When Will Jerry Kramer Get His Due?

A few weeks ago on the day before one of the best Super Bowls ever, the 2017 Pro Football Hall of Fame class was announced. For many of those elected, I thought “yep, they got that right.” For others I thought, “you’re #$^%^ kidding me!” I won’t name names on the latter because that does no one any good at this point.

But, if we’re looking at HOF injustice, Exhibit A has to be Green Bay Packer’s great, Jerry Kramer – the best lineman on what be the best offensive line of all-time (the mid-1960’s Packers).  Not only did Jerry Kramer make the All-50 Year NFL Team (i.e., the best guard of the first 50 years of the NFL), he threw the lead block on the famous game winning quarterback sneak by Bart Starr that ended the 1967 “Ice Bowl” NFL Championship game against the Cowboys.  He also kicked three FGs in the 1962 NFL title game win against the New York Giants (50 mph wind/13 degrees). And, he’s the author of one of the best football books ever, Instant Replay.

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So, why isn’t the best guard on the 5-time World Champion Packers in the Hall of Fame?  Who knows.  The is a very good article describing the process and asking the same questions (click here to read).

It’s time to rectify this terrible oversight before it’s too late.  Too many marginal players are getting in and true greats are left out.  Much like Ken Stabler finally received his due from the NFL, Jerry Kramer deserves to be recognized in the HOF.  And unlike Stabler, it needs to be done before he passes on.  At 81 years old, time is running out.  Hopefully, 2018 will be the year for Jerry Kramer on of the greatest NFL players of all time.

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That’s all for now football fans,

Sterling Miller

PS Get the full history of great NFL games in my book!

 

 

Chargers Are Moving Back to Los Angeles – 55 Years Later!

As you know from my book, “The Evolution of Professional Football,” the American Football League begin in 1960 as a direct competitor of the NFL.  Among the original eight teams were the Los Angeles Chargers.  The Chargers moved to San Diego in 1961, after playing their first season in LA.  Yesterday, the Chargers announced they are moving back “home” — 55 years later!  Click here to read more on this.

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The Chargers have consistently worn the coolest uniforms in the NFL – the Bolts and Powder Blue!

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One of the first NFL games I remember watching was the Green Bay Packers vs. the San Diego Chargers on Monday Night Football.  Who was I rooting for?  The team with the coolest helmet of course!  That being San Diego in case it wasn’t clear.

This move obviously sucks for the many dedicated fans living in San Diego.  But it represents a bonanza for Los Angeles which got the Rams back from St. Louis last year and now have the Chargers on the way.  Both teams will ultimately play in the new billion dollar stadium being built by the Rams.  In the interim, the Rams are playing in the ancient Coliseum and the Chargers will play in the local soccer team’s stadium, which holds about 30,000 people – making it the smallest stadium to host an NFL team by about 30,000 seats (the Oakland Coliseum seats around 60,000).  The only problem for the Rams and the Chargers, regardless of where they play, is no one in LA gives a crap about either team.  Which is why both teams ultimately left in the first place. But the new stadium will instantly double the value of both franchises because it is a license to print money from seat licenses, parking, concessions, suites, etc.  The Chargers did try to stay in San Diego – but wanted the City to contribute toward a new stadium.  The voters said “No thank you” and now here you are.  You can debate the value of having an NFL team in terms of dollars and cents, but you cannot place a value on the damage to the City’s psyche of being another also-ran in the NFL team department (just ask two-time loser St. Louis and Baltimore before the Ravens came).

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While I am sorry to see San Diego lose the team (and watch out for the Raiders moving to Las Vegas next), the bottom line is that cities that want teams are going to need to pay up or shut up.  The owners have a rare product and it’s a seller market.  While the sun will come up tomorrow in San Diego, lightning storms will never be the same.

While I have your attention, here are my picks in the four divisional playoff games:

Chiefs over Steelers

Cowboys over Packers

Patriots over Texans

Seattle over Atlanta

That’s all for now football fans,

Sterling Miller

PS Get the full history of NFL teams leaving and moving in my book!

 

The “Silver and Black” Wasn’t Always That: The History of the Oakland Raiders Uniform

The Oakland Raiders are back in the playoffs! The Raiders have long been a favorite of mine. In my book I write about seeing an Oakland Raider helmet on a shelf at the local JC Penny and desperately wanting it. Why? Because the silver and black with the “pirate” football player logo was pretty awesome – especially when you’re ten!

