterday, when Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer battled for the gentelmen’s singles championship.

Federer choked away two match points in the fifth set. Lo and behold, it got to 12-12.

Djokovic won seven of the 10 points in the tiebreak and won his fifth Wimbledon title and 16th Grand Slam.

Djokovic also won the first and third sets by tiebreak after it was tied 6-6.

The 12-point tiebreak was introduced to Wimbledon in 1972. From 1972-78, the tiebreak was played in all sets EXCEPT the decisive set (third for ladies, fifth for gentlemen) when the score reached 8-8. It was pared down to 6-6 in 1979 and remained that way through 2018.

Through 1970, all sets had to be played out until one player had a two-game advantage. In 1971, an ill-conceived tiebreak was used; it was a maximum of nine points, period, meaning if it were 4-4, it was a sudden death set point.

I’m not a tennis fan. I haven’t followed the sport much since the heyday of Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova, and later, Steffi Graf and Boris Becker.

If it were up to me, I would say no way to tiebreaks in all Grand Slam tournaments, at least in the decisive set. And for the championship match, it would be no tiebreaks, period.

This is akin to the four major golf tournaments eliminating the 18-hole playoff when two or more players were tied after 72 holes.

  • The U.S. Open was the last to eliminate the fifth round, going to a two-hole playoff starting in 2017; the last 18-hole playoff was at Torrey Pines in 2008, when Eldrick Woods defeated Roccco Mediate in 19 holes.
  • The last 18-hole playoff at The Masters was 1970 when Billy Casper defeated Gene Littler; Augusta National adopted sudden death in 1976, and it was first used in 1979. The Masters uses sudden death for one reason and one reason only: to make sure 60 Minutes is not delayed too long on CBS should the tournament run past 1900 ET (1800 CT). It’s the same reason why NFL games which kick off at 1505 or 1525 CT on CBS have fewer commercials than the 1200 CT kickoffs on CBS or all games on Fox and NBC.
  • The Open Championship last held an 18-hole playoff in 1975, when Tom Watson bested Jack Nicklaus at Carnoustie. The 18-hole playoff remained the tiebreak format for the Royal & Ancient through 1985; in 1986, it changed to a three-hole playoff, and later, four holes.
  • The PGA Championship eliminated the 18-hole playoff in the 1970s, first using sudden death, then changing to a three-hole playoff in the late 1990s.

Winning a major tournament in tennis and golf is supposed to be among the most difficult tasks in sports. Not to to detract from Djokovic’s thrilling victory on Centre Court, but if there weren’t tiebreaks, would the Serb win? Who knows?

#########################################################################

That said, I am on the other side of the fence as far as overtime in gridiron football and hockey.

There should be no overtime, period, in the regular season in those sports. If a team cannot get the job done in 60 minutes, it doesn’t deserve another chance. Better to have ties factor into a record than some convoluted tiebreaker based upon net points in conference games (NFL) or “regulation and overtime wins” (NHL).

Football and hockey are physically draining sports. Bruises, sprains and other injuries are a way of life. Why expose the players to more risk when it’s not necessary?

College and high school football should do away with their stupid version of overtime, which was foisted upon us in 1971 by Brice Durbin, then the Executive Director of the Kansas State High School Activities Association, and later Executive Director of the National Federation of State High School Associations.

The “Kansas playoff” is ridiculous. Starting from the 10-yard line slants the playing field so heavily in favor of the offense. Any team which can’t make three yards per play for four plays doesn’t deserve to win. Not allowing the defense to score on an interception or fumble is just as asinine. Why should the team which turned the ball over deserve a chance to stop the team forcing the turnover? If the defender runs 95 yards the other way, then that team deserves to win.

The NCAA version of overtime, also adopted by Missouri, Texas and other states, is little better. The 25 is still too close.

In 1972, my future high school, Brother Martin, played Monroe Neville to a scoreless tie in a state semifinal in New Orleans. At that time, the team which advanced was determined by first downs, and if that was tied, penetrations inside the opponents’ 20-yard line.

That didn’t work for the Crusaders and Tigers, who each had nine first downs and one penetration. Louisiana High School Athletic Association director Frank Spruiell suggested the Kansas overtime to break the tie.

The coaches, Martin’s Bobby Conlin and Neville’s Charlie Brown, told Spruiell to jump in the Mississippi River. The Crusaders and Tigers got together four days later in Alexandria and played it over again. Neville won 8-0 and went on to defeat Bossier Airline three days later for the title at Monroe.

To be honest, first downs, penetrations and other statistics such as yardage, third down conversions and time of possessions are more appropriate ways to determine a victor than the Kansas playoff. The Kansas playoff is a crapshoot if there ever was one.

#########################################################################

The last time I was in Kansas City, I watched nine innings of a Rays-Twins game in Minneapolis.

I missed the first nine innings driving from Hays to Kansas City.

Eighteen innings? Are you kidding me?

