Category Archives: National Football League

Red Sox wins; Cardinals seeing red

The Red Sox did what I thought they would last night. They closed out the Astros in Houston and clinched their fourth American League pennant this millennium. Boston now awaits the Dodgers or Brewers in the World Series.

MLB executives, especially commissioner Rob Manfred, have to be having multiple orgasms over the probable Dodgers-Red Sox World Series. They were loathing a potential Brewers-Indians or Brewers-Athletics World Series when the postseason began. Now, they have one of their three most desirable matchups (Dodgers-Yankees and Cubs-Yankees were the others).

The Red Sox and Dodgers have played only once in the World Series–way, way, WAY back in 1916. That’s before the Curse of the Babe. Ruth was a 21-year old hotshot left-handed pitcher for that year’s Red Sox, and Boston easily won the series in five games.

Two interesting things about the 1916 World Series.

First, the first two games were in Boston, the next two in Brooklyn, then it was back to Boston for the clincher, not the 2-3-2 we are used to seeing. The format was presumably 2-2-1-1-1, the same as the NBA Finals and Stanley Cup Finals.

Second, the Red Sox opted to play their home games at Braves Field, home of the future artists known as the Milwaukee and Atlanta Braves. The Sox moved their games out of Fenway to shoehorn more fans into Braves Field, which opened in 1915. In 1914, when the Braves swept the Philadelphia Athletics in the World Series, the National League team played their home games at Fenway due to the decrepit condition of their rickety old stadium, the South End Grounds.

I am very pessimistic about the Brewers tonight. Hopefully there’s a game tomorrow. But I have my doubts.

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Speaking of decrepit, that would accurately describe the Arizona Cardinals. They were demolished 45-10 by the Broncos last night in Glendale, and frankly, it should have been worse.

Denver led 35-3 at halftime, and State Farm (nee University of Phoenix) Stadium sounded more like Mile High or whatever it’s called these days. It was a throwback to the days the Cardinals played in front of tons of aluminum and a few fans (mostly visiting team, especially when the Cowboys were there) at Sun Devil Stadium on the other side of the Phoenix metro.

I knew the Cardinals were seriously screwed when they hired Steve Wilks. Wilks has no business being a head football coach at any level, especially the highest level of football.

This buffoon was a head coach just once before moving to Arizona, and that was in 1998 at mighty Savannah State, a perennial punching bag for Power Five teams willing to exchange a few hundred thousand dollars for the right to win by 70 to 80 points. When Wilks coached there, Savannah State was Division II. And the team went 5-6 under Wilks’ leadership.

Wilks’ professional playing experience consisted of one year in Arena Football with the Charlotte Rage. Are you kidding me?

Ron Rivera, who was Wilks’ boss in Carolina before the latter was hired by the Cardinals, conned Michael Bidwill and Steve Keim good. Then again, Steve Keim is a known drunk, so it wasn’t hard to pull the wool over his eyes.

If the Cardinals wanted an African-American coach, why not hire Herm Edwards? He got a job in the Phoenix area not long after Wilks when Arizona State hired him to succeed turd Todd Graham. Edwards’ failure with the Chiefs was not all his own doing; he had a lot of help from terrible drafting, free agent signings and trading by Carl Peterson, who clearly was awful without a strong personality as a head coach like Jim Mora with the USFL’s Philadelphia/Baltimore Stars and Marty Schottenheimer in Kansas City.

Josh Rosen threw not one, but TWO pick-sixes in the first quarter. Geez, the Cardinals could have brought back Ryan Lindley, John Skelton, Max Hall, Kevin Kolb or Stan Gelbaugh to do that instead of wasting the tenth overall pick in the 2018 draft.

Then again, Rosen has zero protection. The Cardinals have had a woeful offensive line for their entire stay in the desert. In my opinion, it has been really, really bad since the glory days of Dan Dierdorf, Conrad Dobler, Tom Banks and Tom Brahaney in the 1970s, when Don Coryell led St. Louis to NFC East titles in 1974 and ’75.

