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Ghosts of inauguration days past

Joseph R. Biden assumed the presidency at 11:00 Central Standard Time (12:00 EST) today. He becomes the 45th man to hold the office (Grover Cleveland was elected to two non-consecutive terms, and he is counted both 22nd and 24th; don’t ask me why), and oddly enough, the first from the nation’s first state, Delaware, which joined the union 7 December 1787, a few days before neighboring Pennsylvania.
He is the second Roman Catholic president after John F. Kennedy; coincidentally, Biden and several top-ranking governmental officials attended a prayer service at St. Matthew’s Cathedral this morning, the same cathedral where Kennedy’s requiem mass was conducted by Cardinal Richard Cushing 25 November 1963, approximately 70 hours after he was shot to death (supposedly by Lee Harvey Oswald) on Elm Street in Dallas.
I watched ZERO of Biden’s inauguration. I was somewhere between Hays and Russell when the oath was administered by Chief Justice John Roberts. I had ZERO desire to watch, and I will not be searching the Internet to watch it.
I didn’t vote for Biden. I didn’t vote for his predecessor either. It’s so sad Biden was the best the Democratic Party could offer, but he was more palatable than the Democratic candidate of 2016. Had Biden said something before the Democratic National Convention, he could have saved the country from Hillary AND Trump. Too late.

As I cruised Interstate 70 towards Shawnee and then Leawood, I thought about where I have been for past inaugurations.
Since 1937, presidential inaugurations are held every four years on 20 January. Previously, 4 March was the date, but after a tortuous lame duck period following FDR’s election in 1932 and the end of Herbert Hoover’s presidency, Congress passed and the states ratified the 20th Amendment, moving the inauguration date ahead 42 days, while setting the meeting date of the new Congress to 3 January or thereabouts.
Why 20 January is used, I’ll never know. New Year’s Day sounds like a fine time to do it, but anyone and everyone involved with college football would raise hell. It would not be too hard to move back bowl games to 2 January every four years.
Better yet, why not inaugrate the new president as soon as possible? The 4 March date was designed to give newly elected House members and newly elected or appointed Senators enough time to get from their homes to Washington in the era before air travel.
The electoral votes can be counted by 1 December, and the new president can take office on 15 December. This way, you don’t have to go through the crap that Trump put the country through.

Kansas City reminds me I was in town four years ago when Trump was inaugurated. Larry and I were playing trivia at Buffalo Wild Wings Zona Rosa, trying to avert our eyes from the big screen. We told Tori, the regular daytime bartender, to mute the sound and let me play the jukebox. She had no objections. Later that day, Robb and Dawn came in (they were still married and everything looked good for them), and they were despondent. Both of them were Bernie Sanders supporters in the primary and they absolutely loathed Trump. Three days after his election, I brought them some beer to help them drown their sorrows.

For both of Obama’s inaugurations (2009 and 2013), I was working at home. I recall being in my bathroom at 11:00 in 2009. I did not watch either ceremony.

I also did not watch either of George W. Bush’s inaugurals. In 2005, I was at work at Delgado Community College, and in 2001, I was at Lee High in Baton Rouge covering the annual Lee High (now Louisiana Classics) wrestling tournament for The Advocate.

I was in LSU’s sports information office the day of Bill Clinton’s second inaugural in 1997. Since it was Martin Luther King Jr. day, not everyone showed up; the only others there were Kent Lowe, Michael Bonnette and Jim Kleinpeter. Lowe and Bonnette were the media relatoins contacts for the men’ s and women’s basketball teams, respectively, at the time, and Kleinpeter was LSU’s beat writer for the New Orleans Times-Picayune. We went to lunch that day at Pizza Hut just south of the LSU campus.
Lowe is still in his position, Bonnette was promoted to the top spot in 2000 and still holds it, and Kleinpeter is now covering LSU’s women’s basketball for The Adovcate.
I was a junior at Brother Martin High the day of Clinton’s first inaugural in 1993. Since it was my lunch period, I did not have to watch, and I didn’t. Lucky for me, my social studies class was my first of the day and ended at 08:55.

