1-Man’s Opinion on Sports–Friday “Chargers Football–Where Were You On This Weekend?”

Posted by on January 17th, 2020  •  0 Comments  • 

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“Where Were You 25-Years Ago”

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It’s AFC–NFC Championship weekend, and all NFL fans attentions will be on Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City and at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara.

Where were you when it happened on the special San Diego Sunday?  I am talking about 25-years ago this coming Sunday, during the day, in the evening?

It was 25-years ago this AFC-Championship Sunday, our hearts, minds and passions were on 3-Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh.  The Chargers beat the Steelers for the right to go to the Super Bowl in Miami.

Yes the Bolts got blown out by Steve Young’s 6-TD passes as the 49ers smoked San Diego on Super Bowl Sunday.

But it was 25-years Sunday, the Bolts went into Blitzburgh and beat Bill Cowher’s heavily favored team in the AFL title game.  And it was that night that 68,000-fans showed up in the rain at 10-pm at then Jack Murphy Stadium to welcome home the team.

They walked on the field thru the tunnel, just off the buses from the Airport, smoking cigars, raising the AFC-Trophy, waving the Terrible Towels they had picked up off the turf in Pittsburgh.

The noise, the bedlam, the fans in the stands wearing Lightning Bolts was a moment to remember.

It was a Sunday of superb performances.  Stan Humphries huge touchdown bomb to ‘Touchdown’ Tony Martin.  The wham blocking tight end Alfred Pupunu catching a TD pass.  Natrone Means banging and busting for tough yards.  A defensive front and LB-Junior Sean stuffing RB-Barry Foster all day.  A secondary that gave up yards infront of them to Neil O’Donnell, but never the big play.  And the two defensive pass deflections on the goal-line by LB-Dennis Gibson.

It was a moment in a lifetime grasp.  Equally important was the journey that got the Chargers to Pittsburgh.

The opening Sunday night win back in September in Denver, in a place the Chargers never-ever won, at least not in the John Elway era.  Seau’s interception with under a minute to go, ended the possible game winning drive.  Thunder and Lightning danced across the Denver sky at that moment.  Maybe we should have had a premonition.

Teams that got hot, became targets on everyone’s schedule.  Humphries was getting battered up in Seattle by a Chuck Knox defense that blitzed him unmercifully.  Pinned at his own 1-yard line, facing what I called on a radio as a “3rd and 99”, my color analyst Jim Laslavic chimed in throw it, and Pat Curran, our other color analyst, said throw it deep to Tony Martin.  And they did, a 99-yards slant pattern TD that broke the game open.

Late in the season on a cold November night, an eclectic team patched together by GM Bobby Beathard, came together as a unit in the hatred filled  game against the Chiefs.  The Kansas City Chiefs, led by pass rushers Derrick Thomas and Neil Smith, were blitzing, blitzing, blitzing non stop.  Humphries kept taking hits.  Then just before halftime, as the crowd roared, and the heat came, Thomas nailed Humphries on a late hit.  As he was trying to get up, Smith kicked the quarterback on the ground.  Humphries kicked back as flags flew.  An enraged Marty Schottenhimer, the Chiefs coach, roared off the sidelines onto the field, demanding Humphries ejection.  Stan Brock, the Chargers massive right tackle walked across the field, and poked Schottenheimer in the chest, nearly knocking him down.  More flags.  An incensed Bobby Ross had to be restrained from coming on the field.  The Bolts kicked a field goal to end the half, the fans raged as Ross shook his fist at the Chiefs coach going up the runway to the dressing room.  The Chargers stormed out the second half, ran the ball down their throat, pushed the Chiefs into the parking lot, and got the win.

It was a galvanizing moment for the team, that brought together a group that finished (11-5), beat Miami in the mud and then won in the January cold in Pittsburgh.

It was a culmination of a lot of hard work.  Lead owner Alex Spanos, who had known nothing but failure since he bought the team 10-years prior, has to be credited for hiring Beathard.

The eclectic Beathard hired Ross, and in the process put together a unique roster of rentals.

