- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 25, 2004

I don’t know if this means anything, but … On the New York Times’ most recent list of bestsellers (hardcover, non-fiction), Pete Rose’s “My Prison Without Bars” and Al Franken’s “Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them” were running 1-3.

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Amazon.com should offer a discount if you buy ‘em together.

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Reason No.974 why Joe Gibbs will succeed in his second term with the Redskins: 61-year-old Dan Henning, one of his offensive assistants in the ‘80s, is still calling the plays for the Super Bowl-bound Carolina Panthers.

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In Thursday’s column, I talked about how little the Panthers threw the ball in the NFC Championship game — 14 times total, three in the second half. Well, when Gibbs’ Redskins beat the Lions in the ‘91 NFC title game, they threw it 17 times (with Mark Rypien completing 12 for 228 yards and a pair of touchdowns).

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You forget how land-based Gibbs could be in big games. In the other three conference championship games he won (‘82, ‘83 and ‘87), he called 20, 27 and 26 passes. Mr. Fun ‘n’ Gun, he ain’t. (And thank goodness for that.)

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Speaking of Carolina, is it just me, or do the Panthers’ white uniforms make Stephen Davis look — how shall I put this? — unusually wide?

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In fact, he could pass for Marion Motley.

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It’ll be interesting to see how much farther the Patriots can push this winning streak. Eighteen consecutive victories — the Pats have reeled off 14 straight — seem to be the limit in the NFL. Five teams in league history have won 18 in a row — and all of them lost their next game. The fabulous five:

• 1933-34 Bears: Won their last five in ‘33 (including the title game) and then went 13-0 in the ‘34 regular season. Their streak was snapped when they lost the championship to the Giants 30-13 in the celebrated Sneakers Game.

• 1941-42 Bears: Won their last seven in ‘41 (including a divisional playoff and the title game) and then went 11-0 in the ‘42 regular season. The Redskins finally knocked them off 14-6 in the championship game.

• 1972-73 Dolphins: Went 17-0 in ‘72, winning the title, and opened with a victory in ‘73 before losing to the Raiders 12-7.

• 1989-90 49ers: Won their last eight in ‘89 (including the Super Bowl) and their first 10 the following season. The Rams put an end to their run with a 28-17 victory at Candlestick Park.

• 1997-98 Broncos: Won their last five in ‘97 (including the Super Bowl) and their first 13 the next year. Whereupon the Giants brought them back to earth 20-16.

Even the unbeatable Browns, in their All-America Conference days, maxed out at 18 wins in a row (1947-49). There just appears to be something about the number 18. If the Patriots could somehow make it to 19 or beyond, it would be an unbelievable feat.

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You won’t find any of this information in the NFL record book, of course. Why? Because the league, for some strange reason, excludes postseason games from winning streaks. According to the NFL, the record for “most consecutive games won” is 17 by the ‘33-34 Bears (not counting their victory in the ‘33 title game). It’s a pretty goofy way to do it, if you ask me. I mean, a streak’s a streak. You don’t hit the pause button when the playoffs start.

Here’s how ridiculous it gets: The Dolphins are credited with a 16-game streak from ‘71 to ‘73, but during that stretch they lost the Super Bowl to the Cowboys. They’re also credited with a 16-game streak from ‘83 to ‘84 — during which they lost a playoff game to the Seahawks. To borrow a line from Howard Beale, this is mass madness.

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The Redskins’ longest winning streak, by the way, is 14 games — their last 10 in ‘42 (including the title game), and their first four in ‘43. The streak was broken not by a loss but by a 14-14 tie with the Steagles (a merger of the Pittsburgh and Philadelphia franchises during World War II).

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Unbeaten streaks are another matter. The Browns’ 18-game winning streak from ‘47 to ‘49, for instance, was part of a larger 29-game unbeaten streak (27-0-2). But if a tie is like kissing your sister, then an unbeaten streak is like kissing your brother. (Not really. I just felt like saying that.)

