Remember the name Bob Goodenow. It is my fervent opinion that the NHL is now officially dead this season because of him. Who is he? He’s the head of the NHL Players Union. In order for NHL teams to make money (keep in mind that hockey is a lousy tv sport, and teams do not derive revenue from the kind of lucrative tv contracts that are prominent in the other major sports), they have to go deep into the playoffs. The regular season schedule does not produce green ink for most NHL teams. Goodenow refused to recognize this fact, and refused to accept a reasonable salary cap offer from team owners. I applaud NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and especially the league owners for their hard stance. I believe the players want to play, and they obviously need to play for financial reasons. It’s too bad they didn’t make that desire known strongly enough to the guy who headed the negotiations on their behalf, Bob Goodenow, who receives his regular paychecks whether the players hit the ice or not.
Story of the Week
THE IMMACULATE RECEPTION
The Pittsburgh Steelers’ dominance over professional football in the 1970’s began on December 23, 1972 at Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers Stadium. The Central Division champs hosted the Western Division champion Oakland Raiders in the AFC Divisional playoff game.
The game was a defensive struggle, but a late touchdown by Raiders QB Ken Stabler put his team in the lead, 7-6. After the ensuing kickoff, the Steelers took over at their own 20-yard line with just 1:13 left in the game. Pittsburgh QB Terry Bradshaw moved the ball forward on two completed passes, but with 22 seconds left, he faced fourth down and 10 yards to go from his own 40-yard line.
Bradshaw called a play with receiver Barry Pearson as his first option, and running back "Frenchy" Fuqua as his second. From the beginning, everything about the play went wrong. The Oakland defensive line flushed Bradshaw from the pocket. Running back Franco Harris saw Bradshaw in trouble, and left his backfield blocking assignment to position himself as a potential receiver.
Bradshaw never saw Pearson, but did spot Fuqua across the middle about 20 yards downfield, and fired the ball to him. The ball arrived to Fuqua at the same time Raiders defensive back Jack Tatum hit Fuqua from behind. The ball went flying backward about 15 yards as Fuqua hit the ground, and ricocheted toward Harris, who caught it off his shoe-tops, and raced downfield, evading one last Raiders defender en route to the end zone for an incredible 60-yard touchdown. There were 15 seconds still on the game clock.
The Raiders contended that it was an illegal pass and should not count because the ball bounced off Fuqua to Harris. (The NFL rule was that a pass could not be tipped from one offensive player to another without a defensive player also touching the ball.) But referee Fred Swearingen ruled that the Raiders’ Jack Tatum had also touched the ball, making it a legal catch and a touchdown.
Pittsburgh kicked the extra point and won the game, 13-7. Although the Steelers lost the following week to Miami in the AFC Championship, their playoff win against the Raiders capped off the "Immaculate Reception," and laid the groundwork for the rest of the ‘70’s in which the Steelers would win four Super Bowls. (To this day, I maintain that that Steelers team is the greatest football team of all time.)
During a 2004 NFL telecast, the excellent Fox announcing corps was discussing quarterback ratings of some current QB’s. Howie Long asked Terry Bradshaw what his quarterback rating was when he played. Bradshaw summed it up quite succinctly when he answered "Four Super Bowl rings." He neglected to add that he never lost a Super Bowl; Bradshaw was four-for-four, and as fine a QB, if not the very best, who’s ever played the game.
Last Week’s Trivia
Ron Hunt of Montreal was hit by a record 50 pitches in 1971. He did love to crowd the plate, and pitchers loved to plunk him because of it.
Trivia Question of the Week
What was Mickey Mantle’s actual given first name? See next week’s Sports Junkie for the answer.