I was in seventh grade at Arabi Park Middle when George H.W. Bush was inaugurated in 1989. It was cold and rainy that Friday. There was a “Mardi Gras Ball” that evening and a dance afterwards. A very awkward pre-teen evening for Foots, who was still three years away from receiving the nickname.
The next evening, I had to march with the band in the Krewe of Saturn parade in Kenner, which is on the opposite side of the New Orleans metro area from Arabi.
Super Bowl XXIII was that Sunday; I watched every play of the 49ers’ thrilling victory over the Bengals, which wasn’t cemented until Joe Montana hit John Taylor with 34 seconds remaining to cap a 92-yard drive. Cincinnati has yet to recover.
Four days after the elder Bush took the oath, serial killer Ted Bundy was executed in the electric chair at Florida State Prison just after 06:00 CST, ending his reign of terror for good. Bundy was officially executed for murdering 12-year old Kimberly Leach in Lake City in February 1978, but he also raped and murdered Margaret Bowman and Lisa Levy in the Chi Omega house at Florida State hours before Super Bowl XII, and killed at least 40 women in the western United States from 1974-77.

I woke up in the dark the morning of Ronald Reagan’s second inauguration.
Reagan was officially inaugurated for a second term on 20 January 1985, but since 20 January was a Sunday that year (it was again in 2013), Dutch took the oath privately in the East Room of the White House at 11:00 CST, and the public ceremony was held the next day.
Super Bowl XIX was 20 January 1985. To celebrate Reagan’s second term, the man who played George Gipp on the silver screen was asked to toss the coin prior to the Dolphins meeting the 49ers at Stanford. There was a satellite hookup between the locales, and Reagan tossed the coin in the East Room when prompted by referee Pat Haggerty.
It was bitterly cold in most of the country that Super Sunday. It was chilly and foggy in Stanford, a fitting backdrop for the Dolphin defense, which was shredded for 537 yards by Joe Montana, Roger Craig, Dwight Clark and company. Dan Marino was pounded by a San Francisco defense spearheaded by future Hall of Famers Fred Dean and Ronnie Lott, and the 49ers rolled 38-16. Little did anyone know Marino would never return to gridiron football’s biggest stage.
Temperatures below minus-7 Celsius (20 F) are as rare in New Orleans as sightings of Haley’s Comet and four-leaf clovers, but lo and behold, it dipped to minus-10 C (14 F) in the early hours of 21 January 1985. The power at 224 Jaguar Drive went out, as it did for tens of thousands across south Louisiana.
The cold hit the Air Products and Chemicals plant at the northeast edge of New Orleans hard, and my dad had to go out there to check it out only a couple of hours after the Super Bowl ended.
Fortunately for my brother, mother and I, we had a way to keep warm.
My mother’s close friend, Wanda Pattison, had a gas furnace at her residence in Chalmettte, about 15 minutes from our house. We went there to keep warm, and the electricity came on just in time to see Reagan take the oath from Chief Justice Warren Burger.
It was so cold in Washington–minus-15 C (5 F)–the ceremony was moved from the West Front of the Captiol into the rotunda, the first time in memory the ceremony was held indoors. It should have been held indoors today.
U.S. Representative Gillis Long from Louisiana died the previous day, and Reagan asked for a moment of silence in his memory. Long represented the former Eighth District, which stretched from Alexandria south and east along the Mississippi River to St. John the Baptist Parish, from 1973-84, and previously in 1963 and ’64. Gillis was a cousin of legendary brothers Huey and Earl Long, and secured funding for an important Hansen’s Disesase research center in Iberville Parish about 40 km (25 miles) southeast of Baton Rouge; the center now bears his name.
Gillis ran for Governor of Louisiana in 1963 and again in 1971. He was third in the Democratic primary each time, with John McKeithen winning the former election and Edwin Edwards the latter.

I was not old enough to remember Reagan’s first inauguration in 1981, although I have watched it on YouTube. That day, the 52 Americans held hostage in Iran since 4 November 1979 were freed. Reagan announced it during his inaugural speech, and Jimmy Carter went to Germany to meet the freed men.

Speaking of Carter, of course I can’t remember his inauguration in 1977. It was my 99th day in this life.