Arizona’s defense is Chandler Jones, Patrick Peterson and a whole lot of crap. Peterson and Jones deserve better than this. They are true professionals and would be All-Pros if they played on a halfway decent defense.

Larry Fitzgerald, WHY did you come back for this? Your professionalism and dedication to the Cardinals is admirable. But you could have easily rode off in to the sunset. All you’re doing is pushing back your Hall of Fame induction.

Wilks is by far the worst Cardinals coach I’ve witnessed in my lifetime. And I can remember all the way back to Jim Hanifan (1980-85). Dave McGinnis was mocked and went 17-44 in three and a half seasons, but his teams never looked as absolutely awful as the Cardinals have under Wilks. Buddy Ryan was pretty bad, but at least the defense was fierce in 1994. Too bad he hated offensive players and had no clue what to do at quarterback.

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Starting next year, Wimbledon is implementing the tiebreak in the final set when the score reaches 6-6.

I will only watch tennis if someone pays me a ton of cash, and that hasn’t happened. And I will NEVER watch Serena Williams. But I think this is dead wrong.

I understand why the All-England Club is doing this. They want to avoid marathon last sets like the one between John Isner and Nicholas Mahut in 2010 in a match that took 11 hours and three different days to complete, with Isner winning the fifth set 70-68.

I totally disagree with doing this in what is supposed to be tennis’ signature event. This is a grand slam event, the most prestigious championship on earth. It should be EARNED. And if it takes 138 games in the final set to do so, so be it.

If Wimbledon wants to implement the tiebreak in the final set, it should not be at 6-6. It should be at minimum after 8-8, maybe 10-10 or 12-12. And that rule should be in all five sets for men or three for women.

The Australian and French Opens, the other grand slams, have not announced they will. implement a tiebreak in the final set. However, I’m certain they will be under enormous pressure to do so now that the U.S. Open and Wimbledon have them.

Using a tiebreak in the final set at Wimbledon is the same as The Masters using a sudden death playoff if there is a tie for the low score after 72 holes.

The Masters bills itself as the premier event in golf, although I will always believe it is The Open Championship. If The Masters is so high and mighty, why not make those tied play a fifth round? If it’s television they’re worried about, there are enough cable channels which would salivate at the chance to televise a round from Augusta for 18 holes. Besides, The Masters rarely allows full 18-hole coverage anyway, so how hard would it be to cut in for the last nine? Also, I’m sure CBS could pre-empt The Price Is Right, The Young and the Restless, and The Bold and the Beautiful for one day.

The U.S. Open was the last golf major to require a full 18-hole playoff if there was a tie after 72 holes. Last year, that ended and it became a two-hole playoff, which wasn’t necessary when Brooks Koepka won it outright. That’s even worse than The Open (four holes) and PGA Championship (three holes). All majors should be the full 18-hole playoff. Sudden death is just fine for a regular tournament in late October, mid-January or early August. But not for the majors.

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I’m guessing ESPN is going to try to force the officials to speed up the Mississippi State-LSU game in Baton Rouge tomorrow night. That’s because the network is scheduled to show the Rockets-Lakers game from Los Angeles at 2130 CT (1930 PT), which will be LeBron’s first regular season game at Staples Center. It would probably anger the suits in Bristol, as well as two of America’s four largest metropolitan areas, if a trivial football game in the Southeastern Conference goes overtime.

LSU and Mississippi State are not teams which throw the ball on every down. I hope 3 1/2 hours is enough time to get the game in, because college football games drag on and on and on! I remember non-televised games when I was attending LSU could last as short as 2 1/2 hours. But every game in the SEC is now televised, so that’s not happening. Not unless the NCAA wants to return to the terrible idea of starting the clock after the ball is spotted on a change of possession, an experiment which failed miserably in 2006. Not stopping the clock after a first down would be a good start. Maybe that rule could be limited to the final two minutes of the first half and final five of the second, much the way the out-of-bounds timing rules change in the NFL in those periods.