Major League Baseball should do what the Japanese Leagues do and limit games tied after nine to a maximum of three extra innings. If the game is still tied after 12, the statistics count, but the game is thrown out and doesn’t count.

Teams play 162 games a season. What would a few ties hurt? Not a darn thing.

What is the American aversion to draws in sports? There does not have to be a winner in everything.

##########################################################################

I’m still at Taco Bell. That’s all for now…at least on the blog.

Awesomely crepe-y

Eighteen hours ago, I had never tried the Swedish crepes from iHOP.

Now I’m craving them worse than a pregnant lady craves ice cream and pickles.

While I was on the barstool at Buffalo Wild Wings Shoal Creek last night, I decided to order pickup from iHOP in Liberty so I could have breakfast in the morning. I figured I’d put them in the fridge in the hotel room then warm them for 90 seconds in the morning.

After getting lost on my way to the restaurant, I decided I couldn’t wait until morning. I tried one.

Wow. I have a new favorite iHOP dish, and one of my favorite restaurant items anywhere, right along with any steak from Outback, the Jumbo Combo pizza from Minsky’s, the Veggie 7 pizza at Old Chicago, the brisket and corn grits at T.J. Ribs in Baton Rouge, the charbroiled oysters at Acme Oyster House in New Orleans and Baton Rouge…you get the idea.

Thank God I got two orders. Breakfast was great. Now I want to go back and get some for late tonight and tomorrow morning.

The best thing about the Swedish crepes is they are meatless, meaning I can eat them on Lenten Fridays. If I happen to go to Columbia next month, I guess I’m going there at some point.

**********************************************

LSU’s basketball saga is over, at least as far as playing in the SEC tournament. The Bayou Bengals, the SEC regular season champion, lost 76-73 to Florida when the Gators, coached by New Orleans native Mike White, hit a 3-pointer with 1.2 seconds left.

LSU is a lock for the NCAA tournament, but with so much controversy surrounding Will Wade and the wiretap which revealed his willing to do anything to sign Javonte Smart, the three-time Louisiana high school player of the year from Scotlandville in north Baton Rouge, what can LSU reasonably expect?

I don’t think my alma mater will last past the first weekend. I hope I’m wrong, but I see trouble.

Kansas City is now overrun with Iowa State fans in town for the Big 12 tournament. The Cyclones play Kansas State at 1800, followed by Kansas vs. West Virginia, which finished last during the regular season but is still alive thanks to wins over Oklahoma and regular season co-champion Texas Tech.

Honestly, I only know what’s going on because I’m at Buffalo Wild Wings. If I were back in the basement in Russell, I would probably not watch.

I won’t watch the selection show Sunday. I can wait until the bracket comes out.

I usually don’t watch the NBA, but with the Bucks heading for the top seed in the East, will I have to?

**********************************************

The Chiefs are big news this week with the start of the NFL’s business year. Dee Ford, Justin Houston and Eric Berry are gone. Tyrann “Honey Badger” Matthieu is in. Kansas City needs to restructure its defense, but right now, it looks like it will try to win every game 41-38 with Mahomes.

The Saints let Mark Ingram go to the Ravens via free agency. It looks like the Cardinals will draft Kyler Murray first overall after drafting Josh Rosen last year. Great idea, Arizona, to let Murray get beaten up behind an offensive line which is worse than a sieve.

The Cardinals have had a horrendous offensive line since Dan Dierdorf was in his heyday, and that’s when your intrepid blogger was in diapers. Arizona is doing this back-assward, but I can’t help it.

**********************************************

Swedish crepes at iHOP. Gotta have them again.

Hello, I’m David AWOL Steinle

SEVENTEEN DAYS since I last posted to Foots Prints? Unacceptable. If you have been waiting for me to post (you know who you are, wink wink), I am sorry. I am not attempting to hide anything. It’s just I’ve been bone lazy.

Not sleeping properly has been a huge issue. Since my return from Kansas City Jan. 29, I have not been in a regular sleep routine. I’ve stayed up through the night on Sundays and Mondays the last two weeks to make sure my work is done. In turn, on days when I don’t have work to do, all I want to do is sleep.

My laundry is piling up, but since I’ve hardly left the house the last two weeks, it isn’t as bad as it could be. I have not been showering regularly, and the basement at 1224 North Brooks, Russell, Kansas is starting to stink.

The lack of sleep left me so confused last week that when High Plains Mental Health called me for a last-minute appointment with Crista, I forgot what day it was. When Janelle told me 10 am tomorrow, I thought the day was Wednesday and I wouldn’t have time to go. Fortunately, the appointment was for 10 am Wednesday and it was only Tuesday.

I missed my trip to Norton last Friday because of my horrendous sleep habits. I was feeling so awful Friday morning, battling sleep deprivation and heartburn, that when I woke up for a few minutes, I went right back to bed. By time I got up for good, it was already 1600. Another wasted day.

I’m groggy as hell this morning. I’m killing time in Hays between appointments. Got the car serviced, now waiting for another doctor’s appointment.