I cam across this article setting out the history of the Raiders’ uniforms.  While we think of the team as always wearing the “Silver and Black” with the awesome helmet logo, that was not always the case.  In fact, the first uniforms were black and gold!  Click here to read the article.  From the article by Paul Lukas @uniwatch:

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Moreover, Lukas notes that the numbers were not always black, they were white, as was the original background color of the helmet logo:

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Another neat thing about the Raiders uniforms is in the beginning, the Raiders showed the players’ full name on the back of the jersey!

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If you’re like me, this type of history and trivia is what makes the NFL so interesting.  You can read more about the history of the league, uniforms, helmets, etc. in my book: “The Evolution of Professional Football” available at sterlingmillerbooks.com

The playoffs are starting – now it gets good!  Keep watching.

That’s it for now football fans.

Sterling Miller

Trump and the USFL

Is Donald Trump the man with the tin touch?  According to many, he can magically turn billions into millions.  Equally magical is his ability to claim “Yuge” success from big financial failures over the years.  One of his all time “Hall of Fame Turds” is his investment in the USFL.  I did not discuss the USFL in my book as my focus was solely on the NFL (and leagues that merged into the NFL) but, looking back, it probably deserves at least a footnote in the second edition.  The upstart league almost made it and I remember watching a number of the games and thinking “these guys are pretty good.” And by these guys I mean Herschel Walker, Reggie White, Jim Kelly, Steve Young and many others.  If you haven’t seen the the ESPN 30/30 movie about the USFL called “Small Potatoes – Who Killed the USFL“, be sure to check it out.  Especially the part where Mr. Trump enters the scene and leads the USFL into a disastrous anti-trust fight with the NFL, a loss that all but ended the league.  For a more recent look at this, the New York Times published a story today on Trump’s involvement in the USFL. Click here to read it.  From the article:

“But the owners made two early mistakes. Eager to recoup some of their losses, they decided to expand to 18 teams for their second season, allowing them to pocket franchise fees of $4 million per team from the six new owners. It was too much too soon; from that point on, franchises folded, merged, moved — it bordered on chaos. And second, they let the Generals’ owner, an Oklahoma oilman named J. Walter Duncan, sell the team to Trump. The price was reported to be $9 million. (Trump later claimed it was only $5 million.)”

Trump’s idea was to move the league’s schedule from the spring to the fall where it would compete head-to-head against the NFL (even though it was clear that the league was not ready for that move).  While successful in the spring, the league’s move to the fall was a “Yuge” failure.  Additionally, Trump was – surprise! – everywhere.  Making newspaper headlines for his brash comments and kooky plans.

“At first, many of the owners were glad to have him play this role because it put a spotlight on the new league. But many U.S.F.L. observers soon came to believe that he did not necessarily have the best interests of the league at heart. “He was a dynamic figure, but he was dynamic on behalf of the Donald Trump interests, not the whole league,” said Keith Jackson, who broadcast U.S.F.L. games for ABC.”

Not hacking it on the field, the solution? Litigation!

“How was Trump planning to dig the U.S.F.L. out of a hole he had largely created? Litigation, of course! The U.S.F.L. would sue the N.F.L. for being an illegal monopolist. Among other things, the lawsuit charged that the N.F.L., by having TV contracts with the three major networks (this was pre-Fox), was preventing the U.S.F.L. from signing a television deal for a fall season. It asked for $1.32 billion in damages, which in an antitrust case are trebled if the plaintiffs win. That would be more than enough not only to sustain the league, but also to enrich its beleaguered owners.”

The result?  The jury awarded the USFL $1 in damages (yes, that is $1).  Trebled (as required under antitrust law), total damages came to $3.  Yes, Trump had magically “tripled” the league’s investment in the lawsuit. Needless to say, the USFL folded shortly thereafter.  The NFL got an influx of great talent from the disbanded teams, but knew enough to vote “no” to keep Trump out of the ownership club. Trump may not always be the smartest guy in the room or the most successful, but damn he is the most entertaining (and the most orange)!

That’s it for now football fans.