CBS is notorious for forcing the games in the late window (1525 CT on doubleheader days; 1505 on non-doubleheader games) to speed up in order that 60 Minutes starts on time, either 1800 or 1830 CT. Fox doesn’t care, because it never airs new episodes of The Simpsons (JUST END IT ALREADY!) on Sunday nights before 1900 CT.  Actually, Fox prefers longer games in the late window when it has the doubleheader, so it can switch to bonus coverage, then Terry, Howie, Michael and Jimmy can drone on and on until 1900.

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I have a runny nose this morning. Using lots of tissues. Need to stop by the store before I leave Kansas City.

Just saw I was close to 1700 words. Time to end it.

NFL opening night? I’ll pass

The 99th season of the National Football League began this evening with the Falcons-Eagles game in Philadelphia. Somehow I don’t think many people in the United Kingdom stayed up until 0130 (2030 Eastern/1930 Central) to watch.

I’m not watching either. I swore off football. I may check the scores, but I’m not going to watch the games. Waste of time and money. I watched a couple of Lifetime movies on my iPad tonight and I’m going to go to bed in a few minutes.

A new Nike commercial praising Colin Kaerpernick is debuting tonight. I have had it with seeing him on TV. He doesn’t play in the NFL anymore. I’m also sick of the protests and the talk about the protests. Players have the right to protest. That’s guaranteed by the First Amendment. However, they should not be protesting during work, and for them, a game is WORK. If NFL players want to spend Tuesdays, which is a day off for almost all players who have games the following Sunday, protesting, so be it. They should be able to. But meetings, practices and games are work and not a proper forum for protesting.

The late, great Ara Parseghian coached Notre Dame’s football team throughout United States involvement in the Vietnam War. Ara told his players they could do whatever they wanted when they did not have commitments to class and football. However, he told them they’d better study, go to class and be on time for football meetings and practice, or there would be consequences. That’s the way it should be everywhere.

I slept way too much today. The Seroquel didn’t cause me to sleep too much when I should have, but I was tired throughout the day. I’m going to try sleeping without it tonight. I need to go to Salina to get my hair cut because (a) I have time tomorrow and (b) it will get hot again next week. Also, I need more capicola. That stuff is addictive.

Saturday and Sunday will be perfect days to sleep late, since there is no football in England, or anywhere else in Europe.

Bye-bye, American football

“Cord cutting” has been a popular term to describe people who are ending their subscriptions to cable and/or satellite television, opting instead to purchase a la carte programming or just get all of their programs from streaming services.

Of course, every human being begins life with a cord cutting, as in the umbilical cord which tethers the growing baby to the mother’s womb.

Today, I am cutting a cord. Actually, two cords.

I, David Steinle, am boycotting all forms of American football from today, 25 August 2018, until at least Super Bowl LIII on 3 February 2019.  I think this boycott will last much longer than that. 

I realize I have wasted too many days, weeks, months and years, as well as countless tens of thousands of dollars, following a barbaric spectacle.

In the case of college football, I can no longer justify watching 18- to 22-year old children in the bodies of overgrown men strive to annihilate one another for almost four hours every Saturday. I cannot bring myself to spend the exorbitant amounts of money which tens of millions of people do to watch this crap.

In the case of the NFL, the league only cares about making money. It could not care less about a player when he retires from the league. He is no longer making money for the NFL, and why should the NFL care about his health, even if his brain is complete mush and he cannot walk without two artificial hips, two artificial knees and a walker–if he isn’t confined to a wheelchair, that is?

The rule makers in the NFL, college and high school have only themselves to blame for the spike in concussions.

By outlawing blocking below the waist and many forms of tackling below the waist, they are forcing players to use their heads more and more often, and this leads to concussions. The sanctioning bodies–the NFL, NCAA, NAIA, National Federation of State High School Associations and the individual state high school associations–all want to “get the head out of football”. BULLSHIT. Why the hell do you think the head is in football in the first place?

It’s because the idiots who make the rules think blocking and tackling around the shoulders and chest is safer than doing so around the thighs, knees and ankles.

It isn’t.

Last I checked, the heart is in the chest. Shoulder pads can’t protect a football player from all injuries in the chest. You can’t tell me it’s safer for a human being to be hit head-on by another human being, this one weighing 250-pounds, in the chest than it is to be hit in the knees.