A lot has gone on since my last post. I won’t bore you with regurgitating some of what’ happened, but here are my thoughts:

Super Bowl LIII–I watched the second half. I did not watch the first half. I should have just kept not watching.

My interest was piqued when I read the push notification from CBS Sports that the halftime score was 3-0 Patriots. So I turned over just out of curiosity.

It only served to anger me even more. I strongly dislike Brady and Belichick, and of course the Rams should not have been in the Super Bowl in the first place. The Saints would have given New England a far better game. Whether Brees and Payton would have taken the Lombardi trophy back to New Orleans, I don’t know.

God, the Rams were pathetic. First team in 47 years not to score a touchdown in a Super Bowl and only the second ever. The other was the 1971 Dolphins, who were throttled by the Cowboys in Super Bowl VI. At least in that one, Dallas was heavily favored and Miami wasn’t known for an offense which could crank out yards and points at a breakneck pace.

Jared Goff looked a lot like a couple of other California quarterbacks have in a Super Bowl, Joe Kapp (1969 Vikings) and Craig Morton (1970 Cowboys and 1977 Broncos). Sean McVay barely using Todd Gurley also was perplexing.

Of course, the nauseating talk of Brady being the greatest of all time ramped up as soon as it became obvious the Patriots would win. Yes, Brady has won more championships than any other quarterback in professional football. That is an empirical fact. I cannot deny it because it is true and proven.

To call Brady the greatest ever? Come on. Would Brady have fared so well when Sammy Baugh, Johnny Unitas, Bart Starr, Fran Tarkenton, Roger Stabauch and Bob Griese were in their heydays? HELL NO. Before 1978, receivers could be hit all over the field, as long as it was from the front or side, and it came before the ball was in the air. Pass blockers had to keep their arms close to their chest, because they could not use their hands, nor could they extend their arms.

Brady is fortunate he is playing in an era where quarterbacks are treated more delicately than the Vince Lombardi Trophy. Would he have succeeded 40 to 50 years ago? Can’t say. However, I’m certain Unitas would have lit it up if he could have payed under Brady’s rules.

Six days after Super Bowl LIII mercifully ended, a new football league kicked off.

It’s called the Alliance of American Football. It has eight teams which will play 10 regular season games between now and mid-April, then hold a two-week playoff to determine the champion.

There are no kickoffs in the AAF. The team which was scored upon starts a new possession at its own 25-yard line. The only way the team which scored can keep the ball is by converting a 4th and 12 from its own 28, and the opportunities for those are extremely limited. The only times a team may attempt the “onside kick” play are (a) if it trails by 17 or more, or (b) if a team is behind with less than five minutes remaining.

In other words, Sean Payton wouldn’t like this one bit. Remember, the Saints successfully attempted an onside kick to start the second half of Super Bowl XLIV, and that turned the tide in New Orleans’ favor vs. Peyton Manning’s Colts.

The AAF also does not allow blitzing. A maximum of five players can rush the passer, meaning offenses do not have to keep in backs and/or tight ends to block if they so choose. The idea is not to make the games so low-scoring and dull that it drives off fans. I like low-scoring games, but I’m in the minute minority on that one.

It’s easy to see the level of football in the AAF is below that of the NFL. However, if the league sticks to its idea of being a developmental league and doesn’t try to become an equal to the NFL like the first XFL, USFL and World Football League did, it can find a niche in the American sports scene.

The Milwaukee Bucks have the NBA’s best record at the All-Star break for the first time since 1974. Holy crap. The Bucks? The team Adam Silver wanted to move out of Milwaukee if Wisconsin didn’t build a new arena? In case you don’t know, the Bucks’ starting lineup in 1974 included Oscar Robertson and Kareem Abdul-Jabber. I hear they were pretty good.

The Maple Leafs are trying to plug along without Auston Matthews, and with a leaky defense. Here’s hoping they can turn it on come April. I’m nauseated by the thought of a Tampa Bay-Nashville final.

LSU’s men’s basketball team won in Lexington Tuesday. The Bayou Bengals are alive and well under second year coach Will Wade, who wasn’t born when LSU went 17-1 in the SEC and 31-5 overall in 1980-81. That year, LSU made the Final Four, only to get stomped by Indiana and Isaiah Thomas.

It would be lovely for LSU to come to Kansas City for the Midwest Regional in late March and lay it on a certain team from Lawrence. Or the one from Manhattan. Knowing my luck, LSU will be put in the west.

The designated hitter is coming to the National League. It’s only a matter of time. I am angry as hell. I’ll save that for later.

The United States of America is screwed. Royally screwed. When you’ve got ideological demagogues like Trump, Steve King, Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib and Ihlan Omar getting elected, not to mention Maxine Waters spending three decades in the House, it tells you something is totally F***ED up.

Edwin Edwards was corrupt during his four terms as Governor of Louisiana, but he wasn’t a hate monger and he wasn’t incompetent. I’d vote for him over any of the other jackasses we have now.