If you have read to this point, I thank you. If not, I don’t blame you. I’m going full Porky Pig…THAT’S ALL FOLKS! (at least for now)

Redskins trounced in Tampa

Okay, I dropped the ball Thursday by not pontificating on a pair of Super Bowls played on January 22. However, since no Super Bowl has ever been played on January 23–and none will ever be played on that date unless the NFL pushes the start of its season into August, and that’s not happening–I still have some time to be relevant.

First up: Super Bowl XVIII. January 22, 1984 at Tampa Stadium (aka “The Big Sombrero”).

This was not only the first Super Bowl to be contested on January 22, it was the first to be played in Tampa. The city was awarded the Buccaneers in 1974, and they began play in 1976. The city was awarded Super Bowl XVIII by the owners in 1980, becoming the second city in Florida and sixth metropolitan area overall to host the game, joining Los Angeles, MIami, New Orleans, Houston and Detroit.

At the time Tampa was awarded Super Bowl XVII, there was legitimate hope the Bucs would be playing in the game. Under coach John McKay, who won four national championships coaching at the University of Southern California, Tampa Bay reached the 1979 NFC Championship game, won the NFC Central division again in 1981, and reached the playoffs in the strike-shortened season of 1982.

In early 1983, the Bucs unraveled.

Starting quarterback Doug Williams refused to sign a new contract, feeling owner Hugh Culverhouse was lowballing him.

In most cases, i would side with the owner, but in this case, Williams was 100 percent dead on. Culverhouse was a cheap bastard who never played his players truly what they were worth. As long as he owned the franchise, the Bucs would be a laughingstock, not only in the NFL, but among all the major professional sports. The Tampa Bay Bucs were synonymous with losing and gross mismanagement. In the 1980s, the Bucs were one of the sorriest teams in any sport. In fact, about the only parallel I can draw in any of the major sports is with the NBA’s Clippers under Donald Sterling.

Ironically, a former assistant under McKay had built the NFL’s most powerful team in 1983.

Joe Gibbs was a 40-year old unknown when he was tabbed by Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke to bring Washington the championship it had not won on the gridrion since 1942. Gibbs worked under some of football’s biggest names: Frank Broyles at Arkansas, Don Coryell with the Cardinals and Chargers, and McKay in Tampa Bay.

Gibbs convinced John Riggins to return to the Redskins after he sat out the 1980 season in a contract dispute. In fact, Gibbs flew to Centralia, the tiny Kansas town where Riggins and his brothers became high school legends. Gibbs also built a powerful offenisve line, led by massive tackle Joe Jacoby, guard Russ Grimm, and center Jeff Bostic, which became known as “The Hogs”.

At first, the Redskins implemented the Air Coryell offense Gibbs helped design in San Diego. Washington scored points in bunches, but they also gave up points in droves, and Washington began the 1981 season 0-5.

Gibbs adjusted his offensive focus, shifting from the pass-happy attack to a more balanced game plan, one which featured heavy doses of John Riggins.

Washington won 8 of its final 11 games in 1981, and then became the NFL’s powerhouse of 1982, winning 8 of 9 games in the strike-shortened campaign. Mark Moseley set an NFL record by making 23 consecutive field goals and earned the league’s Most Valuable Player award. Moseley would become the last straight-ahead kicker to play in a Super Bowl.

Behind Riggins, The Hogs, quarterback Joe Theismann, a fleet but tiny group of receivers known as “The Smurfs”, and a defense led by All-Pros Dave Butz, Dexter Manley, Mark Murphy and Jeris White, the Redskins steamrolled through the playoffs, routing Detroit, Minnesota and Dallas to reach Super Bowl XVII, where RIgigins ran for 166 yards, including a 43-yard touchdown with 10 minutes remaining to subdue the Dolphins, 27-17, and exact revenge for the 14-7 loss Washington suffered to MIami’s undefeated team in Super Bowl VII.

