Blog Archives

Your occasional blogger is back

Sorry for not posting for 12 days. Lots of things to write back home. I’ve had added responsibilities, and it has taken up much of my time Mondays and Tuesdays. The rest of the time has been spent with my vices, trivia and online racing.

Ben Roethlisberger’s injury had to send a shudder up the spines of Steelers fans. Many probably remember Terry Bradshaw’s career ended after the 1983 season due to an injured elbow.

Bradshaw played only one half in 1983. It was the next to last game of the regular season vs. the Jets which also happened to be the final football game at Shea Stadium. Bradshaw threw two touchdown passes in the first quarter, but by halftime, Chuck Noll had seen enough and inserted Cliff Stoudt, the man who won two Super Bowl rings without having to set foot on the field.

Pittsburgh won the game against the Jets to clinch the AFC Central, but it was routed in the playoffs 34-10 by the Raiders. In the playoff game, Stoudt’s first pass was intercepted by Lester Haynes and returned for a touchdown. A month later, Stoudt was starting for the USFL’s Birmingham Stallions.

As a side note, Jets fans began rioting in the stands as the game vs. the Steelers neared its end. Leon Hess, the Jets owner, was the least popular man in the Big Apple, especially with Mayor Ed Koch, who took every chance he got to rip Hess and the Jets for not negotiating in good faith with Queens, Koch’s administration and the Mets.

The Jets looked like they would return to New York City with the West Side Stadium, but it was blocked by flaming dipshit James Dolan, owner of the Knicks, Rangers and Madison Square Garden. Instead, the Jets simply partnered with the Giants on what is now Met Life Stadium.

Drew Brees’ thumb injury makes the NFC South race competitive. Hopefully the Saints can tread water with Teddy Bridgewater (or Taysom Hill). It won’t be easy this week in Seattle.

Eli Manning to the bench? I never thought I’d see the day. By going to Daniel Jones, he is avoiding the idiocy demonstrated by Bill Parcells in his first season as Giants coach in 1983, when he thought Scott Brunner was a better option than Phil Simms. What the F**K? It shows even Hall of Fame coaches screw up.

The Brewers are still in the National League wild card chase despite losing Christian Yelich last week to a broken kneecap he suffered when he was hit in a game in Miami. Leave it to the Marlins to F**K things up.

Speaking of MLB, a CBS Sports writer will not use “Indians” when referring to Cleveland. Here we go again with the PC crap. Commissioner Rob Manfred blackmailed the Indians into getting rid of Chief Wahoo, stating the team would not host the All-Star Game until Wahoo was eradicated, and now this.

What is offensive about the word Indians? Come on. People need to stop worrying about things like the names of sports teams.

Global warming is real. For it to be 34 Celsius (93 Fahrenheit) on September 19 in Russell and Hays is absolutely ridiculous. My jeans have not been worn since my trip to Columbia in April for the LSU-Missouri baseball series. If I were still in Louisiana, I could understand. But not now.

The climate change deniers need to explain how Hurricane Dorian reached winds of almost 300 km/h (185 MPH) and didn’t weaken when it hit the Bahamas. Katrina weakened (slightly) from a Category 5 before it struck Louisiana and Mississippi. That may not happen in the future. Look at Hurricane Michael, which was strengthening as hit made landfall in the Florida Panhandle last October.

I want to go back to Buffalo Wild Wings at Shoal Creek very badly. I have a crush on Rita Roberts, the general manager. I haven’t said anything to anyone about it…until yesterday when I mentioned to Crista Rita is cute.

I don’t want to jeopardize my ability to go to that Buffalo Wild Wings, so I’m probably going to keep my feelings to myself.

Speaking of Buffalo Wild Wings, on my last visit there, I met a couple who was going to the Backstreet Boys concert at Sprint Center that night. I told them the Backstreet Boys performed the national anthem before Super Bowl XXXV in January 2001. They were incredulous.

I am still puzzled as to what got into me the last time I was in Kansas City. Talking to Joanne was one thing, because I met her previously. But Rhonda and Kim after Joanne that night, and now the couple that Saturday. Maybe I am a late bloomer.

I woke up at 0318 this morning. There’s a reason. I don’t have time to expound upon it now. I will later. Enjoy your evening.

Quasi-home field advantage: a split decision

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The expected showdown turned into a rout.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Still a classic four decades later

Here I go again. I promise to post every day, then I get lazy. Now I’m really getting lazy. This is why I almost never make resolutions when the calendar changes, even something as innocuous as promising to post to this blog every day.

Today is the 40th anniversary of one of the best Super Bowls played. Super Bowl X matched the Dallas Cowboys, winners of Super Bowl VI and losers of Super Bowl V, against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the defending world champions.

The Cowboys entered the 1975 season in a situation they had not found themselves in since 1966-entering a new season after failing to qualify for the playoffs the previous year. The 1974 Cowboys were plagued by injuries and started 1-4, falling far behind the St. Louis Cardinals and Washington Redskins in the NFC East race.

