Steelers Are Super, But Packers Are NFL’s Best

Originally posted on February 2, 2009 by Sportslifer

SportsLifer Rewind: I posted this blog two years ago, after the Steelers won their sixth Super Bowl by beating the Arizona Cardinals. Who knew that Super Bowl XLV would pit the Steelers against the Packers.

Not to rain on Pittsburgh’s parade (hey, we all love a parade), but to claim the Steelers are the best team in NFL history is a bit over the top.

Granted, the Steelers have now win six Super Bowls, more than any other franchise — the Cowboys and the 49ers have each won five. So if you want to give Pittsburgh the nod as the best team in the Super Bowl era, well who’s to argue. No disputing the fact that they are a model franchise, classy and competitive.

DSCN2434 But the best all-time? Not. That’s like claiming the team that has won the most World Series since baseball adopted its playoff format in 1969 is the best ever. (That team happens to be the Yankees with six (now seven) championships, but they won 20 more before 1969).

The Steelers were formed in 1933, and were NFL doormats for more than 40 years, never winning so much as a conference championship. Five years after shifting to the AFC Central in 1970, the Steelers won their first Super Bowl.

You can’t ignore history.

Packers Have Most Titles
So who is the best? Counting three Super Bowls, the Green Bay Packers have won 12 NFL, including the first two Super Bowls, since the formation of the NFL in 1920, the  Packers have actually won 12 titles.

Green Bay is the only NFL team to win three straight championships (1929-31) and (1965-67), the latter including the first two Super Bowls.

The Chicago Bears also supersede the Steelers with nine NFL titles, including Super Bowl XX. And the New York Giants have seven championships, including three Super Bowls.

The Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers rank behind the Steelers with five Super Bowl wins apiece

Another team that’s sometimes forgotten in the haze of football history is the Cleveland Browns. The Browns won four straight championships in the All-America Football Conference (AAFC) before that league was disbanded in 1950. The Browns then proceeded to make six straight appearances in the NFL championship game, winning in 1950, 1954 and 1955.

Cleveland won another championship in 1964, but has never been to the Super Bowl.

Cleaning out the Notebook
Among the dozen or more “experts” in the booth for Super Bowl XLIII, it’s hard to believe NBC would include Matt Millen. Yes, the same Matt Millen, the general manager who set the Detroit Lions back years. Heck, I wouldn’t trust this guy to pick my fantasy football team.

Jennifer Hudson’s emotional rendition of the Star Spangled Banner was moving, best since Whitney Houston at Super Bowl XXV.

DSCN2429 Lots of fans, even football fanatics, were looking forward to the halftime show as much as the game. Bruce Springsteen didn’t disappoint. He never does. That’s why he’s the Boss.

Finally, why didn’t the refs review Kurt Warner’s last play? Fumble or incomplete pass? Close call. But at the very least the play deserved review.

According to the NFL head of officials, the play was reviewed and upheld. For what, 20 seconds?

Rules state that if Warner’s arm is moving in a forward motion with the ball still in his hand when it comes out, the play should be ruled an incomplete pass, not a fumble.

Oh, and one more thing.

After the play, the Steelers were called for a personal foul, so if the play had been reversed, and with the 15-yard penalty yardage marked off, the Cardinals would have had the ball on the Pittsburgh 30 with about seven seconds remaining.

Certainly time enough for a miracle.

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Raiders of the Lost Ark: Jets Rekindle 1968

If the Jets defeat the Steelers today, they will cross over into the final frontier.

Only one Jet team has ever come this far. That team upset the Baltimore Colts, 16-7, to win Super Bowl III and put the American Football League on the map.

But before the Jets reached the Super Bowl, they had to get past the Oakland Raiders in the 1968 AFL championship game. The Jets and the Raiders didn’t like one another. The previous season, Oakland linemen Ike Lassiter and Ben Davidson combined to rearrange Joe Namath’s face, breaking his cheekbone.

And earlier in 1968, the Raiders rallied with two touchdowns in the final minutes to beat the Jets, 43-32, in the famous Heidi game. An NBC executive had pulled the plug on the football game in favor of Heidi, much to the consternation of fans coast to coast, who missed the exciting finish.

On December 29, 1968, the Jets and Raiders squared off on a relatively mild but windy afternoon at Shea Stadium, with gusts up to the 35 miles per hour. As per the television laws in place at that time, the game was blacked out in the New York metropolitan area.

Raiders Rout Chiefs
The previous week the Jets rested while the Raiders, behind five touchdown passes from Daryle Lamonica, beat the Kansas Chiefs, 41-6, in a playoff for the AFC West championship.

In New York, the Raiders quickly fell behind 10-0 in the first quarter. But they rallied on the strength of a 400-yard passing game from Lamonica and took the lead midway through the fourth quarter on a 5-yard run by Pete Banaszak.

Undaunted, Joe Namath took the Jets back down the field on the signature drive of his career before firing his third touchdown pass of the day — second to Don Maynard — to put the Jets ahead to stay.

The Raiders drove to the Jets 12 in the final minutes, but Lamonica threw a swing pass that turned into a backward lateral. Jet’s linebacker Ralph Baker recovered and New York was on the way to Super Bowl III in Miami.

Oh yeah, six Hall of Famers started that day at Shea, including Namath and Maynard of the Jets, and Fred Biletnikoff, Jim Otto, Gene Upshaw and George Blanda of the Raiders.

Biletnikoff caught seven passes for 190 yards and a touchdown, and Blanda kicked three field goals to keep the Raiders close.Namath passed for 266 and three touchdows, and Maynard caught six for 118 yards and a pair of scores.


1964: NY World’s Fair, Beatles and Yankees

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A few days aqo, I was clearing out a few things in my aunt’s basement when I stumbled upon a New York State license plate. Not just any New York license plate, a NY WORLD’S FAIR 64 plate with orange letters on a black background.

1964. The year the World’s Fair came to New York. Conjures up memories of class trips and family visits. Exhibits like General Motors, Johnson’s Wax and the State of Illinois. And Michelangelo’s Pieta. The Unisphere, shown below.

I became a teen-ager that year, entered eighth grade and discovered girls, not necessarily in that order. In 1964, the nation was dealing with the pain of JFK’s assassination. LBJ was President. The Civil Rights Act was signed.

In 1964, a gallon of gas cost 25 cents, and postage stamps were a nickel. My Fair Lady was the best picture and The Munsters premiered on CBS-TV.

The Beatles came on the scene in 1964. A huge earthquake rocked Alaska. Barry  Bonds and Jose Canseco were born in 1964; so were Sandra Bullock, Nicholas Cage and Lenny Kravitz.

End of A Dynasty
In sports, the great Yankee dynasty was coming to an end….although few saw it coming. The Yankees would win their fifth straight American League before losing to St. Louis and a gritty Bob Gibson in the seventh game of the World Series in October, 1964. All that after Mickey Mantle’s walk-off homer in Game Three gave the Yankees a 2-1 win…and a lead in the series.

The Mets, meanwhile, had a new home, Shea Stadium, right next to the World’s Fair in Flushing. Phillies’ outfielder Johnny Callison hit a  three-run home run to lift the National League to an All-Star win at Shea. And in September, the Phillies would blow the pennant, blowing a 6 1/2 game lead with 12 games remaining.

The Giants, tumbled to a 2-10-2 record in 1964, this after winning five conference titles — and no championships — in the previous six years. The Cleveland Browns demolished the Giants, 52-20, on a rainy Saturday at Yankee Stadium in the final game of the regular season and went on to beat the Baltimore Colts, 27-0, for the NFL championship.

The Jets didn’t fare much better at 5-8-1. Another New York team, the Buffalo Bills, would defeat San Diego 20-7 for the AFL title.

And while the Knickerbockers (last) and Rangers (next to last) were languishing, the Boston Celtics were in the midst of an eight-year championship run. And the Toronto Maple Leafs were winning their third straight Stanley Cup.

UCLA won its first NCAA title in 1964; the Bruins beat Duke in the final. And Bear Bryant’s Alabama Crimson Tide were national champions in football.

1964 was an Olympic year, and Billy Mills made his mark in the Summer Games in Tokyo when he became the only American ever to win the 10,000 meters. Bob Hayes won the 100-meter race, and Joe Frazier won gold in the heavyweight boxing division.


Bears-Packers Last Playoff After Pearl Harbor

Packers end Hal Van Every hands the ball to an official after scoring  in the third quarter of a 33-14 loss to the Bears in the Western Division playoff game in 1941.

In their long, storied and successful histories, the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers have combined for 21 championships and faced one another 181 times — but only once in the playoffs.

That game was played exactly one week after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, on a cold, Sunday afternoon at Chicago’s Wrigley Field on December 14, 1941, nearly 70 years ago. It marked the first playoff game to determine a divisional champion in NFL history.

The George Halas-coached Bears, the famed Monsters of the Midway, were heavy favorites to win their second straight NFL title in 1941, coming off a record 73-0 win over the Washington Redskins in the 1940 NFL Championship game.

The Bears were led by Hall of Famers Sid Luckman at quarterback and George McAfee at running back. The great receiver Don Hutson and Clark Hinkle starred for the Pack, along with quarterback Ceci Isbell, below, being clotheslined by defense end George Wilson of the Bears in the playoff game.

The  Bears and Packers wound up tied for the NFL West Division title that year, both with 10-1 records, necessitating the playoff.

The Bears beat the Pack, 25-17, in the opening game of the season at Green Bay. The Pack got payback several weeks later when they held on for a 16-14 win in Chicago.

The Bears had played the previous Sunday, December 7, when the news about Pearl Harbor broke. They needed to beat their Windy City rivals the Cardinals at Comiskey Park that day to grab a share of the West Division title with idle Green Bay and force the playoff. And they did, 34-24.

Day of Infamy
Three scheduled NFL games were played the day the Japanese first attacked Pearl Harbor. Public address announcers in Chicago, and at New York’s Polo Grounds — where the Giants lost 21-7 to the Brooklyn Dodgers — interrupted their commentary to tell all servicemen to report to their units.  But without transistor radios — much less smartphones — many of the fans in Chicago and New York did not learn of the attack until they reached home.

At Washington’s Griffith Stadium, where the Redskins were playing the Philadelphia Eagles, the announcer paged high-ranking government and military personnel who were in attendance, but did not mention the Pearl Harbor attack.

The following Sunday, the Bears broke open the West Division playoff game against the Packers early, scoring 24 points in the second quarter, fueled by a pair of rushing touchdowns by fullback Norm Standlee. They went on to win the West, 33-14, in front of 43,424.

And on December 21, the Bears hosted the Giants at Wrigley Field with the NFL championship on the line. The Giants had finished the season 8-3, but didn’t face either the Bears or Packers that year.

Bears Win Title
In the championship game, the Giants tied the score early in the third quarter on a Ward Cuff field goal, but the Bears then proceeded on a 28-0 run — again with a pair of Standlee touchdowns — to win going away, 37-9.

In 1942 the Bears, chasing their third straight championship, finished the regular season unbeaten at 11-0. But the Washington Redskins got revenge in the championship game with a 14-6 upset victory.

When the Bears and Packers square off Sunday for the NFC title, it will mark their latest meeting in a rivalry that extends back to 1921. Chicago leads the all-time series 92-83-6.

Oh, btw, the Steelers and Jets have also squared off once previously in the playoffs. Pittsburgh beat New York, 20-17, on a Jeff Reed field goal in overtime in the 2005 playoffs. The Patriots went on to win the Super Bowl that year.


Hey Boston, Here’s Your Worst Nightmare. Meet The Jets!

Move over Bucky Dent, Aaron Boone and David Tyree. You’ve got company. Meet the Jets!


Streaking — Most Wins in A Row

The term “streaking” was popularized by a reporter for a local Washington, D.C. news station as he watched a “mass nude run” take place at the University of Maryland in 1973. That nude run had 533 participants.

As the collected mass of nude students paraded past, the reporter exclaimed… “they are streaking past me right now. It’s an incredible sight!” The next day, the Associated Press reported the “streaking” incident and it generated nationwide coverage.

Although many streakers have used sporting events over the years to display their talents, the term has a different meaning in sports, referring to a hot team, or a club on a winning streak.

The most recent example of streaking in sports occurred last month, when Stanford defeated Connecticut, 71-59, and put an end to UConn’s 90-game winning streak, an NCAA women’s basketball record.

UConn fans accustomed to watching coach Geno Auriemma’s team blow past opponents hadn’t seen a loss since the 2008 NCAA semifinals — Stanford got the Huskies that time, too, 82-73 in the 2008 national semifinals.

The Wayland Baptist University women’s team actually achieved a 131-game winning streak from November of 1953 to March of 1958 before losing 46-42 to Nashville Business School. However, women’s basketball was not sponsored by the NCAA at that time, so Wayland Baptist played in the Amateur Athletic Union.

UCLA established the NCAA men’s basketball record by winning 88 straight games between January of 1971 and January of 1974. Like the UConn women, UCLA’s streak was sandwiched by losses to the same opponent, in this case Notre Dame, which came from behind to knock off the  Bruins, 71-70, right.

On November 16, 1957, Notre Dame defeated streaking Oklahoma 7-0, ending the Sooners’ NCAA football record 47-game winning streak. Oklahoma’s streak began on October 10, 1953, when they defeated Texas 19-14 — two weeks after losing to Notre Dame and a week after a 7-7 tie with Pitt.

Professional Winning Streaks
The New England Patriots won 21 straight games between October of 2003 and October of 2004 before losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers, 34-20, to set the NFL record.

Excluding playoff games, the Indianapolis Colts won 23 consecutive regular season games between November of 2008 and December of 2009 before the Jets knocked them off, 29-15.

During the 1971-1972 NBA season the Los Angeles Lakers ran off a NBA record 33-game winning streak. The Milwaukee Bucks ended the run with a 120-104 win over the Lakers on January 7, 1972.

On September 7, 1916, the New York Giants defeated the Brooklyn Dodgers, 4-1. The Giants would run off a 26-game winning streak, still the longest in baseball history, before losing to the Boston Braves, 8-3, on September 30. Included in that streak was a 1-1 tie with the Pittsburgh Pirates in the second game of a doubleheader on September 18.

The MLB record for consecutive wins (without ties) was set by the Chicago Cubs with 21 straight wins in 1935. The Oakland A’s established the American League record with 20 wins in a row in 2002.

Towards the end of the 1992-93 season, the Pittsburgh Penguins won 17 straight games to set the NHL record. The Penguins tied the New Jersey Devils 6-6 in the final game of the regular season that year, and won three playoff  games before losing to New Jersey, 4-2.

The Philadelphia Flyers strung together a 35-game unbeaten streak, including 10 ties, in the 1979-80 NHL season. The streak was snapped in a 7-1 loss to the Minnesota North Stars on January 6, 1980.


Finally, Excitement Returns to MSG

Willis Reed grabs rebound from Lakers Wilt Chamberlain during 1970 NBA Finals.

The late 60s were exciting times in New York, back in my old high school days. You could feel the electricity from Madison Square Garden spilling out to the streets and neighborhoods of the city to the suburbs and beyond. The New York Knickerbockers were building a championship contender.

Now for the first time in nearly five decades, that excitement is back. New York fans are thinking hey, we may have something here….finally. With free agents Amar’e Stoudemire and Raymond Felton and precocious rookie Landy Fields, along with holdovers Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler, the Knicks are on the way back to contention.

Finally, after a six-year playoff drought, they’re standing and cheering at the Garden again.

Kinda like the way it was back in the 60s. After finishing last in the Eastern Division for seven straight years, starting with the 1959-60 season, the Knickerbockers, as they were called back then, began to show signs of improvement.

The Knicks resurgence began innocently enough with the 1964 NBA draft, and the second-round pick (10th overall) of Willis Reed, a 6-9 center/forward out of Grambling State University.

That same year, Jim “Bad News” Barnes out of UTEP was the Knicks first pick — and the first overall selection in the NBA draft. A year later, Barnes along with Johnny Egan, Johnny Green and cash, was traded to the Baltimore Bullets for center Walt Bellamy.

Solid Draft Picks
In subsequent drafts, the Knicks took Bill Bradley and Dave Stallworth in 1965, Cazzie Russell in 1966, and Walt “Clyde” Frazier and Phil Jackson in 1967.

And they traded Bob Boozer for guard Dick Barnett before the 1965 campaign.

The Bellamy acquisition paid dividends several years later. On December 19, 1968, the Knicks dealt Bells and Howard Komives to the Detroit Pistons for power forward Dave DeBusschere.

With their core unit now intact, the Knicks won their first NBA championship in 1970, beating the Los Angeles Lakers in a thrilling seven-game NBA Finals. With Earl “The Pearl” Monroe and Jerry Lucas in the fold, the Knicks won their second championship in 1973, again knocking off the Lakers.

They haven’t won a championship since. Oh there was plenty of excitement when the Knicks won the lottery and drafted Patrick Ewing in 1985. But although Ewing was a Hall of Fame center, the Knicks never provided him with that second superstar needed to win titles, like the Bulls did with Scottie Pippen for Michael Jordan.

Hopefully the 2011 Knicks have learned their lesson and won’t let history repeat itself.

Did I hear someone say Carmelo Anthony?

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