Ross brought an old tough guy mentality to practice and games.  Run it, throw it deep, and get to the ball, fast, furious and in a bad mood.  ‘Boss Ross’ knew football.

Beathard  traded for long ball throwing Stan Humphries from the Redskins.  He signed Baltimore defensive end Harry Swayne, and made him an offensive tackle.  He signed the fierce competitor that was Stan Brock.  He drafted the tough guy running back Means, and signed free agent 3rd down pass catcher Ronnie Harmon.  He dealt for big play receivers Tony Martin and Sean Jefferson.  They landed two defensive tackles, the ‘Tons of Fun’ combo of Reuben Davis and Shawn Lee to compliment Leslie O’Neal.  There was the fast track superstar in Seau, a young Rodney Harrison and veteran kickers on hand.

It was a once in a lifetime group that got hot, believed in the ‘dad-gum it’ approach of a demanding Bobby Ross, and played and won.

The journey should be part of the folklore of what happened 25-years ago this weekend.

If you google ‘Chargers Road to the Super Bowl-1995’ you will get a rush listening to the NFL Films version of that day.

Sadly, 8-members of that team passed on in the years right after that memorable season.  Sadly too, the classless Spanos family never saw fit to honor that team, not on the 10th anniversary or the 20th.  The paper has hardly recognized that team over the years.

For Chargers fans, cut adrift when the Spanos Family moved the beloved team out of San Diego, this must be a hard weekend, for where they have been before and what they witnessed in America’s Finest City.

Two things we know for sure.  That was the greatest day in Chargers history, and should never be forgotten.  And Dean Spanos may have taken this team away from San Diego, but he can never take away the memory of this weekend…25-years ago.

“Show Me Your Lightning Bolt”

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1-Man’s Opinion on Sports-Thursday “NFL-Hall of Fame-Centennial Class”

Posted by on January 16th, 2020  •  0 Comments  • 

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“NFL-Hall of Fame-Tainted Class”

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The NFL, celebrating its founding 100-years ago, has announced what they are calling the ‘Centennial Class’ of enshrines, some 15-contributors-coaches-players, who had been bypassed in the past.
A tough list to pare down.  Some controversial choices for sure.  And of course the debate, why not Coach Don Coryell-Father of the NFL’s great passing games.  Tough choices.

PAUL TAGLIABUE….Longtime Commissioner, challenged with replacing the popular Pete Rozelle, helped take the NFL to the highest galaxy possible in terms of profits and TV contracts.  But he was also Commissioner as the NFL turned its head the other way as the concussion crisis, player suicides, and lawsuits became relevant.  The disgrace of his so-called Concussion Committee is his legacy.  Four times he was up for vote, four times rejected, because of that.  Does not deserve this honor.

GEORGE YOUNG..Superb player talent evaluator, who built the Giants into Super Bowl teams a number of times….Hired Bill Parcells…Drafted greatness of Lawrence Taylor…Found street free agents who came in and excelled.  Controlled troubled players and his head coach too.  A true gentleman.

JIMMY JOHNSON…It may be Jerry Jones team, but it was the Jimmy Johnson leadership that led the Cowboys to Super Bowl wins twice, and set the stage for even Barry Switzer winning with Jimmy’s players.  Engineered the greatest trade-heist of all time, the Herschel Walker deal to the Vikings for a trainload of draft picks.  When he was done he had Troy Aikman-Emmett Smith and Michael Irvin.  And to think he is not in the Cowboys ‘Ring of Honor’ yet.  Not bad for someone who started (1-15).  ‘How bout d’em Cowboys?’

BILL COWHER…Surrounded on one side by Chuck Noll, on the other by Mike Tomlin, part of the 3-some of coaches who have led the Steelers to greatness.  Part coach, part psychologist, full time winner. Twice in the Super Bowl, all those AFC championship games.

STEVE SABOL…The creative brilliance of all things NFL-Films, who died so early in life from cancer.  Son of the legendary founder of the company.  He chronicled every story angle there was, games-people-incidents in modern day history.  His archives went all the way back to 1920.