That’s all for now.

Wronged again

Last night almost ended disastrously for me.

Driving back to my hotel at 2100, an SUV barreled down Ambassador towards Cookingham in the wrong direction, driving northbound in a southbound lane. It was just after I turned right from Cookingham onto Ambassador when I exited Interstate 29 near Kansas City International Airport.

Needless to say, it scared the bejesus out of me. I was in the other lane, so my car and my body are fine.

Had I not been in the other lane, I would have been able to take the driver to the cleaners financially (provided I survived), since he or she would have been 100 percent wrong for driving the wrong way. While I may have been able to bleed that person dry, I’m certain I would either be (a) dead or (b) paralyzed.

Believe me, it ended up better this way.

I am beyond dumbfounded by drivers who cannot follow a directional sign. To have this happen on back to back days in the same city on the same street less than five kilometers (three miles) apart is unfathomable.

I wasn’t the only witness to this driving stupidity.

I was behind a Platte County Sheriff’s SUV. Once the errant vehicle passed, the sheriff’s vehicle U-turned and turned right onto Cookingham. Here’s hoping the idiot was caught and thrown in jail. Even if he or she was not drunk, driving the wrong way down the street is not something an officer will just give you a ticket and let you go. But I’m certain he or she was wasted pretty good.

I hope this jerk enjoys the consequences of his or her sheer idiocy.

Oops I lost my concentration playing trivia. I’m at Buffalo Wild Wings Shoal Creek (Liberty), where I met Robb for a few games. This is it for trivia this trip, because I have work to do tomorrow, then I’m getting out of town Tuesday. I was originally staying until Wednesday, but it will be brutally cold Wednesday, so cold I don’t know if my car would start. Therefore, it’s best to skip town early.

The Pro Bowl is today. The AFC leads 17-0 late in the first half. I’m certain Kansas City will have the highest television ratings for the game since Patrick Mahoney is the AFC’s starting quarterback. I don’t care about the NFL right now, and I certainly don’t care about the Pro Bowl.

The Patriots had 35,000 fans show up at a rally in Foxborough prior to their departure for Atlanta and Super Bowl LIII. I’m betting there aren’t 35,000 Patriots fans outside the six New England states. If there are, they probably love Brady and will jump off the New England bandwagon once he retires, much the same way the NBA’s Heat and Cavaliers have lost fans because LeBron no longer plays for those teams. It was the same way when Michael Jordan played for the Bulls.

Next Sunday, I might be in bed by 1800. No way I’m watching the Super Bowl. None. .Sounds sacrilegious, but right now, I have no desire to watch a game matching a team which doesn’t belong (Rams) and a team I am sick and tired of seeing, and even more sick and tired of seeing their douchebag coach (Belichick), douchebag quarterback (Brady), douchebag tight end (Gronk) and douchebag receiver (Edelman).

If I do stay up late next Sunday, at least I have work to do and lots of movies to watch to bide my time.

Saints shafted!

Football fans throughout Louisiana, at least most of them, are still steaming mad about the no-call which kept the Saints from Super Bowl LIII.

The outrage has extended well past the Saints players, coaches, front office and owner Gayle Benson. It’s reached the point where the New Orleans City Council drafted a resolution condemning the no-call, and Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards is drafting a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell asking him to take a look into overturning the result, or at least ordering a replay.

Edwards and other politicians should be commended for their love of the Saints and their willingness to do anything to support one of two professional sports franchises to call Louisiana home.

Sadly, it isn’t going to do anything. The Rams are on their way to Atlanta to face the Patriots, and the Saints and their fans can only wonder what if.

The play in question occurred with less than two minutes remaining in the NFC championship game and the score tied 20-20. With it third and 10 and the Saints on the Rams’ 13-yard line, Drew Brees threw a short pass into the right flat intended for Tommylee Lewis.

Before Lewis could move to his right in order to catch the pass, Rams safety Nickell Robey-Coleman barreled full speed into Lewis with a helmet-to-helmet hit with left the ball to flutter incomplete.

The Saints had to settle for a Will Lutz field goal to give them the lead, but there was still 1:41 remaining when the Rams began their next possession, more than enough time for Jared Goff to drive his team to a game-tying field goal by Greg Zeurlein.

New Orleans won the overtime coin toss, but on the Saints’ third play of the extra period, Los Angeles’ Dante Fowler came in untouched on Brees, forcing a flutterball which was intercepted by the Rams’ John Johnson at the Los Angeles 46.

The Rams picked up one first down before stalling at the Saints’ 39. A 57-yard field goal is out of the range of many NFL kickers, but Zeurlein drove it home with plenty of room to spare, sending the Rams to their first Super Bowl since 2001, and the first for the Los Angeles Rams since 1979.

Back to the no-call.