Sterling

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Hall of Fame, Super Bowl, and Blood is Spilled at NFL Owners’ Meeting

Looks like I have several things to talk about as we are now at the end of the 2015-16 NFL season.  First up is the recent Hall of Fame voting and the Class of 2016.  No surprise that Brett Favre got in on the first ballot or that Marvin Harrison finally made it.  The same for Orlando Pace.  The rest of the bunch, with one exception, I just say “Fine.  If that’s who you think belongs, good for you.” The one exception:  Ken Stabler. It should have been a federal crime to keep Ken “The Snake” Stabler out of the HOF until this year, just  after he passed away in 2015.  The Snake was “The Man” in the 1970’s, the undisputed leader of the baddest, toughest, winning-est, and weirdest bunch of outcasts in the NFL – the Silver and Black, the Oakland Raiders.  I saw many games where Stabler would somehow, twist and turn and scramble out of a sure sack to hit the long bomb or a crucial touchdown pass.  So many times my friends and I would look at each other and say “How the $%k did he do that?!” All Oakland did was win, and then win some more.  Hell, even their punter (Ray Guy) was awesome.  So, Mr. Stabler finally getting into the Hall of Fame, well after so many lessor candidates were inducted, is well deserved.  As for the voters prior to this year – they should be drug out back behind the barn and punched in the kidneys until they admit that they are idiots.

With that off my chest, let’s turn to the Super Bowl.  It was a good game  – one of the more entertaining of the past ten years or so.  While I could care less who won, it kept my attention until the very end, something a lot of the Super Bowls fail to do.  Was great to see Wade Phillips get his due as a coach and to see Von Miller and Demarcus Ware show up big time.  They were beating on Cam Newton like it was their job!  On reflection, I guess it was their job.  As for the Panthers, hard to believe it was the same team that steamrolled through the NFC playoffs.  Cam looked like one of the 17 back-up QB’s the Cowboys used this year.  None of the commercials really grabbed my attention other than the monkey/baby/puppy horror served up by Mountain Dew.  That was worse than the constipation commercial.  I can only imagine that at the meeting where they are firing the numb-nuts who came up with the constipation commercial, his defense is “at least I didn’t come up with monkey/baby/puppy creature!”  Halftime was kind of a mess.  I though Coldplay was playing.  Felt like they got one song in and then two other bands kidnapped the stage.  I love Bruno Mars – mega talented.  Could live without Beyonce.  She writes/performs the same song (and dance) over and over and over.  Made me wish for “Up with People”!

Finally, I came across this great article on ESPN.com about the owners meetings that led up to the Rams move from St. Louis to Los Angeles.  Click here to read it.  It’s long so set some time aside to read it.  It is a fascinating story about the the backdoor dealing, backstabbing, and backsliding that went on behind the scenes.  You could tell from the public announcements about the new L.A. stadium and the Rams move that something goofy had been going on behind the scenes.  It wasn’t just goofy, it was bloody!  From the article:

“One NFL owner called the meeting a “s— show.” A “nightmare,” another said. Yet another described it as “the most contentious and polarizing” in decades. On Dec. 2 at the Four Seasons in Irving, Texas, the owners-only meeting had a single agenda item: Which team or teams should be allowed to relocate to Los Angeles?”

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“Before the meeting ended, [Jerry] Jones, as would be his habit, took control. He delivered a rollicking, profanity-laced eight-minute endorsement of Kroenke’s monumental vision, saying in his Arkansas drawl that whichever owner returned to Los Angeles, he needed to have “big balls.”

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“In the lobby of the Westin after the news conference, Jerry Jones exited an elevator, carrying a nearly empty glass of whiskey, looking both energized and relieved. Though he deeply believed that the vote reflected the league’s best interest, Jones had engineered the defeat of one of the most beloved owners by one of the shrewdest. A few feet away at the hotel bar, some owners took turns consoling Spanos. He felt as if he’d been stabbed in the back. Someone suggested that he should pull a Kroenke and move to Carson anyway. Spanos didn’t want to hear it.”

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I guess the days of “all for one and one for all” – a hallmark of why the NFL became the most popular and successful sports league in America – are over.  The NFL has a lot of issues on its plate at the moment – popularity isn’t one of them.  But at some point, the owners really need to think about what they’re doing and how it impacts interest in the game.  They need to make it safer for players, stop the extortion of cities over stadium funding, and give something to the fans other than the finger when it comes to ticket prices/parking/concessions, endless pre-season games, and televised games that are taking longer and longer to play.  Not saying the league is in a danger right now, but I think you’re starting to see a few cracks in the foundation.  Better shore it up quickly Mr. Goodell.  Here comes the NHL!

