- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 3, 2002

NEW ORLEANS — It pains me to type this, being a New Englander and all, but: Rams 27, Patriots 20.

The only way I can envision the Pats winning is with another out-of-this-world special teams performance. (They'd have a much better chance, though, if Az-Zahir Hakim were still fumbling punts for St. Louis.)

My favorite part of Super Bowl week was when Drew Bledsoe said, "I like to watch."

The complete quote, for those interested in context, was, "The Rams' offense is maybe the greatest of all time. I'm like everybody else: I like to watch [them]."

My second-favorite part of Super Bowl week was when Troy Brown was asked how he liked being a celebrity, and he replied, "A celebrity? A celebrity is Tom Cruise. I'm just a football player."

My third-favorite part of Super Bowl week was when I was standing in line at a mall, waiting to order lunch, and overheard the following conversation behind me:
Guy: "Where do I know you from?"
Girl: "We used to date."

I glanced furtively at them as newspaper people are trained to do to see if they were kidding around. They weren't.

Can you imagine forgetting somebody you used to date? Heck, I can remember every girl/woman I went out with in my entire life.
All three of them.

Patrick Pass, meet Jim Kiick.

Unfortunately, Pass isn't a quarterback (he's the Patriots' backup fullback). The best name I ever heard for a quarterback was Willie Thrower (Bears, 1953).

Ran into Vinny Cerrato in the health club of the hotel not once but twice. We're both treadmill devotees (though Vinny, an ex-footballer, still pumps a little iron, too).
"I was just on this radio show," he said, "and the host called me 'the Billy Martin of pro football.'"
The Billy Martin of pro football. Wish I'd come up with that.

Martin, by the way, was hired and fired by George Steinbrenner five times. So if the analogy holds, Vinny still has three hirings and four firings to look forward to.

Not to mention one fight with a marshmallow salesman.

I can hardly wait until the Super Bowl two years from now. Do you think they'll be able to fit XXXVIII on the front of a T-shirt, or will some of it have to spill over onto the back?

Seven characters to represent a piddling number like 38. No wonder the Roman Empire fell.

A moment of silence, please, for Dick "Night Train" Lane, maybe the greatest cornerback in NFL history, who died last week at 73. "I'm sad to hear about that," the Rams' Aeneas Williams said when he got the news. "He's the answer to a trivia question that I always ask other DBs: Who holds the single-season record for interceptions?" (Lane had 14 as a rookie with the Los Angeles Rams in '52.)
"I had occasion to talk to him about playing cornerback. He's one of the guys who transformed the position a physical corner who could make plays on the ball."

Here's the most amazing thing about Lane's record: The year he set it, he didn't make the Pro Bowl. (And you think the voting nowadays is suspect.)

Lester Hayes tells the story of Lane visiting the Raiders' locker room before the 1980 Super Bowl. When Night Train encountered Lester, he grabbed him by the face mask, pulled him toward him and offered two words of advice:
"Be mean."

Speaking of great corners, Williams certainly has to be included in that group. Talk about a guy who rises to the occasion. Aeneas has played in four playoff games in his career two with the Cardinals in '98, two with the Rams this season and has intercepted a pass in every one.
He's the first player, incidentally, to have a pick in four straight postseason games. (Total: 6 INTs.)

Just wondering: If Nevada can deny Mike Tyson a license to box, can North Carolina deny the 1-15 Panthers a license to play football?

They probably don't know this, but the Rams played a game in New Orleans back in 1938. The opponent was Pittsburgh the Pittsburgh Pirates, precursors of the Steelers and it was the first NFL contest in the South.
In those days, teams that didn't draw well at home would go just about anywhere to get a decent crowd. The following year the Rams, who were based in Cleveland then, played the Eagles in Colorado Springs. Why Colorado Springs? Because the Rams' coach, Dutch Clark, was a local legend there.

The Rams beat the Pirates, 13-7, in the '38 game down here. The Pirates' touchdown, however, was a gimme. The Rams let them score in the last few seconds as a going-away present to the crowd.
On the next-to-last play, the Cleveland defense basically fell down so Pittsburgh star Whizzer White the future Supreme Court justice and the player the fans had come to see could "break" a 46-yard run to the 7-yard line. Then, as time ran out, White threw a TD pass to a conveniently wide-open receiver.
This is how one of the local newspapers, the New Orleans States, described the finish: "White's long run appeared rather peculiar. He was back to pass but decided to run the ball and easily evaded the half-hearted lunges of some defenders."
Added another paper, the Item: "According to the best tradition, Whizzer shouldn't have been stopped until he had hurtled into the end zone, but one Ram was a meany he tackled the great man on the [Cleveland 7]."

A number of years ago, one of the players in that game, Rams tailback Bob Snyder, told me White was supposed to score on the 46-yard run, but "one guy didn't get the word and tackled him." What a league the NFL was back then.
(There was much to admire about the sportswriting, though not that I'm biased or anything. The reporter for the Item, one Scoop Kennedy, wrote that Whizzer was essentially bottled up until his long run, that he "just didn't whizz." Classic stuff.)

Four observations about the Pro Football Hall of Fame voting:
1. It's about time George Allen made it to Canton. Just because he didn't get to the Super Bowl as often as Don Shula, Tom Landry and Bud Grant doesn't mean he doesn't deserve to be in the Hall. That would be like excluding John Stallworth who finally got in yesterday because he wasn't quite as good as Steve Largent, Charlie Joiner and Lynn Swann.
2. If you're going to vote in Jim Kelly in his first year of eligibility, then you should probably take another look at John Brodie, the Kelly of the '60s and early '70s.
3. Dan Hampton, the second member of the Bears' famed '85 defense to be elected (after Mike Singletary), might also be the last. That is, unless the committee has a hankering for Richard Dent or Wilber Marshall.
4. Art Monk might want to pull up a chair. It could be a long wait.

And finally, I hear Rick Majerus is picking Temple to win the Super Bowl. And giving the points.


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