Quick Takes


          Barbara Gee, President of Cover-Ubble Corporation, e-mails me weekly. She’s been a big fan of the Sports Junkie since early-2003. This website note is long overdue. Barbara, thank you very much. I appreciate you.  


          There are major differences between Vince Young of the #1 Texas Longhorns and other lightning-fast QB’s ala Kordell Stewart and Michael Vick. Young is much bigger and stronger. And Young can pass the ball on the money like a QB should. USC will attest to all of the above. Young will be an absolute star QB in the NFL.


          I don't handicap football games because I suck at it. I bet two bowl games this season. I had Oregon and USC. Next case!


          Comparing NFL regular season wins in 2005 versus 2004:

Most improved teams: Chicago, Washington & Tampa Bay (+6), Miami & Giants (+5), Carolina & Seattle (+4).

Most disappointing teams: Philadelphia (-7), Green Bay & Jets (-6), Houston & New Orleans (-5), New England, Buffalo & Pittsburgh (-4).


          Comparing NFL playoff teams of 2005 versus 2004:

Of the six NFC teams, five made it in 2005 that weren’t there in 2004; they are New York, Washington, Chicago, Tampa Bay and Carolina. Only Seattle returns from last year.

Of the six AFC teams, two made it in 2005 that weren’t there in 2004; they are Cincinnati and Jacksonville. The four returning teams from last year are New England, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis and Denver. Kansas City had the most wins (10) of any team that did not make the playoffs this season; that does speak to the comparative strength of the AFC.

Bottom line: Of the 12 NFL playoff teams in 2005, only five were there in 2004. There’s parity in the NFL, and that’s because of the bona-fide salary cap. It’s the only fair way for teams and fans alike.  


          In looking at the Yankees’ line-up for 2006, and as a result of their signing Johnny Damon to play CF, I have determined that I could start for them and win 20 games. They well may need me; they haven’t done much to better their questionable pitching staff. And no need to worry about Damon pitching; he can’t throw the ball 60’-6”. I’ve been screaming for a MLB salary cap for years; the NYY signing Damon for $52 million for four years is just another example of why MLB is so unfair to small market teams. The “luxury tax” just doesn’t get it done. But for you Yankee haters, 2006 ain’t over yet; offense is pretty and it’s a needed commodity, but pitching and defense win titles. And the Yankees are living proof of it; with all of their very publicized offense, they haven’t won a World Series in five years. I hope 2006 will keep that string going.


        What a surprise; the Raiders are looking for a new head coach again. Norv Turner is a coaching buffoon. He had no clue against the Giants last week as it relates to play selection and clock management. The Raiders’ organization sucks from top to bottom. Al Davis’ Commitment to Excellence is long gone.


Story of the Week



My feature stories run the gamut; various sports and various eras. That’s obviously by design as I try to mix it up. Veteran sports enthusiasts tell me they very much like my going back into yesteryear for some of the subjects I choose. That pleases me, but it actually pleases me more when young people tell me they like to read about those personalities from the distant past so that they can learn about them. The following is one such personality, and what a personality indeed.

Rocky Graziano was one of the most colorful fighters to ever step into a ring. He was born in New York in 1922. Thomas Rocko Barbella, his real name, was a whole 5’-7”, but threw a right hand that was loaded with dynamite. Though he often found himself embroiled in controversy during his boxing career, he emerged as one of the most popular fighters of the 1940’s and early ‘50s. Graziano overcame an impoverished, delinquent boyhood to become the middleweight champion of the world.

          After a stint in reform school, Rocky entered the Metropolitan AAU boxing tournament in New York as a replacement for another fighter. He won the tournament, his first organized boxing experience. Graziano served time in prison, and later, while in the army, served time in military prison for striking an officer no less. He officially began his professional boxing career in 1942 after fighting so-called amateur bouts for compensation before that.

          By 1945, Rocky had started to make a name for himself. In 1946, the title war between Graziano and middleweight champ Tony Zale commenced. Zale ultimately got the best of Graziano, but not until Rocky had worn the crown for a year. The two fighters fought three times for the middleweight title. They were classic grudge matches with Rocky winning one of the three. They were all bloody affairs, and lasted a collective total of just 15 rounds. Those three fights took place in ’46, ’47 and ’48.

          The Zale fights served as prime examples of Graziano’s style. A great slugger, Graziano was not a clever boxer. He absorbed a tremendous amount of punishment while he waited for the opening he needed to try for a quick end to his fights. Rocky’s record of 52 knockouts in 83 fights is proof of his great punching ability.

          In 1952, Graziano went up against the magnificent middleweight champion, Sugar Ray Robinson, for one last title attempt. In the third round, Rocky actually floored Robinson, but Ray quickly recovered and knocked Graziano out in the same round. Graziano fought just once more before his retirement. His career record closed at 67 wins, 10 losses and 6 draws.

          Rocky Graziano then wrote an extremely successful autobiography titled “Somebody Up There Likes Me.” It was later made into a movie starring Paul Newman, the actor Graziano personally selected for the role. Rocky then enjoyed a career as an actor before passing away in 1990. He did not live to enjoy his enshrinement in the Boxing Hall of Fame in 1991.


Last Week’s Trivia


          Amazing but true. During his two years with the Oakland A’s in 1974 and 1975, Herb Washington appeared in 105 games, scored 33 runs and stole 31 bases. He never went to bat even once. He did nothing but pinch-run his entire MLB career.


Trivia Question of the Week


          What NFL team was the first to put emblems on its helmets? When? See next week’s Sports Junkie for the answer.