There are no fewer than 29 college football bowl games this year. When I was a young sports junkie, there were four; Orange, Sugar, Cotton and Rose. Those four bowl games were prestigious; it was a great honor and thrill for a university to play in those games. For the most part, as the great B. B. King sings, the thrill is gone; mediocre teams play one another now for television revenue in obscure venues in front of less-than-packed houses. And whatever honor is left is scrambled by the BCS computers.
I’m no USC fan, but I believe the Trojans have the best college football team in the country this year; Michigan could have something to say about that in the Rose Bowl, but I doubt it. Yet a team that was just humiliated, namely Oklahoma, will be playing for the national title, or so say the BCS computers, in the Sugar Bowl against LSU. For the record, the various BCS computers make their selections based on the same set of game stats, but give differing priorities to those pieces of data. How ludicrous!
There should be one more college bowl this year, the Toilet Bowl, and the BCS should be its only participant. In Las Vegas, we’d call that a royal flush!
Story of the Week
THE NFL OF THE 70'S
The decade of the 70’s was my favorite NFL period. My personal favorite player of all time, Roger Staubach, won two Super Bowls, and I was in New Orleans for both. And other most memorable contests were played during that time period as well.
When a committee assembled in 1988 by the Pro Football Hall of Fame chose the top 40 games in NFL history, 14 of those games came from the 70’s, more than any other decade. When the Seventy-Fifth Anniversary Selection Committee voted on the all-time NFL team, 29 of the 48 players chosen were active for some part of the ‘70s, another best. Let’s bisect 1970, obviously the first year of that decade.
When the final gun sounded at Super Bowl IV in January, 1970, it put to rest the American Football League. The merger of America’s two major football leagues announced four years earlier was now put into effect.
Clarification was still necessary. The NFL of 1969 had 16 teams, the AFL only 10. If the redefined NFL was to be balanced, three old NFL teams would have to join the newly-created American Football Conference. Not surprisingly, clubs didn’t exactly elbow one another in their haste to volunteer.
Finally, the Baltimore Colts, Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns, three franchises with a combined 74 years of NFL experience, agreed to do it for a price; each got $3 million as a tidy relocation fee for that time.
Chicago Bears running back Brian Piccolo, in his prime at 26, died in June. His battle with cancer was best described in Gale Sayers’ book, I Am Third, and later turned into a movie, Brian’s Song. The losses mounted as two legendary coaches, Vince Lombardi and Jimmy Conzelman, died in late summer. Conzelman was 72, but Lombardi was only 57, and his death had an impact on the very identity of the National Football League.
The most talked-about development of the 1970 season was the birth of "Monday Night Football." Even ABC must have been stunned by the popularity of its new week-night ritual, which in its inaugural season featured commentary by Howard Cosell and Don Meredith, and play-by-play by Keith Jackson. (Fortunately for my ears, Jackson would be replaced by Frank Gifford a year later.) Cosell and Meredith had about as much in common as night and day, but fun and entertainment were a constant in that booth, with Gifford providing the team’s glue. As Dandy Don eloquently stated, "If ifs and buts were candy and nuts, we’d all have a Merry Christmas", and Monday Night Football has provided ABC a very merry Christmas every year.
For the record, the Browns beat the New York Jets, 31-21, before 85,703 fans at Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium on September 21. That was the start of a national institution. Monday Night Football is the third longest-running prime-time series in TV history.
The 70’s unquestionably made a giant and lasting mark on the National Football League.
Last Week’s Trivia
What QB holds the ominous NFL record of seven fumbles in one game? He’s Hall-of-Famer Len Dawson.
Trivia Question of the Week
Babe Ruth hit 40 or more home runs in seven consecutive seasons. What major leaguer accomplished this feat in six consecutive seasons? See next week’s Sports Junkie for the answer.