Dallas did have a memorable game in 1974. Clint Longley came off the bench early in the third quarter of the Thanksgiving Day game vs. the Redskins to take over at quarterback for Roger Staubach, who suffered a concussion on a hit by Diron Talbert. Longley brought the Cowboys back from a 17-3 halftime deficit to win 24-23 on a 50-yard touchdown pass to Drew Pearson in the final minute. The comeback was not enough to get the Cowboys into the playoffs, as they finished 8-6, losing their regular season finale at Oakland.

Not much was expected of the 1975 Cowboys. Bob Lilly, Mr. Cowboy himself and the game’s best defensive tackle, retired after 14 seasons. Fullback Walt Garrison was gone. So was free safety Cornell Green. Calvin Hill had defected to the World Football League. Many of the veteran core of Super Bowls V and VI who remained–Mel Renfro, Lee Roy Jordan, Ralph Neely–had grown old. Roger Staubach was only in his seventh season in the league, but he was already 32.

What the experts forgot when picking the Cowboys to finish far behind the Cardinals and Redskins in the NFC East was the mind of Tom Landry.

Landry resurrected the shotgun formation for 1975, giving Staubach a clear look at the opposing defense, as well as more time to find receivers coming open late. He could also use his mobility farther back in the pocket and open up other opportunities on the edges.

The 1975 Cowboys opened with victories over two playoff teams of 1974, the Rams and Cardinals, beating the latter 37-31 in overtime. Dallas went on to a 10-4 record and the NFC wild card, joining the Cardinals, Vikings and Rams in the postseason.

The Cowboys were decided underdogs in the NFC semifinals at Minnesota, but Dallas prevailed 17-14 on Roger Staubach’s long touchdown pass to Drew Pearson in the game’s final minute. The pass became known as the Hail Mary when Staubach described the play as such in postgame interviews.

No such dramatics were needed in the NFC championship game. The Cowboys went to Los Angeles and crushed the Rams 37-7.

The Steelers had no hangover from their 16-6 victory over the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IX, going 12-2 during the 1975 regular season. Pittsburgh easily squashed the resurgent Baltimore Colts in its first playoff game, then outlasted the hated Oakland Raiders 16-10 in the AFC championship game. Oakland reached the Steelers’ 23-yard line in the waning seconds, but time ran out before Cliff Branch could get out of bounds, sending Pittsburgh to Miami.

The headlines off the field were much more intriguing than those on the field heading into Super Bowl X.

There was a massive ticket scam, and hundreds of people spent hundreds of dollars only to be forced to watch the game in a hotel instead of the Orange Bowl.

For those who had tickets, it wasn’t much more pleasant. South Florida was hit with an unusual cold spell, closing hotel pools and leaving many unprepared tourists shivering in shorts and no coats when temperatures plunged into the low 50s. It was 57 degrees at kickoff, 13 degrees cooler than the last Super Bowl played in Miami (Super Bowl V), but still 11 degrees warmer than it was at kickoff for Super Bowl IX in New Orleans’ Tulane Stadium.

Figuring they had nothing to lose and needed to pull out all the stops to beat the Steelers, the Cowboys wasted no time in fooling the Steelers.

Preston Pearson, who played for the Steelers in Super Bowl IX before being waived in training camp in July 1975, just in front of his own goal line. At the 9, he handed the ball to rookie linebacker Thomas (Hollywood) Henderson, who came speeding around left end and brought the pigskin all the way to the Steeler 44. Although Dallas didn’t score on its opening possession, it soon would have the ball deeper in Pittsburgh territory when a poor snap to punter Bobby Walden forced him to eat the ball at his own 29.

On the Cowboys’ first play of their second possession, Staubach found Drew Pearson streaking right to left across the Steeler secondary. Pearson caught Staubach’s pass in stride and raced to the game’s first touchdown.

Pittsburgh responded with a touchdown pass from Terry Bradshaw to Randy Grossman out of a three tight-end formation which had Dallas’ defense bunched up to stop Franco Harris. .The Steelers  moved into Dallas territory on a spectacular pass from Bradshaw to Lynn Swann down the right sideline. Swann had to make a leaping catch AND get both feet inbounds. It was simply sensational, but Swann was far from done.

Trailing 10-7 in the second quarter, Swann made a diving catch over the Cowboys’ Mark Washington, but the Steelers could not capitalize, and Dallas led 10-7 at halftime.

The Steelers’ Roy Gerela missed two field goals during the scoreless interregnum. Each time, Cowboys safety Clioff Harris taunted Gerela, but after the second miss, Pittsburgh middle linebacker Jack Lambert threw Harris to the ground like a rag doll. Fortunately for both teams, referee Norm Schachter–officiating his third Super Bowl and his final NFL game–and his crew were able to keep calm, and nobody was ejected.


It was still 10-7 early in the fourth quarter when Pittsburgh turned the tide in its favor.