That’s it for now football fans,

Sterling

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Go Snake Go!

The Hidden Super Bowl I Tapes – Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Like many I recently watched a replay of the entire Super Bowl I on NFL Network (thanks to my buddy Bart for reminding me about the broadcast).  The game was the first between the NFL and the upstart AFL and was a condition of the 1966 merger between the leagues (and the game wasn’t even called the “Super Bowl” yet, it was the “World Championship Game”).  In honor of the 50th anniversary of the game, the league pieced the television broadcast together through film saved by NFL Films as neither NBC or CBS (which both broadcast the game) bothered to save a copy. But, there is another copy of the game, taped on a professional quality machine.  It belongs to Troy Haupt whose father taped the game in 1967.  There is a great story about the taping in the New York Times (click here to read it), discussing the years-long fight between the NFL and Mr. Haupt about the price for the league to buy it from him.  Mr. Haupt asked for $1 million, the league countered with $30,000 and has not budged.  Moreover, since the broadcast is copyrighted by the NFL, the league has threatened to sue Haupt if he attempts to sell it to a third party.  From the article:

“A letter from the league to Harwood last year provided a sharp warning to Haupt. “Since you have already indicated that your client is exploring opportunities for exploitation of the N.F.L.’s Super Bowl I copyrighted footage with yet-unidentified third parties,” Dolores DiBella, a league counsel, wrote, “please be aware that any resulting copyright infringement will be considered intentional, subjecting your client and those parties to injunctive relief and special damages, among other remedies.”

The law favors the league, said Jodi Balsam, a professor at Brooklyn Law School.

“What the league technically has is a property right in the game information and they are the only ones who can profit from that,” said Balsam, a former N.F.L. lawyer.

But, she added, the league has not handled the matter as well as it should have.

“It seems they’ve misplayed their hand here,” she said. “They’ve known about this tape for years, and it seems to me they should have resolved this years ago, because it’s important footage.”

But until the league and Haupt resolve their differences, the public will never see the game as it happened, on the winter day when Green Bay became the champion of the N.F.L. and A.F.L., and Martin Haupt took a mysterious route to recording history.”

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While the NFL Film version is good (other than constant interruptions of the annoying panel of commentators) it would be vastly improved with access to this tape.  Come on Troy and NFL, let’s work this out so fans can enjoy the full legacy of the first Super Bowl!

That’s it for now football fans.

Sterling

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Chargers Copyright “L.A. Chargers” – What Does it Mean?

It appears that the owners of the San Diego Chargers recently filed for copyright protection for the terms “Los Angeles Chargers” and “L.A. Chargers.”  None of this means for certain that the team is moving to L.A., but it is certainly a necessary step in that process.  To read the story click here.  From the story:

“Approval of the applications can take several months, and if the Chargers don’t use the marks within six months after the team is granted approval, the applications would be considered abandoned. But that timeframe can be extended multiple times, Saivar said. So even if the Chargers don’t decide to move to LA immediately, the trademark applications could prove helpful to the team down the road.

One other interesting note:  The attorney of record named on the trademark applications is not an employee of the Chargers. It is Anastasia Danias, a senior vice president and in-house attorney with the NFL. At the very least, Saivar says, this suggests the league has signed off on whatever the Chargers decide to do.”

If you have read my book you know that the Chargers were one of the original eight 1960 American Football League franchises and were based in Los Angeles before moving to San Diego the next year.  Not sure if they will move back to L.A. or not but one thing is for sure: those powder blue uniforms with the lightning bolts are among the best in the history of the NFL!

That’s it for now football fans.

