Book Report: Countdown To Super Bowl by Dave Anderson (1969)

Book coverSubtitle: How Joe Namath Ruined Football. Well, no, it wasn’t Joe Namath that ruined football. It was the 1960s and the emergence of expressiveness, of personality over teamwork. Or maybe it was Pete Rozelle who made it a profitable iconic industry instead of a game people could watch and root for their favorite teams of blue collar journeymen like themselves. Or perhaps it isn’t ruined at all; perhaps I just wanted to make a snarky remark about Joe Namath and that upstart AFL team beating the Colts and Johnny U.

It is that time of year, of course: It seems that every year in August I read a football book to prepare for the season in my own fashion, just like every year after football I watch a couple of football comedies to come down from the season. In the past, I’ve read Vince Lombardi’s Run to Daylight, Jerry Kramer’s Instant Replay (twice, once in 2004 and 2015), and even Paper Lion. Run to Daylight recounts a week leading up to a game; Instant Replay covers the complete season; and Paper Lion deals with training camp. This book deals with the two weeks leading up to the third Super Bowl which pitted the Jets against the Colts, as I might have mentioned. Unlike the other books, though, this volume has a floating, free-form style that shifts between the various Jets players, some fans, Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder, and a couple of Colts players. I bet the author and perhaps even a team of researchers was embedded with both teams collecting material for this book and went with the Jets-heavy content because the Jets won. Or maybe not.

The shifting viewpoints really dampen the narrative, though, and whatever tension might be building up to the big game. Even with only a roster of 40 (as they had in those days), it rather drops a lot of names and profiles them for a paragraph or a page, and then moves on, and when the player reappears twenty or fifty pages later, you have to wonder, “Who is this guy?” So it’s complete at the expense of depth.

Anderson co-wrote two football books that I’ve read with John Madden (One Knee Equals Two Feet and All Madden), so he clearly knows football. But this book was less satisfying than the others because of its scattered narrative.

Still, not a bad read.

Interesting note that I flagged:

Don Weiss, the slim public relations director from Commissioner Pete Rozelle’s office, had supervised the issuance of credentials to 367 sportswriters, 253 photographers and 214 radio and TV people–a total of 834. (About 200 newsmen are accredited in Vietnam.)

This is the only mention of politics or The War in the book. As I said in my first review of Instant Replay:

Since the book chronicles an era before my birth, part of its charm lies in its details about a world I’d never know. Green Bay and Milwaukee described in the late 1960s and no mention of the War in Viet fucking Nam, man. Which differs, strangely, from the football season 2004, where the whole world’s talking about that war.

Or, in 2018, made up concerns.

Ah, the good old days, where not everything was political.

I Would Never Get A Jersey From Those Filthy Chicago Blackhawks, But If I Did

It would be #90, Scott Foster.

Emergency goalie Scott Foster shuts door for Blackhawks against Jets:

Scott Foster thought it was going to be just another night. Then the 36-year-old accountant signed a contract, put on his goaltender gear and waited in Chicago’s locker room. Then he got into the game.

Then, it was his night.

Foster was pressed into action when Chicago lost Anton Forsberg and Collin Delia to injuries, and the former college goalie stopped all seven shots he faced over the final 14 minutes of the Blackhawks’ 6-2 victory over the playoff-bound Winnipeg Jets on Thursday.

“This is something that no one can ever take away from me,” Foster said. “It’s something that I can go home and tell my kids and they can tell their friends. … Just a ton of fun.”

Foster is part of a crew of recreational goaltenders who staff Chicago’s home games in case of emergencies for either team. But it usually just means a nice dinner and a night in the press box watching the world’s best players compete at hockey’s highest level.

I’m surprised they actually had a jersey for him. I would have expected them to simply put him in the only numbered jersey in his size kind of like they do on my son’s middle school basketball team.

Nice Try; Now Read A Book

A sportswriter swings and misses on a metaphor:

The Packers’ running back group is packed to the brim with distinct inexperience, unmistakable intrigue and alluring potential – creating a position with more mystery than most Poe novels.