In Super Bowl IX, Walden had a punt blocked in the fourth quarter which resulted in the lone Minnesota touchdown when Terry Brown recovered in the end zone.

This time, the Steelers blocked the punt. Reserve running back Reggie Harrison busted through the Cowboys’ protection and swatted Mitch Hoopes’ punt back over his head and out of the end zone for a safety. Not only was Pittsburgh now within a point, it would get the ball back on the free kick.

The Steelers scored a field goal off the free kick to take the lead for the first time, 12-10, and soon had the ball back when Mike Wagner intercepted Stabuach deep in Dallas territory. Another field goal by Gerela made it 15-10.

On Pittsburgh’s next possession, Bradshaw threw deep downfield to Swann, who torched Mark Washington for a 64-yard touchdown. Gerela missed the extra point, but it was still 21-10, and without the 2-point conversion, the Cowboys needed two touchodwns to win with only 3:02 to go.

Bradshaw did not see what happened downfield. Just after he launched the pass, he was knocked out cold by Cowboys defensive end Larry Cole. Had that hit occurred in today’s NFL, Cole would have been penalized and likely faced a hefty fine, since he drove his helmet into Bradshaw’s. In 1975, nobody cared that Cole used his helmet; the concern was more for Bradshaw, who was out of the game.

Dallas got the first touchdown it needed on a 34-yard strike from Staubach to Percy Howard. It turned out to be the only catch of Howard’s professional career.

Pittsburgh guard Gerry Mullins recovered Toni Fritsch’s onside kick, but the Steelers did not gain a first down on three attempts, leaving it fourth-and-8. Instead of punting, Chuck Noll called for another running play, not worried that he would leave the Cowboys a shorter field. He was worried to death about a bad snap to Walden in punt formation, knowing a fumble would leave Dallas inside the Pittsburgh 30.

Noll’s strategy didn’t bite the Steelers. On the last play of the game, Glen Edwards intercepted Staubach’s attempted Hail Mary in the end zone. Pittsburgh 21, Dallas 17.

After years of boring blowouts, Super Bowl X had all the drama the Super Bowl was supposed to embody. The Cowboys may have lost, but nobody would dare call them losers.

Two interesting facts from Super Bowl X:

  • Many scenes for the movie Black Sunday were filmed in Miami during the game. The plot revolved around a deranged former pilot hijacking the Goodyear blimp and using it as a weapon of mass destruction.
  • This was the first Super Bowl where Pat Summerall called play-by-play. His analyst, Tom Brookshier, left the booth in the fourth quarter in anticipation of the trophy presentation in the winning locker room. Hank Stram, who at the time was not coaching, took Brookshier’s place for the final period. Two days later, Stram would be named coach of the Saints. By 1978, Stram would become a full-time broadcaster.

Tomorrow is the anniversary of…SUPER BOWL NONE. No Super Bowl has ever been contested on January 19, and none will, unless there is a radical change in the NFL calendar.



Four for the road

NFL history was made yesterday when the Seahawks and Packers ventured to Minnesota and Washington and won their respective NFC wild card games.

This past weekend marked the first time visiting teams swept four playoff games since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970. The previous high water mark was 3-1 for the away sides.

The 2015 playoffs already has more wins for visiting teams than all of the 2014 postseason, when home teams were 8-2.

The success of visiting teams on the road in the divisional round dips significantly, largely because the four home teams had a bye in the wild card round and thus are much better rested.

There have been six instances since the current playoff structure was introduced in 1990 where the four home teams swept the divisional round, although that hasn’t happened since 2004.

In 2005 and 2008, road teams won three of four divisional round games. Each time, the Steelers ended up winning the Super Bowl.

Strangely enough, in 2008, Pittsburgh was the lone home team to survive the divisional round, ousting San Diego 35-24. Baltimore, Arizona and Philadelphia all won on the road, and because of the chaos in the NFC, the No. 4 seed Cardinals got to go back home for the NFC championship vs the No. 5 Eagles.

Three teams have won the Super Bowl under the current playoff structure without hosting a playoff game: the 2005 Steelers, 2007 Giants and 2010 Packers. The Chiefs pulled off the feat in 1969, but they only had to win two playoff games instead of three.

The four home teams are favored for the divisional playoff games, although I could see the line in the Seahawks-Panthers game swinging towards Seattle if the Las Vegas bookies take in enough money on the two-time NFC champions. Kansas City may be a big play for its game with New England, but I doubt the Steelers (at Denver) or Packers (at Arizona) are going to be big bets.

Happy anniversary Chiefs fans. It was 46 years ago today your team won its first and only Super Bowl championship, defeating the Vikings 23-7 at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans.


Sunday, silly Sunday

The last Sunday of 2015 is one I won’t soon forget.