I think Sean Payton should have ran the ball on first down and third down and forced the Rams to exhaust their timeouts. Los Angeles had two timeouts at the two-minute warning, and the Saints would have been able to bleed 40 more seconds off the clock after third down. Even if the Saints lost 10 yards on three plays and taken a 5-yard delay of game penalty, it still would have been well within Lutz’ range.

That said, Payton has a Super Bowl ring and more wins than any previous Saints coach, so I defer to his judgement. He is paid $9 million per year to call the shots.

While we will never know how the game would have turned out had Robey-Coleman been flagged–either for defensive pass interference (DPI) or a helmet-to-helmet hit.

It is indefensible, however, that a flag was not dropped.

One of the cardinal rules of playing pass defense is the defender must play the ball, not the receiver. At no level of football–Pop Warner, high school, college, professional–is a defender allowed to simply go after the receiver. I’m certain every elementary officiating training video shows a defender playing the man and not the ball is obvious DPI.

Robey-Coleman did not turn his head once he started flying towards Lewis. His eyes were pointed in one direction and one direction only, at the player wearing black jersey #11.

For a split second, it appeared Robey-Coleman might be called out for his misdeed.

Down judge (head linesman in other levels of football; it was changed by the NFL to down judge because Sarah Thomas now officiates that position) Patrick Turner had his hand on his penalty flag, which was in his belt on his right hip. However, he took his hand off the flag and signaled incomplete.

The question is, did Turner decide himself to keep his flag in his belt, or did he have help in making the no-call?

Two officials are stationed on each sideline. The head linesman/down judge and side judge work one side, and the line judge and field judge the other. The linesman and line judge are stationed at the line of scrimmage, and the field judge and side judge are 20 yards from the line of scrimmage.

I am wondering if Turner caught the eye of side judge Gary Cavaletto as he had his hand on the flag and changed his mind because of something Cavaletto communicated to him, either by voice or eye contact.

Turner and Cavaletto blew it, as did back judge Todd Prukop, who had a clear angle of the play from the middle of the field 25 yards deep.

Turner had no guts. If he threw the flag, it probably would have prompted a conference between the seven-man crew led by Bill Vinovich. If Vinovich and his mates opted to overrule Turner, then so be it, but Turner would have showed courage to do the right thing and make a gutsy call when guts are in short supply. Instead, Turner swept it under the rug.

Cavaletto and Prukop have both officiated in Super Bowls. This was Cavaletto’s 13th postseason assignment. This was Turner’s first conference championship game, and sadly, it could be his last NFL game, period.

The first cardinal rule of officiating is you have to see it before you call it, so phantom calls are always a big no-no with the NFL. Yet missing something so obvious is just as bad.

How could Turner, Cavaletto and Prukop NOT see a foul? Robey-Coleman should have been called for either DPI or a personal foul. Either way, the Saints get a fresh set of downs, they can milk the clock, then call in Lutz to kick them to Atlanta the same way Garrett Hartley kicked New Orleans to Miami nine years ago.

Two former NFL Vice Presidents of Officiating, Mike Pereira and Dean Blandino, said the officials blew it. So did Terry McAulay, the referee for Super Bowls XXXIX, XLIII and XLVIII. Current NFL Vice President of Officiating Alberto Riveron told Payton the call was blown minutes after the game ended.

I do not like the direction of football in 2018. I do not like shootouts. I do not like pass defenders having so many restrictions placed upon them. I do not like defenders who are flagged for roughing the passer for ticky-tack things which would never have been called 20 years ago.

On the other hand, if it is egregious, it has to be called. The same way as a pitch which comes into a batter at his feet or his neck must be called a ball. The same way a hockey player who swings his stick at an opponent must be called for slashing. The same way Lionel Messi must be awarded a penalty kick if he is tackled in the penalty area when he is one-on-one with the goalkeeper.

Yes, officiating requires good judgement, the same way the men and women in black robes requires it. Yet there are some areas which are black and white. Nickell Robey-Coleman bulldozing Tommylee Lewis was black and white. And the men in the black and white stripes failed miserably.

Robey-Coleman is fortunate the NFL does not have the NCAA’s targeting rule. In college, the replay official may buzz the referee if he sees forcible contact to the head or neck area that the officials on the field did not call. The player can be ejected for targeting based upon the replay official’s recommendation., Certainly Robey-Coleman would have been banished had the college rule been in effect.

The Rams-Patriots Super Bowl does not interest me. I saw this crap 17 years ago. Only this time, Brady and Belichick are heavy favorites against a second year quarterback, not the other way around. If the Patriots win, they’ll piss everyone off except those living in New England, Colin Cowherd and those who think Brady is the greatest thing to hit football. If the Rams win, it’s tainted.

Double dose of Saintly pain

January 3 is a day fans of the New Orleans Saints would rather forget for two major reasons.

The first occurred in 1988, when the Saints lost 44-10 to the Vikings in New Orleans’ first playoff game in franchise history.

The Saints finished the 1987 regular season 12-3, the second best record in the entire NFL, but they had to settle for a wild card berth to the playoffs because the 13-2 49ers were in the same division, the NFC West.

