Champs or chumps? Warriors legacy in doubt

Well, well, Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors are in a pickle. The Dubs set an NBA record with 73 victories, but unless they are able to stage a miracle comeback against Oklahoma City in the Western Conference finals, they’re toast.

And if they lose to the Thunder (or somehow make the Finals and lose to Cleveland), the Warriors will have no claim…none… to the title of NBA’s best team ever. It happens. In 2007, the New England Patriots finished the regular season unbeaten at 16-0 and yet lost to the Giants in Super Bowl 42. In 2001, the Seattle Mariners won 116 games, tying the 1906 Cubs for the most in MLB history. The Mariners were knocked out by the Yankees in five games in the ALCS. And the Cubs lost the 1906 World Series to their crosstown rivals, the White Sox, aka the Hitless Wonders.

In the NBA, teams with outstanding regular season records generally go on to win the championship. The 1996 Bulls (72-10), 1972 Lakers (69-13), 1997 Bulls (69-13) and 1967 76ers (68-13) were all crowned champs. The best team not to win a title was the 1973 Celtics (68-14), who lost to the Knicks in a seven-game, Eastern Conference Final.

The Warriors won the NBA title last year following a 67-15 regular season, tied for seventh best all-time. The 1986 Celtics, 1992 Bulls and 2000 Lakers all won championships after finishing 67-15. The 2007 Mavericks and this year’s Spurs also went 67-15, but were knocked out before the Western Conference Finals. The Washington Capitals were 49-11 in 1947, the NBA’s first season, but lost in the semifinals.

In the NFL, the 1984 49ers and 1985 Bears both finished 15-1 and won the Super Bowl. But three others teams, the 1988 Vikings, 2004 Steelers and 2011 Packers, were beaten before reaching the Super Bowl.

In addition to the Mariners and Cubs losing the World Series, the 1954 Indians (111-54) and Philadelphia A’s (107-45)  in 1931 were also upset.

The Canadiens set an NHL record with 132 points in 1977 and won the Stanley Cup in the midst of a four-year championships run. But the 1996 Red Wings, with a record 62 wins and 131 points, were derailed by the Avalanche in the Western Conference Finals.

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.

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.

Imagine: John Lennon And The Orange Bowl

December 8, 1980 — John Lennon was murdered outside the Dakota in New York. If still alive, the ex-Beatle would be 77.

John Lennon’s death was one of those seminal events where you remember exactly how you first heard the tragic news.

That night, I was at the old Orange Bowl in Miami to see the Miami Dolphins face the New England Patriots in Monday night football.

Late in the fourth quarter, famed broadcaster Howard Cosell informed the nationwide audience on ABC-TV that Lennon had been shot.

No public announcement was made at the Orange Bowl. There were no cell phones, no text messages, no wireless Internet to deliver the story.

The game went into overtime, and the Dolphins win 16-13 on a 23-yard field goal by Uwe von Schamann.

It was a beautiful December South Florida night.

After the game, I took a bus back to my car, drove home with the radio off. Still hadn’t heard about Lennon.

The next day, as I was driving in to work the sports desk at the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, I turned on the radio. Every station was playing Beatles music and John Lennon songs.

Finally, one of the DJs reported that Lennon had been shot and killed the night before.

At work of course Lennon’s death was the only topic of conversation. I still remember the rock & roll writer at the paper writing his piece on Lennon.

And the story that referred to John as “The Thinking Man’s Beatle.”

John Lennon was just 40 years old when he was killed. Although he is gone, he is still with us in his music.

Happy Birthday, John.

John Lennon and Joe Pepitone: Born The Same Day

SportsLifer Top 50: Number 13

Such Stuff As Dreams Are Made On

“We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep.” — William Shakespeare

Was planning to drive up to Albany real early this morning to see the New York Giants in training camp. All packed, camera in the car, ready to go. But I overslept.

I was dreaming that the Giants beat the undefeated Patriots on a miracle play in the Super Bowl. Then I woke up and realized it was true.

So I started thinking about the strange occurrences we’ve seen in sports in the past year. One year ago, you would have been dreaming if you said:

  • The Giants would be defending World Champions.
  • That Manny Ramirez would be wearing Dodger blue.
  • And Joe Torre would be his manager.
  • That the Boston Celtics would win the NBA title.
  • That the Tampa Bay Rays would be in first place.
  • That Greg Norman, 53 years young, would be leading the British Open with nine holes to play.
  • And that he would be cheered on by his new bride, Chris Evert.
  • That Brett Favre would retire. Or unretire. Or retire….wait a minute, Brett, wake up and make up your mind.
  • That Roger Clemens would make a fool of himself in front of the entire nation.
  • While his former teammate, Mike Mussina, would be pitching like Cy Young.
  • That Appalachian State would beat Michigan. In the Big House. Yeah right.
  • That Marion Jones, the queen of the 2000 Olympics, would be in jail.

Did I just dream all that? Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.



A Giants’ response to the Patriots efforts to trademark 19-0.

And to all you Steelers, Cowboys, 49ers, Packers, and Dolphins fans out there — you all owe a debt of gratitude to the GGGGG-Men, who took the Pats out of the perfection and dynasty discussions. Dynasties don’t lose championship games.

Simply The Best

The Best Super Bowl Ever


Catch XLII: David Tyree’s heroics spark Giants past Patriots.


Alan Ameche scores in overtime to beat Giants for 1958 NFL title.

It was 50 years ago this December that the Baltimore Colts beat the New York Giants 23-17 in overtime for the NFL championship in what is often referred to as “The Greatest Game Ever Played.” That is until Sunday, when the New York Giants rallied to defeat the previously unbeaten New England Patriots 17-14 and win Super Bowl XLII.

I know, take it easy, it’s a bit early to start ranking and labeling the historic classic that was Super Bowl XLII. Give it some time, let it breathe. Like a fine wine.

Here are 10 reasons why XLII may one day be considered the best game ever…or at least the best Super Bowl ever

10 Reasons Why…..

The Greatest Super Bowl Ever

1. The undefeated team, the 18-0 Patriots, in the imperfect ending

2. The Giants, road warriors, but merely a 10-6 team entering the playoffs

3. The 12-point spread, making this one of the biggest upsets in SB history

4. The game-winning 83-yard drive, making the Giants only the second team to come from behind to win in the final minute of a SB

5. Last Manning Standing, the family saga, Archie, Peyton and Eli

6. Eli escapes, hits Tyree with the helmet catch, one of the great plays in SB history…ESPN is already calling this the greatest play in Super Bowl history

7. The fierce pass-rush on record-setting QB and MVP Tom Brady….defense still wins championships

8. The Plax guarantee — this legend is guaranteed to grow over time — and then he catches the winning TD.

9. The New York-Boston rivalry redux…it doesn’t make up for Yankees-Red Sox and the Choke, but it sure helps

The way you all treated the Rockies during the Series makes me think that you got the ass-whipping you haughty punks deserved. Enjoy the taste of New York exhaust as it drives back down to the Number One City, with the Vince Lombardi, and all of your silly egos, with it. … blog

10. It was the most-watched Super Bowl ever with 97.5 million viewers, the second most watched TV show in history behind only the last M*A*S*H.

And for extra points…..

11. Belichick and Spygate

I guess it’s not as easy to coach when you don’t know the other team’s plays in advance… blog