- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 1, 2004

HOUSTON.

Greetings from the Super Bowl, where the local time — after all the partying last night — is half past hangover.

• • •

Ever wonder if, for some people, the commercials are the thing and the game is just filler?

• • •

Eleven Thoughts on Today’s Extravaganza:

1. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Patriots got called for pass interference early on — to discourage them from roughing up the Panthers’ receivers the way they did the Colts’.

2. Not that it would deter Rodney Harrison.

3. It’s nice the teams had two weeks to get ready. Otherwise, Stephen Davis — the Running Back Steve Spurrier Didn’t Want — might not have been at his best. (And we could have that.)

4. Carolina has won at Tampa Bay, Indianapolis, St. Louis and Philadelphia. Why in the world would anyone suggest the Panthers don’t belong here?

5. My 13-year-old is convinced that Bethel Johnson, the Patriots’ supersonic kick returner, is going to be the difference for them.

6. Never argue with a 13-year-old, especially at operator-assisted rates.

7. The Super Bowl is overdue for a safety. The last one was after the 1990 season, when the Bills’ Bruce Smith sacked the Giants’ Jeff Hostetler.

8. Has any kicker in NFL history booted more big field goals than the Patriots’ Adam Vinatieri? He had the 45-yarder in the snow against the Raiders two years ago to send the game into overtime, the 48-yarder against the Rams a week later to win the Super Bowl, the 46-yarder against the Titans this season in sub-zero conditions to give New England the victory. … Put it this way: There’s no one in the league I’d rather have attempting an important kick — and today’s game could definitely come down to one.

9. The Panthers remind me most of the ‘70s Steelers — fire-breathing front four, Louisiana quarterback and Davis playing the part of Franco Harris.

10. The Patriots don’t really remind me of anybody, which is probably just as well. It means they might be an archetype — a club for the ages — rather than just a knockoff.

11. I haven’t changed my mind since last week. New England 16, Carolina 13 still sounds about right.

• • •

It’s comforting, somehow, that the Panthers are owned by a former NFL player — one-time Colts receiver Jerry Richardson, who actually scored a touchdown in the ‘59 title game on a 12-yard pass from Johnny Unitas. The only other ex-player to own a team was Papa Bear himself, George Halas.

“I think I have an appreciation for this game unlike any other owner today,” Richardson said. “I was in the huddle in the fourth quarter when the New York Giants were beating us 9-7 [in the ‘59 championship game], and I was in the game when we were ahead 14-9 and 21-9. Obviously, there’s not a current owner with a memory like that. It has been a blessing for me. I’m grateful for it.”

He’s grateful, too, because he took his winner’s share from that game — “I netted about $3,500 after investing it” — and started a business. “We bought a Hardee’s franchise, the first one. I squirted mustard and catsup and put pickles on rolls. I wrapped the hamburgers up and sold those for 15 cents. Then we built more and more, and eventually we built several thousand.”

• • •

Somebody should write a doctoral thesis sometime on “The Effect of the 1950s Baltimore Colts on the Fast Food Industry in America.” Richardson started the Hardee’s chain, and Gino Marchetti (along with Alan Ameche) launched Gino’s.

• • •

It’s also comforting that a player who might be related to Vince Lombardi will be suiting up tonight. I say “might” because Larry Izzo isn’t 100 percent sure. “I haven’t officially traced it,” the Patriots linebacker says, “but his mother’s maiden name was [Matilda] Izzo. It’s not that common a name. Maybe we’re related somewhere down the line from the old country.”

Izzo’s late father, also named Larry, coached on the same football fields at Army that Lombardi did. After graduating from West Point, he helped out with the lightweight (150-pound) team while also teaching physics.

• • •

Historical Note of the Week: The Patriots practiced at Rice for the game, and Bill Belichick couldn’t help noticing the names of some of the Owls’ football greats “up there in the stadium — [including] Frank Ryan [and] King Hill, two quarterbacks drafted from the same team in the same year. I don’t know if that has happened in a while.”

It probably hasn’t. Hill was the first pick in the ‘58 draft, by the Chicago Cardinals, and Ryan went in the fifth round, 54th overall, to the L.A. Rams. Imagine: Two QBs from the same school in the first 50-some selections.

Ryan, of course, went on to win the NFL title with the Browns in ‘64 (and later served as athletic director at Yale).