Prior to 1987, the Saints suffered through 18 losing seasons. Their best record was 8-8, achieved in 1979 and 1983. New Orleans was the birthplace of fans wearing bags on their heads, introduced during the abysmal 1-15 season of 1980.

In 1987, fans could rip the bags off–at least over the last nine games. The Saints lost three of their first six games, two of them to mediocre teams (Eagles and Cardinals) and one to the 49ers in the Superdome, a game in which Morten Andersen made five field goals, but missed his seventh attempt on the game’s final play, allowing San Francisco to escape 24-22.

The Saints should have been given kudos for coming close against the mighty 49ers, right?

Nope.

Second-year Saints coach Jim Mora went nuclear. Three words sum it up best.

Coulda. Woulda. Shoulda.

Mora stated he was tired of saying “coulda, woulda, shoulda”, and that the Saints weren’t good enough to beat the 49ers. Another famous line came when he said, “We’re close, and close don’t mean (bleep). And you can put that on TV for me.”

In 1987, there was SportsCenter, but the NFL Network was 16 years off. However, those of us in New Orleans got to see Mora’s tirade more than a few times, and nobody who grew up in New Orleans in the late 1980s will ever forget Mora’s postgame press conference of October 25, 1987.

Mora’s words must have had some effect on the Saints. New Orleans did not lose again in the regular season, ripping off nine consecutive victories, including a 26-24 decision at San Francisco three weeks later, a game which was won on a 52-yard field goal by Andersen, who last year became the second pure placekicker to be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, joining former Kansas City legend Jan Stenerud, whose bust has been in Canton since 1991.

The Saints’ opponents in the NFC wild card game, the Vikings, were in the playoffs for the first time in five years. Jerry Burns, who was in his second year in charge in Minnesota, had one of the NFL’s best receivers, Anthony Carter, but an unsettled quarterback situation between the oft-injured Tommy Kramer and the inconsistent Wade Wilson. The Viking defense, although not up to the standards of the Purple Gang of the 1970s, was still formidable, thanks to Chris Doleman, Keith Millard, rookie Henry Thomas, Scott Studwell and Joey Browner.

Minnesota was put into a hole during the strike called by the NFL Players’ Association during the 1987 season. The owners called up replacement players to substitute for the regulars for three games in weeks 4-6 (week three was canceled), looking to avoid the repeat of the disastrous 1982 strike in which the season was reduced from 16 games to nine.

The Vikings’ replacement team laid a giant goose egg, losing to Green Bay, Chicago and Tampa Bay. New Orleans had better fortune, defeating the Rams and Bears while losing in St. Louis.

Minnesota got back on track when the strike ended, but in December, the Vikings lost to the Bears, Packers and Redskins, finishing 8-7. However, Minnesota snuck into the playoffs when Dallas defeated St. Louis in what turned out to be the Cardinals’ final game representing the Gateway City.

Most of the experts liked New Orleans to easily defeat Minnesota and move into a divisional playoff game in Chicago, where the Bears were hampered by bickering, inconsistency from quarterback Jim McMahon, and an aged Walter Payton, who ended up retiring after the 1987 season.

The Vikings had different ideas.

New Orleans grabbed an early 7-0 lead, but an 84-yard punt return touchdown by Carter turned the momentum permanently in the Vikings’ favor.

Minnesota rubbed salt in the wound on the final play of the first half when Wade Wilson connected with Hassan Jones on a 55-yard Hail Mary, a play which the Vikings received when the Saints were called for having 12 players on the field on what should have been the last play in the first half. A half cannot end on a defensive penalty, and the Vikings made the Saints pay the ultimate price.

It didn’t matter. The Vikings were up 24-10 before the Wilson-to-Jones heroics, and they added to the lead in the second half, ending up a 44-10 winner.

The next week, Carter torched the 49ers with 11 catches for 227 yards, a playoff record, in a 36-24 Viking victory at San Francisco. Minnesota came within an eyelash of its first Super Bowl since 1976, but Darrin Nelson dropped a potential game-tying touchdown at the goal line in the NFC championship game in Washington. The Redskins won 17-10, then obliterated John Elway’s Broncos in Super Bowl XXII with the famous 35-point second quarter.

Exactly five years later after the debacle vs. the Vikings, the Saints were again hosting an NFC wild card playoff game. The Saints went 12-4 in 1992, but had to settle for second in the NFC West behind the 14-2 49ers, who swept the season series from New Orleans, negating San Francisco’s loss to the 4-12 Cardinals.

New Orleans was still in search of its first playoff victory when the Eagles invaded the Crescent City on January 3, 1993. The Saints made the playoffs as an 8-8 wild card in 1990 before losing to the Bears in Chicago, then lost to the Falcons at home after capturing the NFC West in 1991, the Saints’ first division title.