I frittered away another eight and a half hours of my life at Buffalo Wild Wings Zona Rosa. Actually, it was very enjoyable. Got to spend the day with some very nice people, as in the employees, as well as my buddies Dawn and Robb Amos, whom I didn’t know last year at this time. If I had to pick two people I’m very glad I met in 2015, they would be at the top of the list. It didn’t start so well, especially my meltdown in April on Opening Day of the Major League Baseball season, but it’s been wonderful since.

There was a couple challenging me at trivia yesterday. At first, they were keeping up in the shortened lunch games, which are seven questions compared to 15 in Countdown. But I posted a perfect score (7,000) in the final lunch game at 1:45, then proceeded to serious ass kicking in Countdown for three games.

With the Chiefs playing at noon and a big game between the Packers and Cardinals at 3:25, it was full. The bar was packed, with no seats available. From noon until a little after 6, a gentleman wearing a Steelers hoodie sat at the barstool to my right. I expressed my sympathy as his team was losing to Pittsburgh’s hated rival, the Baltimore Ravens, who have been a train wreck this season, but somehow beat the Steelers twice. The same Steelers who beat the Cardinals in October.

Except for the guy next to me, nobody in the establishment shed a tear for Ben Roethlisberger and his mates. The Steelers’ loss, combined with the Chiefs’ 17-13 victory over the Browns, meant KC was playoff bound, regardless of what happens next week to the Chiefs at Arrowhead vs. Oakland. Andy Reid’s team can still win the AFC West if Denver loses either to Cincinnati tonight or San Diego next Sunday, and the Chiefs beat the Raiders.

Meanwhile, I got to know Ashley, the girlfriend of Lazlo, one of the employees at Buffalo Wild Wings. She was pulling hard for the Seahawks, who were struggling against the Rams in Seattle. Her family was at the game at CenturyLink Field, and to add insult to injury, it was a typical Seattle day: lots of rain. Ashley was impressed with my trivia knowledge, and she also helped me with a few answers in my friendly battles with Dawn and Robb.

The Cardinals surprised the hell out of me yesterday. I never dreamed they could have beaten Green Bay as badly as they did. With Tyran Matthieu out for the season after tearing knee ligaments last week in Philadelphia, I feared Aaron Rodgers might shred Arizona’s weakened secondary.

Rodgers hardly got to test the secondary. He was sacked eight times and under pressure almost all game. The Cardinals returned two fumbles for touchdowns and had no trouble whatsoever in a 38-8 rout. I’ve been watching the Cardinals for over 30 years, and I’ve never seen them look that impressive against a quality team. The only game which comes close was the 2008 divisional playoff game when they went to Charlotte and shredded the Panthers. If the Cardinals are in Charlotte Jan. 24, it will be for a trip to Santa Clara and Super Bowl 50.

As for the Pittsburgh fan, I’ll say he enjoyed the second half of his stay much more.

The Steelers fan went to the restroom shortly after his team lost. He asked me to guard his beer, which I did. Meanwhile, a fashionably dressed lady walked in and sat down two seats to my right. When the Steelers fan returned to the stool to my right, he and the lady began talking.

They kept talking. By 5:45, it had progressed to kissing and playing footsie.


The making out part didn’t throw me–I saw a woman with a hand all over a guy’s privates at the Buffalo Wild Wings in south Overland Park in January–but what did was two married people who didn’t know one another a little under three hours earlier were going at it. And she did not take off her wedding ring.

I felt a bit like a social leper. I guess I’m person repellent. I guess I have something to discuss with Crista at our next session.

On the other hand, I was in my little zone playing trivia, and if it weren’t for Ashley and I striking up a conversation, and Dawn and Robb showing up, I probably would have been in my zone until I left the place at 7:30.

I hated leaving at 7:30. I felt like I abandoned Lindsey, who was behind the bar at 5 after taking over for Seekou, who was fabulous as usual.

I beat the bad weather back to the hotel and enjoyed my strip from Outback Steakhouse. I may be getting intimate with my room at the Courtyard Briarcliff today. The weather looks bad.

I’m glad the last Sunday of 2015 at Buffalo Wild Wings was 1,000,000,000,000% better than the first one (Jan. 4), when was asked to leave after melting down. That’s progress.

Super Day

Only one Super Bowl has ever been contested on January 21.

It still ranks as one of the best championship games at any level of football 36 years later.

Super Bowl XIII matched the two most popular National Football League franchises of the 1970, and also the two best, the PIttsburgh Steelers and the Dallas Cowboys.

The winner of Super Bowl XIII would become the first team to win three Super Bowls. The winner would lay claim to the title of Team of the 1970s, since each had won both of their previous titles in the decade.

Dallas won first, claiming Super Bowl VI following the 1971 season, but had to wait six years before winning again in Super Bowl XII.

On the other hand, Pittsburgh didn’t make the playoffs for the first time until 1972, the year after the Cowboys’ conquest of the Dolphins. The Steelers made up for four decades of losing with back-to-back titles in Super Bowls IX and X following the 1974 and ’75 seasons.

