LONGSHOTS: Peyton manning the fort back home as Pats take on Chargers
by Dave Long
I want to offer my official thanks to the Colts and Chargers for wrecking the column I was going to write this week. It was about where Peyton Manning and Tom Brady stack up in the NFL and in sports in general on the all-time list of playing rivals. I love doing columns like that, but noooo, as with Indy not coming to Foxboro the timing isnít right now.
So instead, hereís a random series of things Iím thinking of on the eve my favorite day of them all on the sports calendar ó when they play for the AFC and NFC titles on championship game Sunday.
This is probably a bad way to start since it has nothing to do with football, but happy birthday on Thursday to Muhammad Ali, Don Zimmer, former Bruin, Ranger and Canadian goalie Jacques Plante, long-ago Cowboy QB Eddie LeBaron, great Kenyan miler from the í60s Kipchoge Keino, Dwayne Wade, Jeremy Roenick ó not to mention Benjamin Franklin, James Earl Jones, Jim Carrey, Andy Kaufman, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Al Capone, and Liquor Commissioner Mark Bodi.
How do I know itís their birthday? What do you think? The 17th is mine too. I wonít tell you how old I am, but suffice it to say itís not going to make radio wag Pete Tarrier happy, because I was born before his 1993 point of sports talk demarcation, but after the savant-like and versatile Franklin discovered electricity.
And hereís todayís Sports 101 question: how old are Ali and Zimmer?
Is your glass half empty or half full on the Patriots defense? Or are you like me and just perplexed about it? They have holes in the secondary and at linebacker. Theyíve been pushed around by Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Indy. A. J. Feeley had career games against them. Yet they gave up fewer points than all but one team and when the second half rolls around, like against Jacksonville, they donít give up TDs.
If they get past the Chargers theyíre going to have to run it some, because that Packers secondary can really hit. Thatís why seeing Laurence Maroney run for 100-plus in the three of the last four is comforting. And who besides me and Coach B knows Maroney averages 26 yards a catch? And while he may not have a lot of them, it says maybe itís a good idea to get him the ball in space.
Iíve been saying this all year ó but 15 points against a gritty and very hot team like the Chargers seems like an awful lot. Although I must say maybe not if LT and Phillip Rivers arenít playing.
Hope they are, because thatís a crummy way to get to the Super Bowl or be eliminated from contention.
Iíll take the Giants and the seven in the other game, thank you, in part because my friend the insurance mogul and quietly maniacal Giants fan Dick Lombardi would never let me forget it if I didnít. Heís so into the Giants, heís been telling me Brandon Jacobs was a comer since he was in junior high.
It is me or is the refereeing in the NFL (and NBA) atrocious? I know itís a tough job and donít want to sound like Tommy Heinsohn bashing the refs, but there are three or four terrible calls every game. Really bad calls are like interceptions to me. So four a game is not good. The weekendís most glaring came on Antonio Cromartieís spectacular interception return to end the first half in Indy. Iím still looking for the hold that got it called back.
Wonder where Tony Romo is going on vacation this week? The best thing I can say about Dallas going out so early to in mourning Commissioner of Labor George Copadis, is the ending wasnít as gruesome as last year.
Hard to believe Dallas hasnít won a playoff game since the team Jimmy Johnson put together fell apart. Wonder if owner Jerry Jones regrets pushing him out to get a little more of the credit?
Iíve got no problem picking Brett Fav-re over Tom Brady for MVP. The Packers werenít supposed to be much and he was supposed to be done, so thereís a case. However, splitting the vote for All-Pro is bogus. With 50 TD passes and the undefeated regular season Brady should be a unanimous All-Pro.
Speaking of Brady: where does he now rank among the gods of New England sports? I say a Super Bowl win to finish off this season puts him above Larry Bird, Bobby Orr, every current Red Sox and Ted Williams, but below Bill Russell. Yes, thatís right, I said above Ted Williams.
Hereís a note to ESPN: how is it possible your nominations for the greatest highlight ever donít include any plays from Gale Sayers, Jimmy Brown, Barry Sanders, Emmitt Smith, Walter Payton, Eric Dickerson, or O. J. Simpson?
I get why you might not want O.J. in there, but his zigzagging 64-yarder to beat #1 UCLA in the Heisman showdown with Gary Beban that sent #2 USC to the Rose Bowl should be on the list. If you donít believe me, call it up on YouTube and see it for yourself.
And fellas, what about Bart Star sneaking over to win it for the Packers on the final play of the Ice Bowl? Itís not better than at least, Vince Carter dunking over a stiff named Frederic Weiss in the 2000 Olympics?
And speaking of dunks, what about when Tom Chambers was so high he almost put his shoe in 6í4Ē Mark Jacksonís mouth as he was trying to take a charge? Awesome Ba-by!
Hereís my two cents on two others. I get the clutch part, but the Joe Montana-to-Dwight Clark throw-and-catch is a bit overrated. Number one all-time? The ďImmaculate Reception.Ē Itís better than the Cal band out on the field, because it came in the flow of the game and stunned everyone who saw except Franco Harris.
Sports 101 Answer: Zimmer was born in 1931, which means only the mathematically challenged wonít know heís 77 and 11 years older than the champ.
Enjoy the games, everyone.
Dave Long can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He hosts the Absolute Sports Experience at Billyís Sports Bar in Manchester each Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon that is broadcast live on WGAM Ė The Game, 1250-AM Manchester, 900-AM Nashua.