Tag:Cool Hand Luke
Posted on: January 29, 2013 1:33 am

Super Bowl 47 Hunch Line

“Nobody can eat fifty eggs”

The biggest story leading-up to SB47?

The Harbaugh family reunion might make a great Hallmark movie but seeing a couple of privileged, cocky men hit pay-dirt doesn’t exactly float my boat.

Nice to see Joe Flacco finally get some positive feedback but the JF interview is just slightly more interesting than an episode of NOVA.

And Ray Lewis, he’s not really retiring. He’ll be giving his NFL insights from the cozy confines of ESPN’s Connecticut studio for years to come. And the rich get richer.

The big story in the Big Easy is the 49ers’ fleet-footed QB Colin Kaepernick and how he’s energized the biggest debate going in football today: pocket passer vs. flash-QB.

The kids love anything that rocks the status-quo, older folk favor pocket poise and the rest are taking a wait & see approach.

Like "Society" (Cool Hand Luke), maybe I'm stubborn, but I’m not buyin’ run-QB.

Some call him revolutionary. I say guys like Kaep Krusader, Vick, Tebow, RG3 and Newton are just newer, muscled versions of the old single-wing tail-back of the 1930s (See; Cecil Isbell).

As for the “read option,” that’s like asking a 6th-grader to read a book rather than watch TV. Not likely. Give flash-QB the “option” to rabbit and he’ll do it 8 outta' 10 times while his reading skills (on defensive schemes) will never mature beyond “See Spot run.”

And if you think highly-paid, spotlight-craving receivers and true ball-carriers are gonna’ forever happily accommodate their ball-hog quarterbacking teammates, you've got another thing coming.

When you think how the passing game changed the nature of football (Sid Gilman ‘60), keep in mind that that change expanded the franchise to anywhere from 4-8 possible targets who might be on the receiving end of a pass play. That was revolutionary.

It’s why stopping the aerial attacks of a Joe Namath, Doug Williams or Tom Brady has always given defensive coordinators fits, as in, ‘Where’s the damn ball gonna’ go?’

Sure, CK did a real number on GB that won‘t soon be forgotten and the counter-punch he delivered to the Falcons’ heavy helpin’ of run-stuffing was evidence he can multi-task. But seeing isn’t always believing, even for a Missourian ("Show Me").

More than match-ups, the pro game is about adjustments.

Atlanta needed less than a week to make the necessaries to sufficiently contain Colin in NFC title (letting it slip away, like SF in ‘12, on costly TOs), and expect the same from around the League come September. As such, SB47 might be the high-water mark for run-QB as coordinators make necessary modifications to secure the middle and injuries mount for General Athletic .

Does that mean an ‘all expenses paid’ trip to Disneyland is outta‘ the question for Colin in the week following SB47? Heavens no. It just means that, how shall I put this, if Trent Dilfer can hoist the Lombardi, then getting one ring does not a revolutionary make.

The only revolution we’re likely to see will come courtesy of Nike Corporation as they guillotine every classic NFL logo & uniform-design they can hunt down in their youthfully-misguided reign of marketing terror.

The Other Ray

To some, Ray Lewis forever wears a scarlet ‘C’ on his chest: Criminal.

On the night of January 31, 2000, Lewis and two friends (Oakley & Sweeting) were involved in a street fight in Atlanta resulting in two deaths (Baker / Lollar). Lewis was charged with Obstruction by Fulton County in return for his testimony in the murder trial of his companions. Both men were acquitted and no one else was charged (Wikipedia).

Some people believe the investigation was mishandled (Munson / ESPN). To those with a prejudice, this means cover-up. To the rest of us, the lack of sufficient evidence, right or wrong as that may be, allows us to choose forgiveness or just simply move forward.

For the forward thinker, it’s the heavy hits, the passion play and his standard of success that will define Ray Lewis’ legacy.

My favorite Ray Lewis trait: honoring the line.

When you compete on a playing field, there’s a place you never go.

It’s different in business, where Machiavelli is patron saint. The end justifies the means, buyer beware, greed is good, lawyer on retainer and all that jazz.

On the gridiron you bring your “killer instinct” (Bednarik) and if you catch your opponent unawares, all the better (head on a swivel), but you don’t cheap-shot and you don’t take away his dignity. You leave enough there so he can pick himself up and go ‘til the bell rings. That’s Marquess of Queensberry and that’s a professional.

