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It’s time to kick off the NFL Preseason, so back on the SDPC is former NFL player Dr. Kurt Pierce, who shares his preseason experiences, and sifts through the alphabet soup of organizations that have the backs of former NFL players. Enjoy the podcast, and enjoy the games this weekend!
Greetings from The Booth!
In the down time between the Spring and Fall seasons at Shenandoah University, we take time this week to recognize the academic achievements of the Hornet’s Athletic Department. For only the second time since team GPAs have been tracked at SU, all 22 intercollegiate programs have at least a 3.0 team grade point average. Ashley Smeltzer-Kraft’s field hockey team were the ‘brainiacs” of the bunch, leading the way with a collective 3.68, while on the men’s side, ODAC champ baseball had a team 3.4. When you consider the hectic schedule of a D-3 student-athlete, this is an amazing accomplishment. The bar has been set high at Shenandoah, both on the academic and athletic fronts, not to mention community service, and you can’t do much better than 22 for 22! For more on this topic, check out this week’s Sports Dog’s Podcast, and my conversation with SU’s Scott Musa.
If you’re a fan of the old Washington Redskins’ “Over The Hill Gang” of the 1970’s, this is a tough week. On Tuesday, safety Brig Owens passed away at the age of 79. Owens was a defensive captain for those George Allen-led teams, including the 1972 squad, who went all the way to Super Bowl VII, before falling to Miami (Owens picked off a pass in that game).
His 36 interceptions are second only to the great Darrell Green in team history, a mark that earned Owens a spot in the ‘Skins Ring Of Fame. He also made some NFL history that you may not know about. In 1966, Owens and tight end Jerry Smith became the league’s first interracial roommates, and remained so in their 12 seasons in DC. In an age where most NFL players had to have an off-season job to make ends meet, Brig Owens attended law school as his playing days wound down, and put that to good use in the NFL Players Association as a player rep, and assistant executive director.
I had the pleasure, through my good friend Dr. Kurt Pierce (who played football at UVA and for the Miami Dolphins), of meeting Brig Owens over the Christmas holidays at the Sam Huff memorial in Middleburg. Among other things, we talked about maybe his most famous play. It happened on a Monday Night game in 1973 against the Dallas Cowboys. With the score tied at 7 late in the contest, RFK Stadium erupted as Owens picked off a Craig Morton pass and returned it 26 yards for what would be the game-winning score. That play was overshadowed somewhat by the Ken Houston goal line tackle moments later on Walt Garrison (the most famous tackle in Washington football history). I said to Brig, “I remember that interception like it was yesterday.” His reply to me, in his understated way, was “So do I.”
Brig Owens accomplished much on the field and off in his illustrious career , but my lingering memory of him will be of that legendary pick-six against the hated Cowboys. Rest in Peace, Brig! I’m proud to have met you…
Until the next visit from the Booth, GO HORNETS and HTTR!
Greetings From The Booth!
Just when we were settling in to Spring, this week the Shenandoah Valley was hammered with a Monday snow that left up to 4 inches on our cars, driveways, etc. By this Sunday, the snow will be a distant memory as temps soar into the 80s, just in time for the 95th Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival, one of my favorite times of the year. This year, even more so, as the Bloom returns in it’s full-fledged glory after no Festival in 2020, and a limited one last year. S[ports is a big part of the Bloom, and I’ll be writing more on that next week.
A quick SU update: after a recent stumble against Roanoke, Hornet Baseball has returned to it’s winning ways, and as of this writing is 23-8-1 and ranked in the nation’s top 25. Women’s Lacrosse will find out how good they are this week when they face number-4 Washington & Lee. Our Tennis teams have been solid this year, and Andy’s Track & Field squad has been strong, especially the throwers and sprinters. All is well!
So, did you watch the debut weekend of the new USFL? The USFL is the latest incarnation of Spring pro football. If you remember, there was a USFL way back in the day that did manage to snag some top names, but fell by the wayside due to financial problems. There have been other leagues that have tried to compete, albeit indirectly, with the NFL, to mixed reviews, like the WFL, which didn’t last 2 seasons. Vince McMahon’s XFL tried to give fans football with a pro wrestling feel, but didn’t catch on. The rebooted XFL was a victim of COVID, but thanks to investors like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, plans a return in 2023.
One weekend does not a season make, but doing the eye test, here are my thoughts. Despite the hype from Fox, the product is still sub-standard. There are a few nice players, but for the most part, the 8 teams are made up of college players who didn’t make NFL rosters, journeymen who spent some time in the League, and some D-II athletes.
