What were the biggest surprises of the past NFL season? There were several surprises, both team and individual performances (there always are), but there were two that deserve equal top-billing:
One was the complete positive turnaround of the New Orleans Saints from the season (and the 40 years) before. After just three wins in 2005, they won 10 games this regular season, plus a playoff game, before losing the NFC title game.
The other was the complete negative turnaround(s) of the New England Patriots in the AFC title game. Totally uncharacteristic of quality teams like the Patriots, they blew an 18-point lead, and then two different leads in the clutch.
Jules Rothman hopped a plane for a pre-birthday visit a week ago. Diane and Neil Kessler did the same for my birthday this weekend. It’s an every-February 6th. event for us here in Vegas as Neil and I share the same birth date. (So do Babe Ruth and Ronald Reagan, but they were unable to be with us.) Diane was in St. Louis during the World Series, and brought back a magnificent Cardinals championship cap and shirt for my birthday. To all my friends, in-towners and out-of-towners, who made my birthday so super, I love ya.
It's easier to write about sports than to handicap the games. You guessed it; I bet the Bears.
After the Super Bowl, Neil commented, “They gave the MVP award to the wrong quarterback. Grossman was the Colts’ MVP." Neil wants David Letterman to stop using his lines.
Stephen Murphy is absolutely correct. He told me Grossman’s performance in the Super Bowl typifies how difficult it is to play QB successfully at the NFL level.
I don’t understand why Lovie Smith didn’t go to the bullpen to replace Grossman when the ship was sinking. Grossman’s turnovers and no offense were ample reason to seek relief pitching.
Bing Devine passed away recently. Devine was a highly respected GM of the St. Louis Cardinals, both the baseball and football Cardinals, and the New York Mets. His greatest acquisitions were Hall-of-Famers Bob Gibson and Lou Brock for the Cards. The Brock-for-Ernie Broglio trade with the Cubs in 1964 was one of the most lopsided deals in baseball history.
Shaquille O'Neal has played just nine games this season. He was named to the NBA All-Star team. It doesn’t get more ridiculous than that.
Story of the Week
WILLIE DAVIS (BOTH OF THEM)
THE BASEBALL PLAYER
Before Willie Davis became the fine major leaguer that he was, the Sporting News selected him as the best minor league player in 1960.
Willie Davis was one of the fastest players in baseball in the 1960s as he patrolled centerfield for the Los Angeles Dodgers, stealing 20 or more bases 11 straight seasons, and playing on three pennant-winning teams. His nickname of “Three Dog” came from both his penchant for hitting triples and the fact that he wore the number 3 on his uniform.
Davis played more than 2,200 games in centerfield, third in MLB history at that position. Davis was a three-time NL Gold-Glove winner. He was an All-Star selection twice. He appeared in three World Series (Dodgers in 1963, 1965 and 1966) and one ALCS (California in 1979). He had consecutive game hitting streaks of 31 games in 1969 and 25 games in 1971. On May 24, 1973, Willie hit safely six times.
The lefty retired after an 18-year career with 2,561 hits, 398 steals, 182 homers, and a .279 average.
In the 1965 World Series, Davis had three stolen bases in one game against the Twins, thus setting a record.
In the fifth inning of Game Two of the 1966 World Series against the Orioles, Davis three errors, also setting a record, an ominous one at that.
Willie Davis was a tremendous ballplayer. He could play CF for me anytime.
THE FOOTBALL PLAYER
defensive lineman combined size with devastating speed, Willie Davis made his
mark as a stalwart on the dominant Packers teams of the 1960s.
Willie, who grew up in rural Louisiana and graduated from Grambling University, had a hard time getting his professional career started. A two-year stint in the Army and the Cleveland Browns' indecision on where to best utilize Willie's vast talents were the main culprits. A trade in 1960 to the Green Bay Packers, then considered to be the Siberia of pro sports, did little to inspire Davis. In fact, he briefly considered quitting.
Vince Lombardi, however, had different plans. He recognized immediately that Davis' strength, speed and agility would be best utilized as a defensive lineman. Thus began one of the greatest careers ever at that position.
Five straight Pro Bowls, five All-NFL’s in six seasons, 21 fumble recoveries in 162 straight games played, five NFL championships and two Super Bowl wins are testaments to Davis' dominance. Willie, however, was ever-cognizant of the fleeting nature of a professional football career. That’s why he earned his Masters in business from the University of Chicago and entered a major company's management training program, all before his playing days were over.
Willie felt it was important for kids to "remember me as a player who moved on to success off the field." As a role model, Willie Davis set an example for all children to emulate. As the Hall-of-Fame player he was, he did the same for the Packers.
Last Week’s Trivia
On March 23, 1952, Bill Mosienko, right wing of the Chicago Black Hawks, set a record that still stands today and will never be broken. He scored three goals in the span of 21 seconds against the New York Rangers in the final game of the season. All three goals were assisted by one teammate, Gus Bodnar, who set a record of his own for the three fastest assists in NHL history.
Bill Mosienko’s grandson, Tyler, is a center for our local ECHL team, the Las Vegas Wranglers.
Trivia Question of the Week
What made the 1957 MLB All Star Game so unique? See next week’s Sports Junkie for the answer.