Cross that line and you go from hero to hooligan, from player to punk.

Before you start listing off all of Ray’s late hits, unsportsmanlikes and other boo-boos…don’t bother. Every player’s got ‘em, from Ray Nitschke (“Mean on Sunday”) to 49ers’ All-Pro Patrick Willis.

And Ray Lewis never crossed the line.

Super Bowl 47 Pick

Believe it, basketball can be entertaining.

By the time Super Sunday finally rolls around I’ve cashed in my football chips and vested in Mr. Naismith‘s invention. For me, it’s the lead-up to Super Sunday which is apex of the NFL season.

Had the powers-that-be not tacked on an extra week of sales & hype I might feel different. But with the delay, the players are running on fumes (most at it since May), momentum curried in the PS is lost and fans like myself are not all too pleased at being played for saps.

And using the semi-Pro Bowl to somehow tide us over doesn’t sweeten the deal, Roger & DeMaurice. Apart from PED prevention, those two cufflinks play the same course.

As for the game, the guys will give their best effort, even if it won’t be their best. That usually means a pretty good show, ever since the NFC decided to join the modern era with the help of Roger Staubach and Bill Walsh.

In the pros, there’s no easier road to a title than the NFL playoff highway.

The Ravens’ path to New Orleans was no cakewalk, besting three foes, including wins at Denver and New England, whereas, SF gets a R1 bye, a homer versus enigmatic WK1 foe GB and find their “golden ticket” in the Georgia Dome against Atlanta’s great pretenders.

Why San Fran favored? Odds-makers are businessmen, not football fans.

Post-season, Baltimore's defense has become equal of 49ers’ vaunted crew, has a capable run game, holds an edge in passer proficiency, brings more pressure, can clog the middle to force CK horizontal, has traveled a tougher road to get here and will not be bested in the intensity department. Clichéd, but expect moderate scoring affair with these defense-favored coaching philosophies. The winner: Baltimore Ravens.

Steven Keys
NFL Hunch Line
Posted on: January 2, 2013 10:18 am

NFL '13 Wild Card Picks

The Whole Nine Yards

That’s what stood between Adrian Peterson and sport immortality in Sunday’s contest vs Green Bay (MIN 37-34). Nine yards and Adrian owns the single-season rush-record (ED / 2105) and goes to head of the MVP line, besting Peyton and a closing fast Rodgers. As it stands, Pey-dirt will win his fifth AP award because voters love QBs and his team’s spiffy W-L record (13-3). Aaron may be NFL’s best, surviving a leaky O-line (51S) and gamey run fare (20), but key loses throughout ‘12 will keep AR from winning this MVP race.

As for Adrian coming up short, Eric wants the record for the son. That’s nice…and near 90% hogwash. Packers taking pride in ‘holding’ All-Day to 199 is like saving your favorite golf club from a tornado that just took your house, or like Jake LaMotta chiding Sugar Ray for not putting him down while the raging bull’s eye hangs out of its socket. Sure Jake, whatever.

“Sometimes nothing can be a real cool hand ("Luke"),” Mr. Peterson. You da’ man.

Rainy Days & Mondays

Keenest coach cut: Bears’ Lovie Smith. Leaving Jay Cutler in after the wicked, violative hit he suffered vs Houston (Wk10 / Dobbins) showed this soft-spoken man had his priorities skewed.

Golden Rule coach cut: Cards’ Ken Whisenhunt. KW broke #1 rule in QB league when he failed to protect his signal-callers (58S), then had the back-up blues (Skelton / Lindley).

Best coach keeper: Rex Ryan. Unless Jets, who appear ready to move Sanchez, somehow land top-quality QB in off-season, things probably won’t improve much in NYJ come 2013. But Rex provides continuity and keeps things light. Besides, the Tebow fiasco (Tim deserved better) has Jets’ owner Woody Johnson’s finger prints all over it.

Cheese-flavored Karma

While it won’t make-up for getting the “fuzzy end of the lolly-pop (Marilyn)” in Wk-3 vs Seattle (“simultaneous catch”), the football fairies were keeping watch over GB in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Rather than having an automatic review quashed for a challenge-flag faux pas after a 3Q scoring play, a fate which befell Detroit in their T-Day loss to Houston, the Packers profit from the resulting rule change and suffer only an unsportsmanlike penalty. Feel better now, Packerland? Dumb question.

