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:

On the Belated Advice of My Attorney, Lance Burri, Esq…

When we bought our Packers stock, we couldn’t load download the stock owners’ agreement prior to our purchase because of the overwhelming Web traffic to the site.

Now Trog tells me what’s in it:

If the Commissioner of the NFL (the “Commissioner”) decides that a shareholder of an NFL member club has been guilty of conduct detrimental to the welfare of the NFL then, among other things, the Commissioner has the authority to fine such shareholder in an amount not in excess of $500,000 and/or require such shareholder to sell his or her stock.

Oh, boy. So I cannot say “The Bears suck” any more, even though I know it to be true.

And there’s more.

The Rooting Hierarchy

Without a Packers game on today, my son was a bit unclear about for whom he should cheer in sporting events on television. Daddy tried to explain, as best he could, the rooting rules within the household and why they are rational and just.

  1. In the NFL, you root for the Green Bay Packers.
     
  2. In baseball, you root for the St. Louis Cardinals.
     
  3. In hockey, you root for the St. Louis Blues in the NHL or the Milwaukee Admirals in the AHL.
     
  4. Regardless of the sport, you root for anyone but Chicago. If you’re watching a football game of the Bears against the Cardinals, or even the Bears against a team that could challenge the Packers in the NFC North, you root for that team against Chicago. Or if the Reds can go a half game up on the Cardinals in the NL Central if they beat the Cubs, you root for Cincinnati to beat Chicago.

    Frankly, Daddy is from Milwaukee, which some infiltrators (i.e., residents Daddy does not respect) call Milwaukee “Chicago North.” You know what? Milwaukee kicked Chicago’s back bottom in the olden times, until those lazy cheapskate railroad tycoons didn’t want to drag tracks an extra ninety miles north and settled on “Milwaukee South” as their railroad hub for iron ore and timber. Generations later, Daddy retains the outrage. You can root for Real Madrid or even Manchester United, child, but in any contest where Chicago plays, you root against Chicago.
     

  5. Root against the St. Louis Rams until such time as they return to Los Angeles, at which time this rule is voided and the Los Angeles Rams become just another team. Frankly, I’m sick of paying taxes to lure this team to St. Louis, to keep sports commission members and their retinue in luxury boxes, and to eventually try to retain the team through additional tax-paid amenities for a corporation.
     
  6. If the teams are playing against someone who challenges the above-named Packers, Cardinals, Blues, or Admirals for position in their divisions/conferences, you root for that team. That is, if the New York Giants play the Detroit Lions, you root for the New York Giants. But you feel conflicted about it.
     
  7. You root against the teams from New York. If the Titans play the Jets or the Eagles play the Giants, if the Phillies play the Mets or the Twins play the Yankees, root for the team from the realer world.
     
  8. There are degrees of badness amongst the enemy cities. If the White Sox play the Cubs, root for the White Sox. If the New York Giants play the New York Jets, root for the Giants. One team in the latter example has a primadonna quarterback who wouldn’t play for whomever drafted him; the other has a bunch of loudmouths. We’re a number of numbers deep here in the hierarchy, so we’re allowed to be esoteric.
     

Those are the basic rules. When one starts in on the personalities (Go Broncos, the former Packers we want to see do well (Go Titans!), and the other subtle, arbitrary distinctions, it’s no wonder the child is confused except for the ABC (Anybody But Chicago) rule. But that is the most important rule.

Overheard in the Noggle Den, As Seen On Facebook

Immediately after the Cardinals game, the Fox Sports sideline guy caught up with Allen Craig, who caught the last out:

After a commercial, we watched the presentation of the trophy:

Watching Selig speak from notes to make a two paragraph speech presenting the trophy, I made some comment, I’m sure. When it was Bill DeWitt, Junior’s turn to speak, the following exchange occurred in the Nogglestead den:

Wife: He speaks well.
Me: He speaks normally. Selig makes Allen Craig look like Cato the Elder. I’m probably the only person in the world who is comparing Allen Craig to Cato the Elder tonight. I’m going to put that on Facebook.
Wife: The Cardinals just won the World Series. Nobody’s going to care.
Me: Van will like it.

Prediction: Confirmed

That, my friends, is knowing your audience.

The Horns of a Dilemma

25 minutes before game one of the 2011 National League Championship Series, and I can’t decide for whom to root.

The Cardinals versus the Brewers

Do I go with the team of my homeland, the team for whom I cried when I was a lad when the St. Louis Cardinals beat them in the World Series? Or the team whose games I attended throughout the 80s and into the 90s and 00s after I relocated to St. Louis?

