George Allen was so right about the importance of "special teams". Super Bowl XXXVIII was a prime example. After Carolina tied N.E. near the end of regulation, John Kasay’s kickoff went out of bounds, thus putting N.E. in business at their own 40. A few plays later, with time enough for one play in regulation, Adam Vinatieri kicked a 41-yard field goal to win it. We’ll never know what would have happened had Kasay not blundered as he did by giving the Pats their outstanding field position.
No question about it; in the clutch, John Kasay’s right foot and Janet Jackson’s right breast were both exposed at Super Bowl XXXVIII.
Story of the Week
Mario Lemieux scored on the first shift of his first NHL game with his first shot on net. It was an auspicious debut, and all the more remarkable because no one had entered the NHL with such high expectations since Wayne Gretzky was a rookie. The Pittsburgh Penguins had selected Lemieux with the first pick in the 1984 NHL entry draft.
The highly touted phenom scored 282 points in his last junior season. He wasted no time in the NHL, winning the Calder Trophy with his first of 10 100-point seasons, scoring 43 goals his first year. He earned a spot in the 1985 NHL All-Star Game that rookie season, and was voted MVP of the game with two goals and one assist.
As his brilliant career continued, Lemieux fell victim to back problems in 1990, and the great center missed the first 50 games of that regular season. But he dominated almost every game in the playoffs with 45 points in 26 games, and raised the Stanley Cup in victory.
He notched another scoring title in the 1991-92 season, despite missing 20 more games with back problems. He followed up with another brilliant playoff season, and another Stanley Cup for the Penguins.
On his way to another scoring crown, "Super Mario" was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease when a suspicious lump was found during a physical exam. He underwent two months of radiation treatment. When the doctors cleared him to play, he did so, and won the respect of everyone in hockey for his determination and dedication to the game in his miraculous comeback.
Further back surgery the following season, and Lemieux retired at age 31 after the 1996-97 season. As a tribute to his genius, the Hockey Hall of Fame waived the requisite three-year waiting period, and inducted Lemieux immediately.
Mario then came out of retirement. After just 10 games this season, Lemieux went through season-ending hip surgery in January. Through the 2003-04 season, he has notched 683 goals and 1018 assists in 889 games, an average of almost two points per game.
A minor point; Mario Lemieux just happens to be the owner of the Penguins. It would certainly be fair to state that the Quebec prodigy has accomplished it all in the NHL.
Last Week’s Trivia
What is journeyman 1B-OF Mike Lum’s claim to fame? On May 29, 1969, the Braves were drubbing the Mets, 12-0. Braves manager Lum Harris called on Mike Lum to see some action and to pinch-hit for the great Henry Aaron.
Trivia Question of the Week
In 1948, this 21-year-old pitcher was scouted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in his native country, but was not signed. He gave up baseball, and proceeded to become legendary in another capacity. He is world famous even today. Name him. See next week’s Sports Junkie for the answer.