Random Football Thoughts

For the 5th consecutive year I managed to totally avoid viewing any of the non stop dribble that we have all come to know as the Super Bowl pre-game hype; the keys to victory, match-ups, coaches and player thoughts, pieces featuring the owners that has already tasted victory in 5 previous Super Bowls and the family, who was making it's 1st ever appearance in the 43 year history of the game.

I was actually invited to two Super Bowl parties, but chose to stay at home and view the game with my date for the evening; Martina, my two year old beagle companion.

At the conclusion, I felt the Steelers Cardinals match up was easily one of the top five Super Bowls of all time. It wasn't the equal in terms of excitement with last year's Giants victory over the Patriots or the Rams victory over the Titans, but it ranks right up there with the best.

I also managed to avoid watching the predictable post game Super Bowl remarks and commentary (Mr. Rooney congratulations but please get rid of those hideous suspenders).

I avoided it all, but by games end I had come up with a few thoughts I would like to share with you today.

First off, the officiating in the league has been in a word; awful. The numerous unsportsmanlike penalty calls were over the top; particularly the running into the holder call against Adrian Wilson. Ben Roethlisberger's knee never appeared to hit the ground in opening drive touchdown and there should have been a no call (holding) on the safety in my opinion.

Tackling - Have you noticed how poor the level of tackling has stooped to in the NFL? Between linebackers and defensive backs, this year has highlighted some of the weakest examples ever in the history of the game.

How many times have you witnessed defensive backs reach out and grab, push or shove a ball carrier that ultimately spins away for a bigger gain and or a TD? How about the defenders who just try to rip the ball away from ball carriers without putting a lick on a guy? Or have you noticed the latest craze of defenders who do the Kamikaze slam into a ball carrier at lightning speed without tackling, securing or getting anyone on the ground? More often than not, the ball carrier absorbs the shock and continues and gains significant extra yards.

The reason for this I believe is the fact that few if any clubs within the league conduct live tackling drills either in season or during the preseason. Oh, they'll do some form tackling, but for the most part today's professional defenders might play their entire career and never so much as participate in a single live tackling drill. I think Super Bowl number one winning coach Vince Lombardi must be shaking his head in disgust somewhere up in the heavens.

Kurt Warner - What a player and person! There is no doubt about his future hall of fame placement and his toughness, both mentally and physically, but he takes so many big hits and never gives in. I can't tell you how many times I've seen Kurt sacrificing himself to make a play. He never takes the easy way out and is still as accurate a short to intermediate thrower as there is in the game.

In my mind Kurt is not only one of the toughest athletes in NFL history, but maybe in all of sports. He possesses a lot of Bart Starr type qualities both on and off the field.

In his last year with the Rams, I thought he was entirely finished. He couldn't throw the ball outside the numbers effectively, his pocket mobility was suspect and I thought he had lost his edge and some confidence. Well, he sure as heck proved me wrong. I'm certain Coach Lombardi must be smiling when he watches this modern day warrior perform today.

I did take notice of one thing this week; the Bob Hayes Induction into The Professional Football Hall of Fame. My first thought was; it's about time! I realize what he did with narcotics was wrong and he paid a dear price for his mistakes, but on the football field, he brought fear into the hearts of every corner he competed against. I can't think of a current wide receiver in the game today, who was as electrifying as # 22. His sheer speed and his great hands put opposing defenders constantly on alert. When Bob Hayes trotted out of the huddle to his wide out spot, everyone was watching and waiting, because you knew he was their go-to guy on virtually every key situation.

There were other big strong vertical receivers in the era like Homer Jones, Warren Wells and Otis Taylor that struck fear in the hearts of apposing defenders, but in my mind there was only one Bob Hayes.

Much like the NBA installed a three second rule to somehow try and neutralize Wilt Chamberlain, more than any one player Bob Hayes is most responsible for the use of zone defenses in professional football.

In his 11 year career, Hayes caught 371 balls for 7414 yards and 71 touchdowns.

Many people associated with track and field still consider Bob Hayes the fastest man ever to walk the planet. His gold medal performance in both the 100m and the 4 x 100m relay at the ' 64 Tokyo Olympics were breathtaking to say the least.

No one including Usain Bolt, has ever come close to the superhuman leg that he ran that day. When he took the baton, he trailed Marion Dudziak of Poland by 8 meters, but he quickly ran him down and helped the USA capture the gold.

Even with a running start, "Bullet Bob" ran a mind-blowing 8.8 second anchor leg, that featured 7.8 seconds for the last 100 yards; all a cinder track! Some forty-five years later, those numbers are still mind boggling.

I last saw Bob prior to a Jaguars pre-season game in Jacksonville in 2002 just months before his passing at age 59. His once remarkable body was now ravaged by liver, kidney and prostate cancer and he was confined to a wheel chair, but as the crowd cheered, a smile was clearly evident on his face of this once magnificent athlete.

Selecting Bob Hayes to The Hall of Fame is well deserved, but it's a shame he will not be there with us in Canton to bask in his glory just one more time.

God Bless Bob Hayes and may his soul rest in peace.

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