Last weekend’s NFL playoffs. The championship games:
*It was a great run. However, why Sean Payton didn’t take the Saints north up I-55 to prepare for Chicago’s winter weather escapes me. They practiced indoors in New Orleans all week. As brilliant as Payton was in his rookie year as head coach, he dismissed the well known fact that dome teams are winless in title games on the road in open stadiums, especially frigid ones. The many turnovers by the Saints speak for themselves. This takes absolutely nothing away from the fine game played by the Chicago Bears. The Bears were clearly the best team Sunday, damn it!
*I’m senile. I must be confused. I thought I saw New England blow a 21-3 lead in the second quarter, and two different leads in the fourth quarter. I must be mistaken, not only about Belichick and Brady doing something so unthinkable for them, but for Manning and the Colts getting up off the floor to overcome those deficits. No way!
As a Saints fan, I was pleased to hear Mike Ditka pick the Bears to win on the Fox pre-game show. I was hoping his judgment was out to lunch again. In 1999, the very same Mike Ditka, while at New Orleans, traded all of the Saints’ draft picks for Ricky Williams. Brilliant! One can only imagine how many years that decision set the Saints back.
I wish I were looking forward to the Super Bowl. I’m not! My season ended in Chicago on Sunday. By game time I’ll have placed a wager on either the Bears or the Colts (I lean toward the Colts, but I don’t like the line.) to give me some interest in it, but it would have been something for me to watch the Saints go marching into the Super Bowl.
Memo to President Bush
What the Saints did this season for the Katrina-ravaged New Orleans area is immeasurable. They gave New Orleans a much-needed shot in the arm and the brain. Sadly, the Saints have done much more than you have done for New Orleans and the entire Gulf Coast since the Katrina disaster.
You send so much of our money to foreign soil (The real cost to the US of the Iraq war is likely to be between $1 trillion and $2 trillion, up to 10 times more than previously thought, according to a report written by Nobel prize-winning economist and Harvard budget expert, Jamie Wilson.) You could be spending a comparatively small portion of that money to take care of our own people on the Gulf Coast, an area still in shambles with no end in sight after 17 months. This is a disgrace!
Mr. President, our own should come first!
Story of the Week
Kenny Washington (born August 31, 1918, Los Angeles, California; died June 24, 1971) was a professional football player who was one of the first African-Americans to play in the National Football League's modern (post-World War II) era.
He was a star running back at Abraham Lincoln High School in Los Angeles and in college at UCLA, rushing for 1,914 yards in his college career, a school record for 34 years. He was one of three African-American players on the team (along with Jackie Robinson and Woody Strode), which was unprecedented for the time period. This was a time when only a dozen blacks were numbered collectively among players on white college football teams in the United States.
Washington led the nation in total offense and became the first consensus All-American in the history of UCLA's football program in 1939. However, he was named to second team All-America selection instead of the first, and was omitted from the East-West Shrine Game that year. These slights were the sources of much outrage on the West Coast, and linked directly to the obvious, namely racial discrimination.
In 1939, Washington led undefeated UCLA into what many deem the greatest game in the rivalry between the Bruins and USC. The resulting tie was the Bruins' fourth of the season, to go along with six wins, but did nothing to resolve the deadlock atop the Pacific Coast Conference. In the end, USC wound up in the Rose Bowl, putting an end to Washington's UCLA career. At the end of that game, he was given a standing ovation by the 103,000 fans at the Coliseum.
After his All-America season of 1939, the Helms Foundation named him the Athlete of the Year for all of Southern California. Liberty Magazine named him Back of the Year.
After graduation, he couldn't join the NFL as blacks were not allowed, so he played semi-professional football for a few years. In 1946 when the Cleveland Rams moved to Los Angeles, the commissioners of the Los Angeles Coliseum stipulated as part of the agreement that the team be integrated. As a result, the team signed Washington, 27 by then, and fellow UCLA teammate Strode.
Washington’s NFL stint lasted only three years due to knee injuries, but the impact he had on the league was enormous. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1956, and his number 13 jersey was the first to be retired at UCLA. After his retirement from football, Washington became a police officer for the Los Angeles Police Department.
The boy who earned the nickname "Kingfish" at Lincoln High School became the man who pioneered integration in the National Football League. For all of the individual accolades that Kenny Washington recorded, he will be remembered most for what he did for other people.
Last Week’s Trivia
In 1981, Tony Dorsett rushed for 1646 yards, but ran the ball into the end zone only four times all season.
Trivia Question of the Week
Dick Littlefield was a journeyman major league pitcher whose career is quite forgettable. But he is associated with one piece of baseball history. What is it? See next week’s Sports Junkie for the answer.