Chuck Noll took over the wretched Steelers in 1969, and following a 1-13 initial campaign, Pittsburgh became the team the Steel City knew and loved: gritty, hard-nosed, aggressive, blue collar, much like the city at the confluence of the Ohio, Allegheny and Mongahela Rivers.

Starting in 1972, the Steelers did not miss the playoffs for the remainder of the decade. The Cowboys made the playoffs every season between 1966 and 1983 EXCEPT for 1974, when the older roster from Super Bowls V and VI was transitioning to the younger group which went to Super Bowls X, XII and XIII.

Super Bowl XIII provided the first Super Bowl rematch. The Steelers and Cowboys faced off three years prior in a thrilling game won by Pittsburgh 21-17. Dallas scored first and led into the fourth quarter, but a blocked punt turned the tide in favor of the Steelers. Terry Bradshaw threw a 64-yard touchdown pass to Lynn Swann with three minutes left to give his team a 21-10 lead, but Bradshaw was knocked out cold on the play by Larry Cole. The Cowboys came back to score on a 34-yard touchdown pass from Roger Staubach to Percy Howard–the ONLY CATCH of his NFL career! Dallas got the ball back, but on the game’s last play, Staubach was intercepted in the end zone by Glen Edwards.

The 1978 Steelers was Pittsburgh’s best team. They went 14-2, losing only to the Oilers at home and the Rams on the road. Pittsburgh’s offense had morphed from a run-heavy playbook reliant on Franco Harris into a high-flying aerial circus, with Bradshaw throwing to fleet receivers Swann and John Stallworth. The Steel Curtain was aging, but Joe Greene, Jack Ham, Jack Lambert and Mel Blount were still playing at their Hall of Fame levels.

Pittsburgh crushed 1977 AFC champion Denver in the divisional playoff before annihilating Houston 34-5 in an ice storm in the conference final.

The 1978 Cowboys started off sluggishly, losing four of their first ten games, including a 9-5 decision at Washington on Monday Night with President Carter in attendance. Dallas got it going in the second half of the season to finish 12-4, but in their first playoff game vs. Atlanta, Staubach was knocked out on a late hit by Robert Pennywell.

Danny White, who had been the Cowboys punter since joining the team in 1976, took over at quarterback when Staubach went down vs. Atlanta. White led the Cowboys to two second half touchdowns, and the Doomsday Defense shut out the Falcons in the final 30-plus minutes to win 27-20.

Staubach returned to the lineup in Los Angeles for the NFC championship game, but through three quarters, the Cowboys’ lead over the Rams was just 7-0. Finally, Dallas broke it open with three touchdowns in the final period, the last a 68-yard interception return by Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson. The 28-0 win set up the rematch in Miami, which had been the site of Super Bowl X.

The Cowboys were coached by the ageless Tom Landry, who built the franchise from scratch in 1960 and turned it into America’s Team by 1978, his 19th season at the helm. Landry devolped the Flex Defense, the man in motion offense, and revived the shotgun formation to give Staubach more time to locate receivers downfield.

Hollywood Henderson stepped in it on media day. When asked about Bradshaw, he said “He couldn’t spell cat if you spotted him the C and the A.” Little did most know Henderson was high on cocaine during that interview, and he would be hopped up on the white stuff come Super Sunday.

Pittsburgh scored first on a touchdown pass from Bradshaw to Stallworth, but Dallas got even on the final play of the first quarter when Tony Hill ran past Blount, who was paying attention to Drew Pearson and never saw Hill catch Staubach’s pass. Hill romped to a 65-yard score.

After the first quarter touchdown pass, Bradshaw went bad. He was intercepted by D.D. Lewis prior to the Dallas touchdown, and in the second quarter, he fumbled at his own 37-yard line when smothered by Henderson. Mike Hegman picked up the loose ball and scooted to paydirt, putting the Cowboys, the reigning champions, ahead 14-7.

Pittsburgh tied the game on another long touchdown pass from Bradshaw to Stallworth. The score remained 14-14 until the final minute of the first half, when Bradshaw hit Rocky Bleier on a rollout pass. Bleier, the Vietnam War hero, made a twisting catch in front of Lewis to send the Steelers to the locker room ahead by seven.

Neither team did much with the ball until late in the third quarter, when Dallas moved to within yards of the tying touchdown.

On a third down play, Staubach spotted Jackie Smith wide open in the dead center of the end zone. Smith was in his 16th and final NFL season, but his first with the Cowboys after numerous All-Pro seasons with the Cardinals.

Smith had to come back to his right and slid, but the ball was dead center between the 8 and 1 on his jersey.

He dropped it.

Cowboys radio play-by-play man Verne Lundquist said of Smith, “Bless his heart, he’s got to be the sickest man in America.”

Maybe no more powerful words have been spoken during a Super Bowl broadcast.

Dallas kicked a field goal to pull to within 21-17 as the fourth quarter arrived.