What the USFL has in it’s favor is a nice TV deal from Fox, with some innovative technology. I really like the helmet cam, which gives the viewer a feel for what it’s like to carry the ball into the line, for example. Fox tried to give Saturday night’s debut game the FOX NFL treatment, but fell a bit short. The sideline reporters were hyping “the incredible crowd” against the backdrop of lots of empty seats. Curt Menefee was clearly out of his element as a play-by-play guy, and Jason Garrett seemed ill-prepared as a color analyst in what was probably an audition for NFL broadcasts down the road.
What is working against the USFL, aside from second-tier players, is not having a team in a major market like New York, LA, or Chicago. It remains to be seen whether a market like Birmingham, in the heart of SEC country, will support a pro team. And don’t forget that in the Spring, USFL is competing with MLB, the NHL, NASCAR, not to mention people getting outdoors and away from the hi-def TV.
The major factor for me is “football burnout.” By the time the Super Bowl ends, fans have had a full season of college football, the bowls, and the CFP games, plus 17 weeks of regular season NFL games, the playoffs, and the Big Game. Is America ready for some more football? Time will tell.
Until the next visit from The Booth, Happy Bloom and GO HORNETS!
According to Insidenova.com the Virginia House of Delegates voted 14 to 7 to help bring pro football to Virginia.
The bill advanced by the Virginia House of Delegates will allow the creation of a Virginia Football Stadium Authority.
The bill has to now pass the Senate and then be signed by the governor before becoming law.
The stadium authority group could be appointed by the governor to fast track and issue bonds for the construction of a professional football stadium in Virginia.
Sites being considered for a possible stadium are in Loudoun and or Prince William Counties.
A new stadium in Virginia could lure the Washington football team to the Commonwealth.
Washington’s current contract with the Landover Maryland site expires in 2027.
For more news from across the Shenandoah Valley, click here.
Greetings From The Booth!
The Booth is a little chilly, with lows expected in the teens to single digits forecasted this week. To add insult to injury, CBS is teasing me with promos for The Masters. As I make my daily drive on Rt. 37, Rock Harbor looks anything like Augusta National. I would, however, get plenty of roll on the icy fairways this week at The Rock. At age 62, I am always looking for a few extra yards on my shots.
Anyway, in today’s VFB, I wanted to weigh in on a few random topics, and I’ll start with Shenandoah University men’s basketball. The guys played arguably their best half this past Monday at home against a good Lynchburg team, and continued the solid play well into the second half. SU had energy, they were taking care of the basketball, and playing great defense. The clock would then strike midnight for Cinderella, however. Leading 61-53, Shenandoah saw Lynchburg switch to a zone defense, and finish the game on a 31-7 run to win going away. The lesson for the young Hornets is that games are 40 minutes, not 30. Baby steps…
The NFL conference championship games are this Sunday as we are now down to the league’s version of the Final Four. In your lifetime, you probably won’t see another weekend like last, when all 4 divisional games were won on the game’s final play. The weekend was punctuated on Sunday night by one of the best playoff games of all time, as the Chiefs outlasted Buffalo in OT. You’ve heard the old cliche about “it’s a shame someone had to lose.” And certainly Bills QB Josh Allen didn’t deserve his fate. Allen was one tough SOB, bringing his team back time and time again, only to never touch the ball in overtime, thanks to Patrick Mahomes. The game was one for the ages.
In the aftermath of the Bucs’ loss, the speculation begins about whether or not Tom Brady will retire. Brady has said that the perfect ending for him is to win a Super Bowl. That would certainly be the ultimate storybook ending. The problem is that very few athletes get to go out on their own terms. Just ask Joe Theismann, whose career ended on a Monday Night game with his leg snapped in two. Most players play a year or two too long (Willie Mays, Joe Namath, and OJ Simpson come to mind), unwilling to admit that the game has passed them by. And, it’s not easy winning a Super Bowl. That being said, Brady is still playing at a high level, and with the right pieces around him, is capable of walking into the sunset with the Lombardi Trophy. The football world awaits his decision…
Finally, David Ortiz was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame this week on his first try. “Big Papi” hit over 540 home runs in his career, was a 10-time all star, and is really the first DH to get a bust in Cooperstown. There is no one that can argue that decision by the Baseball Writers of America. I also applaud their decision to once again deny Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens a place in the Hall. Bonds and Clemens were products of the steroid era, and used performance enhancing drugs to help them achieve their lofty resumes. If you believed Bonds when he said he thought he was using flaxseed oil, I’ve got some prime real estate on the Moon I’ll sell you. I’m also sure that being a jerk to the press over the years didn’t help Bonds’ cause. As for Clemens, he finally had to acknowledge his steroid use after years of lying about it. Maybe in the future there will be a Steroid Wing or Asterisk Section in the Hall Of Fame , but for now, Bonds’ and Clemens’ rightful place should be on the outside looking in.
Enjoy the conference championship games on Sunday, stay warm, and until the next visit from The Booth…GO HORNETS!
Greetings from The Booth!