By the way, the shirts/numbers are: Milwaukee Brewers #15 (Jim Edmonds); Green Bay Packers #74 (Aaron Kampman); St. Louis Cardinals #7 (J.D. Drew).

Book Report: Run to Daylight by Vince Lombardi (1963)

Book coverThis 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!

At any rate, it discusses how much Lombardi studies films, how short that the actual practices are, and how long the meetings with the players are. It reminds those of us who have played the game a little for fun but never in an organized fashion how complex the games are, where each play in the playbook has variations upon variations not only upon where the players are supposed to line up, but also what shoulder they should block on their blocking assignment and whatnot. Even the rockheads on the line have to remember so much. Frankly, a detailed book like this makes me appreciate what they do weekly, and it also reminds me why I only want to dedicate six or nine hours of my life a week on it instead of 50 hours a week year-round.

If you’re a Packers fan, it’s definitely a worthwhile read to get a little behind the Lombardi legend. The book takes place five years before Jerry Kramer’s Instant Replay, which I also recommend, and the time frames are different (Instant Replay is the story of a whole season, not just a week). Are modern football books this detailed, or are they personality-based? The ones I’ve read aren’t like this.

Books mentioned in this review:

Your Press Release Is Not “Breaking News”

The NHL sent me an email with the BREAKING NEWS: subject line prefix. For what? A plane going down killing lots of NHL players? No, silly, the fact that the NHL has scheduled its annual outdoor game. For January 2. 2012.

Not exactly breaking news

Wow, let me rush right to my television at 9pm on a Monday night to see if ABC has broken into its regular programming to go to live coverage of this life-altering event.

No, of course not. This is a run-of-the-mill press release, and someone in marketing hoped that only the BREAKING NEWS: portion of the subject line would show up in the lower left hand corner of the desktop so people would click through.

Pah. Breaking news.

Memories Set Early Are Set Eternally

Now that the Milwaukee Brewers are poised to make the run to their first world title and my fanmeleon colors are changing from Cardinals red to Brewers blue, I hearken back to the year 1982, when the Brew Crew reached the World Series for the first and only time (so far). I was a wee lad living in the Berryland housing project with a freshly divorced single parent from St. Louis, and the Brewers played the Cardinals. My mother had a plastic baseball bat that she used to beat on the walls of the townhome style apartment to let the neighbors on either side know when the Cardinals scored. A couple years later, and I was a freshly minted Cardinals fan thanks to relocation and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch re-education program where the paper gave out free tickets to Cardinals games to students who got As in school.

For some reason, today I got to thinking about the lineups for the 1982 World Series, and I can give almost a complete recounting of the position players for both teams. Check it out:

  Brewers Cardinals
Catcher: Simmons Porter
First Base: Cooper Hernandez
Second Base: Garner Herr
Shortstop: Molitor O. Smith
Third: Yount
Outfield: Thomas
Oglive
L. Smith
McGee
Pitchers: Vukovich
Caldwell
Haas
McClure
Fingers*
 

* did not play due to injury, sadly.

That’s off the top of my head. Not bad. Actually, it’s better than I could do remembering the 2006 Cardinals who won the World Series. I could also take stabs at the lineups to the 1985 and 1987 World Series Cardinals teams, but some of the years will blur and blend since I followed the Cardinals so well.

How did I do?

For the Brewers, I misspelled Jim Gantner’s name, although I could picture him in my head. I also forgot poor Charlie Moore and transposed Yount and Molitor’s positions.

For the Cardinals, I forgot Oberkfell and Hendrick; both were gone by the time I got to St. Louis. I couldn’t name for sure the pitchers, although many of them carried on into the years of my fandom.

I guess it stuck with me because it was such a snapshot moment. I’ve followed the Cardinals off and on for 25 years or so, so I have certain eras where the players overlap, come up, get traded, and so on. But 1982, because I was young, because it was a big deal, and because I would soon move and follow another team, is set pretty tightly in my memory.

And before you ask, of course I still have the baseball cards from the era, including the special ones given out by Milwaukee police officers to prove to urban youth that the cops aren’t scary. I am a 27th Level Pack Rat, after all.

UPDATE: What, you unbelievers ask me to prove it? Here’s the 1982 Team Card:

Milwaukee Police Department Salutes The 1982 Milwaukee Brewers team card

Brothers and Sisters, not only am I a Level 27 Pack Rat, but I’ve been a pack rat for more than two decades already. By the time you experience “Ultra Hoarders in 3-D” via Mynd.Net in 2021, I will be on its all-star list by age fifty.

