“If you can’t imitate him, don’t copy him.” Yogi Berra.
To the NFL’s owners and players……………thank you for resolving your silly little differences. For a while there, I was afraid I’d have to start getting interested in soccer. Not!
Here’s To The Little People Of Sports:
There have been some terrific athletes down through the years who had to overcome the obstacle of size, the lack of it, to perform in pro sports. The following are merely the record-setters in that department. My little hat is off to them all.
The smallest player ever in MLB was Eddie Gaedel, the midget (literally) who St. Louis Browns’ owner Bill Veeck employed for one game as a promotional stunt on 8-19-51. He was 3’ 7”. As a bona-fide MLB player, it was Dan Sweeney of Louisville in the National League in 1895. He stood 4’ 10”.
The smallest player ever in the NBA was actually a tremendous player. Muggsy Bogues stood 5’ 3”. I wrote a feature story about this great NBA player; scroll down to 3-28-02 for that Story of the Week. Bogues was positively amazing competing against the NBA’s world of giants.
The smallest player ever in the NFL was Jack Shapiro of the Staten Island Stapletons. He was 5’ 1”. The year was 1929.
The smallest player ever in the NHL was Bobby Lalonde. He was 5’ 5”. He was a fine hockey player, a playmaking center for the Canucks, Flames and Bruins from 1971 to 1982.
Autism in medical terms is defined as abnormal subjectivity; it is the acceptance of fantasy rather than reality. Jason McElwain is autistic. What he did on February 15th. was truly a fantasy, an incredible one indeed. In a high school basketball game in Rochester, N. Y., young Jason, the team manager, was allowed to suit up, and he entered the game with four minutes left to play. He threw up an air ball on his first try, but then made six consecutive three-point shots and finished the game with 20 points. Jason’s school mates went wild, and rightfully so. What young McElwain did, under his circumstances, was one for the ages.
It’s a wonder that Knicks general manager Isiah Thomas hasn’t attempted to sign Jason McElwain; Thomas has signed every other available player on the planet during his dismal tenure in New York
So who is the absolute worst general manager in sports? It’s a dead heat between Isiah Thomas and Matt Millen of the Detroit Lions. Dead is a perfect choice of words………as in brain dead.
Story of the Week
If every piece of data regarding every person who ever coached a NFL football team was fed into the most powerful of computers, and that computer was asked to kick out the name of the greatest NFL coach of all time, that answer might well be Bill Parcells. His accomplishments would certainly substantiate such a claim.
Had Parcells been a fast and furious linebacker, his career path might well have taken many different twists. Out of Wichita State, in 1964, he was drafted by the Detroit Lions. He soon realized that he wasn’t good enough to cut it as a pro player.
He then shifted his sights to coaching. After a gig at Hastings College (Nebraska), he hooked on at Army where Bob Knight was starting his career as a basketball coach. That those two like minds became fast friends tells anyone who needs to know about the demands Parcells makes on his players. The guy cares about one thing and one thing only as a coach. I suspect you know what that is.
Parcells began his NFL head coaching career with the N. Y. Giants (1983-1990), who had posted one winning season in its previous 10 years. After an initial season of 3-12-1, he improved his club’s victory total to 9, 10, 14, 10, 12 and 13 between 1984 and 1990. In the process, the Giants won two Super Bowls and three division titles under Parcells.
He then took over the New England Patriots (1993-1996) following a 2-14 season by the Pats. Within two years, Parcells coached the team to a 10-6 mark and its first playoff game in eight years. In his fourth year, the Patriots went 11-5 and advanced to the Super Bowl.
Then his tenure with the N. Y. Jets (1997-1999). They won a combined four games the two seasons prior to his arrival, improved to 9-7 his first season and 12-4 with a trip to the AFC Championship Game in his second season. This marked the first time in NFL history that a team had won but one game and within two years was playing for a conference title.
After the Dallas Cowboys stumbled to a 5-11 record in each of 2000, 2001 and 2002, they landed Parcells as their head coach. He did take the Cowboys to the playoffs in his first season, 2003, with a record of 10-6. He is used to making the playoffs in his second season with a team; he always has done that. This time, he did it in his first year with Dallas, clinching their first post-season appearance since 1998. After a down season in 2004, he had a winning season last year. And he’ll be back this season.
Most successful managers or head coaches in their respective sport enjoy that success with one team, or, if they’re fortunate, two. Bill Parcells has achieved major reversals for the better with all four teams he has coached in the NFL. The ‘Tuna’ is one helluva coach!
Last Week’s Trivia
The first black National League MVP was Jackie Robinson in 1949. The first black American League MVP was Elston Howard in 1963. The National League had 11 black MVP’s before the American League had its first! Why? The NL had many more blacks than did the AL in those days, a clear-cut case of American League head-in-the-sand disease!
Trivia Question of the Week
Name the two teams that played in the last American Football League Championship Game. Who won? See next week’s Sports Junkie for the answer.