Applying for Membership

It just might be the most exclusive club in America, harder to get into than even Skull & Bones, that secret fraternity W. and John Kerry are reportedly members in. Good god.

Money, fine credit rating, great wardrobe, huge Facebook following, even a call from Tony Soprano won’t cut you a key for this guild. You can only get in the “old-fashioned way, you eaaaaaarn it (Houseman).”

The heading above the door reads, ‘Elite Quarterback Club.’

You needn’t win a Super Bowl to be elite, which explains why Mr. Marino, Tarkenton, Moon and Jim Kelly have all been seen frequenting the premises. Fran practically lives there, still bending anyone’s ear who’ll listen to his rants on Brett Favre going purple.

But then triumphs like taking a title or getting a bronze bust are no golden-ticket for EQC membership, either. Super Bowls are won largely in the trenches and HOFs have become feel-good facilitators, Halls of Good n’ Plenty and no longer repositories of only the great.

So, what is the standard for an elite QB? Who can really say. Plenty try, but suffice to say, when the elite quarterback’s name is spoken, you’ll know it.

Today’s active membership includes Tom Brady, Peyton and Eli Manning, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers. McNabb & Matt Hasselbeck came close.

Three quarterbacks in this year’s NFL playoff field have applications pending: FalconsMatt Ryan, TexansMatt Schaub and Baltimore’s Joe Flacco (half the field is too wet-behind-the-ears to be applying for EQC just yet). All three have shown enough to get their application fast-tracked if any of ’em happens to grab hold of that brass-ring this playoff run.

Wild Card Picks

Cincinnati Bengals (10-6) @ Houston Texans (12-4) (1-5 / NBC 4:30)

Two lackluster acts to end the season (PIT / BAL), even in victory, is poor sign for Cincy who looked to be rising, while Texans are 1-3 last four. The Yawner Bowl? Nyet. Try Balance Bowl as both squads usually play both sides like it matters. TFD, TOP and sack ratios (44+ / 28-) favor Texans, and then there’s Foster, Johnson, Watt & Schaub. Houston wins.

Minnesota Vikings (10-6) @ Green Bay Packers (11-5) (NBC 8:00)

Next to health nothing matters more than momentum entering PS. Minnesota has it with 4-0 closing argument and then the whole record / MVP thing has ‘em energized. If Vikes want cake they must rock Aaron’s world in pressure (Allen), cover scheme and get clean-play from Ponder. GB won’t scare like years past but will control air space over low flying MIN (O31 / D24) and Cobb / Woodson suit up. Vikings have AP & Walsh (K), Packers have AR & Jennings. Green Bay wins.

Indianapolis Colts (11-5) @ Baltimore Ravens (10-6) (1-6 / CBS 1:00)

If you believe in momentum & karma, this one’s clear. Indy takes M&T field the winners in 5 of last 6 while BAL is 1-4. That’s the energy. The bad karma, that’s John Harbaugh sitting starters in finale vs Bengals. Two schools: one likes the risk-reduction & rest (JH & McCarthy), the other likes the rhythm, practice and fans. Flacco has the experience but Luck is riding high, especially now that his alma mater (Stanford) has won the amateur college FBS D1 title, edging out Northwestern. Colts win.

Seattle Seahawks (11-5) @ Washington Redskins (10-6) (Fox 4:30)

Next week AFC stars come out, this weekend the NFC has showcase match-ups with this one big on curiosity-factor. Misters Griffin & Wilson have the kids all in a tizzy with late season surges. Both QBs distribute well while Russ a bit less likely to rabbit, giving SEA more options. Stars Morris & Lynch cancel each other out, both teams field top tackle-corps but Hawks get edge in pass-D (30 vs 6) and crafty Carroll. Seattle plays into Rd-2.

Steven Keys
NFL Hunch Line
Posted on: May 30, 2012 12:13 pm
Edited on: June 1, 2012 11:22 am

Did Ali KO Boxing?

If there were a Mt. Rushmore for athletes, Muhammad Ali would be on it.

Chiseled into South Dakota granite, he’d reside alongside that other giant of sporting Americana, Babe Ruth. The years will roll on but the immense stature of these two icons will forever tower over all others.

Filling-out the rest of the foursome is no cake-walk. Rounding-up contenders is easy enough but selecting the chosen few is problematic. Not entirely unlike Jefferson’s conundrum (Bill of Rights), the biggest fear is leaving out an indispensable.

