- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 23, 2005

So I’m reading about Ben Roethlisberger wearing gloves in last week’s game against the Jets, and I’m thinking: Why do quarterbacks do that anyway? Is it really to get a better grip on the ball, or are they just worried about having a bad day — and leaving fingerprints?

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Just for the sake of argument, let’s say Eagles 27, Falcons 20, and Patriots 13, Steelers 10.

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A question from Bret Lewis of KFWB radio in Los Angeles (as quoted by Larry Stewart in the L.A. Times):

“If the Steelers and Eagles both make it to the Super Bowl … would the governor [of Pennsylvania], Ed Rendell, make a bet with himself?”

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This week’s sports stumper: Only twice have two teams from the same state made it to the Ultimate Game. Which teams and what years? (Answer below.)

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Reader Jay Spiegel of Mount Vernon correctly points out that Baltimore Colt Jim O’Brien was not the only rookie kicker in NFL history to boot a game-winning field goal in the last two minutes of a playoff game. (A “fact” rattled off by ABC’s Al Michaels when Chargers rookie Nate Kaeding missed in overtime against the Jets two weeks ago.)

“In 1950,” Spiegel reminds us in an e-mail, “Lou Groza kicked a 16-yard field goal with [28] seconds remaining in the NFL championship game to propel the Cleveland Browns to a 30-28 victory over the Los Angeles Rams. [That] was the Browns’ first year in the NFL. Thus all the players were NFL rookies, even though many, including Lou, had played for the Browns in the old All-America Conference.”

• • •

Another “rookie” on that Browns team, Spiegel might have added, was Marion Motley, who led the NFL in rushing at the age of 30. Motley was the oldest player to lead the league in that category until this season, when the Jets’ Curtis Martin topped all rushers at 31 — and yet Motley was, technically, a first-year man.

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Groza and Motley have another connection besides being teammates (and Hall of Famers). They both wore No.76 for the Browns — Marion in the All-America Conference (when backs were assigned such numbers) and Lou in the NFL (as an offensive tackle). When the number was retired by the club, though, it was retired as Groza’s number, not his and Motley’s, which always struck me as kind of odd.

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Needless to say, it struck Marion as kind of odd, too.

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Not that “the Toe,” as Groza was called, didn’t have a whale of a career. Consider this: He played in 12 championship games with the Browns (four in the AAC, eight in the NFL) and was on a winner in eight — the first in 1946 and the last 18 years later. Had he been able to hang on, George Blanda-like, for two more seasons, he might have appeared in 14 championship games. (He retired in ‘67 at 43, and Cleveland went to the NFL title game in ‘68 and ‘69.)

• • •

Groza’s most amazing accomplishment, however, might be this: He once kicked the ball on five consecutive plays. It happened, if memory serves, late in the first half of a game. Lou booted a field goal, kicked off, booted an extra point (after the Browns recovered a fumble on the return and ran it in for a touchdown), kicked off again (at which point the half ended) and then kicked off again to start the second half.

Try that sometime.

• • •

Not sure why, exactly, I’m getting sidetracked on Lou Groza this morning. Maybe it’s because of the wintry weather in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia today — the kind of stuff Lou (and the Browns) had to face all the time in the postseason.

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Thank God for reinforced toes on kicking shoes!

• • •

Just wondering: Why wasn’t Pete Gogolak — or some other soccer-style kicker — ever nicknamed “the Instep?”

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Speaking of the Browns, instead of becoming infatuated with Randy Moss — that is, assuming he’s available — the Redskins should look into trading Rod Gardner to Cleveland for former Virginia Techie Andre Davis. The latter would give Joe Gibbs a (modestly priced) deep threat — with brains to boot — and Gardner brings a certain ruggedness to the table, which might appeal to a defensive guy like Romeo Crennel, rumored to be the Browns’ next coach.

• • •

Fearless prediction: Jets free agent-to-be LaMont Jordan will be a late bloomer along the lines of Stephen Davis. (All somebody has to do is just give him the darn ball.)

• • •

And I’m not just saying that because LaMont went to Maryland. I mean, did you see him running over — and around — people late in the season? Shades of No.48.

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News item: Tracy McGrady is being sued by a former employee who had the tip of his nose bitten off by the basketball star’s Rottweiler.

Comment: Even if the guy doesn’t get any money out of McGrady, he should at least be able to land a guest spot on “Nip/Tuck.”

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Of course, if the employee’s lawyers were really unscrupulous, they could try to paint it as a hate crime. (He is, after all, white.) It would be a challenge, though. They’d have to be able to make the argument — with a straight face — that the dog “bit off his nose to spite his race.”

(Sorry, I just had to write that line.)

• • •

McGrady’s Rottweiler, who’s named Mac, apparently mistook the guy’s nose for a Big Mac.

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When you stop and think about it, that’s kinda what Mike Tyson did to Evander Holyfield’s ear.

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Which might explain why the Nevada Boxing Commission has suspended the dog’s license to fight, pending an investigation.

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HELP WANTED: NBA star looking for home maintenance engineer for 18,000-square-foot mansion in Orange County, Fla. Catcher’s mask required.

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McGrady described his pet as a “very vicious dog.” But he hasn’t had it euthanized because, well, he might need it for protection when the Rockets play in Detroit.

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I wouldn’t be surprised if Woody Allen, the celebrated hoops fan, bought the film rights to the story. It’s been 32 years, after all, since “Sleeper,” and the public is probably ripe for another comedy revolving around a missing nose (or part thereof).

• • •

That’s it. I’m out of proboscis jokes.

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Al Jefferson, the Celtics’ 19-year-old manchild, is having the kind of rookie season the Wizards wish Kwame Brown had.

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Heck, the Wizards wish Brown was having the kind of year in his fourth year that Jefferson is having in his first (7.1 points and 4.9 rebounds in just 16.2 minutes a game, with three double-doubles this month).

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And Big Al was the 15th pick in the draft, not numero uno.

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My friend Robert, the Hokies zealot, writes, “I’m convinced Billy Packer has it in his contract that he doesn’t have to talk about Tech. The words ‘Virginia Tech’ never come out of his mouth.”

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Answer to sports stumper: The only intrastate Super Bowls came in the 1990 (Giants-Bills) and ‘94 (49ers-Chargers) seasons.

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Too bad the NHL talks stalled again. I was all ready to type, “Gentlemen, start your Zambonis.”

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And finally …

Former U.S. skating champion Christopher Bowman was sentenced to 18 months probation last week for having a gun while drunk in his apartment. The judge ordered Bowman to perform community service, commit to a 30-day in-patient substance program and “stop wearing those ridiculous sequins in the courtroom.”

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