The Redskins’ offense was unstoppable in 1983. RIggins scored a then-NFL record 24 touchdowns. Theismann threw for over 3,700 yards and earned NFL Most Valuable Player honors. Rookie Darrell Green began what would become a 20-year career in the secondary. Butz was the league’s premier defensive tackle. Jacoby, Grimm and Bostic were road graders up front, blowing wide holes in opposing defenses.

Washington went 14-2, falling TWO points short of an undefeated regular season. The Redskins lost 31-30 in week one to the Cowboys at home on Monday Night Football, blowing a 23-3 lead. The other loss also came on Monday Night, a 48-47 shootout in Green Bay, when Lynn Dickey outdueling Theismann.

The Redskins routed the Cowboys at Texas Stadium in the week 15 rematch, 31-10. They annihilated the Rams 51-7 in the divisional playoffs, but the NFC Championship vs. the 49ers was nowhere near as easy.

Washington led 21-0 early in the thrid quarter, but Joe Montana flashed his comeback magic, leading San Francisco to three touchdowns in the fourth quarter to tie the game.

Just when it appeared Bill Walsh’s team would pull it out and head to Tampa, the 49ers were done in by the zebras.

The officials, led by referee Jerry Markbreit, called pass interference against 49er cornerback Eric Wright on a play¬†where the ball was clearly uncatchable. The NFL Rule Book clearly states pass interference is not to be called on an uncatchable pass, and as Walsh said afterward, “The ball could not have been caught by a 10-foot Boston Celtic”.

Ronnie Lott, the Hall of Fame safety, was the next to feel the wrath of the zebras. He was flagged for holding receiver Charlie Brown far, far away from the ball.

The Redskins gleefully accepted the gifts, trading them in for a Moseley field goal to win the game 24-21.

Heading into the 1983 playoffs, the experts unanimously favored the Redskins to win the NFC. That wasn’t the case in the AFC.

The Raiders, playing their second season in Los Anglees following 22 seasons in Oakland, and Dolphins each finisehd 12-4. The Silver and Black, champions of Super Bowls XI and XV, had home field advantage thanks to a 27-14 victory in week three.

At the time of the regular season meeting, the Dolphins’ quarterback situation was highly unstable. Don Shula stuck with David Woodley at the beginning of the 1983 campaign, despite Woodley’s putrid performance in Super Bowl XVII, save for a 76-yard touchdown pass to Jimmy Cefalo; and the presence of a rookie from the University of Pittsburgh who would change the Dolphins, and the NFL, forever.

Dan Marino enjoyed spectacular success during his first three seasons at Pitt under the leadership of coach Jacke Sherrill. However, Marino had a down year in 1982, when Sherrill left for Texas A&M and Foge Fazio succeeded to the top spot.

Marino was ranked second among quarterbacks available in the 1983 NFL Draft, trailing only John Elway. However, many teams were not enamored with Marino, believing ridiculous rumors that he was on drugs during the ’82 season.

Team after team passed on Marino. Shula didn’t, taking him 27th (next to last) in the first round.

In week five, the Dolphins’ offense was horrid in a loss at New Orleans. Woodley, a Shreveport native who played collegiately at LSU, was yanked in favor of Marino. Woodley would never play another down fro the Dolphins.

The Raiders had no such offensive worries. Their vertical passing game featured the aging but effective Jim Plunkett, throwing to the still speedy Cliff Branch and the tough Todd Christensen, the free agent tight end who surpassed Kellen Winslow as the game’s most dangerous target at that position. The Raider running game, usually an afterthought to the vertical passing game favored by Al Davis, had a stud in 1981 Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Allen. The defense featured grizzled veterans Ted Hendricks and Lyle Alzado, complemented by young stars Howie Long and Matt Millen, plus a secondary featuring All-Pros Lester Hayes and Mike Haynes, the latter acquired in an October trade with New England.

The Raiders suffered their first loss in week five, blowing a 35-20 lead with six minutes to go and falling 37-35 to the Redskins in Washington. Little did anyone know these two teams were destined to meet again.

The Seahawks, which never made the playoffs in its first seven seasons, swept the two-game season series from the Raiders. In the second meeting, a 34-21 victory at Los Angeles, Seattle coach Chuck Knox made the difficult decision to replace Jim Zorn, the only starting quarterback the franchise had known up until that point, with Dave Krieg, who had a goofy motion but an uncanny knack for finding the open man.