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Granted, the Patriots have tons of momentum heading into the Super Bowl. But plenty of other clubs have gone into the NFL title game with long winning streaks, too — and gone down in flames. A partial listing:

• The ‘48 Cardinals had won 10 in a row — before losing to the Eagles 7-0.

• The ‘51 Browns had won 11 in a row — before losing to the Rams 24-17.

• The ‘67 Raiders had won 11 in a row — before losing to the Packers 33-14.

• The ‘68 Colts had won 10 in a row — before losing to the Jets 16-7.

• The ‘83 Redskins (sniff, sniff) had won 11 in a row — before losing to the Raiders 38-9.

And just last season the Raiders had won 10 in a row — before losing to the Bucs 48-21.

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In other words, don’t count your Lombardi Trophies until they’re hatched.

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Still, I’ve got the Pats winning, 16-13 — on a game-saving tackle by Don Cheadle.

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An e-mail was making the rounds last week mocking the ability of non-New Englanders to handle the winter cold. Some of the highlights:

• 20 above zero: Floridians don coats, thermal underwear, gloves and hats.

People in Massachusetts throw on a flannel shirt.

• Zero: People in Miami die.

New Englanders close the windows.

• 40 below zero: Washington runs out of hot air.

People in Massachusetts let the dogs sleep inside.

• 100 below zero: Santa Claus abandons the North Pole.

People in Massachusetts get frustrated because “the caah won’t staaht.”

• 275 below zero: All atomic motion stops.

People in Massachusetts start saying, “Cold ‘nuf for ya?”

• 500 below zero: Hell freezes over.

The Red Sox win the World Series.

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Clairvoyant of the Week: At a rally for the new Charlotte franchise in October ‘93, a year before the Panthers played a game, owner Jerry Richardson said, “We didn’t get into this for funsies. Our goal is to put together an organization and a coaching staff so that one day we’re going to be standing here in this same area celebrating our first Super Bowl. … Our first Super Bowl victory, within 10 years.” (As quoted by the Charlotte Observer.)

Well, here they are — a year early, to boot.

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It looks like Brentson Buckner, the talkative Panthers defensive tackle, will be this year’s Warren Sapp during Super Bowl week. Asked by Charlotte Observer columnist Tom Sorensen what it felt like to win the NFC Championship in Philadelphia, Buckner replied, “It felt like you conquered a city. It felt like you were part of the Roman Empire.”

And what did Buckner, noble Roman that he is, wear to Philly?

“A leather outfit with a chinchilla fur coat.”

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Did you see that Jesse Palmer, the Giants’ backup quarterback, has landed a spot on “The Bachelor”? It’s probably only a matter of time before “The Bachelorette” counters with Ricky Williams in his wedding dress.

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Inasmuch as Jesse is a career clipboard holder, you’d think he’d be a better fit for “American Idle.”

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So I’m reading about this guy getting a temporary restraining order against Keyshawn Johnson — Keyshawn apparently didn’t like somebody running around with his ex-wife — and I’m thinking: Isn’t that the second restraining order against Keyshawn this season? Didn’t the Bucs also file for one to get him to cease and desist playing for the team?

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Norv Turner would be the ideal coach for the Raiders. After all, if you can work for Dan Snyder, you can work for anybody — Al Davis included.

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Jaromir Jagr could have owned this town … if he’d brought Mario Lemieux with him.

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And finally …

West Virginia tried to pull a fast one on the Virginia Tech men’s basketball team the other day. In the second half, with his team leading 53-51, the Mountaineers’ Patrick Beilein sneaked to the foul line to shoot free throws that were supposed to be taken by teammate Joe Herber. Beilein swished both, his 32nd and 33rd without a miss, which just happened to break the school record of 31.

Fortunately, Tech coach Seth Greenberg pointed out the mistake to the officials, and they summarily erased Beilein’s “record-setting” shots. The next time Beilein went to the line — wouldn’t you know it? — he missed, leaving him tied with the Stan Boskovich in the record book. Oh yes, West Virginia lost the game, too, 69-67.

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