OK, I think I’ve had enough snow now…for the rest of the season. If bedding down at the radio station on Sunday night and reading endless school announcements all this week wasn’t bad enough, I had to see a Facebook post from my friend Nick Ciattei, who’s soaking up the sun in Aruba! It’s his world, and I’m just living in it. The snow this week included a topping of ice, which made shoveling next to impossible. Hammering away at the icy glaze, I felt like part of the work gang at Shawshank. At 62, I decided to let nature take it’s course, which means I’ll see my driveway sometime in April.
If you need something to warm you up, Shenandoah University baseball opens up on February 12 at the newly-renovated Bridgeforth Field, and while we’ll still need to bundle up, it’ll be great to see a ballpark that finally befits that program.
Back to Sunday, which really wasn’t all that bad. I had the station to myself, I had my Papa John’s pie, and I was able to stream the 3 Super Wild Card games. As an added bonus, 2 of my least-favorite teams made quick playoff exits. The afternoon started with the nasty, drunken, stinkin’ Iggles losing to Brady & The Bucs 31-15 in a game that wasn’t as close as the score might imply. The ageless Tom Terrific and Tampa Bay cruised to a 31-0 lead and never looked back. Philadelphia, the NFL’s top rushing team, never got the ground game going early, and was made one-dimensional by virtue of the lopsided score.
What made me really happy, though, was the stunning Dallas loss to San Francisco, and the subsequent meltdown by the Cowboy fanbase, who once again blamed everyone else except their team for the defeat. This self-entitled bunch, who still think it’s 1996, will be watching someone else lift the Lombardi Trophy in a few weeks, while America’s Team still has only 3 playoff wins since it’s last Super Bowl title.
Rarely is a game won or lost on one play, but the ire of the Dallas reached it’s crescendo on the game’s final play on Sunday. Trailing 23-17 with no time outs, and about 20 seconds left with the ball near midfield, Cowboy QB Dak Prescott took a risk by running the ball in the middle of the field. Sliding near the 25 yard line and using up most of the time, Prescott tried to get his team lined up to spike the ball. The problem: the ball must be spotted by the official, and by the time he did that, time had run out. Game and season over. As the players and officials ran off the field, trash rained down in the vicinity of both. In his postgame comments, Prescott, who thought the garbage was being thrown at the Dallas players, called the fans’ actions “disappointing.” But when told the trash was aimed at the officials, Prescott did a “180” and gave credit to the fans.
Not a good look from the supposed leader of the team, who should have put the loss squarely on his own shoulders. And not a good look from the Dallas fans, who clearly didn’t know the rule about spotting the ball, and didn’t seem to remember the 14 Dallas penalties and other mistakes that contributed to the loss. For everyone associated with that organization, it’s time to look inward, not outward.
So, for the rest of the playoffs, we will be spared the endless TV camera shots of Cowboy owner Jerry Jones, as “America’s Team” once again makes it’s tee times. Which makes Winter a little more bearable…
Happy shoveling, and until the next visit from The Booth, GO HORNETS!
Greetings From The Booth and Happy New Year!
With all quiet on the Shenandoah University front, I wanted to weigh in on a couple of NFL greats who passed away recently, the great John Madden and the stoic but successful Dan Reeves. Reeves’ passing was almost lost in all the remembrances of the larger-than-life Madden, but Reeves, who participated in nine Super Bowls either as a player or coach, certainly needs to be eulogized, as well.
There’s not much I can add to all of the tributes to Madden. I first remember John Madden as the coach on the other side of the field when the Pittsburgh Steelers pulled off the so-called “Immaculate Reception” in December of 1972, a miracle play that’s been examined more times than the Zapruder film, and was the springboard to the Steeler dynasty of the 70’s. Madden, the young head coach of the Raiders, was about to advance into the next round of the playoffs with a 7-6 win in the Steel City, when Franco Harris had other ideas. The Raiders and Steelers would play some memorable games after that, and Madden finally got his Super Bowl ring in the 1976 season. He would finish as the all-time wins leader in Raiders history.
But Madden was not done. He would eventually move into the broadcast booth and pair up with Pat Summerall to become the CBS’ “A” team. When Madden and Summerall were doing a game, you knew it was huge. With his inimitable style, Madden transcended football and entertained both the most knowledgeable fans, as well as people who didn’t know an X from an O. That was his talent. Madden would later add instant credibility to the fledgling Fox network as part of their NFL broadcasts. And, of course, lent his name to the iconic Madden NFL video games. He introduced us to turducken on Thanksgiving Day, the Madden Cruiser, and The All-Madden Team. Simply, you cannot weave an NFL tapestry without John Madden in the fabric.