And too many children have been desensitized to violence in football by what they see on TV. Ray Lewis should not be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He glamorized illegal, violent headhunting. Terrell Suggs, who is still playing for the Ravens, has followed his lead. James Harrison was one of the NFL’s dirtiest players. Rodney Harrison, another one of the NFL’s worst offenders when it comes to headhunting, is an analyst for NBC. And so many boys grew up idolizing Bill Romanowski, who not only admitted to taking steroids, but deliberately injured a teammate in training camp and spit on J.J. Stokes on national television.

If I had a son, I don’t know if I’d let him play football. If I did, I would force him to quit the game if he had ONE concussion. ONE. No more.

There have been so many advancements in knee surgery. A person can live a full life with two artificial hips and two artificial knees. A person can live with a prosthetic leg. However, even knee surgery is not 100 percent guaranteed–Mack Lee Hill of the Chiefs died in 1965 on the operating table the day after a game after suffering a knee injury.

However, there isn’t an artificial brain, and there won’t be one for at least another 100 years. I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t think so. There are heart transplants, but finding a matching donor is tedious. There also have been lacerated kidneys, collapsed lungs and ruptured livers and spleens from football, all of which are life-threatening.

I am done with the sport. Finished. I can find better uses of my time on Saturdays and Sundays. Football (REAL football) for one, not this crap in America they call football.

I have to follow a few Missouri and Kansas high school football teams for my job. Believe me, I’m going to need a lot of antacid and antidepressants before I work on that stuff.

One of my infrequent posts

Your undisciplined blogger here. I’ve got to do better. I’m making this statement for at least the 481st time on Foots Prints. I failed to follow through the first 480 times.

Sports is kind of in a lull right now. The World Cup ended two weeks ago with France defeating Croatia; the Open Championship ended eight days ago with a command performance by Francisco Molinari, who didn’t crack under the pressure of playing with Eldrick Woods in the final round; and one league of Major League Baseball is about as suspenseful as watching paint dry. Four of the five playoff teams in the American League are known: Red Sox, Yankees, Indians and Astros. The fifth spot will either come down to the Mariners or Athletics. Everyone else? Forget it.

Fortunately, the National League still holds drama. The Brewers somehow are only three games back (in the loss column) of the Cubs despite going 1-7 in Miami and Pittsburgh the week before the All-Star break, and Milwaukee has a comfortable lead as the first wild card. The Marlins, Mets and Padres are all done, and while the Reds are playing better under Jim Riggelman, the early hole they dug under Bryan Price is too much.

I don’t know if the Brewers can hold on to a playoff spot. They got some help in acquiring Joakim Soria and Mike Moustakas, but the injury bug has hit Miller Park hard. Milwaukee would have trouble in a one-game playoff against either Arizona, Atlanta or Philadelphia, and then if the Brewers won, they would have to play the Cubs in the division series.

John Tavares signed with the Maple Leafs. The ex-Islander will make Toronto a dangerous team offensively, but Mike Babcock knows there’s no way teams can win 6-4 in the NHL every night in this era. It isn’t the 1980s, when Edmonton was able to rush the puck up the ice consistently with Gretzky, Kurri, Messier, Coffey and Glenn Anderson and score seven or eight on many nights. Also, Toronto doesn’t have a goaltender anywhere near the caliber of Grant Fuhr to take on 40-45 shots consistently.

If Babcock doesn’t find some help on the blue line, and quick, Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen will die from taking on too many shots, and Toronto will never climb above Boston and Tampa Bay in the Atlantic.

The Bucks? Well, letting Jabari Parker walk wasn’t the problem. DRAFTING Jabari Parker was. If the Bucks were smart, they would have taken Joel Embiid number two overall instead of Parker, and even if Embiid would have been slow to heal from the injuries which plagued him at Kansas, it still would have been much better than Parker. Until the Bucks find help for the Greak Freak, they won’t be making it past the second round of the playoffs any time soon, even if the East is wide open after Boston, Philadelphia and Toronto.