Sterling

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The Real Crime in Deflategate

It’s been about one year since “deflategate” roiled the NFL world.  In case you were locked away in a cave for the past 12 months, “deflategate” involved allegations that the New England Patriots and star quarterback, Tom Brady, illegally deflated footballs during last year’s AFC playoffs.  While I have no great love or hate for the Patriots, I did think the $3M investigation and the weak (too be kind) Wells Report and conclusions seemed fishy  – as noted in my book.  It appears they were exactly that.  The New York Times published a story today discussing how a number of noted and independent scientists (MIT, Carnegie Mellon, Univ of Chicago, etc.) found the research and report written by the expert hired by Wells and the NFL would not even meet the quality of a bad graduate student.  The scientists were able to show that the deflation of the footballs was consistent with well known scientific laws around the behavior of gasses in a cold environment.  Click here to read the story.  From the story:

“When he was done, he concluded that Exponent had made a series of basic errors. Leonard’s work showed the exact opposite of Exponent’s conclusions: The drop in the Patriots’ footballs’ p.s.i was consistent with the Ideal Gas Law; the smaller drop in pressure in the Colts’ balls was not. (Leonard surmises that because the Colts’ balls were tested after the Patriots’ balls, they had warmed up again.)

The edited lecture went up on YouTube on Dec. 1 and has been viewed more than 17,000 times. It is utterly convincing. Leonard told me that if an M.I.T. undergraduate made the kinds of mistakes that Exponent made, “I would force them to repeat the experiment and correct the analysis.” Based on his study of the data, Leonard now says: “I am convinced that no deflation occurred and that the Patriots are innocent. It never happened.”

Brady of course ultimately won the battle with the Commissioner over the issue, but the owner of the Patriots paid a steep price for the NFL’s bogus science.  Meaning, the real crime here is the made up crisis put on by Roger Goodell and the NFL front office.  The second crime was not dealing properly with the Patriots’ video-taping incident back in 2007 which led to the other owners wanting Goodell to “get the Patriots” this time around.

And if the Patriots win the Super Bowl again this year…

That’s it for now football fans.

Sterling

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First Female Coach in NFL!

Pretty exciting news today that the NFL hired its first full-time female coach.   The Buffalo Bills hired Kathryn Smith as Special Teams Quality Control, an assistant coach position on Rex Ryan’s staff.  Click here to read the story.  In July 2015, the Arizona Cardinals hired Jen Welter as a pre-season intern, coaching linebackers.  Ms. Smith, however, will be the NFL’s first full-time regular season female coach.  As the father of two daughters, I think this is great as — while my girls will probably not want to coach football — any new ground for women is welcomed news!

“I consulted with (Cardinals coach) Bruce Arians on this since he was really the first NFL head coach to make this kind of move when he hired a female linebackers coach through the summer,” Ryan continued. “You can see the success some of these young ladies are having in the coaching profession, such as the young lady (Becky Hammon) that is an assistant to Coach (Greg) Popovich at the San Antonio Spurs, and realize how exciting this is for women like Kathryn Smith as well as the Bills organization.”

Hats off to the Bills and to the Cardinals!  And best wishes to Ms. Smith where every steps she takes up the ladder will be breaking new ground.

That’s it for now football fans.

Sterling

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Woodpeckers May Lead the Way to Prevent Football Concussions

A new device may soon be available to help eliminate concussions in football (and other sports, e.g., ice hockey, NASCAR, etc.).  The technology is based on woodpeckers and the fact that they can bang their head against a tree repeatedly and not suffer any ill-effects. It’s not a new helmet however:

“Helmets are good at preventing skull fractures, but they can’t prevent concussions. That’s because the brain floats in fluid inside the skull, like an egg yolk inside a shell. No matter how well the outside is padded, the brain is still damaged when it sloshes against the sides of the skull during a collision. Bailes’s innovation is a collar that lightly constricts the jugular vein, which has the effect of reducing the jiggle room inside the cranium.”

Rather, the technology is based on the physiology of woodpeckers:

“He began studying woodpeckers. One of their most unusual features is a long tongue, which in some species is supported by bones that wrap all the way around the head. Smith theorizes these compress the woodpecker’s neck veins as it thrusts its head forward, increasing the volume of blood between its brain and its skull. Smith says this extra fluid “works like Bubble Wrap” to help keep the brain from knocking against the skull. He was convinced that the same effect could be reproduced in humans, perhaps with some kind of collar.”

Click here to read the full story.

This could be a real game changer (no pun intended) if it really works (and a lot of “ifs” here).  Eliminating or significantly reducing head injuries in football would be a godsend to the players (at all levels), the NFL owners, and the fans – who are often conflicted between the love of big hits and concern about the well-being of their favorite players.

Fingers crossed on this one.

That’s it for now football fans,

Sterling

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