Philadelphia entered the 1992 playoffs riding a five-game postseason losing streak, a skid which started in New Orleans when the Eagles lost 27-10 to the Raiders in Super Bowl XV.

One factor working in the Eagles’ favor was Buddy Ryan was no longer coaching them. Ryan lost playoff games in three consecutive seasons between 1988-90, and combined with Ryan’s hatred of his offense despite the heroics of quarterback Randall Cunningham, Philadelphia owner Norman Braman had seen enough and showed Ryan the door.

Rich Kotite had the Eagles in the playoffs after missing out in 1991 despite a 10-6 record. Philadelphia defeated New Orleans 15-13 at Veterans Stadium in the season opener, and that led to the pundits splitting right down the middle as to whether the Eagles or Saints would advance to face the Cowboys in Dallas.

Through three quarters, the Saints led 20-7. It looked like the Saints would finally win a playoff game, and the Eagles would once again choke in the clutch.

Unfortunately for the Saints, football games are four periods.

In the fourth quarter, the Eagles stunned not only the 70,000 in the Superdome, but millions of football fans watching on television by ripping off 29 unanswered points to win 36-20.

Fortunately for the Saints, few outside Louisiana noticed their collapse.

Mora and his players had the Houston Oilers to thank.

Earlier that day, the Oilers built a 35-3 lead early in the third quarter in Buffalo, only to completely collapse and allow the Bills to rally and win 41-38 in overtime.

The Oilers moved to Tennessee in 1997 and changed their name to the Titans in 1999. The franchise is still searching for its first Super Bowl title. So are the Bills, who lost Super Bowls XXVII and XXVIII to the Cowboys after losing XXV to the Giants and XXVI to the Redskins.

Minnesota has lost three more NFC championship games since 1987 (1998, 2000 and 2017).

New Orleans finally shook the playoff monkey in 2000, and won Super Bowl XLIV nine years later. Philadelphia is the reigning Super Bowl champion, the first title for the Eagles since 1960.

Here’s hoping the Saints can live up to the pressure of the NFL’s best team during the regular season and bring home the Vince Lombardi trophy from Atlanta one month from tonight.

Friday Night (bright) Lights?

The NFL’s insistence on playing Thursday night games has drawn criticism from every corner: players, coaches, owners, media, fans and just about anyone else who has an opinion about the sport.

Three days is a very short turnaround in a sport as brutal as football. However, these men are being paid very good money to play a game, so I don’t feel very sorry for them. If they don’t like it, they ought to try spending day after day after day in the shoes of a coal miner, a construction worker or a farmer.

The NFL should seriously consider playing on Friday if it feels it must have a national game on a weeknight. Yes, I am well aware high school football is the big thing on Friday nights, but there would be a way to make both the NFL and the high schools happy.

To alleviate the problems a Friday night game would cause for the high schools, the NFL could release the Friday night schedule well before the rest of the schedule. That way, high schools in the two cities which are involved in the NFL game in a given week could have plenty of time to rearrange the high school schedule.

For instance, if the Chiefs played the Broncos on a Friday night, high schools in the Kansas City and Denver areas would simply move games to Thursday night or Saturday afternoon. This would NOT be required, but it would be suggested if a school fears it would lose gate revenue. Teams could still play on Friday if they wished.

This might cause problems in cities where there are a large number of teams sharing a municipal stadium. This comes to mind in New Orleans, where five Catholic schools and several public ones play home games in one of two stadiums in City Park. There are usually six windows for games in Tad Gormley and Pan American: Thursday afternoon, Thursday night, Friday afternoon, Friday night, Saturday afternoon, Saturday night. Sometimes Saturday games are played in the morning.

Until Pan American opened in 1973, Tad Gormley was the only municipal stadium for high school football in New Orleans. Games were often played on Sunday afternoon and Sunday night. This continued even after the Saints came into the NFL in 1967. The high schools did not usually schedule games at the stadium when the Saints were playing at home, but often did when the Saints were on the road. The last regularly scheduled Sunday game was in November 1987 when Shaw defeated Jesuit 21-0.

In Kansas City, this would be a problem at Olathe, Shawnee Mission and Blue Valley, where five schools share two stadiums in each district. St. Thomas Aquinas, Bishop Miege and Rockhurst all have their own stadiums, as do schools in Blue Springs and Lee’s Summit. Liberty and Park Hill each have one stadium shared by two schools, and one is usually on the road when the other is home.

Fridays would allow more rest from a Sunday game. On the back end, it would be only one less day off.

I’m a firm believer the NFL should give each team two byes. Start the season the weekend of Labor Day like it used to be. I don’t get why the NFL is so against playing before Labor Day. Sure, they say it’s because of the colleges, but I don’t buy it. The NFL tried this in 1993, but teams complained. I think it would be good.

If teams had two byes, no team would be allowed to have a bye before week five, meaning each team would play at least four games before their first bye. Then no team would have a bye AFTER week 14, meaning all teams would play the final four weeks consecutively. There, problem solved.

