January 17, 2008

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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 dlong@hippopress.com. 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.


1/10/2008 Grumpy old Dolphins are lost at sea on this one

1/3/2008 The primary concern is getting a clear picture
12/27/2007 The annual sports awards close out 2007
12/20/2007 Holiday gifts for the deserving and not so deserving
12/13/2007 Jets land in Foxboro as pat go number 14
12/06/2007 To include or not to include Ellsbury ó that is the questione
11/29/2007 Yanked from the sports pages in the Big Apple
11/22/2007 Here's what I'm thankful for at Thanksgiving
11/15/2007 Waiting game leads to a series of random thoughts
11/8/2007 OK ó it's week nine and I'm ready to talk
11/1/2007 Finally a little shut-eye for a sleep deprived nation
10/25/2007 A rocky mountain high for Red Sox Nation
10/18/2007 Time to go to the mailbag
10/112007 Who'd more popular, Patriots or Red Sox
10/4/2007 IA weekend chock full of nuts, chokes and great moments
9/27/2007 I hate to say I told you so...
9/20/2007 Media and fan bias shades the severity of sports crime
9/13/2007 All round baseball week starts with a look at leaders
9/6/2007 It's Superbowl or bust for Pats in 2007
8/30/2007 The race is on as baseball enters September
8/23/2007 Spine vs. lack of spine theme for school board debate
8/16/2007 Time for thoughts from the summer mailbag
8/9/2007 Will this three make it big in Boston?
8/2/2007 Trading places all in a day's work for Boston GMs
7/26/2007 Getting out of a slump; an ameteur golfer can feel Sox' pain
7/19/2007 Does second chance guarantee a great outcome?
7/12/2007 Masse still a honeymooner in local baseball culture
7/5/2007 Brown Monster a big Fisher Cat hit
6/28/2007 Rambling along with some random thoughts
6/21/2007 The future is now for the C's come Thursday night
6/14/2007 Homers create bonds among fans for generations
6/07/2007 Sox win by losing two of three this weekend
5/31/2007 Lutz of things to think about
5/24/2007 Down 2-0 Mís for playoff payoff
5/17/2007 Baseballs' conventional wisdom is for the birds
5/10/2007 The Rocket lands in Gotham during Monarchs' playoff break
5/3/2007 Raiders say "No Moss" in fight with talented wideout
4/26/2007 A little history on the ancient Sox and Yanks rivalry
4/19/2007 Lessons to be learned from Robinson, Monarchs and I-Man
4/12/2007 A few questions for the sports gods
4/5/2007 Stanton his case on a variety of current topics
3/29/2007 Sox spring back into action on Monday
3/22/2007 A guide for having fun on NCAA hockey weekend
3/15/2007 The madness of March kicks off on Thursday
3/8/2007 Jumping through hoops after an odd season
3/1/2007 A trip to the mail bag for Hippo Sports
2/22/2007 Six degrees of Muhammed Ali
2/15/2007 Monarchs rule as streak reaches 12
2/8/2007 Talking a good game ahead on all-sports WGAM
2/1/2007 Manning the Super Bowl watch more difficult in '07
1/25/2007 Winning and what else matters in college coaching
1/18/2007 ESPN polls are fanning the flames of national lunacy
1/11/2007 Patriots marching to MIami promised land
1/4/2007 Predictions for 2007
12/28/2006 REcognizing the best on the national front
12/21/2006 Present under the tree for all
12/14/2006 Mailbag open for busines at a time filled with questions
12/07/2006 Lions and Gators and Bears, oh my
11/30/2006 Does Fenway frankness roll to the negative side?
11/23/2006 Turkeys and thanks as the big day arrives
11/16/2006 Green-around-the-gills Celts looking to earn some respect
11/9/2006 Blame game reaches new local low
11/2/2006 A week of highs and lows in sport
10/26/2006 Curses! The U is foiled again
10/19/2006 Time for a trip to the sports mailbag
10/12/2006 U turns Granite Stare around on football
10/05/2006 James' gang riding into town to face the Celtics
09/28/2006 Words to describe a lost Red Sox season
09/21/2006 Football Friday can't stack up to Saturday
09/14/2006 A lesson to be learned in remembering a somber day
09/07/2006 Usual pat choice to win AFC East questioned
08/31/2006 Whining won't yank AL East away from NY
08/24/2006 Spring forward or fall behind for Sox
08/17/2006 Trash talking abounds in the Empire over Sox and Pats
08/10/2006 Monarchs call press conference to crown new leader
08/03/2006 Deadly Fenway duo leave mark on history
07/27/2006 Word of the wise gets lost in sports translation
07/20/2006 Looking beyond the Big Three
07/13/2006 Cream rises to the top of baseball talk at the Dot
07/06/2006 Greetings and salutations toThe Nation at mid-year
06/29/2006 Being dealt is a consequence of the trade
06/22/2006 A year later, Boudreau's cup runneth over
06/15/2006 See dogs and cats battle for a different fan experience
06/08/2006 Not Bad Anymore league makes a comeback
06/01/2006 Luck goes Sox way with Lowell in Massachusetts
05/25/2006 Pitching in to help the Sox trade a few places
05/18/2006 Going to school by cutting Red Sox payroll
05/11/2006 Columnist blows his mind; here are the results
05/04/2006 Yanks stormed Manchester 37 years ago this week
04/27/2006 Regular crowd nowhere to be found come playoff time
04/20/2006 Questions and answers from the mailbag
04/13/2006 Local sports teams spring into action
04/06/2006 Predictable Red Sox season lies ahead
03/30/2006 Analyzing this and that as Pats roster shrinks
03/23/2006 A week of following the bouncing balls
03/16/2006 The beginning of four days of basketball bliss
03/09/2006 Many miss the central point of the story
03/02/2006 Better late than never to jump through local hoops
02/23/2006 Celtic green means raw, not envy as it once did

02/16/2003 An issue that is all black and white
02/09/2006 Nomar curses from the UL's Sullivan
02/02/2006 Super memories from 40 years of watching the big game
01/26/2006 A certain uniformity to the inquiries in the mailbag
01/19/2006 Sudden end to Pats' season leave just one thing to do
01/12/2006 Pats on the back for the football team
01/05/2006 Predictions for Manchester Sports 2031
A lesson for Leo the Lip and nice guys everywhere

Chop House opening is Berra of good news
Event-filled weekend missed en route to evil empire
Heroís death lays to rest misuse of the word
Saint Theo ascends to new heights in The Nation
Santa sack filled to the brim with sports
Patriots march through injuries toward threepeat
Sports talk should be on the air
Stars shine brightest when winning is in the mix
The†Demonization of Johnny Damon

Thirty-seven topics and so little space
Too many holes in Sox for repeat
Trip to the injured list makes it a long weekend for local scribe
Turkeys and giving thanks take center stage this week
Yanked from the edge of your seat