I’ve written off the Arizona Cardinals. I don’t care what their record is. Actually, the worse, the better. They need a lot of help. Josh Rosen isn’t going to be the magic panacea to get them back to the Super Bowl. The offensive line sucks, and it has sucked since the Cardinals were in St. Louis. The running game has been non-existent since Ottis Anderson was in his heyday. I am not confident Steve Wilks is the answer.

I’ve also written off my alma mater’s football team. I just can’t see any better than 7-5. I hope I’m wrong. I’m looking at Miami, Auburn, Georgia Alabama and Texas A&M as games where LSU will be at a decided disadvantage. If the Mississippi State game were in Starkville and not Baton Rouge, I would have to favor State, but it’s a toss-up in Death Valley. The Florida game would be a toss-up in Baton Rouge, but in Gainesville, the Gators have to be favored. LSU is at a decided advantage in Baton Rouge vs. Ole Miss, but the Rebels will treat it as a bowl game since they are on probation. LSU has held the upper hand against Arkansas under Orgeron, but the Razorbacks will be dangerous in November after they learn Chad Morris’ system, especially in Fayetteville.

Forget the football played with a prolate spheroid and on a gridiron.

Football season is still 11 days away. The REAL football season, that is.

The Premier League kicks off August 10 when Leicester City visits Old Trafford to play Manchester United. It’s the second consecutive year Leicester has had to go on the road and play the Friday night game to open the season; last year, the Foxes lost 3-2 to Arsenal at Emirates Stadium. The rest of the league plays either that Saturday or Sunday.

The smart money is on Manchester City to repeat as Premier League champions. Why not? Pep Guardiola has built a machine at the Etihad Stadium, and it is still a step ahead of United and Liverpool, the other two teams which figure to be at the top of the table with City. Chelsea and Arsenal have new managers and the distraction of the Europa League, which forces teams to play on Thursdays before turning around to play league matches on Saturday or Sunday, and that will hurt. Tottenham has a golden opportunity this year with Arsenal and Chelsea a bit down and the excitement of moving into the new White Hart Lane, but will Spurs take it?

I don’t think Leicester will be anywhere near the danger of the drop zone, but I can’t see another Claudio Rainieri-Jamie Vardy miracle, either. Mid-table would be fine with me, maybe seventh and a spot in the Europa League.

Bournemouth probably has no business in the top flight, given it plays in a stadium which seats less than 12,000 has nowhere near the resources of the Big Six of the Premier League, and not as much as Leicester, Fulham and a few others. However, Eddie Howe is a fine manager, and that’s the reason the Cherries are still in the top flight and the likes of Sunderland, Stoke, Swansea, West Brom and Hull aren’t. In fact, Sunderland has cratered into League One, the third division, just two years after competing in the Premier League. OUCH.

Meanwhile, the pressure in Italy’s Serie A is on Juventus, where Cristiano Ronaldo has taken his talents after a long and storied run at Real Madrid. The Turin side is always expected to be at or near the top of Serie A, but this year, the pressure has to be crushing.

The same can be said for Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga. It has been Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and 16 weak sisters in most recent years in Germany, but last year, Dortmund was not only looking up at Bayern, but also Schalke and Hoffenheim. Christian Pulisic, the 19-year old American phenom, has a lot of weight on his shoulders at Dortmund, but it’s a position every MLS player would kill to be in.

I have an appointment in Prairie Village Thursday afternoon to get another treatment on my back. Now I know what to expect.

My dear friend Peggy celebrated a birthday yesterday. I know how old she is, but I won’t tell you. Sorry.

Watching The Price is Right now. WHY DO CONTESTANTS LOOK AT THE CROWD? They don’t know a damn thing. If I’m going to lose, I want to do it my way. I’m sure the contestant coordinators don’t pick the highest IQs, so what help can they be? Also, looking at the crowd wastes time!