The NFL could have its usual Thursday night kickoff game. No Thursday night games weeks two, three and four; instead, there would be a Monday night game, with one game kicking off at 1800 Eastern, and the other kicking at 2145 Eastern (1845 Pacific); ostensibly, you would attempt to have two western teams in the late slot, but not force any east coast teams to play in the west.

I could live without Thursday night football. I lived without it for the first 37 years of my life. I don’t watch the games much on Thursdays. Why the heck does the NFL need the money? It’s not like they’re filing for bankruptcy tomorrow.

If it’s not the Chiefs, it doesn’t mean squat in KC

Kansas City (Mahomesland) is oblivious to the outside world today. The only thing which matters to most in the city of 460,000, and the metropolitan area of 2.5 million, is what will happen at Arrowhead Stadium starting at 1915 this evening.

For the uninitiated, the Kansas City Chiefs are having one of their best seasons of the 56 the team has played in the City of Fountains. The Chiefs are 11-2 heading into tonight’s game with the Los Angeles Chargers, and barring a collapse, will win the AFC West and have a first round bye in the playoffs.

Should the Chiefs win all three of their remaining games–Chargers tonight, at Seattle Dec. 23 and at home vs. Oakland Dec. 30–they will finish with their best regular season record in franchise history. Only once before have the Chiefs lost only two games in a regular season. That was 1968, when Kansas City and Oakland finished tied atop the American Football League’s West division at 12-2.

Tiebreakers were not in effect in the AFL in 1968. It wouldn’t have mattered, since the Raiders and Chiefs each beat the other in their home stadium during the regular season. Therefore, the Chiefs and Raiders had to play a third time for the West division championship, with the winner heading to New York to face Joe Namath’s Jets for the AFL berth in Super Bowl III.

As fate had it, the Chiefs lost the coin toss to determine the home team, so they had to jet to Oakland. Sure enough, the Raiders were lying in wait, and won 41-6. The Raiders lost 27-23 to the Jets in the AFL championship game, and…most football fans and those who aren’t football fans probably know the rest.

Due to the Chiefs not making the playoffs despite going 12-2 in 1968, the AFL allowed the second place teams in each division qualify for the playoffs in 1969, the last year before the merger with the NFL. Kansas City went 11-3 compared to Oakland’s 12-1-1 that season, and the Raiders won both meetings. However, with new life due to the expanded playoffs, the Chiefs took full advantage, winning in New York AND Oakland before rolling over Minnesota in Super Bowl IV.

Back to the present. The Chiefs are on the verge of having the best record in the AFC for just the fourth time since the merger. Each time the Chiefs had that distinction, they lost in their first playoff game: 1971 to the Dolphins in the famous double overtime Christmas marathon, 1995 to the Colts, who had to win their last regular season game just to squeeze into the playoffs, and 1997 to the Broncos, who finally ended their Super Bowl hex when they defeated the Packers three weeks after.

Back to the present. The Chiefs NEED home field advantage in the playoffs (not counting the Super Bowl, which is in Atlanta), since Thomas Edward Brady and his New England Patriots are nearly invincible at Foxborough during the postseason. The Patriots won two AFC championship games in Pittsburgh in 2001 and ’04, but since then, they have failed to reach the Super Bowl when they have to travel in the postseason. Baltimore has won twice in Foxborough (2009 wild card, 2012 AFC Championship), but it is not worth pressing your luck if you’re Andy Reid.

If Kansas City wins tonight, it will need to only defeat Seattle or Oakland to clinch home field. The Seattle game is almost a throwaway, since it’s against an NFC team and has no bearing on tiebreakers. However, the Patriots have the won that counts the most, winning 43-40 over the Chiefs at Foxborough the night after my birthday.

Red is the color of the day. But instead of green, it’s complimented by gold.

I’m in my usual area of Kansas City near KCI. I want nothing to do with Interstate 70 today. Fans are being encouraged to arrive at Arrowhead by 1600 if at all possible, because after that, I-70 will be jammed with cars driving from downtown towards Interstate 435, and further east of the stadiums towards Independence and Blue Springs. Many downtown stadiums, such as the Superdome, don’t have as many traffic worries for weeknight games, since people are coming into downtown, but in Kansas City, it’s different, since the stadiums are 8 to 10 miles (14 to 22 km) east of downtown. Add in the fans who will be coming from Kansas, and it will add up to hell on the highways.

I’m tired. I might not make it to the end of the game. I don’t care who wins. I’m not a Chiefs fan. My loyalties lie with the team in my native city, and to a couple of others. The Chargers are due to win since losing nine straight to Kansas City, including a 38-28 setback on opening day at Carson, when Chiefs fans outnumbered Chargers fans 3 to 2. However, if Melvin Gordon, the Chargers’ top running back and one of the best in the game, doesn’t play, I just can’t see Phillip Rivers carrying the team by himself.

The Chiefs should win. But anything can happen in the NFL, especially in a division game between two teams which are a combined 21-5.