Quick Takes


          The 1972 Munich Olympics began as a festive sports event, and ended in terrorism and bloodshed. I remember it all too well, and I learned a great deal more about it from the current movie, Munich. I highly recommend this powerful Steven Spielberg production.


Re: the NFL conference championships, I did well financially, but no thanks to the Broncos. I did well only because I put more money on Seattle than I did on Denver, and the Seahawks bailed me out. I had to be nuts to put any major amount of money on Plummer in a clutch game.


I’ve already bet the Steelers in the Super Bowl at -4. Why? They beat the top seeds in the AFC to get this far. Their only close playoff game, at Indy, was due to a lousy ref call. They won all those games on the road. If Pitt can be that strong in three games on the road, then a neutral field ala Detroit will be like a home game for the Steelers. Their road to the Super Bowl has been far more impressive than has Seattle’s. And Pitt’s defensive coordinator, Dick LeBeau, has come up with great defensive schemes against all of their opposition; I love his defense! Also, I feel the line will move higher if it moves at all, so I’m happy with a -4 early. (If you like the favorites, bet 'em early, and if you like the dogs, bet 'em late, so say the experts.) That’s it! We'll all know how smart I am in two weeks.   


Kobe Bryant pumped in 81 points last Sunday against Toronto. He was 28 for 46 from the field, and 18 for 20 from the free throw line. Very impressive! However, one-man gangs don’t win titles. Much has been written about Magic Johnson making everyone around him better. I don’t see Kobe doing that on this edition of the Lakers. If the Lakers are going to be a legitimate contender, then Bryant’s supporting cast has to make a greater contribution.


I still want to know how Knicks President Isiah Thomas keeps his job. He is to the Knicks what Matt Millen is to the Detroit Lions in the same role; that's not good! And wouldn’t you like to know how nomad Larry Brown truly feels today about leaving the power-Pistons to coach the nothing-Knicks? Detroit is 34-5 at this writing; New York is 13-26, and no light in sight. Thomas stated recently that he's not concerned about Brown's performance. Question..........is anyone monitoring President Thomas' performance?    


Story of the Week



          Fans admired him, opposing coaches even envied him, and players loved the way he inspired and treated them. Marv Levy’s eloquence could be measured by word and action, and his ability to motivate and lead by bottom-line results. For 47 years, he was equal parts coach, teacher, father-figure, strategist and organizer. The final 12 of those years, he was the innovative genius behind the Buffalo Bills.

Marv Levy, a cerebral coach with a masters degree in English from Harvard, will best be remembered for a frustrating but truly enviable distinction; he is the only coach to lose four straight Super Bowls. It has to be a frustrating legacy, but in my mind, it’s an enviable one as most coaches never make it to the Super Bowl even once. (Another stellar coach, Bud Grant, was 0-4 in Super Bowl competition with his Vikings, but those were not consecutive Super Bowl losses.)

          Levy, the always dignified Chicagoan, never let convention get in the way of logic. His brilliant mind encouraged innovation, and he treated his players as professionals, demanding only effort and preparation. His Buffalo teams dominated the AFC, compiling a 112-70 regular season record, and winning six AFC East division titles and those four straight AFC championship games from 1990-1993. Prior to Buffalo, Marv Levy head-coached the Montreal Alouettes to two Grey Cup titles, and the Kansas City Chiefs.

          What should the personality of a good head coach in the NFL be like? Should he be animated and loquacious ala Vince Lombardi, or more contained and dignified like Tom Landry? Should his intense facial expressions contort like those of Pittsburgh’s Bill Cowher, or is the contemplative and controlled look projected by Indianapolis’ Tony Dungy the preferred image? Should he display his fragile emotions with an occasional no-holds-barred tirade that includes four-letter expletives like Mike Ditka, or by seeking to hold back a tear or two as did Kansas City’s Dick Vermeil at times? According to Marv Levy, the personality of a football coach makes no difference whatsoever so long as what the coach projects is his genuine self. 

Levy believes that there are three essential qualities found in every successful NFL head coach:

***First, the coach’s ability to teach. The coach must be able to convey to his players the merit and value of what he is seeking to accomplish. It is the art of leadership; getting his players to get the best out of themselves.

***Second, the coach’s ability to work well with others. The coach must be desirous of forming a relationship with others in the organization that results in everyone working together toward a common goal.

***Finally, the coach must be honest with his players. He must not make promises he cannot keep. He has to be a straight–shooter, and that includes being critical of his players, but only face-to-face, and never through the media. The operative word Levy used here is honesty.

          Marv Levy apparently did something right. He was one of the most loved and respected coaches ever to pace NFL sidelines. And he is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

          UPDATE:  Even since I wrote this article for publication today, Marv Levy, on 1/5 of this year and at the ripe young age of 80, has assumed the position of President of Football Operations and GM for his former team, the Buffalo Bills. He proceeded to hire retread Dick Jauron as head coach, a hire I don't like, but Marv Levy never consulted me.


Last Week’s Trivia


          Oh say can you see? Robert Goulet actually forgot the words to the Star Spangled Banner as he attempted to sing it at the Clay (by then Ali)-Liston rematch for the heavyweight title in 1965. Fortunately for Goulet, few people were in attendance in Lewiston, Maine. Only 2,434 fans attended, setting a record for the lowest attendance ever for a world title fight. Liston ostensibly didn’t show up either; he was kayoed in the first round. That’s rather questionable; at least we know he went down in the first round.


Trivia Question of the Week


          Vic Power passed away in November last year. He was a fine player in the major leagues from 1954-1965. Power, from Puerto Rico, had a lifetime batting average of .284, and was an outstanding fielder at various positions. During his 12 years in MLB, he had just 45 stolen bases, and was caught stealing 35 times. But in 1958 he did something most unique, especially by his standards. What was it? See next week’s Sports Junkie for the answer.