Most Poe novels? You can count the novels that Edgar Allan Poe completed on one finger: The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket.

Can’t anyone here play this game?

That’s a quote from a sports figure, he explained to the sports journalists.

(Spoiler alert: I’m reading Poe now, so I’m likely to re-read that novel again in the coming weeks.)

Coach Brian J. and the Rising Death Toll

Since my wife and I support our children’s school’s sports teams, we got a purple polo shirt this year, much like the coaches wear. I thought I’d snag it, but I wore it once, and it reminded me too much about when I was actually a coach, and all the people who died.

Brian J., you’re such a reserved fellow. How did you become a little league coach? Well, friends, when my oldest son was in pre-kindergarten and kindergarten, someone in his class’s parent fielded a t-ball team. But when he went into first grade, the parents involved stopped, so I stepped up so that both of my children could play on t-ball and baseball teams. Well, I shuffled reluctantly up. By the time I’d decided to do it, it was too late to sign up teams for the city parks’ league, so I got started with the YMCA league. I told the parents in both classes to sign up for coach Noggle’s teams, and I registered for a 4-year-old team and a 6-year-old team.

But the YMCA lumped them altogether and, since we didn’t have a full team, glomped the SLS pre-K and 1st Grade team together with some six-year-olds from a local elementary school. The team had four coaches total: Coach F, Mrs. F, a realtor who looks like Dennis Quaid, and me.

Me, I was thrilled to have both of my children on the same team since it halved my number of practices and games to coach. Dennis Quaid didn’t, though, as he wanted his six-year-old to play on a competitive team, so he withdrew. Which left Coach F and me, since Mrs. F handled some administrative work, and Coach F and me ran practices and whatnot.

So I ran practices and encouraged the kids even though I generally don’t like kids (my kids generally excepted). Hard as it may be to believe, I was the loud coach, the one yelling encouragement in practices and in games, shouting “You got it!” whenever a ball was hit toward a peewee infielder or “Run, run, run! You got it!” whenever one made contact while batting (many of the yuts would hit the ball and watch it, so Coach Noggle tried to help them along).

At any rate, our blended team did their best, mostly, and it was an interesting experience. I got on well with Coach F, since he was a friendly fellow with an excellent sense of humor, which means he laughed politely at my jokes.

Then, after the season, Coach F shot Mrs. F and turned the gun on himself, leaving their newly seven-year-old reluctant baseballer to find their bodies and call 911 before school.

I didn’t bring this up with my children, and they’ve only occasionally wondered why they didn’t play baseball the next year. They weren’t really that into it, so it was only an infrequent question as the seasons passed.

Strangely, though, this is not the first time someone on a team I coached was gunned down.

Back in my college days, I was a mascot/unofficial coach for a women’s recreational team in a Milwaukee parks league. I helped out with the practices and attended all the games, providing encouragement less loud than I would 20 years later. I nicknamed one of the women “Thunderball” because she was a power hitter and because she once put another woman in the hospital with an errant throw. Thunderball lived with her husband and kids in a rough area of the city, and one afternoon as she came out of a McDonalds with her kids, a man with a gun robbed her and told her to get on her knees. I don’t know if it was moving into sexual assault or not, but she said, “Not in front of my kids.” So the bad man shot her. I don’t think they ever caught him.

I remember I wanted to write a poem about it at the time, murder on the periphery. If a tragedy or crime like that strikes close, you deal with the direct emotional impact of it. But when it’s only someone you kinda know, you think about it and get bothered by the injustice of it at a rational level but indirectly emotional, too. More outrage than direct grief. Also, the murder becomes an outsized portion of that person to you; instead of having a wealth of experiences with them to remember, you have a bit a couple things and The Murder.

But I think too much about things.

So after I wore the polo shirt from my kids’ school, I washed it and put it into my wife’s drawer. It’s a bright purple shirt, but it brings a dark cloud to me.

Peyton, Graciously

I saw this when it happened, and I chortled so much my turkey-wattle neck swayed from side to side:

I knew what it meant: That young man was unhappy because his brother would continue to overshadow him.