After the second loss to Seattle in week nine, the Raiders got rolling until they tripped up in week 15 at home to the Cardinals. Say what?

The Cardinals were 6-7-1 going into the L.A. Coliseum. They fell behind 17-0, but did the unthinkable and scored 34 unanswered points.

The Raiders bounced back from the loss to the Cards very well. After defeating the Chargers in the regular season finale, the Silver and Black destroyed Pittsburgh 38-10 in what would be the last NFL games for Mel Blount and Terry Bradshaw (the latter was injured and did not play), and the last game in a Steelers uniform for Franco Harris.

Seattle came to the Coliseum for the AFC Championship game and found out beating the Radiers in the playoffs is a far more difficult task than it is in the regular season. The Raiders won 30-14 in a game which wasn’t that close.

The majority of experts favored the Redskins going into Super Bowl XVIII, although a sizable minority liked the Raiders, sensing they were hungry for revenge after blowing the October game.

I expected Washington to win. I certainly didn’t expect what happened following the Redskins’ first possession.

Washington was forced to punt. The snap to Jeff Hayes was on the money, but Derrick Jensen was in his face before he kicked the ball.

Uh oh.

Jensen blocked the punt and ran it down int he end zone for a stunning touchdown. Just like that, the Raiders were up 7-0.

Gibbs and defensive coordinator Richie Pettitbon made the grave mistake of assigning Anthony Washington, and not Green, to cover Branch one-on-one. Plunkett picked apart Anthony Washington twice early in the second quarter, first for 50 yards to the Redskin 15, and then again for a 12-yard touchdown and a 14-0 lead.

The Redskins could only muster a field goal in the first half. A 14-3 deficit would be the largest the Redskins had faced at halftime in over two years, but it was by no means insurmountable, thanks to a Redskin offense which set a then-NFL record by scoring 541 points in 1983.

Too bad the Redskins didn’t go to halftime trailing 14-3.

With 12 seconds left, Gibbs sent in “Rocket Screen”, Theismann would roll either right or left and throw a short pass to Joe Washington. The former Oklahoma All-American would hopefully use his speed to pick up enough yards to allow Moseley to attempt a field goal on the final play of the first half.

In the regular season game at Washington, Theismann and Joe Washington ran the play to perfection, gaining 67 yards to lead to a Redskin touchdown.

Raiders assistant coach Charlie Sumner felt the Redskins might break out Rocket Screen. To combat this, he sent in reserve linebacker Jack Squirek, a second-year man out of Illinois who excelled at pass coverage. Matt Millen was taken out of the game, fuming to Sumner.

In one stroke, Charlie Sumner became a genius.

Squirek shadowed Joe Washington. Theismann dropped back and lobbed the ball towards No. 25, only to see it stolen out of the air by No. 58 in the black jersey. Squirek sauntered into the end zone from five yards out.

Raiders 21, Redskins 3.

It was bad enough for Gibbs and company, but it would get worse. Much worse.

The Redskins scored on their first possession of the second half, but the Raiders came right back, with Allen scoring on a 5-yard run to make it 28-9.

Washington was stopped on downs at the Radier 26 with under 30 seconds remaining in the period.

Raider coach Tom Flores sent Plunkett into the huddle with 17 Bob Trey O.

Allen took the handoff and went left, but he was encountered by Redskins safety Ken Coffey. Allen cut back to his right and found a gaping hole up the middle.

Redskins middle linebacker Neil Olkewicz dove at Allen, but came up empty. Green and Anthony Washington gave futile chase.

Allen’s 74-yard touchdown removed any remaining doubt as to the game’s outcome.

Final: Raiders 38, Redskins 9.

Allen rushed for 191 yards, a Super Bowl record, and was the game’s MVP. Riggins gained only 64 yards on 26 attempts, and Theismann was sacked six times.

The most memorable feature of this Super Bowl was the highlight film produced by NFL Films.

It was the last NFL Films feature narrated by John Facenda. He passed away eight months after Super Bowl XVIII from lung cancer.