Ok, the NFL is in flux having re-scheduled eight games due to the effects of the COVID-19 virus.
But do we want to be a Debbie-Downer, and hang our heads and complain about the inequities in the world of pro football?
We want to be upbeat and positive. Because that’s the way we are.
Not all the time. But most of the time.
So let’s start with a wild weekend of football.
And finish with a salute to three baseball stars who are no longer with us, two of them, pitching greats who were arguably the best ever for their legendary franchises.
When we touch on a truly exciting weekend on the gridiron, we’re talking about sky-high scoring thrillers that went down to the wire (and sometimes beyond).
We’re talking about upsets, always the true spice of any sport.
Now, we don’t need horrific injuries to a big-time player, but we can always use a career-rebound by a quarterback who may have sealed Comeback of the Year honors just by playing in one game.
Let’s rewind to last Saturday.
We’ll warm up to a pair of surprises that startled the college football world.
Missouri stunned defending national champion LSU with a brilliant goal-line stand to win. 45-41.
I know, the Tigers were only ranked 17th, but when LSU loses anytime, it’s a story, even if they’re now 1-2.
The big one was #4 Florida going down to 21st ranked Texas A&M 41-38.
A huge victory for head coach Jimbo Fisher who left Florida State for
College Station and was hired for one purpose: win a national championship for the Aggies.
But how can you beat one of the craziest games in the history of the Red River Showdown.
For those who regard the only River as the. St. Lawrence, The Red River rivalry matches Texas and Oklahoma, who have played this annual game forever.
The Sooners outlasted the Longhorns 53-45 in four overtimes.
That doesn’t begin to tell the story.
For awhile it appeared neither team wanted to win. A phrase that makes me shudder because we know that’s never the case. But when teams try to hard and press, they make mistakes that make it look like they don’t care. Ridiculous. However, that’s the way it looked.
The Sooners who had lost two straight coming in, blew the game twice before pulling it out. They had a two touchdown lead with four minutes remaining in regulation. Then, they missed a game-winning. 31-yard field goal in the third extra session.
Finally Oklahoma pulled out win on an end-zone interception in overtime No. 4.
For one of college football’s great rivalries, that began in 1900, it went down as one of the most chaotic in history.
Sunday’s NFL fare was no less tame.
How about both of last season’s Super Bowl teams taking it on the chin.
At home, no less.
The injury-plagued San Francisco 49ers were man-handled by the rapidly-improving Miami. Dolphins 43-17. It was no contest. The Dolphins led 30-7 at halftime and were never challenged.
Jimmy Garoppolo, the Niners quarterback, returning from injury, was replaced at intermission. He was ineffective for the first two quarters.
More important, he was getting hit hard.
Garoppolo’s health was a major consideration for the change.
In Kansas City, the Chiefs fell to the Raiders, 40-32.
It was the first defeat for the Super Bowl champs, and it indicated John Gruden’s team will be a factor.
I think two things. The Raiders are being built in Gruden’s image, and
Derek Carr, his much-maligned QB ( how’s that for a cliche) finally won in K.C. I have always liked Carr more than his critics, so I’m kind of hoping #4 keeps it going.
One last word on that classic, long-time matchup.
Raise your hand if you ever dreamed we’d be talking about Las Vegas vs. Kansas City.
Notice the games we discuss are high-scoring affairs.
That’s the trend.
The Cowboys-Giants skirmish also brought high numbers, won on a Greg Zuerlein field goal with no time remaining, 37-34.
The game also carried with it, the saddest moment of the day.
Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott suffered a gruesome injury to his right ankle that was difficult to watch. Reminiscent of the way the Redskins’ Joe Theismann suffered a broken leg in 1985 on a play that has never been forgotten, Prescott had surgery to repair a compound fracture and dislocation of the ankle that in the best of prospects, won’t see this likeable and outstanding player to return to action in 2022, if at all.
Don’t tell Alex Smith of a dim or hopeless prognosis.
Smith returned to action Sunday as a relief quarterback for the Washington Football Team in a story that is as heartening as Prescott’s situation is depressing.
Smith saw his first action since suffering a compound fracture of his leg in 2018 resulted in a broken tibia and fibula.
The injury became infected and required 17 surgeries to repair.
His leg very nearly had to be amputated.
But Alex Smith was obsessed with paying the price, defying incredibly long odds, and working his way back in a fierce and determined manner.
Just getting on the field again, earns him Comeback Player of the Year, regardless how much he plays from now on, or who else emerges as a candidate.
Now, to the passing of three baseball greats.
First there was Bob Gibson. He pitched for the Cardinals from 1959 to 1975. He is rated the best ever for a great franchise.
Here’s some of what he accomplished. He led the Redbirds to three league titles and two World Series championships.
When the games counted he was at his best, winning seven of nine Series starts, eight of them complete games. First pitcher in almost half a century with more than 3,000 strikeouts. He was dominant. Dominant to the tune of compiling a 1.12 earned-run-average in 1968. That means in 34 starts,
Gibson allowed an average of just a speck over one-run per 9 innings.
He was a tough sun-of-a-gun with a soft spot.
When his catcher, Tim McCarver ventured out to the mound to talk with the hurler, Gibson would stare him down and say, “what are you doing here? The only thing you know about pitching is that you can’t hit it” Don’t be fooled. The two were extremely close friends.
He wasn’t a one-sport wonder.
Bob Gibson played basketball as a collegian at Creighton University in Omaha, his home town.
He also played for the Harlem Globetrotters.
Like all of the Cardinal greats, he would visit their spring training headquarters in Jupiter, FL long after he retired.
I would see him in the clubhouse and all he wanted to do was talk about hoops.
When you think of the New York Yankees these names come to mind among others:
Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Rizzuto, Mantle, Berra, Maris, and more currently, Jeter.
I know there are a lot more, but when it comes to pitching you basically hear about two. Mariano Rivera, the preeminent relief pitcher, and the Chairman of the Board, Ed “Whitey” Ford.
Ford was brilliant on the Yankees dynasty in the 1950’s and early 60’s.
Whitey pitched for 11 pennant winners and six World Series champions.
He was a New Yorker all the way. Born there, lived there, played there.
His career winning percentage was nearly 70 percent. Unheard of.
He was 5 feet 10 inches and never overpowered hitters like Gibson.
He changed speeds artistically. He got the ball over the plate, won games, and rarely lost games.
He was never better than when he pitched in the World Series.
At one time, he threw a record. 33 2/3 scoreless innings.
He was masterful.
This week, Joe Morgan joined Gibson and Ford in Baseball Heaven.
Morgan was the second baseman on the Cincinnati Reds “Big Red Machine” powerhouses.
Twice a world champion and twice the National League Most Valuable Player, Morgan combined speed with power. He hit doubles, and home runs and was a threat to steal every time he got on base, which was often.
Joe Morgan was a 10-time All-Star.
Unlike the two pitchers mentioned, Morgan was an outstanding broadcaster, for both the Reds and ABC when they did the national games for as decade starting in the late 1980’s.
The one thing I’ll always remember about Morgan, the announcer, was his disdain for how the game changed from putting the ball in play and stealing bases, to home runs, walks and strikeouts.
I’ve been in total agreement with him on that view.
But he was one of the first to express It.
Joe Morgan was 77. Gibson was 84. Ford was 91.
They were all from my time. The two pitchers when I was a kid and at the start of my career.
The second-baseman, who was my partner in the broadcast booth one time, a true contemporary.