Peyton Manning was gracious enough to try to cover for his little brother:

“Eli’s just like me. Eli is analyzing the game. He’s thinking about whether we were going to go for two. Whether it was going to be reviewed,” Manning told CBS News.

“Eli’s kinda like me,” Manning continued. “He wasn’t gonna to relax until that final second ticked off. I’ve had a great chance to celebrate with Eli. He’s very happy and proud of me just like I’ve always been of him.”

I doubt that.

To be frank, I’ve not been an Eli Manning fan since he refused to play in San Diego.

Here’s how he looked then:

Doesn’t that look familiar?

It’s always torqued me a bit that the entitled young man has more Super Bowl rings than Aaron Rodgers or Brett Favre; I’m pleased to see he has only as many as his older brother now. And that’s only until Peyton gets one or more as a coach.

Not the Only Reason

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch sports columnist identifies a reason for empty seats at an annual Mizzou basketball game in St. Louis:

The stat that was most eye-catching from the game? Total attendance: 14,456.

Both teams entered the game with some bad losses on their records. But Missouri? Man, its fan base is apathetic because its team is often pathetic.

Missing from his explanation: the continuing ire of alumni after the recent ‘strike’ by members of the (often pathetic) football team that led to the dismissal/resignation of a couple of high-ranking administration.

University of Missouri lost a lot of goodwill from its graduates in that fiasco, and its repercussions are going to echo for years to come.

Hardware Store Shelves In St. Louis Suddenly Empty Of Pitchforks, Torches

Yadier Molina finds his way onto the list of the 20 Overrated Players of the 2015 Season

Both this author and Bernie Miklasz point to his declining offensive numbers. Perhaps they don’t know or forget that Molina was not an offensive powerhouse to begin with, and maybe, just maybe, the primary driver of his value is in his defense.

On the other hand, both are getting the links and the notoriety, so maybe they’re onto something. Not many people are sharing twee little book reports.

Undoubtedly, The New Colors Will Be Silver And Black, And The New Logo Will Be A Deer Skull

The Milwaukee Bucks are getting a new owner a new look:

Milwaukee Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry said Friday in a radio interview that he and co-owner Wesley Edens are strongly considering a change in the team’s traditional colors of red, green and silver.

Lasry did not say what a new color scheme would be but said, “We’re definitely looking at doing that (making a change). It does need a little bit of help.”

The most drastic change is how Milwaukee’s going to be spelled Seattle.

(The title refers to a grudge I hold for the owners of the Milwaukee Admirals who bollixed the team’s colors and logo eight years ago.)

Real Journalist Confirms MfBJN Investigation

Today on Packers.com, the Packers historian comments on the Packers-Lions game in 1962:

This might be a first for me. I read a book for the second time. I read Vince Lombardi’s “Run to Daylight” when it was first published in 1963, and I read my same hardcover copy – not the newer paperback version – again in recent weeks.

. . . .

Anyway, I knew I wouldn’t find all the answers in “Run to Daylight,” but I was pretty certain I’d find enough evidence to support two of my contentions related to the game the book was built around: Detroit at Green Bay, Oct. 7, 1962.

The book itself does not identify the opponent, but I did my own research and revealed this to the Internet three years ago:

This book chronicles the week of preparation that the Green Bay Packers the week before the October 7, 1962 game against the (spoiler alert) Detroit Lions from the perspective of head coach Vince Lombardi. The book doesn’t name the opponent, but a little research will yield it. Although a Google search asking who the opponent was for this book apparently has not until now not yielded the result. Instead, I sussed it out by the final score and confirmed it by the mention of the UCLA upset of Ohio State. Look, ma, I’m a researcher!

Remember to stay tuned to MfBJN for more breaking news from fifty years ago!

Journalist with No IT Experience Commits Unforgiveable Mistake

What, did someone hack the mainframe with a dial-up computer and a barbie doll attached? No, that’s forgiveable.

Not understanding foosball, on the other hand:

THE OPTIONS IN HOME FOOSBALL games typically range from chunky, cartoonish commercial models to lightweight versions so skittish your killer slap shot sends the whole apparatus hopping.