Jim Garrett (1930-2018), football lifer

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

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

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

1976 Saints prepare for Packers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posting for the sake of posting

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

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

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

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

 

Super Sunday–at least in two out of 197 countries

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Better (44 years) late than never

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

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

WHAT TOOK THE HALL OF FAME SO LONG?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Johnson’s tackle almost saved the championship for Dallas.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Steinle on sports, 2018/02/01

Gary Bettman has now been the commissioner of the National Hockey League for 25 years. I cannot say I hate the man because I have never met him. However, I can hate the decisions he has made, which have included:

  • Robbing fans in Quebec City and Hartford of hockey and putting teams in places hockey has no business, like Tampa-St. Petersburg, South Florida, Raleigh-Durham, Arizona, Nashville and Las Vegas. He also deprived Winnipeg of the NHL for 15 years and Minnesota for seven.
  • Screwing Canada, the birthplace of ice hockey. The NHL could support 12 teams in Canada, and there should be one in every mainland province, plus at least one in Atlantic Canada. And why not expand to Anchorage? Air travel makes it possible.
  • Over-emphasizing inter-dvisional play and robbing fans of more frequent matchups of teams from opposite conferences. The worst is not allowing the Blackhawks to play any of the other Original Six teams–Maple Leafs, Red Wings, Bruins, Rangers and Canadiens–more than twice per season. That’s because the NHL needs Boston, Detroit, Montreal and Toronto to play Florida and Tampa Bay eight times per season. Really?
  • Presiding over three lockouts, the second of which wiped out the entire 2004-05 season.
  • Making a mockery of the All-Star game, first with a draft of players to make it a glorified pick-up game, then a 3-on-3 tournament.
  • The shootout. There really is no need for overtime in the regular season, but the shootout makes it a million times worse. It’s just as bad as overtime used in college and high school football.

Three great Super Bowls have been contested on February 1.

Two were won by the Patriots: XXXVIII over the Panthers, and XLIX over the Seahawks. The games were decided by a combined seven points, typical for the Patriots, keeping things close to pique fan interest, then pissing off the other 31 NFL fan bases by taking it late. The Pats beat the Panthers on an Adam Vinatieri field goal in the closing seconds, and the Seahawks choked when Russell Wilson passed from the 1-yard line and was intercepted by Malcolm Butler.

Super Bowl XXXVIII is remembered by more for the Justin Timberlake/Janet Jackson controversy. You know what it is. If you don’t. Google it. Timberlake fans are eagerly awaiting Sunday’s halftime show, where he is the headline performer. He was the NFL’s Plan B, simply because Plan A, Prince, kicked the bucket in April 2016.

The other Super Bowl played on February 1 hits home for your intrepid blogger.

Your blogger’s favorite NFL team, the Arizona Cardinals, made the Super Bowl for the first time following the 2008 season, one which saw them go 9-7, the worst record for any conference champion. The others were the 1979 Rams and the 2011 Giants. The Cardinals were embarrassed 47-7 by the Matt Cassel-led Patriots in the next to last regular season game, but somehow defeated the Falcons, Panthers and Eagles to reach their first championship game since 1948.

Arizona’s opponent was the Pittsburgh Steelers, who were aiming for their sixth Super Bowl championship and first under Mike Tomlin, who was in his second season.

The Steelers were ahead 10-7 late in the first half when Arizona drove deep into Pittsburgh territory. But instead of going for the game-tying field goal, Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt opted to pass.

James Harrison intecepted Kurt Warner’s ill-advised throw, then began to rumble down the west sideline of Raymond James Stadium. Warner and wide receiver Steve Breaston, among others, had several chances to haul down the Steelers linebacker, but they didn’t. Harrison’s 100-yard return gave Pittsburgh a 10-point halftime lead, and it expanded to 13 in the third quarter.

Somehow, Arizona rallied and took a 23-20 lead in the fourth quarter on a long touchdown from Warner to Larry Fitzgerald.

Problem was, there was too much time left for Ben Roethlisberger.

I had a horrible feeling the Steelers would pull it out, and sure enough, they did, with Roethlisberger hitting Santonio Holmes in the end zone despite tight coverage from Arizona’s Ralph Brown and Aaron Francisco.

Pittsburgh 27, Arizona 23. Warner’s dream of becoming the first man to lead two different teams to Super Bowl glory was dashed. Peyton Manning would become that man seven years later with the Broncos.