Lightening the load is the fact it’s all in fun, meaning, your choices needn’t pass muster with local tribal-leaders or some kind of Ken Burns, revisionary litmus test.

Simply pick America’s four most influential figures of “tumultuous merriment (Johnson),” whether they come with glowing halo or bad-ass baggage in tow.

After the two titans, Jackie Robinson comes quickly to mind. His courage, contribution to civil rights and Dodgers distinction will never be forgotten. But I’m not so sure even he’d approve of his present-day deification by MLB. Something in the vain of “Stop feeding off me! (Cool Hand Luke)” might echo his sentiments if alive today.

Next comes Lombardi, Clemente, Billie Jean King, Cobb, Mantle, Rockne, Gehrig, Page, Bear Bryant, Thorpe, Wooden, Nicklaus, Unitas, Jim Brown, Butkus, Walter Ray, Scully, Montana, Berg, Shoulders, Sugar Ray Robinson, Mack, Foyt, Chamberlain, Bill Russell, Babe Zaharias, Josh Gibson, Graham, Halas, Owens, Petty, Mathewson, Connors and on and on and on.

And the greats of hockey? ‘Made in Canada’ shouldn’t disqualify American favorites like Shore, Hull, Plante, Brodeur, Richard, Bowman, Howe, Orr, Gretzky and Blake. Half their ice-time was clocked on the Southern side of the NHL.

Four spots is a petite pantheon (real Rushmore) with so many greats from which to pick.

Even with the rather pedestrian passel of Presidents, I always thought there should be more mugs on Rushmore. I’ve got no quarrel with those who made the cut, giants, all of ‘em. But if I’d made the call I wouldn’t begin the blasting until Old Hickory was on the roster. No Andy Jackson, hero of the Battle of New Orleans (1815), two-terms, the first People’s President who busted the bank trusts? Tsk-tsk, Mr. Coolidge.

But whether it’s four faces or fourteen, two will always stand above the rest, already chiseled onto the minds of American sport fans, young & old.

George Herman Ruth, “a parade all by himself (Cannon).” Starting as a HOF-caliber moundsman, Ruth’s power with the bat was unprecedented. Though, when asked if he’d not swung so for the stands might he have hit .400, the ever-confident Babe shot back, “Hell, kid, I coulda’ hit .500!” And he could have.

Such talent, wrapped in a lovable brashness was perfectly suited to the roaring times. His insatiable appetite for round-trippers, comfort-food, wine, women & song single-handedly enlivened and rescued a scandalized (Black Sox / ‘20) and micro-managed national pastime.

Best Babe quotes: “(Ty) Cobb is a pr**k, but he sure can hit, God Almighty, that man can hit (Big Sticks / Curran)!” Asked to justify a salary ($100,000) greater than that of the Chief Executive (Hoover), the Babe calmly responded: “I had a better year than he did.”

Babe Ruth, a “natural born world shaker (Dragline).”

It’s funny, you’d think they couldn’t be more different. But the more I read about Ruth, the more I’m reminded of the other sure face on my imaginary monument, Ali.

He was known as Cassius Marcellus Clay when he took the boxing world by storm at the Rome Olympics (’60). By the time he’d taken the title from the a brutish & brooding Sonny Liston (’64), his new religion and name had become the bigger story.

Charming one moment, cruel the next (v Frazier), the outspoken pugilist was a hard sell in Peoria after his conversion and draft refusal (‘66). To the seasoned press corps Ali was an angry draft-dodger. But that grizzled old bunch were becoming passé. The Lip spoke to a new, TV generation. Like The Beatles, he transcended his profession, becoming a bigger than life world figure of both influence and controversy.

And like the Sultan of Swat, Ali seemed tailor-made for his time.

To the new press Ali was a god-send, a quote-machine whose pre-fight poetry was unlike anything they’d ever heard before. “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” became Muhammad’s defining line. My own favorite Ali-ism: “I’m fast, I’m pretty and can’t POSSIBLY be beat!” Arrogance made interesting. That was a first…and a last.

And he found a kindred spirit in Howard Cosell, frequently feigning discord while taking us all for a ride. And we loved it. In the lawyer’s hands Ali showed a lighter side, more contemplative and surprisingly patient with the blunt, always provocative Howard.

It’s in the aftermath of these two tremendous reigns where the similarity ends.