DONNIE SHELL…Another cast member of the great Steelers drafts in the early years of the Chuck Noll era.  When he hit you, you stayed hit.

HAROLD CARMICHAEL…Maybe the first great ‘big receiver’ in the NFL, that changed the game.  The Eagles remember the routes, the long strides, the touchdowns.

JIMBO COVERT…Life time Bears star, unknown soldier in the trenches.  Walter Payton’s wing man.

ALEX KARRIS…Rock solid tough in the old Detroit Lions mold of tough guys like Lou Creekmur and Joe Schmidt.  Suspended for 1-year for gambling on games in the Howard Cosell era.

BOBBY DILLON…A great DB-back in the 1950s era with the Packers.  Receiver-Kick Return-Pass Interceptor.  Was to the defense what Bart Starr was to the offense.

CLIFF HARRIS…Warrior of a safety in the Tom Landry era with the Cowboys and then onto Washington.

WINSTON HILL…The old AFL massive OT who blocked for Joe Namath in the heydays of the AFL-NFL war.

ED SPRINKEL…Before they kept stats like sacks, he excelled for over a decade for George Halas’ Chicago Bears.  One of the first members of the Monster’s of the Midway from back in the day.

DUKE SLATER…A rugged tackle with the old Chicago Cardinals in the early days of the game, starting a career in 1922 and playing into the 1930s.

MAC SPEEDIE…Running mate of the legendary Cleveland Browns QB-Otto Graham in the 1940s and 50s.  Somebody had to catch all those passes and run for those yards that Paul Brown drew up.  He did.

 

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DON CORYELL…Did not get in, despite his tremendous input in changing the passing game in pro football in the 1970s into the 80s…He won only 111-games in pro football, and never go to a Super Bowl.

TOM FLORES…He won 2-Super Bowls working for Al Davis, but only won 97-games in a his career and had 4-bad seasons in a row at the end of his career in Oakland then Seattle.

RANDY GRADISHAW…They are pretty incensed in Denver at his treatment, but you will have to decide, was he as dominant or explosive as say Junior Seau or Mike Singletary?

 

 

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1-Man’s Opinion on Sports–Wednesday “Baseball’s Mess–Blame Game-Criticism”

Posted by on January 15th, 2020  •  0 Comments  • 

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“Spraying Shots Everywhere”

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MLB….Twenty four hours after the fact, people around baseball don’t think the sanctions handed down against the Astros were tough enough.  1-owner told USA Today…’They stole two seasons and possibly two World Series by cheating’.  Some think MLB should have taken all their draft picks away for two years, all their international signing bonus money, vacated the World Series they won.

DODGERS BLUE….Now you can connect the dots.  Dateline 2017, the Dodgers top starters, Clayton Kershaw-Yu Darvish get smoked in road games in Houston.  Were they revealing pitches?  Were they worn out?  No, the Astros were stealing signals in the 2017-Fall Classic according to Rob Manfred’s report.  But he doesn’t want teams talking about how they feel cheated.

ASTROS…Guilty as charged, but in the process, they gave evidence they stockpiled, that at least 7-other teams they believed that were cheating, as if maybe they’d get a lighter sentence.  Among those the Houston front office fingered, were the Dodgers and Yankees.

BRAIN DRAIN….Houston loses its General Manager, it’s Assistant GM, it’s Manager.  But that is not all.  They lost two other key assistants a year ago, who became the GMs in Baltimore and in Milwuakee.  Who takes over, and how hard will it be to keep the team at the level it is at, will be a challenge.  Think things will be hostile when the Astros go on the road next year?

SAY WHAT…Owner Jim Crane was pretty much matter of fact in his Astros press conference as he fired GM-Jeff Luhnow and then Manager AJ Hinch an hour after the Manfred report came down.  He axed both within minutes of the start of his own press conference, saying “we have had great baseball people and we got great results”.  Yes but you cheated for nearly two full seasons and post seasons./. Crane gave Luhnow a blank piece of paper to fix the team.  He did by breaking the rules.  How can Crane be proud of that accomplishment?