• • •

Dan Henning wasn’t what you’d call a great quote when he served on Joe Gibbs’ Redskins staff in the ‘80s. But in the autumn of his career, as offensive coordinator of the Panthers, he’s become a veritable raconteur. He certainly helped fill reporters’ notebooks this past week — and seemed to enjoy doing it.

One of the more interesting things he said was that “Williams Andrews” — and not, say, John Riggins or Bob Griese (among others) — “is the best player I ever coached, period.” Andrews, who Henning built the offense around in Atlanta, “could run with the best of them, he was an excellent receiver out of the backfield and he may be the best blocking back I ever saw. William had a great year in ‘83, and then he tore up his knee. Otherwise, I think he would have been one of the great ones.”

Andrews was definitely headed in that direction. He racked up 2,176 yards from scrimmage that season and came within a few yards of becoming the first back to gain 100 in every game. (The Packers held him to 96 and the 49ers to 92.)

• • •

Speaking of Henning, my Virginia Tech source writes: “Like six degrees of separation, all things go back to Hokie football. Henning is an ex-Hokie offensive coordinator during the Air Strock years [in the early ‘70s].

“We were fun but lost a lot. The Little Tennesseean, Charlie Coffey, was our coach, and we had the checkerboard end zones like Tennessee and orange uniforms and helmets with the state of Virginia on them, including a star where Blacksburg is on the map. … Yes, we had style.

“It appears Henning, along with Reds voice Marty Brenneman, who did the Hokie play-by-play that year, is one of the few people to have actually been involved in that close 77-6 loss we had to Alabama in ‘73. ‘Bama gained over 800 yards [833 to be exact, including 748 rushing]. I wonder what halftime adjustments we made in that one.”

• • •

To fully appreciate Crazylegs Hirsch, who died last week at 80, you have to go back to his 1951 season. He had 1,495 yards receiving in the Rams’ 12 games that year — or 124.6 a game. That’s still, after all these years, the highest average ever. Jerry Rice, whose 1,848 yards for the 49ers in ‘95 is the record for a season, averaged 115.5.

Also, Hirsch not only caught 17 touchdown passes in ‘51, which tied the league mark (since broken), but the average length of his scoring receptions was 47.8 yards. Crazylegs, my friends, was a serious wideout.

• • •

Oh, to have been at the Rams’ season finale in 1954, when Hirsch retired for the first time. (He reconsidered and played three more years.) As he was walking off the L.A. Coliseum field after the game, a gang of souvenir-hunting kids surrounded him and “practically denuded” him, according to the Los Angeles Times. All they left him with was his girdle pads and ankle tape.

To keep from getting trampled, Crazylegs did an impromptu striptease — taking off his jersey and tossing it one way, removing his uniform pants and throwing them in another direction, slipping out of his shoulder pads and hurling them someplace else, etc. “Little by little,” he recalled later, “I bartered my way off the field” … until the stadium police arrived and escorted him to the locker room.

• • •

Art Monk will get in the Pro Football Hall of Fame someday — or maybe he won’t. But Dan Snyder isn’t helping Art’s cause any by issuing snotty statements like the one that was distributed yesterday.

“Art Monk belongs in the Hall of Fame,” Snyder sniffed. “His teammates know it, those he played against know it, his coaches know it and all Redskins fans know it. There’s no acceptable explanation for why he has been denied the honor he deserves.”

Hey, if Dan Snyder thinks Art Monk belongs in the Hall of Fame, then I guess we’d better put him in. Because Dan’s fine eye for talent has taken the Redskins from 8-8 to 7-9 to 5-11 the past three seasons.

Do you think this guy is ever going to stop acting like a 7-year-old?

• • •

Plenty of players, great players, have had to wait a while before getting in. Defensive end Carl Eller and offensive tackle Bob Brown, who were finally admitted yesterday, had been cooling their cleats for more than two decades. And I can unequivocally state that Art Monk was no better than they were.

• • •

The most ridiculous theory making the rounds is that Monk has been excluded from the Hall because he wasn’t particularly cooperative with the media. As I’ve told any number of numbskulls who have expressed this notion, “The vast majority of the voters had little or no dealings with Monk during his career. They were in other towns, covering other teams. The way Art treated the media doesn’t affect what I think of him as a player. It just affects whether I feel sorry for him that he hasn’t gotten into Canton.”

• • •

And finally …

The last time the Super Bowl was held in Houston (after the ‘73 season), the Dolphins threw a grand total of seven passes — or about the same number Joe Namath made at Suzy Kolber in that sideline interview.

Let’s hope Tom Brady and Jake Delhomme put it up a little more often than that today.

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