Then came another disaster for the Cowboys.

Bradshaw looped a pass down the right sideline for Swann. The ball was underthrown, and as Swann attempted to adjust, he tripped over the feet of Cowboys cornerback Benny Barnes.

The ball appeared to be uncatchable, but back judge Fred Swearingen called pass interference on Barnes, giving the Steelers a first down at the Cowboy 18.

Swearingen and the Steelers had a history long before this game.

In 1972, Swearingen was the referee for the Steelers’ first playoff game vs. the Raiders. Of course, that was the game in which Franco Harris made the “Immaculate Reception” after a Bradshaw pass intended for French Fuqua was knocked away when Fuqua and Jack Tatum collided. Swearingen and his crew went to a dugout phone at Three Rivers Stadium and asked for help from NFL supervisor of officials Art McNally, who offered none and ordered Swearingen to make a ruling.

On the play after Swearingen’s pass interference call, Harris rumbled 18 yards to a touchdown to give the Steelers a 28-17 lead.

The key block was thrown by Art Demmas.


Demmas was the umpire on the officiating crew whom Cowboys safety Charlie Waters collided with as he closed in on Harris. Nobody else was within hailing distance of Harris, and he scored untouched.

Such a situation probably would not happen in an NFL game today, since starting in 2009, the league moved the umpire from behind the defensive line to the offensive backfield lateral to the referee. The move was made because several NFL umpires had suffered serious injuries when trampled by players. The umpire stands behind the defense only when (a) there are less than 2 minutes left in the first half; (b) there are less than five minutes left in the second half; and (c) the offense is inside the opponent’s 5.

On the ensuing kickoff following Harris’ touchdown, Steelers kicker Roy Gerela slipped on the slick grass. The ball squibbed to Randy White, the Cowboys’ All-Prio defensive tackle who was supposed to be blocking. White carried the ball in his left hand, which happened to have a heavy cast on it due to a broken thumb, and White could not grip the ball properly. It squirted loose, and Tony Dungy–yes, THAT Tony Dungy–recovered for the Steelers.

Bradshaw hit a leaping Swann in the end zone well behind Cliff Harris, and with less than six minutes remaining, the Steelers appeared to be safely home, leading 35-17.

Slight problem: Captain Comeback was quarterbacking the other team.

Sure enough, Staubach and Tony Dorsett engineered a frantic 8-play, 90-yard drive, culminating in a touchdown pass from Stabuach to Billy Jo Dupree which cut the margin to 11 with 2:27 to go (remember, the 2-point conversion would not return to the NFL until 1994, after having been used in the AFL prior to the merger).

Rafael Septein executed a perfect onside kick, and Dennis Thurman recovered. The Cowboys drove downfield again and scored on a pass from Staubach to Butch Johnson.

Now, only 22 seconds remained, and Dallas would not only have to recover another onside kick, but it would have to drive at least 50 yards with no timeouts.

It became moot when Bleier recovered the onside kick.

Bradshaw threw for 318 yards to earn MVP honors and shut up Hollywood Henderson.

Staubach, meanwhile, ripped the officials, especially Swearningen for his call against Barnes. Cowboys coach Tom Landry also complained vociferously and was fined by the NFL.

Turns out Landry and Staubach were right about Swearingen. A few days later, McNally ruled Barnes should not have been flagged. Incidental contact.

Staubach would never return to the Super Bowl. He was knocked out of the Cowboys’ 1979 divisional playoff loss to the Rams on a hit by Jack Youngblood, and in March 1980, the 1963 Heisman Trophy winner and Naval officer retired.

Dallas would enter a steep decline beginning in 1984, and by 1988, it was 3-13. In February 1989, Jerry Jones bought the Cowboys and immediately fired Landry, replacing him with Jimmy Johnson.

Pittsburgh successfully defended its title in 1979, defeating the Rams in Super Bowl XIV in a game which was far closer than the 31-19 final indicated. The Steelers would start to age, and their dynasty finally ended for good when Bradshaw and Blount retired following the 1983 season.

It wasn’t until January 28, 1996 when the Cowboys and Steelers finally shared the field again in a Super Bowl. By this time, Barry Switzer and Bill Cowher were coaching, and the quarterbacks were Troy Aikman and Neil O’Donnell. The NFL was also in Arizona, following the Cardinals’ move from St. Louis to the desert in 1988.

Dallas won 27-17, but it has not been back to the Super Bowl since. The Steelers, meanwhile, have returned three times, besting the Seahawks in XL (2005) and Cardinals in XLIII (2008), but losing to the Packers in XLV (2010).

January 22 saw two Super Bowls played five years apart. I remember both very well. That’s tomorrow’s posts.

Immaculate for 42 years

For some it’s probably hard to believe, but it has now been exactly 42 years since possibly the most famous play in the history of the National Football League too place.