When Ruth exited the game in 1935 baseball was in its early golden age. Heroes like DiMaggio, Williams, Musial, Berra, Mays, Koufax, Gibson and Aaron carried the banner well into the 70s. Today’s game has taken some serious hits with the NFL’s maturation and the PED plague, but it remains the favored pastime for millions.

Boxing, on the other hand, is fighting to stay relevant, in the throes of its toughest time.

With a few exceptions (Sugar Rays), as the heavyweight class goes, so goes USA boxing. When Ali lost the title to Spinks in ‘78, the division was already looking a bit wobbly.

The 35 years since has seen the top tier turn into a revolving-door of titlists, with names like Holmes, Tyson, Holyfield, Lewis and Klitschko (Vitali & Wladi) claiming authority.

Holmes lacked charisma, Tyson personified evil, Holyfield was a cruiserweight, the 90s Foreman was a pleasant anomaly and the other guys, Lewis (The Commonwealth) and the Klitschkos (Ukraine) are best known in their native lands.

Muhammad Ali set the boxing bar so high he left his sport wanting, yearning for a new savior. But can any fighter, in or out of the ring, ever meet the lofty standard set by the self-proclaimed “greatest?” I wonder.

Today’s boxer is as gifted a pugilist as warriors of old but pales in comparison with an Ali-expectancy.

In reality, Uncle Sam’s sporting tastes had been changing before Mr. Clay arrived on the scene. Rather than “KO“ boxing, Ali may’ve actually pumped new life into the sport.

Prize-fighting was born of harder times (1700s), before middle class, when life tested us at every turn and suffering & boredom were expectations. We’ve got our struggles today but in many respects times are better, less trying and less conducive to after-dinner fights.

The public began to rethink their passion for pugilism when tragedy struck in two nationally-televised fights. Cuban fighter Kid Paret would die within ten days after he was knocked unconscious by Emile Griffith in a 1962 welterweight title bout on ABC. Then in 1982, South Korean lightweight Duk Koo Kim collapsed after a 14 RD TKO loss to Ray Mancini at Caesars Palace (CBS), dying four days later.

You’d think it couldn’t get worse for boxing, then Mike Tyson found a gym.

All boxers have inner rage but Tyson was a truly frightening, unpredictable figure who relied on a sneaky upper-cut to knock opponents out on their feet. He unraveled fast with his first loss (Douglas ’90), the best title-fight since Ali-Frazier I (‘71). Then came the rape verdict (‘92), ear-chomp (‘97) and horrific rants (“eat your children” (’00)), giving the sport a nice, big shiner. Now he’s in boxing’s HOF (Canastota, NY). Just perfect.

Then there’s MMA. With evolution away from boxing it’s hard to figure the niche this oddly barbaric contest has carved out (See; sociologist). My theory: a post-1970 male population, spared major, social upheaval (draft / depression) but faced with a forever shrinking job market, in frustration, peer pressure and boredom, respond to mass-marketed machismo.  A collective chest-thump, as it were, shouting 'We bad too!'

Not exactly sign of the Apocalypse but an activity spawned from a culture moving disturbingly closer to James Caan / Wm Harrison's Rollerball and not half as cool.

Did MMA stagger boxing? Nyet. Their respective fan bases seem to be exclusive and the sports are different at their core. MMA is premised on forcing an opponent into submission, stripping him of all his pride.

Boxing is a mixture of human brutality and style where a winner can howl in victory but still leave his vanquished rival with a modicum of dignity. And that’s just what Herb Marshall left Barb Stanwyck after going a round in Breakfast for Two (‘37).

Floyd Mayweather is the face of today’s US boxing. Sugar Ray Leonard he is not, image-wise. But his skill in the ring has been of the highest caliber and more than well-tested.

As for his post-fight, ring-conduct (Merchant flare-up / ‘11): Even elder statesmen can get too full of themselves. ‘Asked & answered’ was my feeling in watching the senior pepper the winner with post-fight queries. If he hasn’t yet, Larry owes Floyd a phone call.

Then there’s the blood-test. Mayweather’s willingness to give the red stuff gave him the PR upper-hand over his talented, would-be challenger Manny Pacquiao whose meteoric rise came to a screeching halt at his apparent refusal to give the same a year ago.

Boxing will never rise to the heights of popularity it enjoyed for most of the 20th century. Too much has changed. But I hope it someday thrives again. Great fighters, memorable bouts, they’ll always be with us.

Because if Rocky ever goes MMA, I don’t want to see it. Do you?

Steven Keys
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com