The Jesus and Mary Chain, but slap shot is something you do in hockey (and cannot do in tabletop or “bubble” hockey).

Your basic shots in foosball are push shot, pull shot, and snake shot depending on what you do with the rod, for Pete’s sake.

The kids they get to write marketing fluff in lifestyle sections these days.

I Guess All The Good Sports Were Already Invented

A couple of things from the Wall Street Journal lead me to think that all the actually physically taxing, limit-pushing sports are already taken by people who tax themselves and push their limits, which leads less-than-peak physical specimens to make up their own little games and call them sports.

In Competitive Stone-Skipping Circles, A Rocky Debate Over Equipment:

Among competitive stone-skippers, nothing makes ripples like a disagreement about regulation rocks.

The latest dispute in this sport for people who skim small stones across water is over imports used in competition.

At the Mackinac Island Stone Skipping & Gerplunking Club championships, some believe participants are supposed to source their equipment from the pebble-lined beaches of this Lake Huron island.

Competitive stone-skipping. Controversies over equipment. I’d say something about modern man, but this particular competition has gone on longer than I’ve been on this planet.

Meanwhile, for those who might find stones too heavy or the outdoors too bright, there’s whirlyball:

But when the bespectacled 27-year-old event coordinator came across whirlyball, he knew he had found his chance to shine. The sport, involving flinging a plastic Wiffle ball at an elevated target with a jai-alai-like scoop, doesn’t pivot on athletic prowess. Nor do age, gender or girth matter. Rather than sprint from one end of a basketball-size court to another and back, players move and shoot in bumper cars.

“This is a sport where you don’t need to be big or a particularly great athlete,” says Mr. Betenia. “All you need is to be able to drive and drain shots.”

The popularity of whirlyball—think lacrosse on bumper cars—is accelerating, driven by couch potatoes who want to excel on the court and weekend warriors. Many wouldn’t survive a fitness boot camp or can’t find their way to the gym. But you don’t need to be ripped to stand out in this game played sitting down. “Agility. Speed. Strength. None of these qualities will be of any use in the highly-competitive world of WhirlyBall,” advertises the Chicago whirlyball center.

You know the saddest part? By the time I hit the Senior Olympics, these will be the events. All this time I’ve dreamed of athletic glory now that my physical development has started to match my peers and I’ve figured out how to roll my wrists when hitting a baseball and throw a spiral, and it’s all for naught. Because in the future, all sports will be silly sports.

Maybe I should start playing whirlyball, but in pads. So I can get ahead of the curve for when they’re required. I will get that gold medal, I know I will.

Maybe There’s a Landfill in New Jersey that Needs a Team

The owner of the Chicago Cubs has unmet publicly funded stadium needs, so of course he threatens to move the team:

Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts caused a stir Wednesday when he said publicly for the first time that he would consider moving the team if moneymaking outfield signs central to his Wrigley Field renovation plan failed to win the city’s blessing.

Oh, for Pete’s sake. You can try this with the newer expansion or transfer teams, with their mercenary up-and-down fair-weather-fan fan bases (and I include the St. Louis Rams, almost twenty years in town now, among these younguns), where perhaps a transfer from Pensacola to Tampa might yield enough financial rewards to merit the move, especially if the fan base in the originating city is not very deep and tends to not notice the team when it’s not winning.

But when you take a historic, storied franchise and threaten to move it, we know you’re bluffing. You can’t move the Yankees to Sacramento, you can’t move the Cubs out of one of the largest markets in the country to Tulsa (or even Gary, Indiana, same media market but not a good location for traditional fans). It would make no long-term financial success. The team owners know it. The elected and unelected city officials should know it.

But it’s part of the dance. It’s political cover to roll over and spew public money for private benefit or the team will move. Now that the picadors have finished their work, the public treasury can be gored theatrically.

