The New England Patriots demolished Indianapolis, and they did the same to Pittsburgh to a slightly lesser degree. Neither outcome was ever in question. Now that the combatants have been determined for the big dance, I'll be surprised if New England loses to Philadelphia in the Super Bowl. Championship teams all share one basic characteristic; they are all superior "fundamentally." And this yearís edition of the Patriots relies on fundamentals. So look for another New England Super Bowl title on February 6th.
MLB is so diluted. David Wells is 41 and just signed a two-year deal with Boston that could be worth up to $18 million. Randy Johnson is 41 and was coveted by the Yankees for 2005 and beyond. Roger Clemens is 42 and will be paid $18 million by Houston this season. Why can these pitchers be so effective at those ages? Because theyíre pitching to AA and AAA hitters known as major leaguers today. Taking nothing away from ability at any age, MLB is hardly a melting pot of great talent and depth these days. Because of expansion, itís true in all major sports today; the more teams, the less the quality of each team. But itís more obvious in baseball than any other sport.
Story of the Week
THE ICE BOWL OF 1967
Vince Lombardi was never much of a gambler. The legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers won by not taking lots of chances. He relied on team discipline, execution and fundamentals for the most part. But he rolled the dice on December 31, 1967 in what is known by the climate-inspired conditions in Green Bay as "The Ice Bowl."
The temperature was well below zero. The 15 mph winds whipping through Lambeau Field drove the wind chill factor down to a numbing 46 degrees below zero. The playing field was frozen. The NFL championship was on the line, and the game between the Packers and the Dallas Cowboys would be played.
Bart Starr tossed two touchdown passes to Boyd Dowler in the first quarter, thus giving Green Bay a confident 14-0 lead. It appeared they were easily on their way to their third straight NFL title. Ignoring the Packersí lead and the intense cold, the Cowboys battled their way back in the second quarter. Cowboys defensive end, George Andrie, scooped up a Starr fumble, and ran it in for a touchdown. And just before the first half ended, Packers safety, Willie Wood, fumbled a punt, setting up a Cowboys field goal by Danny Villanueva. At the half, the Cowboys trailed 14-10, but the momentum had shifted.
The second half found the Cowboys moving the ball. They took the lead on the first play of the fourth quarter on a 51-yard option pass from Dan Reeves to Lance Rentzel. (Rentzel left "hot" wife, Joey Heatherton, to play in frigid Green Bay. Now thatís a tough decision!) The score stood at 17-14 with Dallas in the lead.
Down by three points with under five minutes to go in regulation, Green Bay was 68 yards away from the end zone. Starrís passing and Chuck Merceinís power-running drove the ball to the Dallas three-yard line. Lombardi then ran Donny Anderson twice to get within the one-yard line. The Packers called their final time-out with but 16 seconds left.
Lombardi obviously had a choice to make. He could go for the game-tying field goal and force overtime, an option that made perfect sense to me in that the Packers were at home and the kick was a "gimme." Or he could go for the win right now, knowing failure would cost the Packers the game if they were stopped short and stayed in bounds unable to stop the clock.
Coach Lombardi went for the gamble, and called for Starr to run the QB sneak behind right guard, Jerry Kramer. Kramer was facing the Cowboys' brilliant defensive tackle, Jethro Pugh. Fortunately for Green Bay, Pugh lost his footing on the frozen turf, and Starr followed Kramer into the end zone for the win, and the right to play the AFLís Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl II. Regardless of the outcome and the team you were pulling for, "The Ice Bowl" was a game that will never be forgotten.
Last Week's Trivia
The first black player in the NBA was Chuck Cooper, having been drafted by the Boston Celtics in 1950. Iíve always thought that to be somewhat of a dichotomy in that the very last MLB team to sign a black player was the Boston Red Sox.
Trivia Question of the Week
What pitcher holds the MLB record for the fewest pitches during a nine-inning complete game? See next weekís Sports Junkie for the answer.