Quick Takes


          On 12-1, I wrote that the Colts would not run the table this year. Although I’m not ready now to write them out of the Super Bowl, it will not surprise me in the slightest if they don’t make it to the big game. And the team that beat them Sunday, the Chargers, just could be the best team in the NFL right now, and they may not make the playoffs. They’re 9-5, and their five losses are by a cumulative total of just 14 points. If you want a team with a bunch of close losses, just hire Marty Schottenboring as your head coach.


Cheers to my favorite basketball team in the land, the University of Memphis. Now ranked #4 in the country, John Calipari has done a great job of recruiting and coaching. And there’s only one senior starter on that team! I’ve waited a long time for this, since 1973 to be exact. As Dick Vitale would say, “The Tigers have somethin’ goin’ here, baby!”  I'm already ready for March madness!


          My hat is off to Don Shula and Bob Griese for not being hypocrites. They were openly pulling for San Diego to bump off Indy on Sunday to keep Miami’s bragging rights to the only perfect record (1972) in NFL history. If I had been a part of that Dolphins team, I’d have done the very same thing.


The Red Sox ownership and management let Johnny Damon walk. And look where he walked; to their nemesis  in NY. In defense of Boston, I don’t think Damon is worth $13 million a year; centerfielders should be able to throw the ball to their cut-off man on less than five bounces. That’s not the point. What is the point? Three-fold! They still don’t have a GM replacement. They are in total disarray with lots of holes and unanswered questions in their line-up. And the gross embarrassment is that they learned about Damon’s defection to the Yankees after the fact on the news. How weak is that?!


          My hat is off as well to Joe Paterno. He’s been the head coach at Penn State for an incredible 55 years. If he were a publicly-traded security on the NYSE a year ago, you’d have written him off for dead, sold your holdings and then sold him short. Look what a year can do. Paterno, now 79, was just named AP College Football Coach Of The Year for his 10-1 record and great comeback. My hat is off to him for yet another reason; during his 55 years at Penn State, he has stressed the importance of his athletes applying themselves from an academic standpoint, and getting their degrees. He is a quintessential class act!


          Kobe’s 62 the other night was terrific, but no reason to be surprised. He’s a gunner, and gunners gun! And the Lakers are his team; he’s the only real performer on that team . Only two other Lakers are in double figures this year, so when Bryant puts up 31 shots from the field in three periods as he did against Dallas, don’t be surprised. What I don’t understand is why he didn’t finish the deed and play in Q4.


Story of the Week



One of the most talented natural athletes ever to grace the Atlantic Coast Conference, Len Bias would also, in the most perverse fashion one can imagine, turn out to be a major draft-day mistake for the Boston Celtics.

 Draft days had been good to the Celtics. There was the maneuver to obtain Bill Russell from the St. Louis Hawks in 1957. The Russell deal was enough to underpin the greatest dynasty in NBA history. There was the prescient pick of Dave Cowens in 1970. There was the cogent selection of the magnificent Larry Bird in 1978. There were the related maneuvers in 1980 that brought McHale and Parish on board, and left the Warriors holding Joe Barry Carroll as consolation. And even a foolish Auerbach move in rejecting Cousy his first year on the job turned golden when fate dealt Cousy to Boston anyway, despite Auerbach’s cold shoulder to the eventual NBA star. But in the case of Len Bias, fate would prove to be entirely uncooperative with the best laid plans of the Boston Celtics.

The sensational front page reports of the final scandalous hours of Len Bias’ all-too-short life have forever blurred the great Maryland star’s collegiate basketball achievements. Death from a mysterious overdose of cocaine not only robbed Bias of his promised future in the fast lane of professional sports celebrity, but it also ultimately wiped out a legacy as one of the most brilliant of all ACC performers.

Len Bias was a near super-human player who was often compared with some of basketball’s best all-time performers. Frequently were parallels drawn with the likes of Michael Jordan for untapped college basketball brilliance and unlimited pro potential. Today the public vividly recalls how Bias died and what may have been lost in the process. Few but the most avid fans of the sport and the league still recall the back-to-back ACC Player of the Year accolades. Few remember the pure athletic brilliance of his game. Few recount the remarkable ACC Tournament performance in 1984 that won MVP honors. That 1984 post-season ACC championship game featured Maryland vs Duke, and Maryland won it on the strength of sophomore Bias’ late-game 14-point scoring spree. That game was a joyous sign of things to come as well as a sad foreshadowing of things that would regrettably never be.

Len Bias died on June 19, 1986 at age 22, just 48 hours after the Boston Celtics selected him in the NBA draft.


Last Week’s Trivia


          The heaviest wrestler of all time was William Cobb. He wrestled as a professional as Happy Humphrey. He tipped the scale at 800+ pounds. I saw a picture of Happy when he “fought” Haystacks Calhoun in 1961. Calhoun was a lightweight………………at 600 pounds.


Trivia Question of the Week


          He never played a down in the NFL. Yet his team retired his number. Who was he and what were all of the circumstances? See next week’s Sports Junkie for the answer.