Quick Takes


    It was a great day for hockey! The NHL's Winter Classic, seen by cynics as an intriguing idea on an illogical day, captured the attention of the masses on New Year's Day. While January 1 has long been associated with the uneasy marriage of watching college football bowl games and dealing with the after-effects of ringing in the new year, the NHL brazenly came up with an alternative. By taking its game outdoors in snowy and cold Buffalo, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman wagered that by pitting "man against the elements" would also intrigue man as he watched from the comfort of his living room.
    Bettman's wager paid off handsomely. In front of a league-record 71,217 fans at Ralph Wilson Stadium, Sidney Crosby, the face of the NHL, scored in the third round of the shootout to lift the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 2-1 victory over the Buffalo Sabres. Regardless of your rooting interest, if any, it was a victory for hockey. It was the first regular-season outdoor NHL game in the United States, and drew a 2.6 overnight rating and a 5 share on NBC. Those were the best numbers since a six-game regional telecast on Fox drew a 3.0 overnight rating and a 7 share on Feb. 3, 1996.


    Roger Clemens admits that he received injections from his former personal trainer, Brian McNamee. But he says that the injections were of the painkiller lidocaine and vitamin B12 — not steroids or human growth hormone as alleged in the Mitchell report released last month. I learned that lidocaine can be administered without injection; a patch can do it, as can orally swishing it in one’s mouth. Vitamin B12 can be swallowed. So……………why do injections if you don’t have to?
    Consider this. During the 10 seasons from 1996-2005 (age 34-43) Roger Clemens averaged 217 innings pitched per season. (He was part-time the last two years.) And I’m supposed to believe that he wasn’t on performance-enhancing whatevers during those rather late years of age for a major league pitcher.
    I almost believe Roger Clemens when he opens his mouth.


    LSU did exactly what I expected them to do to Ohio State Monday night. And why not?! Ohio State didn’t belong in the BCS title game to begin with. They did it again; they took a very early lead ala last year against Florida, and caved in. The Big 10 is so overrated; it should be renamed the Little 11. Congratulations to the best team, LSU.


    As reported in the New York Daily News:

Sounding delusional, Isiah Thomas said he believes the Knicks will win a title and by reiterating that he has no plans to resign. "My belief and what I see and where I believe we can go as a team and an organization, I believe one day that we will win a championship here and I believe a couple of these guys will be a part of that," Thomas said. "I believe I'll be a part of that. And I'm not leaving until we get it done." More than delusional or whatever other word you want to assign to it, Thomas sounded like a man who knows he will soon finally be put out of his misery.
As reported in Newsday:

"I don't necessarily just want to win a championship," Isiah Thomas said. "I want to leave something that's going to stand for a long time. I want to leave a legacy. I want to leave tradition. I want to leave an imprint and a blueprint in terms of how people play and how they coach and how they respond when they put on a Knick uniform."

    As reported by Irv Lippel:

The only legacy Isiah Thomas will leave is that he was a great basketball player, and as bad a coach as there ever was, basketball or otherwise.


Story of the Week


    This one is for Darrell Kotler of Detroit, a long-time Lions fan. The subject of today’s feature story is his idol, Jack Christiansen.


    Because he felt he was too small, Jack Christiansen didn't even plan to play college football. He first thought that he would concentrate as a sprinter on the track team at Colorado State. But he was coaxed out for football as a sophomore and he starred in the very first game he ever played. From then on for the next three years, Christiansen was a star as a return man, on defense, and as a ball carrier.


    Still his size, 6-1 and 162 pounds at the time, may have left some doubts in the minds of some pro scouts whether he could make it in professional football. But the Detroit Lions did draft him in 1951 and, right from the start, he enjoyed spectacular success. He returned two punts for scores in a game twice in his rookie season. In one crucial contest against the Los Angeles Rams as a rookie, Christiansen scored twice on punt returns of 69 and 47 yards. He also scored on two punt returns (71 and 89 yards) against the Green Bay Packers that same season. So effective as a punt returner, teams were forced to change their defensive strategy.


    Soon all the teams were using the spread punt formation to try to contain the elusive Christiansen. As great as he was on the return teams, Jack's forte was defense and he was the key man for the defensively-strong Lions, who in the 1950s dominated the National Football League with four divisional and three world championships.


    The defensive backfield of the Lions became known as “Chris’ Crew,” in recognition of Christiansen’s leadership and outstanding play. On the field, he was the defensive boss and ran the show. He led the league in interceptions in 1953 and tied for the league lead in 1957. Just like teams did on punt formations, opposing teams altered their passing patterns against Detroit. Many clubs had a standard rule when playing Detroit — don't throw in Christiansen's area, and don't punt to him. Christiansen played eight seasons with the Lions from 1951-58 and was named All-Pro six consecutive years (1952-1957) and played in five consecutive Pro Bowls (1954-1958).


    Christiansen's left arm was badly injured in a shooting accident during his senior year in high school, so he temporarily gave up football to concentrate on track and field as a freshman at Colorado State University in 1947.


    Because of his speed, he was persuaded to come out for football as a sophomore and he became a three-year starter at safety. At 6-foot-1 and only 185 pounds, Christiansen was generally considered too slight to play pro football, but he made the Detroit Lions in 1951 as a kick returner and was a defensive starter before the season ended.


    An All-Pro from 1952 through 1958, his final season, Christiansen was always a threat to score returning interceptions or punts. He led the NFL in interceptions in 1953 with 12 and in 1957 with 10, and was tops in yards per punt return in 1952 with an average of 21.5.


    In his 8 seasons, Jack Christiansen intercepted 46 passes and ran them back for 717 yards, a 15.6 average, and 3 touchdowns. He returned 85 punts for 1,084 yards, a 12.8 average, and 8 touchdowns, and he ran back 59 kickoffs for 1,329 yards, a 22.5 average. He also rushed for 143 yards on 20 attempts, a 7.2 average, and scored 2 rushing touchdowns. Jack Christiansen was a helluva football player.


Last Week’s Trivia


    What college has produced the most Super Bowl-winning QB’s? How many? Name them. Alabama has produced three Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks. They are Bart Starr, Joe Namath and Kenny Stabler.


Trivia Question of the Week


    What former Lakers center holds the NBA record for most blocked shots in a single game? (This is definitely not a slam-dunk question, so don’t be too quick to go all in.) See next week’s Sports Junkie for the answer.