I’ve thought about a few things regarding Super Bowl halftime shows:

  • For Super Bowl I, the NFL should have attempted to lasso The Beatles. That would have ensured a sellout and probably would have cemented the Super Bowl right away as a major spectacle. The Beatles probably would have declined, but Pete Rozelle should have at least tried.
  • Why did Neil Diamond never get to headline a Super Bowl halftime? Too bad it’s too late.
  • The NFL needs to go hard after Elton John next year in Atlanta. Sir Elton will be in the United States on tour (he’s in Kansas City ten days after Super Bowl LIII) and he’s retiring from touring in 2021. I don’t care if he doesn’t fit the young demographic the NFL is looking for. The man set the standard for performance theatrics in the 1970s, and he could teach the young punks a thing or two.
  • How about a field goal contest between some of the best players of association football? Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and other international superstars trying to kick the oblong ball would be fascinating. Every Super Bowl halftime doesn’t have to be music!

LeBron is now saying he would “listen” to a free agent offer from the Warriors. If he signs with Golden State, we might as well hand the Warriors the Larry O’Brien Trophy and let the other 29 teams play for second place. Not that I care about the NBA.

Bournemouth 3, Chelsea 0. At Stamford Bridge no less. The biggest win in the history of AFC Bournemouth football? Considering the Cherries did not play in the top flight of English football until 2015-16, then it probably is.

Manchester Untied lost 2-0 at Tottenham yesterday, and it could have been worse. United gave up a goal 11 seconds into the match, and an own goal later. Sir Alex Ferguson would not have stood for such buffoonery.

It doesn’t matter, though. Manchester City has all but clinched the Premier League title. The others–United, Tottenham, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal–are playing for the spots in the UEFA Champions League for 2018-19. The rest are trying to finish seventh. Burnley has that spot right now, but Bournemouth may be playing better than any of the “other 14” teams in the league.

Swansea has beaten Arsenal and Liverpool at home recently. Could there be two Premier League teams in Wales in 2018-19? Cardiff City is trying its best to get back to the top flight. It was there for one season, 2013-14, then went back down to the Championship, the second tier.

Right now, it looks like the Premier League will be returning to Molineux. Wovlerhampton has a sizable lead, and there seems to be little danger of the Wolves falling out of the top two. Cardiff City, Derby County and Aston Villa are in hot pursuit of second place, which also earns automatic promotion to the top flight. The third through sixth teams enter a playoff, with the playoff champion also going up.

The bottom three of the Premier League will be relegated. Swansea still sits in the relegation zone, but the wins over Liverpool and Arsenal give the Swans real hope of avoiding the drop. Southampton, Stoke City and West Bromwich Albion are all in trouble, as re the three who were promoted last season: Newcastle United, Brighton & Hove Albion, and Huddersfield Town.

Who’s #1 in college basketball? Never mind.

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, NFL style

If you’ve listened to Kansas City sports talk radio today, read the Kansas City Star, or looked at posts from Chiefs fans on Facebook and Twitter, you would believe Chiefs general manager Brett Veach has made the greatest deal in franchise history, better than anything Jack Steadman, Carl Peterson, Scott Pioli and John Dorsey could ever have hoped to accomplish.

The accomplishment is the end of Alex Smith’s tenure as the starting quarterback of the Chiefs.

Last night, a few minutes after I sat down in my hotel room to devour a large ribeye (rare, thank goodness) from Outback on Barry Road, I learned Alex Smith was heading to the Redskins, allowing the Chiefs to save $17 million against the salary cap for the 2018 season. The Redskins sent a third-round draft pick this season to the Chiefs, along with cornerback Kendall Fuller, Washington’s third-round pick in 2016 out of Virginia Tech.

Fuller was very angry to learn he was leaving Washington. Blacksburg is not that far from the nation’s capital, and his family is from Virginia, so I can understand why he would be reluctant to head to Kansas City. Many Redskins ripped the move on Twitter.

Meanwhile, one influential Chief was none too happy Smith was heading east.

All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce tweeted out that Smith was a “class act” and he would be sorely missed.