It was the first playoff game for the PIttsburgh Steelers, and they were hosting the Oakland Raiders. In their first 39 seasons (1933-71), the Steelers qualified for the playoffs the same number of times I’ve had sex. ZERO. Nada. Zilch.

The team’s fortunes began to turn in 1969, when owner Art Rooney hired Chuck Noll as coach. Noll hit the jackpot in his first draft, selecting Mean Joe Greene out of North Texas and L.C. Greenwood out of East Texas State to anchor his defensive line. Pittsburgh was only 1-13 in ’69, but it had the number one pick for 1979, and Noll added another key piece to the puzzle by drafting Louisiana Tech quarterback Terry Bradshaw.

By 1972, Noll added Jack Ham, Gerry Mullins, Mike Wagner, Mel Blount, Ernie Holmes, Jon Kolb and Franco Harris, among others, and that year, the Steelers went 10-3-1.

The 1972 Raiders were 9-4-1. John Madden’s fourth edition of the Silver and Black featured a mix of players who were on the roster when Oakland lost to Green Bay in Super Bowl II and newer faces. The quarterback situation was unsettled, with Daryle Lamonica starting, but Madden had a quick hook, often shutting in a young Ken Stabler and the ancient George Blanda, who was mostly reduced to kicking, but still could sling the ball when needed, as evidenced by his 1970 season, when he finished as runner-up for NFL MVP at 43.

THe ’72 Raiders had a new weapon in rookie receiver Cliff Branch from Colorado. Oakland also had another new receiver, Villanova’s MIke Siani, to compliment Fred Blietnikoff, who was forced to go it alone for the most part in ’71 after former deep threat Warren Wells was imprisoned.

The Raider defense was solid, although this unit didn’t have any household names beyond Willie Brown and Jack Tatum in the secondary.

The first half of the Raiders-Steelers game was scoreless. PIttsburgh kicked two field goals in the second half, and it appeared that 6-0 score would hold up.

Madden replaced Lamonica with Stabler in the fourth quarter, and with less than two minutes left, Stabler scampered 30 yards around left end to the game’s first touchdown. Blanda’s extra point made it 7-6 in Oakland’s favor.

Pittsburgh appeared to be out of miracles. It soon faced fourth-and-10 with 22 seconds to go.

Bradshaw launched a pass over the middle for John “Frenchy” Fuqua, who was circling out of the backfield. However, the ball, Fuqua and Tatum all arrived at the same time near the Oakland 45-yard line.

Just as the ball was about to strike the TartanTurf of Three Rivers Stadium, rookie Franco Harris scooped the ball off of his shoelaces and galloped down the left sideline all the way to the end zone with 13 seconds to go.

The Raiders thought the play was illegal. At that time, two offensive players could not touch the ball consecutively. That was a point of contention during Super Bowl V two years earlier on Baltimore’s 75-yard touchdown pass from Johnny Unitas to John Mackey. The Cowboys claimed the ball went off the hands of receiver Eddie Hinton straight to Mackey, but the officials ruled Dallas safety Mel Refro’s fingers grazed the laces in between. NFL Films replays proved the officials correct in that case.

Referee Fred Swearingen went to the Pirates’ dugout near the end zone where Harris scored and called NFL Director of Officiating Art McNally. McNally told Swearingen he could not help, and the decision was up to the officials on the field.

(The urban legend is Swearingen called up to the director of security and asked how many cops he could provide if the officials ruled the touchdown didn’t count. When the response was six, Swearingen then said okay, “Six for Pittsburgh”, meaning the play would stand.)

Instant replay would not come into existence until 1986, and even if there instant replay in 1972, it would have done no good. There were not as many cameras covering the game, the video quality was not anywhere near where it is now, and it would have taken way too long to run the film to the truck, rack the film and re-rack it time and again to determine the call.

Pittsburgh won 13-7, and two years later, the Steelers won their first of four Super Bowls in six seasons under coach Chuck Noll.

Oakland would have to wait until 1976 to win its title. To this day, Madden and all of the Raiders refuse to acknowledge the Steelers won.

How iconic is the Immaculate Reception? Travelers to Pittsburgh International Airport are greeted by a life-sized statue of Franco Harris in the exact uniform he wore in 1972, catching the ball like he did vs. the Raiders.

The Immaculate Reception is so cemented in NFL lore that in a poll earlier this year, it was named the greatest play of all-time. ESPN had a poll of the greatest play of each of the 32 teams. and then a tournament was held to determine the best play of all-time. The Immaculate Reception defeated Bart Starr’s game-winning quarterback sneak in the Ice Bowl by a wide margin.

Stressing on Sunday (when I shouldn’t)

I have no clue why I’m out the Sunday before Christmas, especially in a shopping area in a big city, but here I am, back at Buffalo Wild Wings.

I was fortunate to find a parking space. B-Dubs was full because the Chiefs-Steelers game was on, and with the other restaurants around also packed, I thought I might have to park far, far away. Fortunately, it took less than 10 minutes.