WHY HIM…The shocker of all this ending the way it did, was AJ Hinch.  The manager was a man of ethics, a Christian man, a cerebral man everytime you crossed paths with him.  How could he allow to this to go on and on and not stop it?  Not go to Luhnow? Not go directly to Crane?  That’s what makes no sense at all.

RED SOX….They were next in line, but took matters into their own hands, with the firing of Alex Cora on Tuesday evening.  Still to be determined will be if front office execs or coaches, who are considered management, will take a hit too.  Cora may never work again in baseball.  Why so quickly?  Cora got canned because he was the ‘ringleader’ in the Houston scandal in 2017, and then moved to Boston and installed the same system at Fenway Park.  This after two sets of memos handed down by the Commissioner’s office.  Brazen beyond belief.  Unemployed too.

SPRING TRAINING…Can’t come soon enough for baseball to get this off the front page, but doubt this story will go away.  I bet players will be talking more and more about what they believe.  Trust me on this one.

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1-Man’s Opinion on Sports-Tuesday “Baseball-Black Eye”

Posted by on January 14th, 2020  •  0 Comments  • 

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“Baseball’s Black Eye”

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First it was the 1919 Black Sox scandal, the throwing of the White-Sox-Reds World Series.

Dodgers manager Leo Durocher was suspended for a year for associations with known gamblers.

Then it was Reds manager Pete Rose betting on baseball games with underworld figures while he was still in the Cincinnati dugout.

We waded thru the sludge of the steroid scandal that strained the baseball record book, from Mark McGuire thru Ryan Braun, to Alex Rodriguez and a whole host of other cheats.  It took the Congressional hearings to bring the slime into the spotlight.

Then came the imprisonment of a Cardinals executive for hacking the scouting computers of another team to steal contract information and injury reports.  That led to a lifetime ban for what he tried to do to acess how, oddly enough, the Astros were doing business.
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And the lifetime ban for the Atlanta Braves General Manager for his part in a kickback scheme with signing bonus money for Latin American talent, smuggled into countries by underworld figures toting guns and getting a payoff.

Now it’s the sign stealing scandal that has led to the purge of all the key baseball executives in the Houston Astros organization.

And in all likelihood, it is not over.  If sign stealing with electronics, centerfield cameras, walkie talkies or Apple watches was happening in one city, it probably was happening elsewhere.

The Astros were the first to get caught, the Red Sox might be next, and who knows after that.

At 10am on Monday, MLB dropped the hammer on the Astros, denting the World Series trophy they won, and staining the franchise’s reputation.

At 11am, the owner fired his General Manager and his Manager for their knowledge, their consent, their lack of leadership for not stopping the cheating scandal.  Enraged even more, they violated an MLB memo issued all the way back in 2017 about use of electronics to steal signs, then continued to do it in both ’17 and ’18.  The commissioners office had issued a 6-page guideline, then followed with another directive a year later.  Houston didn’t care, they went ahead and did more.

Stats show, in the World Series against the Dodgers, and in the postseason in 2017, they went (8-1) at home with a (.273) batting average, lighting cup both Clayton Kershaw and Kenley Jansen.  On the road, (3-6) and a (.208) average.  Connect the dots?

GM-Jeff Luhnow testified to Commissioner Rob Manfred he had no knowledge of what was happening in the video replay room, in the tunnel, in the teams dugout.  Hard to believe that, for someone who is so hands on in every aspect of the game.

Manager AJ Hinch was jettisoned too, for knowing about the scandal, but not stopping it for a two year span of lots of wins at Minute Maid Park.

And Alex Cora, then bench coach in Houston, now manager in Boston, is facing similar fate, for actually being the ringleader of the idea of how to steal the signs and transmit information to baserunners and batters.

And former Assistant GM Brandon Taubman, is banned for life, for his role in this, and an ugly confrontation with female reporters during the postseason.

On top of the sanctions came the Commissioner’s condemnation of the culture of Astros baseball, their treatment of their own people within the front office, the disdain for rules, and its combat with the media.