Also, I gotta say, having a +2 House of Holding rocks. Not only can I keep all this worthless junk, but I can put my hands onto items within minutes.

Why Can’t Modern Football Players Act?

So someone help me out here: why don’t modern football players transition to acting careers as successfully as old timey football players did?

In the Olden Days, we have:

In the modern era, we have, what? Brett Favre in There’s Something About Mary? Brian Bosworth in Stone Cold?

Take a look at this list: 50 Football Players Who Acted in Movies and note that the ones who could be said to have made a successful transition to films and television played prior to the 1980s, and that most of the roles from then on are as “Self”? Is it a transition in football culture? Is it that older players were better-rounded and most professionals these days are football robots, funnelling all their energy into it from an early age?

What’s Counselorese For FYNQ?

An awesome story:

Football fans know what happened in Super Bowl I. The game, which was played on January 15, 1967, was the first showdown between the NFL and AFL champions. It ended with the Green Bay Packers stomping the Kansas City Chiefs, 35-10.

Unless they were one of the 61,946 people at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum that day, or one of the fans who watched it live on NBC or CBS, there’s one thing that all football fans have in common: They’ve never actually seen the game.

In a bizarre confluence of events, neither network preserved a tape. All that survived of this broadcast is sideline footage shot by NFL Films and roughly 30 seconds of footage CBS included in a pre-game show for Super Bowl XXV. Somehow, an historic football game that was seen by 26.8 million people had, for all intents and purposes, vanished.

….

The long search may finally be over. The Paley Center for Media in New York, which had searched for the game footage for some time, has restored what it believes to be a genuine copy of the CBS broadcast. The 94-minute tape, which has never been shown to the public, was donated to the center by its owner in return for having it restored. It was originally recorded on bulky two-inch video and had been stored in an attic in Pennsylvania for nearly 38 years, the Paley Center says.

Estimates are that it’s worth millions.

Enter the NFL.

Mr. Harwood, the attorney, says he contacted the NFL in 2005 about the tape. He says the league sent him a letter on Dec. 16, 2005 claiming the NFL was the exclusive owner of the copyright. Mr. Harwood says the NFL offered his client $30,000 for the tape and his client declined.

Geez, I realize that it’s a labor dispute year and the NFL owners have to plead poverty while building billion-dollar stadiums, but come on. $30,000?

I Was Distracted

An ESPN columnist asks:

Has anyone else noticed all the drama surrounding black quarterbacks during this NFL season?

Jason Campbell, who has been fighting for his job all season in Oakland, was benched for the second time this year against Pittsburgh on Sunday.

• Six-time Pro Bowler Donovan McNabb was replaced by Rex Grossman during the final 1:50 of a close game against the Detroit Lions earlier this month because Redskins coach Mike Shanahan claimed Grossman was better suited to run the team’s two-minute offense. Shanahan questioned McNabb’s “cardiovascular endurance.”

• And on Sunday, Titans coach Jeff Fisher demoted Vince Young to benchwarmer after Young threw a tantrum following Tennessee’s 19-16 loss to Washington. Although thumb surgery is the official reason Young’s season is over, Fisher made it clear before he knew the severity of Young’s injury that his 27-year-old quarterback was being removed as the starter.

No, sorry, I didn’t notice. I was too wrapped up in the Brett Favre/Brad Childress drama and the Little Brett/Hot Sideline Reporter drama.

Next question?

Direct Object Teams

The Kansas City Royals are so desperate that they’re holding open tryouts at a city park.

There’s something very underdoggish about baseball teams that are often futile. I explained to my wife that the Royals are too often the direct object in the sports headlines (Dodgers Pound Royals, Oakland Shuts Down Royals, and so on), and the direct object teams don’t win pennants.

Bryan Burwell’s Litmus Test for NFL Ownership

To own an NFL team, you should think like he does:

    I know how those words play out in Idiot America. They are embraced as gospel. But inside the locker rooms of the NFL, where the overwhelming majority of the players are descendants of slaves, Limbaugh’s ignorant ramblings resonate with entirely different emotions.

    His money might be green, but his words are colored with hate and intolerance.

Got that? According to Bryan Burwell, if you listen to Rush Limbaugh, you are an idiot-American. But it’s Rush Limbaugh whose intemperate words are colored with hate and intolerance.

Perhaps Burwell’s career in sportswriting has left him incapable of addressing Rush Limbaugh’s views instead of dumping on Rush Limbaugh as though he were a slumping left fielder. Or maybe he never had that intellectual acumen to begin with. However, make no mistake, trying to bar someone from a profession or from acquiring property based upon his views is not the American way.

Not the old American way, anyway.