NFL’s Final 4 full of success stories
The NFL is down to the final four teams entering championship weekend.
These playoffs are not lacking excitement nor dramatic endings. The two games today shouldn’t be exceptions. The headlines looming for tonight: “A storybook ending to a Hall of Fame career by arguably the greatest linebacker to ever play the game.”
Although most NFL players would be sidelined for the remainder of the season, Ray Lewis returned from a nasty triceps injury. He has provided a major spark to the Ravens’ defense in what is his final run at another championship during the 17th season of a Canton-bound career.
Since his two-game return, Lewis has recorded 30 tackles – again an astonishing feat considering most people didn’t expect to see him back.
The Ravens could have placed him on the injured-reserved list, but they kept him on its 53-man roster, holding out hope he would be able to beat the odds one last time.
On the other side of the ball in the AFC is the Patriots. This team that has been so successful for so long wasn’t projected to be a championship-caliber unit just a few months ago after a 3-3 start.
Quarterback Tom Brady rallied his team and played the last five regular-season games without his most dangerous weapon, tight end Rob Gronkowski.
Speaking of Brady, he is seeking his fourth Super Bowl ring, which would tie Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw for the most all-time by a QB.
Prior to a decade-plus of dominance, Brady was a former sixth-round draft pick in the 2000 NFL draft. A total of 198 other players were selected ahead of him.
The fact that he wasn’t even first choice at QB on his own college team during his days at Michigan makes his success even more impressive.
In 1999, Drew Henson was given every opportunity to take the starting job before coach Lloyd Carr was left with no choice but to stick with the hot-handed Brady.
Once upon a time, a scenario like the one Brady faced was considered an underdog story – a feel-good story. Sports fans pulled for low-round picks like him to succeed. Instead, our hateful and deplorable desires often call for our most successful athletes to fail.
People’s shameful, guilty pleasures have frequently consisted of a need to see the best players lose. So many fans have become borderline obsessed with focusing on those who lose as opposed to giving credit to who wins.
It’s very sad to see how rampant the hating is toward professional athletes and various teams.
As far as today goes, best of luck convincing yourself that whichever team is not the victor on Sunday somehow failed. Last time I checked, playing in the conference championship is a significantly successful season.
Save the criticism for the teams that did not make the playoffs.
Tell the truth in Te’o case
This Manti Te’o story will never compete with the Jerry Sandusky case involving abuse of young boys and the eventual trial and verdict, but this thing out at Notre Dame involving Te’o and this alleged girlfriend he had or didn’t have and her so-called death is bizarre and smells more like a “red herring.”
The longer it takes for the truth to come out, the longer it will be a public-relations nightmare for Notre Dame. What makes this very intriguing news is ND’s “love-hate” relationship that exists with the sports fans.
Like the Lance Armstrong case, it is better the truth be known now – not later.
Huffy still a cut above
Following are lifetime passing efficiency ratings that I compiled on Penn State’s quarterbacks.
1. John Hufnagel (140.8): Still the best, with or without rating. If you run into anyone who tells you that this guy was the greatest PSU QB, you can pay attention to whatever else he has to say. If he says Tony Sacca, walk away.
2. Daryll Clark (140.4): Possibly the most underrated PSU player ever.
3. Kerry Collins (137.3): Mediocre until winning Maxwell with stunning 1994 performance.
4. Mike McQueary (133.3): Shortchanged by Joe Paterno, the university and by himself.
5. Chuck Fusina (132.7): Too many interceptions but one of the best. He once told me that the 1977 team was better than 1978. I agree.
6. Matt McGloin (130.2): In the midst of chaos, rating was 137.7 in 2012. (Rob Bolden’s number is 101.2.)
7. Tom Shuman (127.6): Led the greatest team of all, 1973, with a rifle arm. Slipped in 1974.
8. John Sacca (125.0): I could guess all night and not come up with him.
9. Todd Blackledge (121.4): 41 touchdowns/41 interceptions. Made huge mistake leaving early.
10. Kevin Thompson (121.1): With the benefit of O’Brien and Fisher, he’s a McGloin or better.
11. Tony Sacca (119.1): If I were older when he played, he would have given me a stroke. Three horrible years leading to an exceptional 1991. Most overrated player in Penn State history.
12. Michael Robinson (114.6): His 1637 career rushing yards underscored his versatility and leadership ability.
Not a comprehensive list, but – hopefully – an interesting one.
Newry pitcher was good guy, too
Last Monday, the obituary page of the Mirror recorded the passing of William “Bill” Hite, 78, of Newry.
The obit mentioned that he was a pitcher for the Newry entry in the Blair Twilight Baseball League. Bill was never the ace of the Newry staff, but he hurled one outstanding game and I, as his teammate, was a participant in the event.
During the 1954 season, Bill was the starting pitcher when Newry took on the 772nd Air Force team, which had its base at Blue Knob. The game was played at the old Newry diamond, adjacent to St. Patrick’s school.
Bill fanned all three Air Force batters in the first inning and continued to rack up a phenomenal number of strikeouts as the game progressed.
We scored five runs in the first, so the game become secondary to Bill’s quest for the strikeout record.
The existing mark for strikeouts in the Blair Twilight League – 18 – was set by Sam Fonzi, Williamsburg High School’s football coach, hurling for Ganister in 1947. All twilight games were seven innings, so a perfect strikeout game was 21.
As Bill entered the final inning, he needed to strike out the side for 19 fans. He fell short by two and ended the game with 17.
Bill’s catchers were Paul ” Scrappy” Weaver, who got credit for 13 outs, and Homer Hileman, who caught the final four.
Several years ago, when I began writing a Sunday column for the Mirror, Bill recognized my name and sent me a letter.
I responded by sending a copy of the newspaper clip that appeared after the game. He reciprocated with a team photo of the 1954 Newry squad. We talked by telephone and traded memories of the game.
Bill was an all-around good guy.