Shocking if you know people like Hinch and Cora, as I do.  Hinch, a standup guy, makes you wonder how-why he did not put a stop to it and go to management about what had happened.  He always looked you directly in the eye when he answered your questions.  I wonder how the look is today.

And Cora, an emotional and proud leader, who spoke out so strong about his earthquake devastated countries in Latin America and led financial drives to help out the needy.  A great philanthropist now viewed as a multi-year cheat.  Guess we should have looked under his fingernails for where he had been what he had done.

The reaction was swift from opposing players.  “Steal signs-get fired, but use steroids get millions?”  Another tweeted “Astros players have no conscience”.  A third added “Should take away their rings.”

From within the Astros offices at Minute Maid Park came denials and non denials.  Owner Jim Crane said “This does not taint our World Series wings”.  Luhnow blamed other, writing  “I am not a cheater, I did not know, this all came from players and lower level employees”.  Only Hinch was a standup guy, “I regret being connected-I failed”.

It’s not over for sure.  The next dark day will be in Boston, and I am not talking about the weather either.

Baseball’s black eye, sure to spread, before the healing starts.

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1-Man’s Opinion on Sports–Monday “NFL Playoffs-The Days After-Worse Than Day Before”

Posted by on January 13th, 2020  •  0 Comments  • 

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“The Day After-Worse Than Day Before”

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There’s an old phrase a former Chargers head coach told me when I was the Voice of the Bolts back in the day, and it rings true in 4-different NFL cities right now.

They’re disappointed in Houston, in Minnesota, in Seattle.  But to quote Edgar Allen Poe ‘never more’ than in Baltimore.

In Houston, they will find it hard to move past blowing a (24-0) lead in Arrowhead Stadium and letting Kansas City reel off 41-stright points.  In Seattle, it was too much cold weather-too much Aaron Rodgers-too much Aaron Jones-Davonte Adams  in their loss in Green Bay.  It was all too much defense from the 49ers as they flattened Minnesota.  But in the Charm City, so much expected, so bad the hurt now.

Never more so in Baltimore though, where a (14-2) Ravens team saw its 12-game winning streak come to an end in a destructive fashion.

It was like a funeral in that stadium in the second half of the beating they took at the hands of the Tennessee Titans.  It had to be like a funeral inside that Ravens lockeroom too.

Instead of a day to celebrate the record setting season they had, the Ravens were left to sort thru the debris and an off season of mourning of a missed opportunity to get to the Super Bowl.

The end of the playoff season, when you are supposed to win a game, is so sudden, it’s like a head on auto crash.  The stunned silence when you lose like that is so painful.

The 12-game winning streak was replaced by 3-hours of utter failure.

Endings like this will replace the memories of success, for the final season loss will linger all off season.

History repeated itself again for the brilliant young QB-Lamar Jackson.  The 2-interception-1 fumble day and the home field loss is even worse than last year’s home field loss to the Chargers, the one where he had 3-fumbles and threw a pick.

The potential MVP went MIA for the second year in a row and his team had nowhere to go to get him help.

The Ravens offensive line got mugged bay Jurrell Casey and rookie Jeff Simmons.  LB’s Rashaan Evans and David Long went sideline to sideline to make plays.  The defensive front of the Titans was in the backfield all day.

Jackson had no pocket, for it kept collapsing, and everywhere he tried to move the pocket, he saw guys in white shirts hitting him,.  The run game was clogged up in traffic.  The wide receivers were plastered downfield.

It was hard to stomach, seeing what went right all season, going so wrong in their final night of postseason play.

It wasn’t just Lamar Jackson.  It was Titans heavy duty running back Derrick Henry and his 195-yards rushing of toughness.

A dark night turns into a dark off-season. and it won’t feel any better tomorrow, a week from tomorrow, or a month from tomorrow.

It’s the NFL, where when you are good, winning is the only thing that counts.

Longtime Chargers coach Bobby Ross, who led his team to the Super Bowl termed it correctly.

“The way you play-the day you play” makes the difference.  All Tennessee.  All for naught Baltimore.

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