With Madden’s death at 85, you may have missed the passing of Dan Reeves. As a player, Reeves was a member of the Dallas Cowboys from 1965-1972. There were flashier Cowboys, like Bob Hayes and Don Meredith, but Reeves was solid, scoring 42 total touchdowns in his time with Dallas, even throwing a halfback option pass for a TD in the famous “Ice Bowl” against Green Bay. And, as a player, Reeves won a Super Bowl ring, something that eluded him as a head coach.
Having played for the robotic Tom Landry in Dallas, Reeves took on a similar style as the head coach of the Denver Broncos. Although a little more fiery than Landry, Reeves , as a classy tribute to his mentor, always wore a jacket and tie on the sideline (though he stopped just short of sporting the Tom Landry fedora). Reeves’ persona hid the fact that he was a family man who always made sure to balance his home life and his job, a rarity in a profession where NFL head coaches often spend time in their team facilities until the wee hours of the morning.
As for coaching success, Dan Reeves took the Broncos to 3 Super Bowls, including the “Doug Williams” Super Bowl, won by Washington 42-10. In addition, he took the Atlanta Falcons to their first Big Game, where, in a twist of irony, they were beaten by Denver, Reeves’ former team. He is one of a select few head coaches to win 200 NFL games, but somehow is not in the Pro Football Hall Of Fame. Although a little too late, it’s time to right that wrong.
Until our next visit from The Booth…here’s to a great 2022, and RIP John Madden and Dan Reeves.
Greetings From The Booth!
It’s Christmas week, and in the latest VFB, I thought I’d start with a few stocking stuffers before getting to the big present under the tree (BTW, when you unwrap gifts on Christmas morning, do you start with the stocking, or do you save that for last?). Last week was my annual Christmas vacation, and I started it with a short drive to beautiful Middleburg, where a memorial was held for the late Sam Huff. It was more a celebration of Sam’s life as opposed to a somber event, and featured video footage, gospel music, and Sam Huff stories from the likes of broadcaster Frank Herzog, and executives from the Marriott Corporation and the West Virginia Breeders Classic. The event was like a trip back into my youth, as I got to meet the aforementioned Redskins play-by-play man Herzog, and former burgundy-and-gold greats like Mark Moseley, Brig Owens, and Sonny Jurgensen. I also had the pleasure of speaking to Sam’s longtime companion Carol Holden, who was as nice as could be, and even agreed to listen to my Sports Dogs Podcast from several weeks ago about Sam. I’m humbled to say that she gave the podcast high praise.
Another passing took a lot of us by surprise this morning , simply because we thought Russ Potts would live forever. Russ was 82, but always seemed 28 to me. You can certainly look up his long list of achievements–he was a 4-term Virginia State Senator, headed up his own sports marketing company (Potts marketed some big-time events like the Sampson vs. Ewing UVA-Georgetown basketball game back in the day), and was an inductee into the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival Sports Hall Of Fame. More that, Russ Potts was a first-class gentleman. I had the honor of speaking with Russ on one of my Sports Dogs shows a few years ago, and he could not have been nicer. Having him on that show was a major reason we won a Virginia Association of Broadcasters “Outstanding Sports Operation” award that year. Russ Potts was involved in lots of things on a national scale, but was always about first and foremost about Winchester. He will be missed by many.
Now, to that big present under the tree. Because of a COVID outbreak on several NFL teams, the league has had to do some rescheduling of games this week, including the Washington Football Teams’ game with the Philadelphia Eagles. That contest was supposed to have been played yesterday (Sunday), but was move to Tuesday of this week, and the “Iggles” and their fans are not happy. Their reasoning is that they are being punished because of an issue on the opposing team. The WFT had over 20 players go on the COVID list, and when combined with a MASH unit-like injury list, would have been hard-pressed to field a team on Sunday. As it stands, the Football Team will still be heavy underdogs on Tuesday night in what is a must-win game for both teams. Many of the Philly players and fans wanted a forfeit, which is the last thing the NFL wants to do.
These are the same Eagle fans who mocked Giants’ Head Coach Joe Judge last year when Judge complained that Philadelphia mailed in the 4th quarter of a game with Washington that had playoff implications. This is also the same Philly fanbase that has been known to boo Santa Claus. The NFL is very protective of its product, and like any business owner trying to navigate through the pandemic, can ill-afford another shutdown, while handing out free wins in December.
So, to all you nasty, drunken Iggle fans–stop whining and play the game. You are probably going to win, especially if the WFT starts a quarterback by the name of Gibby Gilbert, or Gilbert Gottfried, or Gilbert O’Sullivan–I forget his name to be honest. I’m not sure Washington has much chance if someone under center was the voice of AFLAC or had a 70’s top-40 hit. Yes, you will now have only 4 days to prepare for your next game ( a home contest against the lowly Giants), but the Football Team will also have 4 days to get ready for a road game AT Dallas. Who is being punished more? Just tee it up and play.
That’s it from The Booth. If you don’t get what you want tomorrow night, try not to boo Santa.
MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!