Chiefs fans are overjoyed Smith is out of Kansas City, even though all Smith, the #1 overall draft choice of the 49ers in 2005 (instead of some guy named Aaron Rodgers) did was lead the NFL in passer rating in 2017. Smith led the Chiefs to back-to-back division championships for the first time in franchise history and the team’s first playoff victory since 1993.

The fans have been clamoring for Patrick Mahomes II, who was selected 10th overall in the 2017 NFL draft after the Chiefs shipped their first round pick in this year’s draft to Buffalo to select the Texas Tech gunslinger, one selection before the Houston Texans took Clemson’s DeShaun Watson, who guided the Tigers to the 2016 national championship.

The Chiefs have one of the worst track records in the NFL of developing their own quarterbacks. Nobody will ever forgive the club for drafting Todd Blackledge seventh overall out of Penn State in 1983 instead of Jim Kelly or Dan Marino. Blackledge could not beat out Bill Kenney, who was plucked off the waiver wire after he couldn’t make it with the Dolphins, and by 1989, Blackledge was not with the Chiefs anymore, replaced by ancient veteran Steve DeBerg.

DeBerg began a trend of the Chiefs picking up the 49ers’ leftovers. Joe Montana, Steve Bono and Elvis Grbac soon followed, and while Kansas City was a consistent winner in the regular season, it only reached the AFC championship game once, in 1993, when Montana’s team beat the Steelers and Oilers in the playoffs before losing in Buffalo, allowing the Bills to go to the Super Bowl for the fourth consecutive year and lose.

The Chiefs drafted Steve Fuller, Brodie Croyle and Tyler Thigpen in later rounds, but none made it big at Arrowhead.

Kansas City’s best quarterback of all-time, Len Dawson, was a Steelers reject. Few people under the age of 55 realize that, since Lenny the Cool has been a Kansas City institution since the Dallas Texans moved to the city in 1963.

The Cardinals have a pretty bad track record, too, but at least two of their best, Jim Hart and Neil Lomax, were home-grown. But since Lomax was forced to retire in the late 1980s with an arthritic hip, the only drafted quarterback to enjoy any success in Arizona was hometown hero Jake Plummer, and I don’t consider him to be that good.

The Redskins have struggled mightily at quarterback since Joe Theismann’s gruesome broken leg in 1985, although that was mitigated by Joe Gibbs coaching Washington to Super Bowl championships in 1987 with Doug Williams and Jay Schroeder, and again in 1991 with Mark Rypien.

Some of the Redskins’ quarterback busts since Theismann have included Heath Shuler, Jason Campbell and Robert Griffin III. Those are just three of the THIRTY-FOUR quarterbacks to start for the Redskins since November 18, 1985, Theismann’s last game.

Many people say the Redskins got fleeced. I say the Redskins got the better end of the deal. He will be a very serviceable signal caller for the next four to five seasons for Jay Gruden and whomever may succeed him until Washington can find a young quarterback it likes, whether it be Baker Mayfield in this year’s draft or someone else.

Kansas City’s hopes now rest on a quarterback who never took a snap from center in Lubbock, who played in a gimmick offense which has no idea how to run the football, and for a school whose track record of developing quarterbacks is awful.

Can you name an NFL quarterback from Texas Tech? If you can’t, join the party.

The most accomplished NFL quarterback to ever emerge from Lubbock may be Billy Joe Tolliver, who was a journeyman throughout the 1990s, gaining the most notoriety with the Chargers and Saints. Kliff Kingsbury, who is the Red Raiders’ current coach, played for Mike Leach and later won a Super Bowl ring serving as Tom Brady’s clipboard holder during the 2003 season.

If Mahomes does anything in the NFL, he will become the greatest Texas Tech QB in history.

But I’m not convinced Mahomes can succeed in a professional offense, where he has to take the snap from center and will have to make check downs and fast reads in order to succeed. He didn’t have to do that nearly as much at Texas Tech, and his mastery of Andy Reid’s complex offense will determine the Chiefs’ fate for the foreseeable future.

Kansas City sports fans got one of their wishes by getting Smith out of town. Now they’re hoping Eric Hosmer will come back to the Royals. If that happens, there may be a parade.