But note to Chicago Cubs owners: You could not get the ticket sales over the long term by moving the team to another city with a bigger better publicly funded stadium, you would not get the instant merchandising fan base from a move, and, besides, no other city wants your stinkin’ Cubbies anyway. Well, maybe there’s some pit in New Jersey that would take them, but no where in civilization.

Book Report: Packerology Trivia Challenge by Tom P. Rippey III (2011)

Book coverMy mother-in-law got me this book for Christmas. Five years ago, she got me a two-DVD history of the Packers. I probably should have watched the DVDs first.

This is a little trivia quiz book designed to be a party game: you ask individuals or teams questions, and they record their results (score sheets included). The book breaks into four “quarters” of 50 questions each worth incrementally more by section and an overtime section.

Me, I just went through the book by myself. I didn’t rock it, as I’ve only been a zealous Packer fan for a decade now. I got a lot right where the answer was Aaron Rodgers, Donald Driver, Brett Favre, or Greg Jennings. I even got some from the 1960s right (I credit Run to Daylight and Instant Replay).

But overall, I should have watched the DVDs first.

It’s a fun bit of a party game for your next Super Semispherical Vessel Party. Hopefully next year, when it might be a meaningful game if the Packers are in it.

Books mentioned in this review:

House Rules at Nogglestead

So I was having a conversation about sports with my six-year-old and my four-year-old, and the conversation wandered to the sport of Buzkashi, as sports conversations with children or, more likely, sports conversations with me tend to do, and the lads took the concept and ran with it.

As such, the game play at Nogglestead is a little more savage, because it involves lasers and goats which are merely stunned and will regain consciousness sometime during the game.

So bring your A-game if you’re going to play at Nogglestead.

Also, I want the boys to get a taste of what happens when you bring to your peer group some tidbit of knowledge so ludicrous that they don’t believe you. Because I’m going to fill their heads with them as the boys grow up, and they’d better get used to it.

Rest in Peace, Alex Karras

Alex Karras was 77 when he passed away today. How did that happen? He was just in his forties thirty years ago. When I was a boy.

I never saw him play, but I read of him in Jerry Kramer’s Instant Replay, and I read his book Tuesday Night Football five years ago, and I’ve mostly thought of him as an actor.

Somehow, I’m sad to see him go. Sometimes it’s the b-players and bit memories in your life that are the most acutely sad in passing.

Book Report: Deion Sanders * Brett Favre by Richard J. Brenner (1996)

Book coverThis book starts out with a political statement:

[Author’s Note: For a number of years, many Native American groups have been appealing to sports teams to not use Indian names like “Braves” or “Redskins,” or logos such as the racist caricature of the laughing Indian as depicted on the uniform of the Cleveland baseball team.

In support of Native Americans who feel that nicknames such as the ones cited above are demeaning, I have declined to use them in this book.

If you share my feelings that those nicknames are disrespectful, you should write to the teams and to the Commissioner of Football. Those addresses appear on page 91 of this book.]

Well, all-righty then. This is a book designed for the young adult audience, and the author bigfoots his personal opinion and call to political action on the first page. The more things change….

This book includes short bios of Deion Sanders and Brett Favre. Granted, I’m a Packers fan, but I didn’t know much of the bio of Favre. Apparently, he’s been a wild pitcher his whole career, capable of swapping passes and interceptions in his youth as well as his dotage. How about that.

The bio of Sanders was more interesting: A kid from the projects, Sanders was a gifted athlete who did both baseball and football in college and at the professional level. Additionally, he played multiple positions in football, including both offense and defense (and special teams). That’s cool. I learned many of the teams he played with in the beginning of his career and was driven to look up his whole career just to make sure I could name all the professional sports teams he played on in case that ever comes up on Jeopardy!

It’s not a picture book–it only contains ten photos, and the exclamation point on the cover cannot make that any more exciting.

The book cuts off mid-career for Sanders and early in Favre’s career–it was published the year they went on to win the Super Bowl, but Favre’s epilogue and final note is his painkiller addiction. So the book is not definitive or complete, but interesting and worth a read on a day where there isn’t any actual football on or as a way of gliding into the new year after the football season ends.

Books mentioned in this review: