Covering it all, from Joe Willie to Deflategate

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Joe Namath and the SportsLifer going over the game plan prior to Super Bowl XXV in Tampa. Here’s 10 observations while wading through the interminable hype and waiting for the kickoff.

1. Giant break: The Patriots are just happy they’re not facing the Giants. Admit it, New England fans.

2. Who let the air out? Here’s my theory on Deflategate. The Patriots have been doing this for years, they finally got caught. Somebody, probably from the Colts, tipped off the league and they measured the balls. The ball boy will take a fall, but if a high-level individual like Belichick or Brady can’t be fingered, the team will pay a price. To paraphrase a recent Yogi Berra tweet, if you’re gonna cheat, you better not get caught.

3. Crusader investigator: Ted Wells, who is leading the Deflategate investigation, attended the College of the Holy Cross and graduated a year ahead of me. We’re hearing his name an awful lot these days.

4. If the Seahawks win, they will be first two to repeat since the Patriots in 2004-05. It’s happened eight times. The Steelers have done it twice (1975-76 and 1979-80), and the Packers (1967-68) in the first two Super Bowls, Dolphins (1973-74), 49ers (1989-90), Cowboys (1993-94) and the Broncos (1998-99). There has never been a Super Bowl three-peat.

5. If the Patriots win, they will join the Packers and Giants with four Super Bowl rings. Only the Steelers with six and the Cowboys and 49ers with five have more. This is New England’s eighth appearance in the Super Bowl, matching the Steelers and Cowboys.

6. What happened to the old highlights? Not big on the avalanche of pre-game hype. Years ago. someone aired those classic half-hour highlights of each Super Bowl, game by game. May have been ESPN Classic, but can’t find anything out there now. If anyone knows, let me know.

7. Broadway Joe: Pete Hamill once wrote: “Joe Namath legitimized his team and his league, the old AFL, and more than any other player, he transformed the Super Bowl into a national event instead of a post-season payday.” Now that sounds about right.

8. Silent treatment: Does anybody really care what Marshawn Lynch has to say? He’s getting my silent treatment. And there’s no fine.

9. Attitude: Roger Goodell once more shows his arrogant side responding to a question from CNN reporter Rachel Nichols.

10. Rick’s pick: Going with my pool numbers, picking Seattle 21-19 in a low-scoring. New England scores late, but is denied on a two-point conversion.

10 things to know about Super Bowl odds

It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you beat the point spread. Super Bowl XLIX is upon us, and if the odds hold true, this will be one of the closest Super Bowl games in history. The Patriots are favored by one point over the Seahawks, the tightest spread in 33 years. Impress your family and friends with the 10 things you need to know about Super Bowl odds:

1. One is Enough: This year’s spread equals the closest in Super Bowl history. The 49ers were favored by one over Cincinnati in 1982 and the undefeated Dolphins by one over the Redskins in 1973. Both favorites won, San Francisco, 26-21, and Miami, 14-7.

2. ATS and Straight Up: Overall, Super Bowl favorites have gone 26-18-2 against the spread and 33-15 straight up.

3. The Push: Only two Super Bowls have ended in a push – 2000, when the Rams (-7) beat the Titans, 23-16, and 1997 when the Packers (-14) beat the Patriots, 35-21.

4. Underdogs: Have won 10 of the last 13 Super Bowls.

5. Favorites: Won 10 of the first 14 Super Bowls.

6. Biggest Spread: 49ers (-18 1/2) over the Chargers in 1995. San Francisco justified the odds with a 49-26 victory.

7. Biggest Upset: Jets  (+18) beat the Baltimore Colts, 16-7 I,n 1969.

8. Over/Under: The cumulative mark is 24-24. There was no over/under in Super Bowl I.

9. Failed to Cover: Six teams have won but failed to cover the spread. Steelers 2009, Patriots 2005 and 2004, Cowboys 1996, 49ers 1989, and Steelers 1976.

10. Out of Luck: Four teams have never had a Super Bowl line – they never played in the big game. The Lions and Browns both won NFL championships before the Super Bowl. The Jaguars and the Texans were expansion franchises.

Historic odds courtesy of Las Vegas Insider.

DeflateGate stains Patriots’ historic quest

Let’s be honest, Tom Brady could have beaten the Colts throwing ping pong balls.

But that’s not the point. This is a story about a supremely talented New England Patriots team that somehow felt the need to cheat – again. A Patriots team coached by Bill Belichick that felt the need to skirt NFL rules and deflate 11 of 12 footballs prior to a 45-7 victory over the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC championship game.

Belichick and Brady are both in denial, but somebody on the Patriots took the air out of those balls. So much for fair play and the integrity of the game. And the NFL seems intent on sweeping this fiasco under the rug, at least until after the Super Bowl.

Reminds one of Watergate, when President Richard Nixon tried to cover up a break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C. prior to the 1972 election. Tricky Dick was a lock for re-election, running against George McGovern, yet felt compelled to try and beat the system,

Did the Patriots cheat? Well they’ve been known to do this before. In 2007, the Pats were disciplined by the NFL for videotaping signals by New York Jets’ defensive coaches. The league fined Belichick $500,000, the maximum allowed and biggest fine ever imposed on a coach in NFL history. The Pats were fined $250,000 and were also stripped of their first-round pick in the 2008 draft.

In another cheating scandal, never proven, the Patriots were accused of videotaping a St. Louis Rams walkthrough prior to their meeting in Super Bowl XXXVI in New Orleans.

DeflateGate throws a huge dark cloud over the Patriots Super Bowl quest. Terry Bradshaw and Chuck Noll of the Pittsburgh Steelers are the only quarterback-coach tandem to win four Super Bowls. Now  Brady and Belichick are a win away from equaling that feat.

But the Patriots’ legacy now appears tainted by an audacious, stupid and paranoid stunt. This is a team that has a history of doing this stuff. Somebody’s lying. Maybe the ball boy will take the fall.

Bucks vs. Ducks: Déjà vu all over again

This isn’t the first time Oregon and Ohio State have met in a history-making playoff.

Back in 1939, more than 75 years before Monday night’s first-ever football playoff, the Ducks beat the Bucks, 46-33, in the championship game of the first NCAA basketball tournament. FDR was President, Europe was on the verge of WWII and Lou Gehrig made his farewell speech in 1939.

Take a look at a picture from that game, notice the tight shorts, sneakers, knee pads, and especially the wooden backboard – that’s how long ago it was.

Oregon had the “Tall Firs” with center Slim Wintermute, Laddie Gale and John Dick,who led all scorers in the title game with 13 points. Bobby Ante and Gale had 10 apiece. Jimmy Hull had 12 points for Ohio State and was named the Most Outstanding Player (MOP) of the first NCAA tournament, which was held at Northwestern University’s gym in Evanston, IL. Here’s the box score.

The NCAA tournament had an eight-team field in 1939. Ohio State beat Villanova to win the East and Oregon beat Oklahoma in the West in what amounts to the first Final Four. Those games were held in Philadelphia and San Francisco respectively.

Oregon was coached by Howard Hobson and Ohio State was coached by Harold Olsen. Long Island University, which was undefeated that year, opted to play in the NIT instead and won that tournament. Temple won the first NIT in 1938.

PIGSKIN PICK: Oh yes, almost forgot. My pick in the first true playoff championship in NCAA big-time football? What else. Oregon 46, Ohio State 33. Just like 1939, Oregon takes a 21-16 lead at the half and then pulls away in the second half to win.

Rangers are up, Knicks are down

Who are these guys? The Knicks. For starters, perhaps the worst team in NBA history.

It’s like night and day for the two main tenants at Madison Square Garden these days. The Rangers are soaring, having won 12 of their last 13 games, their hottest streak since the Stanley Cup season of 1993-94. And the Knicks. Unwatchable.

When Phil Jackson took over last year, Knick fans were hoping that their team might finally reach the championship heights last seen in 1973. At the very least, they were hoping for a competitive team. After all, just two seasons ago the Knicks won 54 games and finished second in the NBA Eastern Conference.

Instead, we’ve been sold a bill of goods with yet another rebuilding program, another wait-until-next-year approach. Listen up Zen Doctor, 40 years of mostly lousy basketball is long enough.

The Knicks are currently on a 14-game losing streak, the longest in their star-crossed history. They’ve lost 24 of their last 25 games, and at 5-34 stand last in the league, behind even the lowly Philadelphia 76ers, who lost their first 17 games. At this pace, they could finish with the worst single-season record in NBA history, behind the 9-73 76ers of 1972-73.

The worst record in team history belongs to the 1963-63 Knicks, who were 21-59, a .263 winning percentage. At least that team had some exciting players in future Hall of Famers Tom Gola and Richie Guerin, along with Johnny Green and Willie Naulls. And they were just a couple of years away from drafting players like Willis Reed, Walt Frazier, Bill Bradley, and yes, Phil Jackson, who would lead the Knicks to their only two NBA titles.

Here’s a challenge. Name three players on the today’s Knicks other than Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire, who never play anyway.

At least there’s hope with the Rangers, who made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals last year before losing to the Los Angeles Kings. The Blueshirts are currently the hottest team in the NHL, light years away from their worst team. That would be the 6-39-5 club of 1943-44.

With goalie Henrik Lundqvist, Rick Nash on a goal-scoring tear and a corps of young defensemen, the Rangers are poised for another playoff run. The Knicks. They’ll be on the sidelines, waiting and watching.