- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 9, 2003

Did you hear the Treasury Department is coming out with a new nickel? On one side they’ve still got Jefferson’s face, but on the other, I hear, they’ve replaced Monticello with a diagram of the nickel defense.

• • •

Asked the other day if he’d ever lost four straight games before as a coach, Steve Spurrier replied, “Yeah, probably as an assistant one year at Duke.”

That would be 1980, when the Blue Devils dropped their first five en route to a 2-9 season. The Ball Coach’s memory is slightly faulty, though. He also lost four straight games as head coach at Duke — in ‘87, to be exact. The scores were 42-17 to Virginia, 7-0 to Rutgers, 17-10 to Clemson and, yes, 23-22 to Maryland.

• • •

Drew Bledsoe, whose Bills face Bill Parcells’ Cowboys today, tells his favorite Tuna story (as quoted in the Dallas Morning News):

“There was this time my rookie year during practice in training camp. I’m in the shotgun, and he’s standing right behind the quarterbacks and critiquing what we do and being in our ear. It looked like the defense was going to blitz and I audible, and he’s [saying], ‘Wait, wait, wait. Stop. Time out. You don’t have time to order dinner. You don’t have time to order lobster thermidor.’

“That’s what stuck with me 11 years later. He’s talking about lobster thermidor when I’m trying to make a call.”

• • •

You’ve gotta love a football game hinging on an intentional safety — like the one between the Patriots and Broncos last Monday night. “It’s an unusual situation,” Pats coach Bill Belichick said. “The classic take-a-safety situation is when you’re ahead by six points. You give up the safety and you’re ahead by four, [and] it still takes a touchdown to beat you in that situation. You get the field position and you don’t have to punt out of your own end zone and so forth. Taking a safety when you’re behind [24-23, as he did] is a little bit more of an unusual situation.”

Four other notable intentional safeties in football history:

1. Dec. 3, 1973 — On the verge of blowing a 30-3 halftime advantage to the Steelers on “Monday Night Football,” Dolphins coach Don Shula instructs quarterback Bob Griese to step out of the end zone with just more than a minute to play. That makes the score 30-26, but Pittsburgh gets no closer. Larry Seiple’s 72-yard free kick pins the Steelers back on their 7, and Jake Scott intercepts Terry Bradshaw to wrap up the win.

2. Oct. 13, 1984 — Oklahoma, up 15-10 late in the game against No.1 Texas, sacrifices two points rather than punt out of its end zone. Following the free kick, the Longhorns drive to the Sooners’ 15 with 10 seconds remaining and boot the tying field goal.

3. Nov. 21, 1998 — Trying to protect a 39-34 lead over LSU in the closing seconds, Notre Dame quarterback Jarious Jackson runs into the end zone and, while being tackled for a safety, suffers ligament damage to his right knee. “I was supposed to run out of the end zone,” he says later. “But I looked up for one second to see where everybody was coming from, and a guy just pretty much blindsided me.”

4. Oct. 25, 2003 — Leading Oregon State 36-28 with three seconds left, Washington State has punter Kyle Basler run out of his end zone from the 15-yard line to use up the remaining time. Why is this intentional safety notable? Because the Cougars were eight-point favorites, and the game would have been a push if they had found some other way — any other way — to kill the clock.

• • •

Had to laugh at Bob Ryan’s comment in these pages Friday that comparing the Packers as a franchise to the Yankees, Canadiens or Celtics is “pure drivel.” Of course, the Boston Globe columnist has a shaky grasp of pro football history. He’s the guy who wrote a few years back that the NFL was founded in a “garage in Decatur [Ill.],” when everybody knows the league was born in an automobile showroom in Canton, Ohio. (There weren’t enough chairs, so some of the owners sat on the running boards of Hupmobiles.)

