|I began the Top 5 in August of 2008 when the Beijing Olympics got underway. What started with a handful of family and friends blossomed into a daily email sent to thousands around the world. It has truly been a labor of love. And now I’m happy to announce I’m embarking on a new challenge. Starting next Monday January 26th I’ll be the morning co-host on the legendary New York radio station WOR. It won’t be a sports show. We’ll be discussing all the issues of the day. But I’ll continue to muse about sports on the web, it just won’t be in the form of a daily Top 5 email. Instead, I’ll transition you to the About.com newsletter. You’ll receive notifications when my articles have been posted.I’m going to miss the daily interaction even with those of you who disagreed or relished finding a factual or grammatical error. If you miss venting you can always reach me at my regular email address. And if you’re not in the New York market you can catch my new radio show at the WOR web site.So thanks to one and all, it’s been a lot of fun. And hopefully we’ll stay in touch.
All the best,
Featured in American Football Monthly: December 2009
Let me start off by saying I can’t believe I’m writing something that
football coaches will see. I’ve always had a fascination with the
profession. If it’s not recruiting, it’s practice. If it’s not practice it’s
preparing game plans. And then there’s the ‘baby-sitting’ aspect of playing
father, spiritual guide, and disciplinarian for any number of problems that
crop up. And oh yeah, by the way, there’s a game to be played with strategy,
substitutions and clock management. And then if you win, all the credit goes
to your players. If you lose, it’s all on you. So here’s to you guys. It
takes a special kind of guy to do what you do.
And now back to our regularly scheduled program.
Here’s what really annoys me about some coaches. They get all caught up in
trying to outsmart the guy on the other sideline. So as a result, all they
do is screw things up. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen it. A
couple of examples. I went to Syracuse when Syracuse football was something
special. My fraternity brother was Floyd Little, and for my first college
game as a freshman I sat in the stands placard cheering while Syracuse took
on the great Gale Sayers and Kansas. Floyd proceeded to score 5 touchdowns
and I thought National Championship here we come. It didn’t happen, and it
hasn’t happened since Ernie Davis and 1959. Anyway, as a reward for my work
at the college radio station I got to go with the team to the 1966 Gator
Bowl featuring Syracuse and Tennessee. Syracuse was still coached by Ben
Schwartzwalder who had guided Syracuse to that national title. Late in the
game, Syracuse was driving for the winning score when they faced a critical
4th and 1. Ben had Floyd Little in his backfield but he also had Larry
Csonka. How about that? Little and Csonka in the same backfield. 4th and 1.
No brainer. So, what was the call? An end around to a little wide receiver
who fumbled the ball and fumbled away the Gator Bowl.
Fast forward 10 years. I’m now a sportscaster in Boston and the Patriots are
taking on the Oakland Raiders in the playoffs in 1976. You may remember that
game as ‘Sugar Bear’ Hamilton got called for a controversial roughing the
passer penalty on Kenny Stabler and it led to the Raiders winning touchdown.
What you may not remember about the game was how the Patriots were kicking
ass. Their offensive line, led by John Hannah and Leon Gray, was opening up
gaping holes for the likes of Sam Cunningham. They were marching up and down
the field. So what did coach Chuck Fairbanks do as the Patriots were driving
at the end of the half? He called a double reverse and had his tight end
Russ Francis throw a pass. He had never called that play. Francis had never
thrown a pass. Yes it got intercepted killing the drive.
This is not meant to pick on either Ben Schwartzwalder or Chuck Fairbanks.
They are not alone. It happens to most if not all of the great ones. I
remember a critical Jets game against the Lions that would determine if the
Jets would make the playoffs in 1997. Neil O’Donnell was playing well at
quarterback for the Jets, but coach Bill Parcells decided to have rarely
used special teams player Ray Lucas throw a pass. He did the same with
running back Leon Johnson. Both passes got intercepted. The Jets lost the
game and went home.
The temptation for coaches has to be great. The other guy is watching all
your film, you gotta come up with something new. And hell, it must have
worked in practice, didn’t it? I guess it’s time to bring out one of those
hoary clichés. How about dance with the one that brung ya? Tennessee
didn¹t have an answer for Csonka and Little in 1966, nor could Oakland stop
the Patriots offensive line a decade later. And I’m fairly sure that if Bill
Parcells had a second chance he would have done things differently in 1997,
but trust me, he’ll never admit it. If you¹ve got something that works, my
humble suggestion is to work it. Forget about the gimmicks.
OK, my rant is over. Go back to your recruiting, film study, practice and
baby-sitting. By the way, I’ve got this great idea for a triple reverse.
1. Quick Hits
* Indianapolis will host the Jets 3pm next Sunday in the AFC Championship game.
* New Orleans will host Minnesota at 6:30pm for the NFC Championship.
* Chicago Bears defensive end Gaines Adams died yesterday of cardiac arrest in South Carolina. He was 26.
* Mark McGwire received a standing ovation from Cardinals fans in his first public appearance after admitting steroid use. You can bet he won’t be receiving any standing O’s outside of St. Louis.
* That didn’t take long. Maria Sharapova makes a quick exit as the Australian Open gets underway.
* Where’s Waldo? Is Tiger Woods in sex rehab in Mississippi? Arizona? Inquiring minds want to know.