The only reason I got to B-Dubs at 2:45 is because I had to go to Staples across Barry Road to pick up something. With ridiculous traffic all around, I figured it was better I went there early and wait instead of going back to the hotel and coming back at 5 when Lisa took over behind the bar.

Probably should have gone back to the hotel in hindsight. I couldn’t get at the bar because it was full, and I really didn’t want to take up a table by myself, even though Liz came on just after 3. I wanted to sit in her section, but there were three kids who wouldn’t budge.

I eventually went out to the patio even though it’s 45 degrees and cloudy. I didn’t have my parka on at first, so I had to go all the way through the restaurant and back to my car to retrieve it. Then a motherfucking asshole had to come outside and smoke a cancer stick.

I despise cigarette smoking. I really despise it. It’s a major reason my mother and I do not get along all that well. My father was a heavy smoker for 30 years until he quit in 1985, and I believe he would have been dead by 1994 if he had not. I cannot stand tobacco. Never used any form a day in my life and I never will.

I have a hard and fast rule: if you smoke in my car, I will stop the car immediately and that person will get out. What’s more, he or she will NEVER ride in my car again. For the rest of their life. And I will also make the offender pay to have the car fumigated. If it came to going on The People’s Court to collect, I would.

The fact I can’t stand smoking is a major reason I stay at Marriott hotels whenever I can. Marriott has banned smoking at all properties since October 2006. I will not stay at a hotel with smoking rooms if I can help it. Fortunately for me, two hotels in western Kansas I frequent, the Sleep Inn in Norton and the Holiday Inn Express in Goodland, are also smoke-free.

I’m now at the bar, one seat over from where I was yesterday when Brittany was here. I was starting to get anxious. First time I’ve felt that way in awhile.

THe NFL games right now don’t interest me. Two of them are really bad (Cowboys 28, Colts 0 and Giants 27, Rams 13) and one is irrelevant (Bills at Raiders).

The Saints laid an egg today by getting routed at home by the Falcons. Not only is New Orleans out of the playoff race, but one of my least favorite NFL players, SCAM Newton, can lead the Panthers back to the playoffs if they win in Atlanta next week.

Another piece of awful news: Jameis Winston got off scot-free in Florida State’s investigation into sexual assault allegations. Typical. I hope FSU gets destroyed by Oregon in the Rose Bowl.

Johnny on the spot

John Stallworth saved my bacon last night.

I was about to get beat in Countdown by a first-time player, a person whose screen name was RED. She was playing with her significant other in a booth in the dining room, while I was on the bar side–again–sitting alone. I fell behind after the 13th question, and we both got 1,000 on the 14th question.

The last question asked about John Stallworth and his achievements in a given sporting event. I figured RED would know this, too, and I would lose, albeit by a mere 88 points.

Lucky for me, RED nor the other player in the game, JEFE, knew who John Stallworth was until it was too late.

In case you don’t know, Stallworth was a Hall of Fame receiver for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ dynasty of the 1970s. He was drafted in the fourth round in 1974 out of Alabama A&M, a historically black college near Huntsville. Stallworth’s most important catch came in the fourth quater of Super Bowl XIV, when he caught a 73-yard touchdown pass from Terry Bradshaw which finally allowed the Steelers to shake the pesky Rams and allow Pittsburgh to win its fourth title in six years.

Stallworth played 14 seasons, and when he retired following the 1987 campaign, he held every Steelers receiving record. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2002.

I was pushed in the Topix game at 6:30 by a new player, but I came out on top by a small margin. Other than that, it wasn’t much of a challenge, and I happened to break the 40,000 barrier in Spotlight, the hour-long entertainment game on Fridays at 7 p.m.

Tonight’s 7 p.m. fare is Playback, all about music. I’ve usually done alright there, but there are times when it gets me. Tonight’s featured performer is Santana, meaning all questions in the last two rounds will be about Carlos.

If RONDO shows up today at Buffalo Wild Wings, I’ll stop playing until he leaves, or just play poker. I’ve played so much since Monday I could use a break. And I’m going to play again tomorrow and Monday for certain.

Once again, some football fans were up in arms that their team’s exhibition game was not being televised. Last night, it was a couple who wanted to watch their Tampa Bay Buccaneers play the Jaguars in Jacksonville. I know for a fact the Cardinals’ game vs. Houston will not be on, so I will not ask. Baseball and whatever is on NFL Network will do fine thank you. Besides, there’s some good baseball tonight, especially Dodgers-Brewers and Giants-Royals at 6.

I moved to the bar area last night when I saw the server rotation at my usual table. I figured I would give my business to another one of my favorite ladies, Brittany Davidson. Lisa had already told me she was off until the following Wednesday, and for some reason, Liz wasn’t working, which is unusual for a Friday. Liz’s mom, Nadine, was there, and she helped me get the table I wanted to sit in Brittany’s section. Brittany is a real sweetheart. I wonder who will be taking care of my table today. Then again, I can always move.