Basketball Bob’s biases are well established, but to say the Packers don’t rank with the great franchises in sports history — now that’s pure drivel. Ryan’s rationale is that “after Lombardi left, they receded back into their history and had one little blip on the radar screen and won one Super Bowl.” But I wouldn’t call 11 straight .500-or-better seasons — the Pack’s current streak (to go along with eight playoff berths in that stretch) — receding back into their history. Just as I wouldn’t characterize the Celtics’ ongoing 17-year dry spell as receding back into their history.

What Ryan seems to be forgetting is that every sport is different. Dynasties in pro football aren’t quite as, well, dynastic as in other leagues because the NFL was the first to have a college draft (in 1936) and is still the only one to have a hard salary cap. Both those things are great levelers. In that context, the Packers’ 12 titles — in the ‘20s (one), ‘30s (four), ‘40s (one), ‘60s (five) and ‘90s (one) — certainly put them in the same class with the Yankees, Canadiens and Celtics. And if you don’t see the logic of that argument, then you’ve probably spent your life in a garage in Decatur, Ill. — without cable TV.

• • •

Famed actor Robert Duvall popped into the Virginia Tech radio booth at halftime of the Miami game. Duvall, who lives in Fauquier County, became a Hokies fan after getting to know Dr. Bud Robertson, the school’s Civil War expert, with whom he worked on the movie “Gods and Generals.”

“I’ve been rootin’ for them ever since you beat Alabama in the bowl game [38-7 in the ‘98 Music City Bowl],” he said. “You’ve got a wonderful coach and a great program.”

Duvall’s all-time favorite athletes (as reported on the Hokies’ Web site): Michael Jordan, ex-Techie Michael Vick and English soccer player Michael Owen.

• • •

Before anybody starts comparing TCU’s 9-0 football team to BYU’s ‘84 national champs, let me just say: In your dreams. Five of the Horned Frogs’ wins have been by the slim margin of a field goal — including three of their last four. The ‘84 Cougars had only one game in 13 that was that close, a 41-38 victory over Wyoming.

• • •

I know Trevor Matich (BYU ‘85) will appreciate that last note, even if no one else does.

• • •

Speaking of undefeated ballclubs, the only major college football team with a perfect record against the spread going into yesterday — according to Randy King of the Roanoke Times — was Rutgers, believe it or not, at 8-0. Navy was 6-1 (yet another reason to love the resurgent Mids).

• • •

Trivia question: The winners of two major titles — Ben Curtis (British Open) and Shaun Micheel (PGA) — are missing from this week’s Tour Championship because they didn’t finish in the top 30 on the money list. (Micheel was 32nd, Curtis 46th.) In 1999, however, three major titlists were absent from the event. Who were they? (Answer below.)

• • •

Interesting column the other day by the Boston Globe’s Jackie MacMullen about Bob Cousy’s plan to sell some of his most cherished memorabilia to help his daughters and their families, none of whom is “getting rich,” the Cooz says. “It made sense to do this now, rather than wait.”

Among the items up for bids:

• The lithograph presented to him by the NBA for being one of the top 50 players of all time (minimum bid: $15,000).

• His Hall of Fame ring (minimum bid: $5,000).

• His 1957 MVP Trophy.

Cousy won six titles with the Celtics but has only one ring to show for it — from 1957, the club’s first championship. (It won’t be auctioned off.) “We didn’t get them the other years,” he told MacMullen, even though “back then, [coach Red Auerbachs] brother was in the jewelry business.”

• • •

News item: Ben Affleck has agreed to play coach Don Haskins in a movie about Texas Western’s 1966 NCAA basketball championship.

Comment: Who’s going to play Kentucky coach Adolph Rupp, Edward Norton (reprising his role in “American History X”)?

• • •

Answer to trivia question: The three major titlists who didn’t compete in the ‘99 Tour Championship were Jose Maria Olazabal (Masters), Payne Stewart (U.S. Open) and Paul Lawrie (British Open). Olazabal and Lawrie were excluded because they weren’t members of the U.S. tour, and Stewart died in a plane crash a few days before the tournament.

• • •

And finally, there’s no truth to the rumor that one of the outfielders Jack McKeon voted for on his Gold Glove ballot was Steve Bartman.

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