The Jets were the only road team to win this weekend. Improbably, they are just one win away from Super Bowl XLIV. Plenty of subplots. The then undefeated Colts handed the Jets a win late in the season. Can the Jets show them it wasn’t a fluke? And the last time the Jets had a miracle season, a mere 4 decades ago, it was the Colts that they shocked in the Super Bowl. But regardless what happens in Indy next week, Rex Ryan has the players (and some fans) believing they can actually win it all. Isn’t that, by itself, a refreshing change for this franchise?
3. Monday Morning Musings
* So I guess those late season “phone it in” games by the Colts and Saints really didn’t mean much. I’m never sure teams can turn it “on and off,” but these two sure did. Are Colts fans still booing that their team didn’t try for an undefeated season?
* You have to question two early calls by the Dallas coaching staff. By not going for it on 4th down and short on their second possession, they zapped the energy from their team. (They missed a field goal.) Then after, marching down the field, they go for a trick play on first and goal. It failed, leading to a field goal. Coaches do it all the time. They’re kicking ass, but then they turn cute. Pin the bad start on the Cowboys “brain trust.”
* How about Jeremy Shockey of the Saints hobbling into the end zone on a bad knee to score a touchdown? That was the kind of play you always expected him to make on the Giants, but rarely saw.
The Wall Street Journal did a study and determined that in a 3 hour NFL telecast you’ve got about 11 minutes of actual football. And you wonder why the rest of the world prefers soccer to American football? Then again, what would American sports fans find more exciting? Seeing a soccer player lying on the field pretending that he’s dead or watching an NFL ref peer at the replay monitor ad nauseum. Kind of a wash.
5. Anger Management
Jose Offerman is a former major league infielder who found some success with the Dodgers and Red Sox. A couple of years ago he went on a “bat attack” against two opponents in a minor league game. He’s being sued over that. He’s now a manager in the Dominican Winter League, and during a game the other day he threw a punch at an umpire. He clearly has a problem.
Maybe, like everyone else, he should just claim “sex addiction.”
Happy Birthday: Former Baltimore Oriole Brady Anderson, who went from 16 homers in 1995, to 50 in 1996. You don’t suppose….? 46.
Bonus Birthday: Build it and they will come. Field of Dreams actor Kevin Costner. 55.
Today in Sports: Indians pitcher Bob Feller wasn’t happy with his 15-14 season, so he requested and received a $20-thousand pay cut to $45-thousand. What was wrong with him? 1950.
Bonus Event: The Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday was observed in all 50 U.S. states for the first time. 1993.
1. Quick Hits
* The Mets get an early jump on injuries. Carlos Beltran has knee surgery and will miss opening day. There may be a dispute over whether or not the Mets approved the surgery.
* The Yankees donate $500-thousand for Haiti relief.
* 12-time Pro Bowl linebacker Junior Seau, has retired for the 4th time, 3rd time from New England.
* The hard luck L.A. Clippers have lost #1 pick Blake Griffin from Oklahoma for the entire season. He broke his kneecap in preseason.
* Crushing news. The Daily News is reporting that Derek Jeter and Minka aren’t engaged, and they won’t be getting married November 5th. How can I face the rest of the day?
2. What Am I Bid?
Next week they’ll auction off A-Rod’s 500th home run ball online. In case you forgot, which I did, he hit it August 4th at Yankee Stadium against Kansas City pitcher Kyle Davies. So what’s it worth? Since he’ll likely reach 600, 700, or even 800, will that diminish the value? And did somebody say steroids? The 500 home run club used to be something special. Emphasis on used to be.
3. More Collateral Damage
It’s not just the record books and the Hall of Fame that take a pounding from cheats. Just ask memorabilia collectors. One Top 5 subscriber wrote that she now has her collection divided into two piles, “Saints and Sinners.” She once thought her Pete Rose collection would pay for her kids college. Oh well. At least she now feels that her Joe DiMaggio, Sandy Koufax and Mickey Mantle stuff will one day pay for her assisted living expenses!
4. And Now More Words…..
I struck a chord complaining about the verbiage in sports, phrases like “the edge” in football, or “going yard” in baseball. Here are your pet peeves.
Gerald H. “Taking it to the house,” for a touchdown. And he asks, “when did an interception become a pick?”
Bill R. “Jacked,” for a home run.
Leonard R. “Young freshman.”
Steve F. can’t stand “swagger.” He asks, “Why can’t they just say he’s confident?”
Ron T. hates it when a coach says, “It is what it is.”
And back to Gerald H. who misses the short, sweet, and succinct play by play calls of Green Bay Packers announcer Ray Scott. “Starr….Dowling….touchdown!”
5. Looking Over My Shoulder
As I near 1000 followers on twitter @LenBermanSports, I continue to marvel at who decides to follow me. I’m clearly not a fan of guns, after all when it comes to hunting, I advocate giving the animals weapons to make it a fair fight. And yet, who just signed up to follow me? @Cals Sporting Armory. They sell gun accessories. I hope when they indicate they’re “following me,” they truly mean in cyberspace and not in real life.
Happy Birthday: Giants fan Andy Rooney of 60 Minutes. 91.
Bonus Birthday: Rapper/Actor LL Cool J. 42.
Today in Sports: The Miami Dolphins won Super Bowl VII to complete the only undefeated season in NFL History. 1973.
Bonus Event: Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe tie the knot. It lasts all of 9 months. 1954.