Quick Takes. All NFL This Week.

          Here’s to the nomadic New Orleans Saints, America’s team in the truest sense. That team has been through hell thus far this season. They sucked it up and won the opening game of the season on the road in Charlotte. It was announced that they’ll play four of their remaining home games in Baton Rouge and three in San Antonio following this week’s home game against the Giants in N.J.  I was so pleased to see that Baton Rouge would be the site of at least half their home schedule this year. The entire area needs this psychological lift. I hope the Saints have the talent and the frame of mind to play with a chip on their collective shoulders, and make it to the playoffs. That really would be converting lemons to lemonade, and it would be one helluva story, one that would transcend sports. And I hope I’m correct in the assumption that owner Tom Benson wants to keep the Saints in Louisiana where they belong.

This editorial is long overdue. The St. Louis Rams’ Leonard Little is a tremendous football player. In October of 1998, while driving drunk after a night in a St. Louis bar, Little slammed into a car driven by Susan Gutweiler, 47, killing her. It was manslaughter! He received a sentence of 90 days in a workhouse and 1,000 hours of community service, hardly an apples-to-apples punishment for the crime. He has always maintained that he feels great remorse from it all, but I don’t believe it for a moment. Why? Because last year, Little was again arrested, this time for drunk driving, a charge that qualifies as a felony due to the 1998 incident. Leonard Little continues to play football, and the Rams and the NFL and our judicial system permit it. After all, he’s a celebrity; rules and laws for these people are not the same as they are for you and me. I’m laying 8:5 right now that Leonard Little and his booze will cause yet another headline before it’s all over. Bet on it!

Jerry Rice rewrote the records for wide receivers. He was the best ever at that position. It’s only a matter of time before he enters Canton as a 49er. There were three teams after San Francisco. He told Bob Costas on an HBO interview on 9/9 that he’d really like to leave the game right now as a 49er, getting on the field one more time and catching one more pass. The 49ers should do it immediately; they owe Jerry Rice that, and their fans would love it. One roster move, one game, one pass completion, and then his formal retirement at halftime of that game, allowing Rice to go out in the style he wants and deserves. Too bad it was Costas who came up with the thought, and not the 49ers.

          There is no worse coach in the NFL when it comes to managing the clock and managing his team’s time-outs than Mike Martz of the Rams. I rest my case with the Rams’ loss to S. F. last Sunday. Martz and strategy are not exactly synonyms. Martz and the Rams were able to perform the magical illusion of making the lowly 49ers look like the Patriots for one day, and that took lots of talent.

          When Baltimore QB Kyle Boller sustained an injury during last week’s game, the classless Ravens’ fans took their frustration out on him by cheering the injury to their own player. After that display, Baltimore’s idiot fans deserve what they’re getting, namely an offense that isn’t an offense. I question whether any QB would be successful in Brian Billick’s system. And they surely didn't emphasize pass offense in the off-season, and it shows.

            Now for the clincher of Week 1. Who do you think led the Arizona Cardinals in rushing last week? It was Kurt Warner with a whole 11 yards. That, boys and girls, speaks volumes for the Cardinals' running game.


Story of the Week


          The talented basketball-playing Marvin Barnes should have been nicknamed “Bad News.” Jim Barnes, the New York Knicks’ flop, was actually given that moniker, but it would have been far more appropriate for Marvin. When it comes to a monumental waste of talent, I can think of but a few who rivaled Marvin Barnes for that dubious distinction.

          Marvin was an All-American standout at Providence College before squandering his almost limitless talents in the professional arenas of the short-lived ABA. For three seasons in the early 70’s, the 6’-9” Marvin Barnes was one of the biggest stars ever produced at basketball-rich Providence. The nation’s leading rebounder in 1974, Barnes averaged 20+ in scoring for each of his three collegiate seasons, and was the second leading scorer, behind Ernie DiGregorio, on a team that reached the NCAA Final Four in 1973. It was a dislocated kneecap suffered by Barnes in the semi-final game against Memphis State (since renamed the U. of Memphis) that may have prevented Providence from facing Bill Walton and UCLA at the St. Louis Arena. (I was at that thrill-packed NCAA series cheering on my favorite team, Memphis State, but to no avail as Walton and the Bruins were too much for them in the finals.)

          An ongoing penchant for poor judgment and flaky behavior, however, would dull Marvin Barnes’ pro career despite his considerable talents and resume of achievements that added such luster to his college tenure. First came the decision to sign with the fledgling and backwater ABA despite a #2 overall NBA draft selection by the Philadelphia 76ers. Barnes did manage two seasons of 24-point scoring averages with the ABA Spirits of St. Louis. However, his stay in St. Louis was loaded with off-court and off-color behavior that drew more commentary than his court prowess.

          Marvin had a much-publicized lust for flashy mink coats, pool halls, night clubs, expensive imported automobiles and an entourage of gorgeous women. (It all sounds good to me, but I’ll pass on the mink coats.) It was unfortunate that Marvin didn’t look too hard at his costly watches. During two seasons in St. Louis, Barnes missed numerous games, practices and personal appearances due to his unprofessional lifestyle.

          Things didn’t get much better during four NBA seasons which followed, and during his final two campaigns in Boston and San Diego, Marvin Barnes had tragically been reduced to an unwanted part-time benchwarmer. He concluded his career little more than a shadow of the awesome All-American talent of a few short seasons earlier. To paraphrase Marlon Brando in his epic “On The Waterfront,” Marvin Barnes could have been a contender; he could have been somebody.

Last Week’s Trivia

          Who holds the record for most strikeouts by a pitcher in a World Series game? The answer, of course, is the great, the absolutely sensational Bob Gibson. He struck out 17 in the Cards’ win over the Tigers in the opening game of the 1968 World Series. (I was at that game.)

Trivia Question of the Week

          What is the NCAA record for most rushing yards by one player in one game? (I’ll give you the one hint that will help you; I wasn’t at that game.) See next week’s Sports Junkie for the answer.